August 18, 2009

R.E.M. Hollow Man

R.E.M. Hollow Man from CRUSH on Vimeo.

Title: Hollow Man
Artist: R.E.M.
Label: Warner Bros. Records
Director: Crush
Production Company: Crush, Toronto
Crush Creative Directors: Gary Thomas, Stefan Woronko
Executive Producer: Jo-ann Cook
Producer: Stephanie Pennington
Shot, designed and animated by Crush, Toronto

We first spoke to Michael Stipe at the end of February. He heard about us through the work we did last year for Doug Coupland’s new book, The Gum Thief. He wanted a video that was frantic and dense and not overly polished or fretted over. Michael has great instincts about what visuals are right for the song, but really allowed us to run with the clip, adding really good, insightful comments at the right times, even as the band began a punishing press tour to launch the new album.

When we first started talking to Michael about the meaning behind the lyrics, the song really struck a chord with us. We all fear losing who we are or getting so far down a path, either in career or personally, that we can’t get back. We wanted to build on that as our theme. The idea of isolation, the universality of that and to see how that moment of realization, the explosion of understanding changes your path.

From there we took a page from R.E.M.’s approach to writing and recording the new record. We wanted to take the “punk” aesthetic and represent it for 2008. We wanted to see the Hollow Man as a person (or in our case three people), as a digital avatar, or as a roughly drawn representation. We wanted the lyrics to stand out front, plain and confronting without losing their layers of meaning. We felt that the moment of understanding needed to feel like an explosion, and that dictated the rush of images, punctuated by moments of clarity (the falling man).

Crush works a bit like a band. We all have our roles but we collaborate, sometimes leading each other and sometimes following. The creative process was liquid and constantly changing. We knew where we wanted to go, but didn’t constrict ourselves early on, adding and subtracting until sometime around lunchtime on the day the video shipped. We started out feeling like typography was going to be the main device, then felt a hand animated section would give it the humanity the words needed, then as we explored, thought a live action representation would connect all the elements. The digital “avatar” came from Michael Stipe's comments about performing the song at SXSW, and it went on to becoming the symbolic heart of the video.

We used every toy in the building, shot footage in Stephanie (our producer’s) apartment, in our grubby stairwell, just generally got back to a place where all creative people start and then slowly get away from, to try to make pictures work like music.

- Gary Thomas, Creative Director, Crush

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