Video Chats: Hiro Murai on Collaborating with Childish Gambino

Posted by Doug Klinger on January 15, 2014 in Interviews

Staff Post

Hiro Murai

Leading up to the release of his album Because the Internet, Childish Gambino shared three different Hiro Murai-directed video projects: a 25-minute short film called Clapping For The Wrong Reasons, an album trailer called “yaphet kotto,” and a music video for the song “3005.” As someone who has spent time both writing and acting for television, it’s no surprise that an artist like Childish Gambino would take on more unique videos projects like this, and just like he was able to do with Earl Sweatshirt, Hiro once again proves the be the perfect partner for a hip hop artist who wants to do something outside the box that still represents them as an artist. We talked to Hiro about working with Childish on each of the projects, how they relate to each other, and whether or not DP Kevin Phillips is a robot.

Doug: How did your collaborations with Childish Gambino begin? Were each of the videos planned at once, or at least talked about at once, or did the projects come one by one?

Hiro: I met Donald around the beginning of summer last year. We talked about doing something for his album but nothing specific. Then he reached out to me a few weeks later about doing a short film as part of the album rollout. We started working together from there. The projects came one by one, but I think there's a natural continuity to all of the content we’ve made.

Doug: Did you guys come up with all of the concepts together? As someone with a significant film and TV background, is Childish significantly involved with the video side of things on these projects?

Hiro: I don’t think I wrote a single “pitch” to him about any of the projects - which is really unusual. We’ve sat around and tossed around ideas from scratch, but a lot of the times he would already have the basic idea of what he wanted. We would just build off of his initial seed of an idea. I’ve never really worked this way with any artist before but it was a fun collaboration.

Doug: Is there a different approach to each project, since they're all technically different styles of video?

Hiro: Yes and no. Each project is really different in format (short film, album teaser, music video), but we approached all of them like it’s a continuous universe to give it a cohesive tone.

Doug: RapGenius has a screenplay for Clapping For The Wrong Reasons listed in their poetry section. Did you guys have an actual screenplay for that project, or was it more improvised?

Hiro: The “script” for Clapping was maybe a two page email that Donald sent me, plus some scenes that I pitched. And a lot of it was made up on the fly; dialogue, and sometimes entire scenes. It was funny to see the movie in a formal script format after the fact.

Doug: There is both a YouTube version of Clapping For The Wrong Reasons and a version that's on a continuous loop. Why did you guys decide to release the film in two places?

Hiro: The movie was always meant to be very loosely structured and tonal. I wanted it to feel almost like background music - not forcing the viewer’s attention on anything specific but just existing. So the idea of a looping live stream that you could jump into at any moment was really interesting to me. I think you get more out of the movie when you don’t have expectations of a linear narrative - and I think the streaming version compliments that.

There’s also something troll-y about the movie. It’s intentionally obtuse and absurd - almost baiting. So I liked the idea of putting it in a platform that was unique to the web. But of course we wanted another version so people can watch it / share it normally, hence YouTube.

Here’s a picture of a turd to undercut the pretentiousness of the last two paragraphs.

Hiro Murai

Doug: Was "yaphet kotto" shot at the same house Clapping For The Wrong Reasons was shot at?

Hiro: The short film was shot at a mansion in the Palisades. The "yaphet kotto" album teaser was shot at Ludwig Goransson’s house (who produced a bulk of the album with Donald).

Doug: It's been fun to go through the YouTube comments on "3005" and see people try to "figure out" what is going on. Is there a deeper metaphor behind the bear, the ferris wheel, and the action in this video, or was everything more influenced by visual and stylistic goals?

Hiro: The "3005" video, like every other video I’ve done, is about the Illuminati. And 9/11.

Doug: How did you guys technically pull off "3005"? Was the bear actually a puppet? Does Kevin Phillips fly and have a torso that somehow rotates 360 degrees?

Hiro: The bear was a puppet, but we realized last minute that there was no way to fit a puppeteer in the carriage with Donald and the camera. So after considering a bunch of different options I just asked Donald to puppeteer it. So in the video, he’s actually controlling the bear with his left hand while he performs. For some reason I assumed he’d be really good at it, and he was.

Kevin Phillips is definitely a humanoid robot who can transform into a helicopter camera - here’s a photo of him in action

Hiro Murai

but this time we used a remote controlled slider and head that we controlled from the ground level instead. It was almost as cool as Kevin.

Hiro Murai

Hiro Murai

3005, childish gambino, clapping for the wrong reasons, hiro murai, video chats, yaphet kotto

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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