Video Chats: Jeff Nicholas on Collaborating with Justin Timberlake
Posted by Doug Klinger on August 5, 2013 in Interviews
From the first public mention of Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience projects, there has been a buzz around them that hasn’t stopped, even nearly six months after the release of the first album. From interactive campaigns, to a weeklong residency on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, to now four pretty epic music videos, the marketing and promotional campaign around these two albums has kept Justin as a topic of conversation for most of 2013. A big part of that campaign included The Uprising Creative, who in addition to contributing to Justin’s web and interactive efforts, also directed the two most recent videos, "Tunnel Vision" and "Take Back the Night," which will appear on The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2. Uprising co-founder Jeff Nicholas co-directed the two videos, and took some time to chat with us about them, working with Justin, the marketing campaigns surrounding the projects, and shooting at Yankee Stadium.
Doug: How did you guys get involved with "Tunnel Vision" and "Take Back The Night"?
Jeff: I've actually been working with Justin and his team since the beginning of 2012. The Uprising Creative is a hybrid creative and marketing agency, doing design/branding, web/interactive development, video production, and marketing strategy work. We sort of just like to "make cool shit," and that takes a lot of forms for us.
So, with Justin, we were initially brought on to redo his website, back before there was any indication that he'd be releasing new music. Then, once we all found out he was in the studio and new music was coming, we worked with his team on the overall digital marketing strategy and rollout, putting together the initial countdown to the release, the reveal of "Suit & Tie" and the album info, and a wide variety of interactive campaigns at the beginning of this year. They're an amazing team and over the least year and a half we've been able to do some pretty incredible things with them thanks to their trust in us - and their willingness to break the mold.
We were brought into the video side of things early to do the lyric video for "Suit & Tie." It was a great experience and after Justin did the amazing videos for "Suit & Tie" and "Mirrors" with Fincher and Floria, he came back to us with an artistic concept for "Tunnel Vision." We took that initial concept and tweaked it into what you see now, shooting with Justin in NYC and then projecting that footage on the girls back in LA. Off the back of that - which was a great experience on set for all of us - they asked us to write on "Take Back The Night" based on a concept Justin had to celebrate NY and tie in his Yankee Stadium performance. We feel very honored to be working with him on these videos, especially after the videos he released with Fincher and Floria. He can work with anyone he wants, you know?
So I guess that's a long-winded way of saying that we've been working with Justin and his team for awhile now in various capacities and it's been a pretty natural progression. We work well together, both creatively and conceptually, and on the execution side, and when you find that sort of match it just makes sense to keep progressing it.
Doug: What was the inspiration for each of the videos?
Jeff: Really the songs themselves. For "Tunnel Vision", we wanted to create something extremely artistic that matched the sensual vibe of the song and harkened back to some of the practical lighting and projection techniques used by Man Ray and others on the female form. For "Take Back The Night", the song just oozes the hot summer nights in NYC and the electric vibe and parties that are so easy to stumble into on any given summer night in the city.
Doug: What role does Justin take in the music video process? Is he involved significantly on the creative side of things?
Jeff: Justin has been amazing to work with. Extremely hands on in many aspects, but at the same time lets the creative teams he works with really thrive. It's very collaborative in that way, feeding off the creative energy that each side brings to the table.
Doug: There was an interesting viral marketing tie in with the "Take Back The Night" video where people who tweeted "#TakeBackTN" would get exclusive content from the video before it released. What was The Uprising Creative's involvement in the concept and implantation of this campaign?
Jeff: Yeah, people can still check out that campaign here actually. It gives a fun little glimpse into some of the making of the video.
These type of interactive marketing campaigns are a big part of what we do here at The Uprising Creative. As mentioned before, it's actually how we got involved with Justin and his team in the first place. So, when we were done shooting the video - while we were editing actually - we jumped into marketing strategy with Justin's team to come up with a fun, engaging way to rollout the video. We conceptualized and designed it, and then worked with our partners Eyes & Ears Entertainment to develop and launch it, as well as Justin's team to launch and monitor it, and Stipple to deliver some of the "fun facts" in an interesting way combined with stills from the video.
We're always really bummed to see an artist launch a great video by just lobbing it out to the internet. Why not build some cool experience around it? I think that's what we do best - integrated campaigns that tie all of the creative and marketing stuff we do here together.
Doug: What was the process of shooting the live performance footage in Yankee Stadium?
Jeff: Pretty crazy, actually. As anyone who's shot live knows, it's a massive undertaking unto itself at the scale of Yankee Stadium. Not to mention the fact that it was the day after a 18 hour shoot day in Chinatown the day before, and then we had 6 hour of shooting the car driving around NYC happening directly after the show.
With a venue like Yankee Stadium, there are a lot of restrictions. It's just the nature of something so high profile. We had to work directly with the Yankee's management to ensure we could get in and film the show - about a week before the shoot it looked like we might not be able to do it because we were already so close to the show and there was so much to organize. But the management team over at the Yankees is amazing and worked really hard with Justin's touring production team and RCA to push it through. We're insanely appreciative of all the help and support we got in pulling it off.
Typically a live shoot like this would be conceptualized ahead of the tour going on sale so you can deal with getting cranes and camera placements in ahead of time - you can't block paying fan's views, and when you do it ahead of the show going on sale, you can make seating grid adjustments. This came together so quickly, and the show was completely sold out, so we didn't have that possibility. Luckily a show that big typically has an IMAG team running cameras to display on the video screens for the fans at the back of the venue. Justin's team already had nine broadcast cameras set up for that purpose, so we were able to tap into those and bring 2 additional cameras to pull it off in the way we wanted creatively. Not to mention the helicopter we had doing flyovers to capture the arial footage.
Honestly, you don't realize how big that show is until you're on the ground. One of the most memorable moments from the shoot was sitting inside the barricade at the front of the stage waiting for Justin to perform the song, looking back over the crowd of 47,000 people, and then out of the corner of my eye seeing a helicopter flying over and realizing it was ours with one of my co-directors, Darren Craig, in it filming from above. It's one of those moments that stays with you - a great story for the grandkids someday. Ha.
jeff nicholas, justin timberlake, take back the night, the uprising creative, tunnel vision, video chats
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