Video Chats: BRTHR on "Coming Of Age" by Foster The People

Posted by Doug Klinger on February 11, 2014 in Interviews

Staff Post


“Coming Of Age” by Foster The People is a pretty massive video. Directed by BRTHR (Alex Lee and Kyle Wightman) and shot by Shawn Kim on 16mm, the multi-day shoot required 200 video auditions and 50 in-person auditions to assemble a cast that features male underwear models, band member relatives, and Sean Penn’s daughter, Dylan. Production wasn’t the only massive element of this video, however, as it also required an edit that was so complicated it almost made Kyle and Alex want to kill themselves (in a good way). We talked to BRTHR about the video, working with Shawn Kim, and premiering on TV and the internet.

Doug: This is your most narrative video, was it also the biggest production you've worked on?

BRTHR: Definitely. It was terrifying at first but once we got into it it was really just a lot of fun. We've been wanting to do something like this for a long time and this was the perfect opportunity. We have an obsession for coming of age films and books.

Doug: Do you guys have a good idea where everything is going to fit into the video when shooting it? Or do things not really fall into place until you've actually start to edit?

BRTHR: It's always such a mix because sometimes trial and error works out better. For this, we had most of it planned out but we definitely figured stuff out in post too. For example, we weren't initially going to add rotation to the performance shots but then we realized that geometrically, it looked interesting when we aligned a side of the diamond shape to the frame. It made sense.

Doug: With all the vignettes and narrative elements, was this your most complicated video to edit?

BRTHR: Ah, editing this was rough, but in a really great way. There were moments where we'd want to shoot ourselves, but then there were really great moments that overshadowed those frustrating moments in which we were really inspired and happy with how everything was coming along. To answer your question, this was definitely one of the most complicated edits we've had worked on so far.


 A screen shot of the edit in Final Cut Pro

Doug: You guys have used a different DP on each of your last three videos. What was it like working with Shawn Kim on this project?

BRTHR: I have to say that working with Shawn Kim was one of the best experiences we had out there in LA. He is seriously on point. One thing we've sort of struggled with is getting DPs to get down and dirty. We really like grittiness, that sort of aesthetic, and we discussed this with Shawn prior to the shoot. When it was time to finally start shooting, he just got it. Literally everything we wanted, he did, and he executed everything perfectly. He does things most DPs might feel iffy about or weird about - he can go mega guerilla and isnt afraid of messing up. It was really cool to watch, and we felt a lot more confident on set because we were able to trust him 120%. He's the man. Everyone should admire his work at (He's shot so many of our fav videos).

Doug: What was behind the decision to shoot this video on 16mm?

BRTHR: Can't tell you how long we've wanted to shoot film. When this concept arose we immediately took advantage of the fact that film would compliment it, and so we pushed for it hard. Mark was also super into that idea, as well as Saul Levitz, the commissioner, and we thought it was a crucial aspect in getting the gritty, vintage mood we were going for. We wanted it to feel organic. We decided not to shoot 35mm because we thought it might end up looking a little bit too clean.


Kyle looking cool on set

Doug: How did you guys get Dylan Penn involved with the project?

BRTHR: One of our producers, Ben Gilovitz is a friend of hers. We saw a photo of her and thought she'd be perfect for the girl on the couch. She was down so she stopped by for a day on set.

Doug: This is a pretty massive cast, how did the rest of the cast come together outside of Dylan? Is everyone friends with Ben Gilovitz?

BRTHR: No, we had a casting director at HMH casting help us out. It was intense, though! We sat through and watched about 200 auditions online, then we picked out our favorites, brought them back, and sat through maybe 50 auditions in person. It was a massive turn up which was really exciting. Oh and some cool parts of this cast is that the girl on the mountain is actually Cubbie's (bassist) sister. She was perfect for the role and has an amazing look. Joe LoCicero, the boxer, is actually a pretty big underwear model - Google him, admire him. Gavin Malone, the kid on the run, was H&M's poster boy for a while. Leaf Lieber, the mascot kid, and Victoria Geil, his love interest have a 7 year age difference. Leaf is 14 and Victoria is 23 haha! We casted Leaf because he looks like a Tim Burton character.


Actor Joe Locicero

Doug: What were your goals for the style of the performance portions? Were the set pieces based on anything?

BRTHR: Throughout the pre-production, everyone including the band kept stressing the words "iconic" and "timeless." We always wanted to do something with neon lighting and film, so we pitched that idea along with the projector set you see. We were just aiming for simplicity and a little kick to that. A video we kept going back to for inspiration was Blur's "Song 2" video. Our video is nothing like that one conceptually, but it was super motivating to see such a simple idea be so great.

Doug: How involved are Foster The People in the video making process? This is obviously a multi-day shoot, were the band members just there for the performance day?

BRTHR: They are involved quite a bit in the process as they really care about their visual representations, and that's great. It's always nice to work with someone who cares because that pushes us even more to create something special. We actually met Mark a while back in New York to talk about the album and the visuals that should accompany it, and that really helped shape the concept. They were only there for their shoot day as they were busy, but I'm sure they would've gone to all shoot days if they could. Actually, Cubbie was present for day two because we were filming a scene with his sister. She is the girl on the motorcycle at the end.

Doug: In addition the a Vevo premiere, this video also had a television premiere on VH1 and MTV. I remember hanging out with you guys when your Angel Haze video played on 106 and Park last year and you were pretty excited about it back then. Is it still pretty meaningful to you guys to have your video play on TV?

BRTHR: Haha it's a trip! To watch something on national television after you've played it like 200+ times on your laptop is strange. It never hits me right away. It feels special for sure.

Doug: Katy Perry tweeted out your video and said it was her favorite of the year so far. I know Alex is a big fan of hers, he even went to a taping of Good Morning America once so he could meet her. Was it a bigger deal to have your video play on TV, or to have Katy tweet it out?

Alex: I love how you have this strange inside information on me. Yes, I went to see her on Good Morning America. I got a selfie with her so it was worth it. It was a bigger deal for Katy to tweet it, hands down. I was flipping out. She is such a goddess.


Alex in a selfie with Katy Perry

brthr, coming of age, foster the people, 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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