Rockhard Films represents directors Mark Klasfeld (Jay-Z, Foo Fighters, Tom Jones), Vem & Tony (DMX, Kenna) and Lorenzo, who just directed the “Breathe” video for Michelle Branch.
Lorenzo: My background is basically in visual effects, which I have been doing for the past ten years. I have been working with Rockhard for a few years. Through that relationship, Mark Klasfeld and I have collaborated on many jobs and I have shot a lot of second unit for him. Our working relationship has evolved to where we collaborate before we even submit a treatment. This music video was the perfect opportunity to do work together again.
MVWire: How did you work with the label on “Breathe”?
Lorenzo: We submitted the treatment. It caught their attention because I think it stood apart from everything else they were seeing. What we were trying to do was work from the metaphor of transitioning from a dark place in your mind, then bringing it to someplace a little more positive. We were trying to show how quickly that can happen, and how it might be a surprise when it does. Working out that metaphor, we start in a really dark room where everything is muted, and blue, and there are no windows, then out of nowhere a ray of sunshine comes through the roof kind of representing a ray of hope. Then it builds and builds where you have one ray, two rays, five rays, twenty rays and a huge volume of water crashes into the room. It kind of knocks you upside the head. (Laughs) “What in the heck is going on here?” We dropped a few subtle hints in the beginning of the video with the fish, the picture on the wall with the beach scene, and the crab crawling across the floor. “Why the heck are those there?” (Laughs) Then, “Bang!” a wall of water comes crashing through and transitions you from a dark dreary place to a beautiful beach.
MVWire: The transition works very well, it was a nice surprise.
Lorenzo: It did come off well, but it was a difficult technical challenge. We had an intense Research and Development session to figure out how to make things deteriorate and melt. Once we got through the practical aspect of creating those holes and making the set actually deteriorate, which was something that hadn’t been done before, we took it a step further to bring in the light. All the light you see in that room was digitally enhanced. We couldn’t get all that light to come into the room without using a ton of atmosphere (dust particles, etc.) to make the rays show up. We didn’t want to make it a really dusty atmosphere because we didn’t want to take away from Michelle’s beauty aspect of it. So we chose to go with a digital approach to make those rays striking, almost overwhelming.
MVWire: How has your background influenced you as a director?
Lorenzo: I have had the good fortune of spending the last ten years working with Mark Klasfeld and some of the top directors out there seeing what’s done right and what’s not done right. It gives me an advantage over anyone who has just walked out of NYU Film School. An insight into visual effects during the shooting process is a great skill, a great asset to have.
After seeing things done wrong on other jobs, and seeing things being done right on Mark’s jobs, and knowing he actually listens to what we are talking about, it made me think, “Well you know what? I could pull this off.” What a joy. I wasn’t one of these people who said, “I want to direct.” That’s not the way it was, but when the opportunity presented itself, I took it.
MVWire: Have you been anxious to direct for a while?
Lorenzo: (Laughs) No, to be perfectly honest. I haven’t been because I have gotten a lot of creative satisfaction from visual effects, but after a while, I got tired of seeing things shot wrong.
MVWire: Where were the locations for the video?
Lorenzo: Two places, actually. We shot the first half of it in a parking lot of a Pick & Save out in the San Fernando Valley. Then we transitioned the second day down on Will Roger’s beach.
We built the set on the parking lot, which is where we did the water gag as well. Then the next day we brought the four flats out to the beach, and shot the second half of the video there for the last chorus and verses.
MVWire: What was Michele like to work with?
Lorenzo: It was a pleasure to work with her. She came to the set straight off a plane from somewhere in Asia. She must have been tired from the long flight, then right into two twelve-hour days! That’s a challenge for anybody, and she definitely rose to the occasion, and gave a great performance. I think she felt pretty passionate about the song to begin with, so that probably helped her out quite a bit.
MVWire: How was the collaborative process when actually shooting the video?
Lorenzo: I will say that it was a challenging job to shoot because it was so hot, about 110 degrees in the valley, really tough, and we were working with a lot of lights. This brought the temperature up even more, and that room that she is in is very small. So it was a challenging shoot, and everybody stuck together and did a great job on it. I was pretty happy about it. It could have been a nightmare. It had all the ingredients to be a difficult shoot, and I would not say it was an easy shoot, but everyone worked really well together.
MVWire: What was your involvement in the post production?
Lorenzo: I directed the visual effects and worked with Base 2. They had two 3D artists, one slam artist, and a combustion artist that spent about a week and a half on it, a good chunk of work.
MVWire: There were several visual effects in the video, was the light beams the most time-consuming overall?
Lorenzo: The light was the most time consuming. There was a lot of rotoscoping involved with that. Just because we had to separate the performers from the background, in order to put the light behind them. It was a frame-by-frame process. It wasn’t rocket science, but it was definitely time consuming. You have almost a minute’s worth of footage that needs rotoscoping, so you are looking 1800 individual frames with four people in it. That’s a lot of rotoscoping, but it was worth it. It was great.
Production Co: Rockhard Films
Visual Effects: Base 2