–By Sally O’Dowd
“a director named bradonio has made this amazing video for ‘saints’ from ‘innocents’. it features a stuffed animal rat, so of course i love it.” -moby
Now that you’ve seen the video for Saints, from Innocents, Moby’s latest and critically acclaimed album, you might be wondering, as I did: How did the video’s storyline come together?
I wanted to find out so I interviewed the director myself. Brad Hasse, aka Bradonio, is a director and cinematographer named one of the “Young Guns” lauded by the ADC–formerly the Art Directors Club. Keep reading; you’ll love what Brad has to say about working on a Moby video.
Sally: Brad, Spin magazine’s David Walters described the Saints track this way:
“…[It] swells with a euphoria made more remarkable by the surrounding depression… builds and builds its own stairway to heaven. Here, finally, is the transcendence ordinarily denied by this openly frustrated man’s fixation on the broken and bruised, the belated rebuff to his bullies. Sometimes even Moby gets better.”
Sally: And here you enter, Brad, directing the video. How do you come up with visuals with no words to guide you?
Brad: I don’t think you need lyrics to have meaning to a song, as the harmony and rhythm express a lot on their own. Saints has a very uplifting and charging feel throughout, while still having an opposing melancholic element to it, which I felt fit perfectly with the type of story I wanted to tell with this lost rat. It’s a lot of fun creating visuals with a track that has that wonderful range of emotions.
Sally: Is it metaphoric?
Brad: It wasn’t meant to be anything overly profound or coded, but rather just as you see it… a playful story of this rat from New York that luckily gets to escape the harsh winter. The rat though, is basically me.
Sally: It came to be how…
Brad: My wife, who is a singer/pianist, got a contract to perform at a resort in Phuket during the New York winter. We decided as a family that it’d be a great opportunity for us to all go, as well as escape the harsh winter. This was happening right around the time that I was getting tired of all the noise, the hustle and bustle, the confined spaces, the concrete, and the cold of Manhattan. Four years of living there can do that to you!
So with the chance to get out of the city, I wanted to write a short film that I could make along the journey. The woman with the suitcase in the video is actually my wife. Just like the rat, I got to luckily tag along on this journey to a beach paradise.
Sally: The making of Inside Llewyn Davis (many New Yorkers were keen to know where the film was shot) has inspired this question: What is the NYC intersection at the beginning of the video? Where is the city portion filmed?
Brad: All of the New York shots were filmed very close to where I lived at the time, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan near Clinton and Stanton.
I’d be working on something else at home, but with a charged camera and a rat puppet ready to go. When it’d snow for a few hours we’d run outside and film, get a few scenes, then come back in and thaw out. This happened a few times before we left on our trip to Thailand, and luckily it snowed enough times in that week for me to get all of the winter shots I needed to establish the story. I was so stressed that I was going to leave without that and be left without a full story. I think I was probably the only person in New York praying for snow every day.
Sally: The underwater fish scene is gorgeous—how was that shot?
Brad: I filmed the underwater scenes with a GoPro HERO3+, mostly at 120 frames per second. This slowed the footage down quite a bit to give a much more graceful feel to details like the movement of the puppet’s hair, the fish themselves, and splashes when on the surface of the water.
All of the fish scenes were filmed at Coral Island, a small island near Phuket. I shot most of it near the shoreline, which made it easy to pop up out of the water, make adjustments to the camera or the rat, and go back in. As for the fish, the sea life is in abundance there, so it’s relatively easy to capture. Sometimes they’d be lured into a group because of some tourists tossing food in the water, and other times they’d just be swimming around.
Sally The girl, the floatie…what’s happening here?
Brad It’s just another obstacle for the rat along the way. She wants to play and in her innocence throws the rat happily into the raft and pushes him off. While it obviously could have been quite perilous for the rat, she still does it naively out of kindness and excitement, so it’s good to see a human finally attempt to be nice to this creature and play with him without any prejudice.
Sally In my view, the piece ends on a macabre, disturbing note…eating from a trash can. Moby had to use food stamps as a kid…are we talking suffering of a similar sort? Am I just way off base and reading too much into this?
Brad The video I believe has a happy ending! The rat starts off searching for food in Manhattan in a trashcan. All of the food is frozen over, and in the background you can hear the noise from sirens and cars honking. General city chaos. And it ends with the rat doing the exact same activity, but this time with the beauty of Thailand surrounding him, along with the abundance of warm meals freshly tossed aside from tourists, all to the sounds of waves crashing up on shore and birds happily chirping.
The rat is still doing what he knows best, but has luckily upgraded his environment. Again, the rat and I had a lot in common.
–Sally O’Dowd is CEO of Sally On Media, an integrated marketing and PR firm in New York City. Contact her via sally at sallyonmedia dot net.