There are music videos that create a magical pull. “Done with Fake” by singer-songwriter Jaël is one of these masterpieces. Realized by director Luki Frieden, this magnificent video is convincing at first as well as second and third glance. In the big interview with Filmpuls, Jaël and Luki give an unvarnished insight behind the scenes of the shooting.
Interview with Jaël and director Luki Frieden
Filmpulse:What distinguishes a good music video?
Jaël:If you can manage to underline the emotionality and message of a song and song and video don’t compete with each other, then I think music videos are wonderful.
Filmpulse:How do you find your way to such an idea?
Luki Frieden:In this case I had the idea independently from the song. Jaël asked me if I would shoot a music video for her. So I told her my idea and she said that she had a song that would fit my concept perfectly. So a lot of coincidence … in my early days I shot music videos for the Lovebugs, Sina, etc. I haven’t shot one for 15 years. But because I know Jaël well and she had played a big supporting role in my last feature film, I was tempted to make a music video again!
Jaël:Originally I had asked Luki whether he still makes music videos at all. This in the hope that he would realize a video for my first radio single. When Luki told me his idea, “Done with Fake” immediately came to my mind … that is the opener of my new album. I knew that this wouldn’t be a radio single, because it was absolutely unsuitable for the radio format. To shoot a video for just “any album song” was not really the idea. But it fit so perfectly that I “had to” make this music video out of love for the cause. Having a good idea is not easy for me. Since my texts are often autobiographical, a simple “filming” of the story is then the most obvious thing in my head – but that would often be boring and I have to distance myself from it for the first time.
Filmpulse:What is the message from “Done with Fake”?
Luki Frieden:Masks we all put on from time to time. But it is important to drop them here and there and not to be afraid of vulnerability! It’s how we humans get close.
Beauty ends in a true feeling that a person shows me.
Jaël:I did my acting training in London in the Actors Temple using the technique of Sanford Meisner. By the way, that was also the time when I wrote the song of the music video, “Done with Fake”. At the latest there I fell in love with the visible, real emotion.
Filmpulse:How do you experience visible, real emotions?
Jaël:For me, they often take place in unexpected moments. When a gesture, a word, a ray of sunshine surprises and touches me. Life when it “just happens.” Especially with a small child there are moments of beauty every day. For me the content is always at least as important as the facade. I remember that even as a child I found older people, faces in which a life is written – or which, in the opinion of our society, show blemishes – more beautiful than blank supposedly perfect ones.
Filmpulse:The music video looks very easy at first glance. Now it is usually true in film that everything that looks simple is difficult to realize …
Luki Frieden:The difficulty was that over a length of five minutes the timing had to be perfect. Technically, it was relatively easy. I’ve already done much more demanding productions (among others, shooting with animals, children, in the mountains, on the sea, etc.).
My acting teacher used to say “don’t worry about tears, it’s just water…”
Yes:After first discussing among ourselves and then in consultation with the stylist what the “unveiling process” might involve (removal of make-up, fake lashes, highlights in the hair, taking off a very flashy dress, etc.), the main thing was to find the moments where it made sense to bring lipsync in and where action was more appropriate. I thought about it, tried out some things and then made suggestions to Luki. Our ideas overlapped quite a bit and I practiced according to them. When I was styled, we rehearsed a dry run on location, so with a hint. Luki then gave me some stage directions.
Filmpulse:Hand on your heart! How much have you digitally tricked?
Luki Frieden:“Let’s fix it in post” we say ironically more often. Here we have made none digital editing It didn’t take anything. And if we hadn’t had the budget … because Jaël is a professional, the first take was actually a success!
Jaël:… in der Musik ist‘s “let’s fix it in the mix”. But often it doesn’t really work out … that the first run would be successful right away, that surprised us all.
Luki gave me a great assurance on the set that what we are doing here will be good!
Filmpulse:Did you have anything to do with the chosen concept on the set as a director?
Luki Frieden:If you plan well in advance, you can calmly watch how things develop on the set. I like relaxed sets, correcting only when necessary and thus improving the final product. I’m not one to keep giving orders. I sometimes see very small things that I put in as input. The more trust performers feel in me, the more freely and authentically they can act.
v:Julia Roberts was known for only undressing on the set when the entire film crew had taken off their clothes. What were you wearing on the shoot, Luki?
Luki Frieden:I wouldn’t have taken my clothes off unless I was paid. My tummy’s OK, but we’re all more or less vain, so…
Jaël:I didn’t know about Julia Roberts: Do I find a wonderful idea and performance!
Filmpulse:Jaël, in your successful career you have already stood in front of the camera for many music videos: How important is a director for you?
Jaël:As I am my “small business” in a way and manage it myself and therefore nobody tells me what to do, I am dependent on and very grateful for experts whose judgement I value highly. Luki gave me a great certainty on the set that what we are doing here will be good. And especially at the end in the decision with which take we are going to go with now, it was important to me to have Lukis judgement and to hear it. Because I’m too close to my songs in part. And so emotionally linked that it is difficult to imagine how something is perceived from the outside. Moreover, Luki didn’t exclusively take over the director’s work, because we were a very small team.
Filmpulse:How on earth did you manage the vocal part, this second level, where Jaël suddenly starts singing in the on, so precisely?
Luki Frieden:We have worked out together where which action, where which on-song is possible. Jaël then practiced “dry” at home and found the perfect timing.
Nothing was needed, no digital processing.
Jaël:It made sense to start with this line with the lipsync, because at this moment in the song I make a statement about myself for the first time.
Filmpulse:How long was the shooting day in the studio?
Luki Frieden:A large part of the time was used for make-up. Then we shot this one, very good take. Afterwards we did the opposite! Namely, how Jaël makes himself up, with the make-up smearing more and more exaggeratedly on his face. On average, I tried to contrast this with the removal of make-up in a split screen. But I soon noticed that removing the make-up alone was much more powerful. – In total we were in the studio for about 8 hours.
Jaël:It was definitely the shortest and most relaxed day of shooting in the 20 years of my career so far. But the preparation time was longer because timing was essential.
Filmpulse:May you say something about the production budget?
Luki Frieden:That was with camera and studio rental and styling about 1500.-. The cameraman Timon Rupp and I are paid a lump sum of 150. This music video is a friendship project. Not commercial.
Jaël:The music business is, as is well known, not exactly flourishing. Since I finance and manage it myself, fat budgets are simply no longer possible, like in former times, when my band had a record deal with a major. So I was very grateful that the three boys were so in love with the project that they were willing to work under these conditions.
Filmpulse:How big was the crew and with which camera did you shoot?
Luki Frieden:The crew consisted of cameraman Timon Rupp, Nina Tatavitto as stylist and me. So very familiar. We shot on a Sony F7 with a 50 mm fixed focal length. Plus a lot of ND filter so that we have very little depth of field. I cut it at my place on Premiere Pro. The color correction was done by Jürgen Kupka from “Unsere Farben”, who did a great job.
Filmpulse:What would you change if you could shoot the same clip again?
Luki Frieden:Hopefully we would not do anything different.
Jaël:At the very beginning there was a small downer that the tear that often flowed during practice on “I don’t wanna hide anymore” during my vocal performance, didn’t come in front of the camera. But in the end I was glad that I could work with what was the real situation at that moment. In retrospect, I think maybe it would have been “too much” and too much Sinead O Connor in “Nothing compares to you”. Maybe it’s because these tears, practically the “release of the emotion”, don’t happen at the beginning of the video, which is the reason why the emotion remains so stifling until the end, which is what pulls you in … often it’s almost more intense to see someone wrestling with or against an emotion. My acting teacher always said “don’t worry about tears, it’s just water… when you’re emotionally full, that’s what will touch the audience”. I agree with him.
It was definitely the shortest and most relaxed day of shooting in my 20 years career!
Filmpulse:Most video shoots have their little secrets. Will you tell us one thing?
Jaël:There was a moment when I could hardly untangle my hair and was stressed out about whether I could manage to stay in time. That then fitted perfectly into the whole. Because I could use that and the video there gained speed and intensity. You can see my frustration, but of course you interpret it differently. I had actually wanted to take the dress off before I sang again, but when I tried to take it off during the singing, it felt strangely wrong or illogical, so I left it again and finally pulled it over the other shoulder. Those were such intimate mini-moments in which I made decisions about how I want to do things now without falling out of step or seeming fake.
Luki Frieden:At 4:34 Jaël sang another “Schlenker” during the shoot, which she always sings live, but which is not in the published song. Then I mixed in the original sound from the set, in the cut … you hear how the sound suddenly has more “space”. But you can’t tell if you don’t know…
Filmpulse:Were there any other challenges?
Luki Frieden:My gin and tonic was already gone after 1 hour.
Jaël:I mourned the split screen for a long time. Those were very great recordings! But unfortunately it really attracted too much attention and took away a lot of intensity from the video. We still had the idea of releasing the split screen as a follow-up afterwards, but in the end we didn’t do that. Simply because the way things are now, it’s too coherent.
A luxury problem…