The directing duo that is Mariah Garnett and Molly Schiot formed in the most serendipitous way. After both girls met while recovering from spinal surgery, they decided to make some films together for their own amusement. These films soon caught the eye of @ Radical Media, and the next thing they knew, they were being cultivated as the next big thing in music videos. We talked with them about the challenges of making videos for Sleater-Kinney (SubPop) and Instruction (Geffen).
MVW: Did you know each other at Brown?
Molly: Yeah, we knew each other, but we didn’t hang out… It’s a pretty small school. But, we ended up deciding to do a video on scars and scar fetish, and did this little quirky film; half stop-motion, half live action at a park in Rhode Island. It involves raw pieces of meat, and trying to recreate a horror- kind of feeling. We had fun doing that and did a lot of little stuff on the side, little music videos that were all kind of specs- without the intension of them being specs, because we didn’t even really know what that meant. It was more for like, “Oh let’s do…here’s a really cool spark song- let’s buy 1200 peeps and do a little video.” So it was never done with the intention of us becoming music video directors.
Mariah: It was kind of a hobby that turned into something after college…
MVW: Could you take us through the process of how this latest video came about?
Mariah: Jen (@ Radical Media) gave us the track to write on, and we (wrote on) several SubPop tracks… they have some great bands, so we were really excited! They came to us with a band we really liked a lot (Sleater-Kinney) and they’ve been around forever. We got the track, sat down and listened to it a bunch of times- Molly found an article online about this new album, which is called “The Woods.” One of the women in the band had been talking about the Pacific Northwestern Woods, this place that puts in anxiety and fear, because there are always serial killers and grizzly bears and… the “unknown thing” in the woods. So we wrote our treatment with that in mind.
Molly: Also, when we listened to it we didn’t understand the lyrics at all, we just could not decipher them whatsoever, so it was kind of more just pulling a few words out. The treatment was pretty much based on the vibe of the song; like a feeling on the guitar and voice and the drum beat.
Mariah: Yeah, to me it sort of sounded like horror movie with people screaming. It was hard to decipher what she is saying, but it is definitely a pretty powerful song with feeling behind it.
MVW: Who was your director of photography?
Molly: Matt Uhry , who is, like, a genius. We first met Matt on the PETA job and really respected his kind of intuition and work.
MVW: What were the challenges unique to shooting this performance?
Molly: It was definitely really stressful when we were up there, because as you know, Portland is known for just rain all the time. So, we were pretty much under the assumption that we were going to be shooting in a shack or in a school or something like that… We were really lucky, and I don’t know how it worked out like it did, but the weather was just beautiful the whole time we were up there.
Mariah: Yeah, there were a lot of factors working against us, but we lucked out on a lot of them: It was a small budget video, and it was supposed to rain.. But it didn’t rain a single day that we were up there. We had way less film than we had hoped, but pretty much every foot of it was usable and that was the main thing. The band was amazing; they only had to practice like once or twice, and they just got right into it.
Molly: Every single person in Portland was so incredibly supportive, like the guy that lent us his truck; we found him on Craig’s List, and he wanted to drive it at 3 in the morning to the location (which was 2 hours away). The only compensation he wanted was his picture with the band. It is an understatement to say that they were supportive. Everyone just helped out for nothing.
Mariah: There was a pizza delivery guy in Portland that went around looking for pine cones that were used in some of the still images. They just found people and friends of friends that really helped out and were really excited about it.
MVW: What was the editing process like?
Molly: We basically hired a friend, Rob Auten from Sunset editorial to edit the video, and he kind of is one of those quirky guys that listens to the song a couple of times and just clicks with the music and the visuals simultaneously. It wasn’t like one and then the other; he just listened to it and got it right away. He’s really, really great.
MVW: It’s a great looking performance!
Molly: Matt Uhry our DP captured something that I think was pretty unexplainable, like the lens flairs, Carrie’s breath coming out of the woods or Janet’s… I mean, there are all these little interesting moments that could have very easily gone unaccounted for, but he was just so helpful. We just compliment each other just really well.
MVW: There was definitely something there just the whole scene of the band playing in the woods and just the feel and look, it really added a new dimension to the video.
Mariah: We definitely did a lot of research when we were coming up with our shot list. We watched like every horror movie between 1970 and 1980 and like every episode of Twin Peaks so there are a lot more of subtle references or inspiration from those kind of movies.
MVW: So you’ve got some stop motion at the very beginning of it and the sets… did you develop all the sets yourselves?
Mariah: We had an art director: Dani Tull . He worked with us on the PETA spot as well. But we shot all the animation and everything on our own. We developed the idea for the set with Danny, like the location of it and everything. He built the little village and all props and stuff.
MVW: What do you enjoy about shooting stop motion?
Mariah: I mean for me it’s sort of an instant gratification just watching inanimate objects suddenly move around so it’s kind of like a simple pleasure.
Molly: And for me, we can just work by ourselves and no one else has to be there, so we completely have control over everything. You can get a Miller Highlife and the music and just kind of like
MVW: How was the transition from doing your own projects to learning about production, has this been an easy transition for you?
Mariah: The Instruction video pretty much broke us in…
Molly: In a hard way
Mariah: I remember thinking, “This is so amazing doing this” during the shoot. It’s sort of like being blown away by being a bona fide director with a monitor and a crew. There is a lot of stuff I feel like we learned from that video. I think that initially I was so blown away by learning and just by the whole process of it.
Molly: Radical signed us with the intention of developing us. Jen (their rep) and Dave Meyers would be on set first thing in the morning and was there to ask, “Do you feel good, does this make sense the way that it looks?” Just raising questions, not like telling, but more like teaching us as we went along without making us claustrophobic. They gave us time to do what we wanted, but also they were there to really give us good advice. It was one of those things that was completely gratifying.
MVW: What was the inspiration behind the “Breakdown” music video?
Molly: That was inspired by George Melies. He did something like moving posters, on the wall that came to life. We put each band member in one of these poster like cubicles. It was funny because each cubicle fit the personality of each band member unconsciously, but it was pretty much inspired by that.
Mariah: A lot of people think it’s a split screen, but Danny built that set and there were two levels with 5 different compartments.
MVW: What was the editing process on this say verses the Entertain video?
Mariah: This one was a lot harder to tackle. We had a lot of different elements, and we were trying to edit it ourselves initially, which was kind of a disaster, but we wound up hiring an editor named Miguel Aguilar (The New York Office) and he just totally pulled it together for us.
MVW: How did you work with him?
Molly: He read the treatment four times and then did his thing. The stop motion is so formulaic and mathematical, whereas this was really hard to tell a story, with the tons of footage that was shot on DV. One thing that we learned pretty quickly was that the treatment has to reflect the video and visa versa. There were a couple of elements that we had missed, and we had to go back and replace it with the animation.
Mariah: With that being said, Radical was totally 100% keeping us above water. They never let us step outside the lines.
Producer: Gina Bevilacqua
DP: Matt Uhry
Colorist: Beau Leon/Syndicate
Editor: Rob Auten
Producer: Chris Kraft
Prod. Designer: Dani Tull
DP: Dave Rudd
Colorist: Beau Leon/Syndicate
Editor: Miguel Aguilar