Video Chats: Ali Presley Paras and Kenneth Ferrell on 'This Isn't Love' by The Royal
Posted by Doug Klinger on March 7, 2013 in Interviews
A good director and producer relationship is like a marriage, requiring a good balance of give and take from both partners for it to be successful. That’s why when director Ali Presley Paras describes his producing partner Kenneth Ferrell as “the perfect husband,” we know it’s probably meant as a complement. We talked to Ali and Kenneth about their latest collaboration, “This Isn't Love” by The Royal, and found out about the effectiveness of beating and feeding your artists Red Bull, as well as how many band members you can fit into a giant cage filled with strings.
Doug: Where did the concept for this video originate?
Ali: It just started by just listening to the song. When I first heard the song, it was very linear. I thought lines. There is a point where it talks about quite literally cutting the cords and what came up in my mind is that I'd like to somehow metaphorically cut the cord, but then I realized it would be silly to actually show unless I showed a bunch of strings and cords being cut. I wanted something that they could attach themselves to and something that’s going to fit their brand and fit their model. But it really just came out - I really thought mathematics when I first listened to the song.
Doug: How did you guys pull off the string effect itself?
Kenneth: We had a great production designer named Taylor Sommers. She came in early in the morning and put that set together, and it turned out better than anything that I could have imagined. Ali wanted a really tight shot. It was pretty much a cage, and you couldn’t see it, but that’s how we made the wire effect. It turned out way better than any of us would have thought, so all the credit goes to Taylor.
Ali: Yes, to build off that: basically, we shot against a blue screen, and the cage itself - the exoskeleton if you will - was blue as well, so they matched in post. The idea was that I kind of wanted these strings to come out of nowhere and sort of disappear. Since there's a blue screen and then a blue exoskeleton, the idea was to sort of blend those two in. That way you couldn’t see them, since they were the same color. The basic idea of the case was an 8x8 cube cage essentially with strings and cable.
Doug: So all the coloring, that was done in the back end? It was just one solid color set of strings that you guys used, and then you colored it afterwards?
Ali: That’s correct, yes, we colorized it, and we brought out the highlights. We really focused on the highlights. Originally, actually, we were trying to just settle for the blue screen - the blue cage. The strings were actually orange to begin with, but we realized that the video itself wasn’t dynamic enough. Dana Jones, the editor, and I basically decided to come up with something that could sort of colorize it and give it more style. That’s when we came up with the idea of incorporating color patterns to it. The first draft we created needed fine-tuning but the idea was there. It took Ryan Verbal, our DP, to bring it together.
Doug: Did you guys know that the lead singer of The Royal Sean Bowe’s hair was also going to take on that color?
Ali: In a way, yes and no. It's funny. If you notice the band dresses up in Beatles-esque attire where they have tuxedoes and nice suits, and they're black and white suits. The big question was whether to rotate between his jacket as well as his hair. In another video we shot, we basically allowed them to switch between a red and black jacket. In the first video, “Girl Like That,” he was wearing the red jacket, but in this video, I wanted to keep it as sort of simple in terms of color. The big thing that sort of stood out was the whites on the guy’s shirt as well as Sean’s actual blonde-white hair.
Doug: Ken, conceptually, are you contributing to the idea conceptually? Or is your main role there to help to get Ali’s idea across in the end?
Kenneth: My main focus is helping Ali realize his vision and get his idea across. Ali definitely comes up with some great ideas, and I don’t try to stand in his way. I just try to really help him realize his vision. It’s a good pairing, so it works well for both of us.
Ali: In a way, Ken is a perfect husband. He lets the crazy housewife just decorate the house and spend exorbitant amounts of money. It’s ultimately up to him to curb any insatiable appetites that I may come up with.
Doug: Can you guys point to anything specific in this particular video that would show that husband and housewife dynamic at play?
Kenneth: We got into it a couple of times. Just the matter of finding a studio and putting the cage together and all that. It was definitely a last-minute thing. It was something that I really didn’t want to bother Ali a lot about because I know that he was in his creative mode and just trying to figure out how he wants things to look and how everything should be once he gets on set. That was definitely something that we kind of bumped heads about because it came down to the last minute when it came to getting the cage done and finding certain locations for the shoot.
Ali: An interesting thing to note is we actually did the ambitious idea. At the time, had we known in advance that we were going to do this, maybe Ken wouldn't have encouraged it. But we basically shot two music videos in two days back to back and they both intertwined.
Doug: Did you realize you'd bit off a little bit more than you can chew by doing that? How were you able to overcome that issue?
Kenneth: We handled it pretty well, I felt like. We really did. Like he said, we shot two videos in two days back to back, and it turned out well. I think the hardest part was obviously the pre-production. Once we got on set, things seemed to run a little bit smoother. We just put everything together, and we made things happen when we had to.
Ali: I think the one particular where we troubled ourselves was for the location that we shot "This Isn't Love" at. They basically came back to us with an entirely different rate the day before - we're talking 24 hours left. At the time, I was working on Fashion Star, because I work in the camera department. Ken was handling all the other stuff, but for whatever reason, the guy was contacting me and not contacting Ken. What ended up happening was that Ken and I got into it about the location and how it should have been handled. When it came down to it, it was no one’s fault. It was just this guy who was at the studio increasing his rate last minute, knowing full well that we’d pretty much didn’t have a choice. If we had any marriage problems, it was definitely at that moment as far as communicating with vendors in the future.
Doug: Were the artists aware that you guys had other work that you were balancing?
Ali: Yes, but here's the crazy part: they shot another music video the day before, so it was ridiculous. They told me pretty much six hours before, and I didn’t know that they were shooting another music video. I was like, “Guys, you know you're going to fucking die doing this,” and they're all like, “Yes.” They flew in from Milwaukee. They're like, “We're only LA once,” so I was like, “OK.” Actually what was funny is “This Isn’t Love” was shot on the last day but the first half, but because they were so drained. It was actually good that as far as directing it I didn’t have to bring up the energy. For “This Isn’t Love,” I'd wanted them more calm for the performance because they were in a cage and it was constricted. I wanted to give that impression. Inadvertently, their exhaustion worked to my benefit, and I really didn’t have to do as much directing for “This Isn't Love.” When it came to sort of finishing off “Girl Like That,” which is the other music video, they were pretty much dead. I had to beat them and feed them Red Bull to keep them going.
Doug: Were there any issues with them working within the string cage that you guys put together with any issues of getting tangled or trapped, anything like that? Or were they pretty well-adjusted within there?
Ali: There were certain situations like where Rob, who is the tallest band member, clearly had the most trouble not only getting into the cage, since he was playing that's also the largest size. So he kept getting tangled. He was presented less options and more problems for the cage than everyone else, because everyone’s pretty small in comparison. Then when we had to put three of them in there, I had to be conscious of it. I couldn’t put Timothy - the guitarist - I couldn’t put him in with Rob. I tried squeezing three at the most, but if there's two guitars, I couldn’t fit two of them at a time. I usually tried to pair a guitar with John’s electronic board, and there are a couple shots where he's in there with them, and then Sean’s sort of singing. Our max is basically three band members. Then as far as problems with filming actually cutting the strings, there's points where we're sort of decapitating him. The cage was on wheels and as we're spinning him, there are points where he was trying to keep his performance going, but the strings were literally like across his neck and his face. So we had to make accommodations. Basically, Sean was ready to cut those strings at the end of the shoot.
Kenneth: Overall, it was great experience. Loved to thank the Royal and the crew for making this happen. Very solid team effort.
Ali: Agreed. Mitch and Maggie rocked also, they trusted my crazy directions and ran with it. Can’t wait to do this again.
ali presley paras, kenneth ferrell, the royal, this isn't love, video chats
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