Joseph Kahn Directs Joss Stone “Spoiled” Music Video

The “Spoiled” music video begins as a simple story of a couple breaking up and then unexpectedly leads us to a new level of visual wonder with what Joseph calls “5 dimensional editing”. Mr. Kahn talks about this new concept, working with Joss and his approach to directing.

*See the Joss Stone “Spoiled” Music Video @
http://josephkahn.com

MVW: It was a great artist and a great song to work with not to mention that she is very attractive. Can you tell me from hearing that song how you developed the concept when you listened to it through writing the treatment for it?

Joseph Kahn: I knew that Joss wanted to push the boundaries a bit and was not afraid to go in new places. I’ve been sort of playing around with 5 dimension editing. It’s just a little thing that I’ve been thinking about lately. I decided to make a video about the story that felt completely real and then place it within a framework where it became a metaphor. I wanted it to be so gritty like real that by the time I started doing all of my effects and stuff like that, you had this sort of emotional context that was grounded. That’s the reason I shot this video documentary style in the beginning. What happens in the video is that they have an argument, she runs out to the car and they drive away. Then they essentially get into a car crash and the whole thing loops and they go back to the diner. Basically the video is one giant loop giving the impression that the whole thing is going to start over again like one of those relationships that don’t end. It’s a visual metaphor, one of those things you can’t get out off or having the same argument over and over again.

MVW: It was an interesting twist to see a fatal car crash without anyone getting hurt. I am really interested to hear more about the 5 dimensional editing!

JK: To be honest with you, it’s something I’ve been keeping to myself and I haven’t really explained in detail but the basic premise is that it’s like an etcher that does paintings making solutions that can’t fit into our normal world. Like if you have a staircase that loops into itself then folds. You don’t know where the fold happens because you can’t calculate it in your head and it doesn’t make sense in terms of how you perceive its space. Similarly, in Blink182 there are a lot of solutions happening within that video. If you took it on a linier level the whole video theoretically happened in one shot.

MVW: Where was all this shot?

JK: It was shot in New York, the beginning of January. Two days run, one day on sound stage and one day Up State during some of the coldest weather possible!

MVW: As far as the actual car crash itself, how were you able to create the impact?

JK: It’s mostly created in CG. It’s an interesting process because I started with a company that was royally screwed up and just did not know what they were doing then I brought it over to Kroma. Literally within a couple of days they did something that was so completely radical to fix the video it was like 3-4 days worth of work compared to the other guys that was like 3 weeks.

MVW: Is this the first time you’ve worked with Joss Stone? What was she like to work with?

JK: Yes, this was my first video with Joss Stone. Joss is like every other beautiful girl I’ve ever worked with and I think I’ve worked with the best in the world. They don’t know they are beautiful which is really odd, but the most beautiful women in the world do not understand how pretty they are and it’s a tricky thing trying to get women to look beautiful on film too because they can’t be self-conscious. Self-conscious translates as awkward on film so you have to develop their confidence and as the director you have to let them realize they are beautiful so that they are free to be themselves. During the video shoot Joss had gotten a black eye because she had an accident with her Blackberry or something. I could only shoot from a certain angle for the first day and had to actually add another day of shooting, it was only suppose to be two days but that black eye kind of screwed things up. It was a very tricky video to accomplish because as much as I wanted to do my interesting concepts and sell the emotions to the song it was also selling videos on marketing and if your artist doesn’t look good you are kind of screwing it up.

MVW: What was your directing style with her?

JK: I’ve been trying to upgrade my level of actors directing. I tried all the things I’ve been reading in the 50 different books I’ve been checking out lately. I was trying to treat it like a real movie and have her play a character and motivate her through actual reasons as opposed to telling her to be sad here.

MVW: It’s nice to have such a great song and a great artist to be able to make the video that you envision.

JK: Yes, it’s a tricky thing because the song is amazing it’s not on a contemporary level, it’s a very old fashion song. One of the things I sort of thought of was that if I’m going to sell this and when I mean sell I don’t mean “make you pay for it or anything” I’m talking about like making “myself” as an average viewer believe in it’s relevancy of this type of sound and this type of message to my life. I decided I had to take a far left field, I can’t make one of those typical love song videos, and it has to attack you from a different perspective. Makes you look at both the song and the meanings from different perspectives, it has to feel fresh in that way, that’s why I choose such an orthodox approach to the video. I think when you combine a really orthodox video with kind of an old fashion song it comes out to be something worth the sum of its parts.

MVW: Well it definitely comes across, other than car crash it’s “seems” to be a pretty straightforward video. I think the general public is unappreciative a lot of times of what you do because it looks so simple.

JK: Yeah. That’s the danger of what I do. I tend to make videos that never really bring attention to myself. My job is to bury myself in the music and the artist and ultimately if you walk away liking that song and that artist then I’ve done my job. If the overall product has a certain simplicity to it that makes you miss all the little things that I’ve done and it makes my job look invisible… and I’ve done my job quite frankly. I think you shouldn’t be noticing me, you should be noticing Joss.

I think that the thing you have to keep in mind when you look at the Joss Stone video is it looks straight forward but really if you break it down it’s actually quite complex because it’s a time loop. The angles are done very specifically, very simply something that has kind of a geometric feel to it, the opening should almost have like a blasé feel to the film making. That was definitely done on purpose like a “matter of fact ness” about it and if you notice I didn’t do any like crazy 360 degree virtual camera moves or anything like that. It’s just all a type of “matter of fact” happening before you eyes.

If you watch the video from the beginning, in the first verse there is no close up on Joss, her close up doesn’t happen until the second verse. In every record edit they’ll always go “let’s start with the close up”. If you look at it everything is done in a wide far shot, in fact, not only is it done in a wide far shot it’s shot through a window through multi panes of glass and foreground elements so we are looking from the inside to the outside through a window and that’s how the entire first verse is done. That kind of stuff drives record companies batty, it’s the type of stuff that most music video viewers don’t see as a risky thing to do.

MVW: Not that long ago you use to direct, shoot and edit your own work. How did that evolve with just directing now?

JK: I wanted to spend more time with the artist and client relationships because when I was directing, editing and DP ing I just didn’t have time. I still do those things to a certain degree although I filter it through my partners. Now I try to let the DP take care of the lighting, the editor do the first pass and a lot of the client re-edits so I don’t have to go nuts beating my head against the wall every time someone wants to change something. Overall it gives me the proper amount of distance so that I can get perspective and become a nicer human being.

Credits:

Director: Joseph Kahn
Producer: Maryann Tanedo
Cinematography: Brad Rushing
Editor: David Blackburn
Visual FX: Kroma


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