Video Chats: Claire Marie Vogel on 'Trojans' by Atlas Genius

Posted by Doug Klinger on December 3, 2012 in Interviews

Staff Post

Claire Marie Vogel

Photo by Michael Jeffe.

Director Claire Marie Vogel has a very unique perspective on the music video industry. While most music video directors have a relationship with record labels in one way or anther, Claire actually works directly for Warner Bros Records. We talked to Claire to find out how that perspective helped when directing the music video for “Trojans” Atlas Genius.

Doug: The song “Trojans” was actually released in Australia back in 2011, and is now gaining in popularity here in the states. Was that something you were asked to consider when directing this video? Either the idea of presenting this band to an American audience, or to a more mainstream audience in general?

Claire: I was aware of that, but I'm in a strange position because I actually work in-house at Warner Bros Records. I generally am aware as to how the label wants to represent an artist, or what the marking plans are. With this, I was informed, but really just wanted to make them look good and represent the song and the music in my own way. Something that would get them in front of people and make them stand out. It's been a long process. The song came out a year ago, and everyone said, "we need a video, we need a video." And after so many treatments and false starts, they just broke it down to wanted them to look good and the video to look good. At that point, everyone had let go a little bit.

Doug: As someone who works directly for the label, were you working with the band even before the idea of the video came up?

Claire: Atlas came to us in the spring and I began working with them from that first day. They were going to be here for a week and I was asked to film the band signing their contracts, as well as behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and filming them while they were on photo-shoots. What's great about my job is that I get to develop great working relationships with the artists while they are developing their own style. I'm aware what the label wants, what the band wants, and am allowed to really and truly have my own vision put in in there as well. In filming them over that week, we became friends and by the end of it I was going with them to Disneyland and sharing ideas. It felt natural to do more content together. I directed their "Symptoms" video, which at first was just meant to be a small viral video, but everybody really like it and that developed into me doing a video for the single.

Claire Marie Vogel

Photo by Michael Jeffe.

Doug: Did you film that trip to Disney as well or were you guys just hanging?

Claire: I filmed as well - I kinda film everything by default. I think a few shots of it are in a reel somewhere, but nothing's happened with it yet.

Doug: You mention making the band look good as being one of the objectives of the video, and a lot of that comes through in the performances portions. Was that the main goal, or were you trying to get something more across in those sections?

Claire: I was definitely trying to get something else across, I'm not really a band performance director. I've done that once, in The Belle Brigade video, and it was still part of the storyline. With this video, I thought if I was going to include a performance, I had to think of ways to tie it in. If it’s done right, I think it can be an impactful way for musicians to tell a story on camera without being forced to act. The video revolves around memory, so if they were in this dark room that was supposed to be Keith's mind, the spotlight could act as the point of consciousness, illuminating moments as he remembered them. The light is a metaphor for when your conscious brings up old memories.

Claire Marie Vogel

Photo by Claire Marie Vogel.

Doug: What kind of direction are you giving the band through those performances?

Claire: In terms of performance, I was all about them just going for it. Having them put just as much energy in it as they would put into a live show with hundreds of fans. I think sometimes it doesn't read the same because they're not actors and it can be an awkward situation with a camera in front of you and a crew standing there. I always make sure the music is really loud so they can sing and play over that and feel comfortable. Just have them go for it as they would in front of an audience in an venue. That energy is what’s so great about watching musicians perform.

Doug: Do you find that your experience that you had with them in those more natural situations with the camera present, like the BTS stuff that you did with them, was able to aid when trying to get them to achieve more perforce style stuff?

Claire: I think so. They’re all pretty comfortable with me pointing a camera at them at this point. There is always going to be a different level of awareness on set vs. me being a fly on the wall during something else. But I think that did help, though, yes.

Claire Marie Vogel

Photo by Michael Jeffe.

Doug: During the more narrative sections of the video, the story seems to revolve around a few different characters throughout different points of their life. Were the vignettes and moments that are played out in the video all preplanned going into production, or were those sections more character driven?

Claire: It was somewhat character driven, but I'm really messy with how I approach that kind of stuff. I lean toward trying to create real moments, but it can be difficult to plan that out too much. I go through each character, like young Keith, or Keith's Mother, and just write out moments that I thought would stand out, like watching his mother putting on lipstick, or seeing him being rejected for the first time - moments that stick with you. You might not remember it all, but you have the little pieces of them. I tried to recreate those, while also letting stuff happen between the actors, and not giving much direction in between, "here you are, this is what’s happening, let’s play with it." As an editor, I'm really involved in finding those moments within what we filmed, and my DP Rick Darge is incredible at capturing it all beautifully and continuing to film when people aren’t quite aware. That really helps for how I work.

Doug: What about when you were casting for this video. Were you just looking for different sizes of the same person, or was there something else you were after?

Claire: The only person I went after to specifically look like anyone was the younger version of Keith. We had to audition a lot of kids, and with the last videos for “Symptoms” we lucked out because the very first kids we saw were the kids we ended up casting. It wasn't such an easy time casting with this, so we had to go through a casting agency. I got some of childhood photos of Keith, went to the agency and said, “we need a younger version of this person, can you find me someone good?" They sent back a bunch of kids, and Zander, who we ended up casting, really struck me as the perfect fit. He was a really strong actor, looked perfect and didn’t need much direction. Otherwise, the casting process was about finding the right people with a memorable faces who could express a wide range of emotion without dialogue. That's all you get in music videos, which can be a good challenge.

atlas genius, claire marie vogel, trojans, video chats

Doug Klinger is the co-founder/content director of IMVDb and watches more music videos than anyone on earth. You can find him on twitter at @doug_klinger.

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