British video clip director Nima Nourizadeh came to Tokyo for Resfest Japan to talk about the making of his recent brilliant video clips for Hot Chip and Lily Allen. With his former collective The Imaginary Tennis Club Nima already became known for his funny little videos for Dizzee Rascal or Junior Senior. Now he’s on his own under the wings of clever production company Partizan earning credits on his own, enriching the British music scene with an original and humoristic approach. Here is what he had to say about the art of making and the oddly fragile relationship with bands as a director.
Written by Verena
The smiling boy: director Nima Nourizadeh in Tokyo fighting his jet-lag.
Smiling Boy #2 – Resfest director Jeremy Boxer.
For our sunny interview, Nima was accompanied by Resfest director Jeremy Boxer. The two chaps from London had arrived the day before, spent the night roaming around before finally visiting the Tokyo fish market in the early morning (those fish offer amazing visuals for anyone coming to Tokyo with a video camera by the way…). However, by the time you read this Nima has long gone back to Britain where he’s currently shooting his next clip for the prog rock band Maximo Park. Here we go!
Nima, for the video for the British lads Hot Chip you basically did not only shoot one, but three clips! For their ‘Over and Over’ video you basically made a ‘making of’ of a ‘making of’ using the green screen all the time. I suppose by now you must have come quite close to them?
Nima: Making a music video is basically building a relationship with a band and make them trust you. The longer you do this kind of thing, the more you realize how afraid bands actually are. They’re so frightened of being represented in a bad way or being disappointed by a video… Just yesterday I met a band before I got on my flight to Tokyo and they seriously asked: ‘Are you honestly going to do a great video for us?’
How much time do you need to spend together to get that close? This obviously wasn’t your first clip for Hot Chip!?
Nima: When I did the ‘Playboy’ video for them, I didn’t know them at all. And the label had to trust me, too. But that video was done for no money and the band was happy to have one at all. Then we started to hang out and eventually talked about the next one.
So how did you come up with a concept for your ‘Over and Over’ video?
Nima: The band was signed to EMI at that time and it wasn’t sure wether there would even be a budget for the video. So whenever you don’t have a lot of money and you want to put in some effects, using the green screen is the best way. So then I thought: “why not do a video that looks unfinished in the first place because we can’t afford to do all the effects we want to anyway? Further, why not making a video that is entirely shot with the green screen?”
Jeremy: I loved that idea, because it went so well with the cheekiness of the song and added another layer to it.
Nima: Yes, the band is serious in what they do, but they don’t take themselves seriously. The idea was just to bring their characters out. If I had not known them on a personal level, I would have never have made a video like that… they wouldn’t have either. (laughs)
Jeremy: I heard that all these guys in the green suits were your friends from High School? True?
Nima: Yes, that was the best! Every time I was stressed out from the shooting I just looked over and saw my friends in those super silly green suits. I mean, you might as well run around naked: those suits don’t hide a thing! (keeps laughing) But they were just standing there, having a cigarette, chatting with each other as if nothing matters and I thought: God, this is hilarious.
Watch the entire video at YouTube.
What about Hot Chip’s follow up ‘Colours’: you gave it a totally different 3D look!? How did you do it, actually?
Nima: There’s a company called Artem Digital that developed this technique called ‘4D’ facial capture. Normally you have somebody’s face captured and animate it afterwards. With this technology, you can do it in an instant.
Jeremy: You’ve got four cameras, right? And it was done for medical software initially, I believe.
Nima: Yes, the singer sat in this room and they recorded his face and then they generated the 3D image. For the 4D they only take your front part, only your face and stick it on a generated head. Then, because you want this to be 3D and move around it, you get a wire frame of the face and you get the texture of a very basic skin. Meaning it will look like him but be very flat. It took a month for the post-production to give us the facial capturing. The only problem was: it started to look too real. So we had to flatten it a little bit and therefore it doesn’t have as much detail in some of the shots.
What happens if a band gets really popular – just like Hot Chip now? Does it change your approach towards them, too?
Nima: The only difference is that there are more people involved and everyone’s got something to say, like ‘how to market the band’. When there isn’t much money for a video though, you don’t really have any restrictions as a director, really. So for me, most of the time the bands that have no money are the best bands.
Nima: She just made a #1 hit with ‘Smile’ and I was asked to pitch for the next single, ‘LDN’. Then I found out that people like Dougal Wilson, Blue Source and various other established names were pitching. So I heard nothing from them for two weeks. It got quiet. At that time I was totally involved in the making of the ‘Colours’ video. Then out of the blue I got a call from a commissioner that said: ‘Lily Allen is in Germany. Call her.’ So I had a chat with her, but although we felt “instantly connected” I still didn’t get the video right away.
Nima: Nevertheless – I had to pitch for the second video again, although I had a good relationship with her. That only means just that you are a bit more privileged than the others, but still need to come up with a good concept and all. In some cases you can phone them and try to convince them of your new idea verbally, rather than with a written presentation. And if they don’t like it, you work on something else.
The final ‘LDN’ video from Nima:
Nima: Every time I go on a shoot it’s like the first time, ‘cause I can’t take any experience from the previous shoot. Even if it’s the same band. That makes me nervous, but that sort of nervous energy is really good in this environment.
Does that make you feel insecure?
Nima: Sometimes. You always got to question if this is gonna be how you expected it. Will it work? There has to be a certain feel afterwards. So there’s a lot of risk in that. Always.
See Nima’s clip for ‘Littlest Things’:
Interesting insights from one rising young and fresh video clip director. Good luck, Nima Nourizadeh – and thanks for your time!