Eva Husson talks about her latest video for The Presets: "Somebody on YouTube was really shocked at the fire dance scene, they found it obscene"...
To start with, please tell us where are you are from, Eva?
Eva Husson: "I don’t know exactly where I’m from. I grew up in Normandy but that’s not where my family is from. I’m half-Parisian, half-Spanish, and somewhere along the way became a little bit of an American. The minute I could get out of there I did. I left for Paris when I was 17 and that’s what I call home, I guess. But Los Angeles, too. I went to Film school there, at the American Film Institute (that was the student home to David Lynch and Darren Arronofsky)."
"My background is mainly fiction. I really come from story-telling. I’ve done several shorts that have shown in festivals around the world and one of them even got me a Student Academy Award nomination. After nine years of travels (Puerto Rico, USA, Madrid), I now live in Paris but work often in the States; in France they say my sensibility is American, in the States that it is European…"
How did you get into music videos?
Eva: “It took me a long time to get into music videos. I didn’t know any band or anyone in the music industry (tip: that helps!), until I worked on a fiction project and met M83 through that. I wrote a letter begging Anthony, the lead, to compose the music for my project, which he did.
After M83 I got offered the video for The Presets. Funnily enough, even though the band was dead set on my idea from the start, from what I understood, it took a while for the label to warm up to it, so it was a long process to get the green light (4 months). Now everybody’s very happy about the video, it seems.”
How did you come up with the idea for the video, and what did you want to express with it?
“I got the song late in the day on a Wednesday. I came back home and I sat on my bed and I listened to it, over and over. And then happened the only thing you can wish for when you receive a song: I started to see images, images of a young boy dancing through the city, from West to East, from morning to dawn, and he gathers with some other kids, and they dance together around a fire in an industrial place. I just let it come to me, I let the song take me on a journey. I wrote until 4 AM and that was it.”
“Beyond the straightforward breakup story, for me the song is about human connection, the impossibility to ignore the one we have with certain people, and the realization of that fact. The narrator implies that despite all the bad blood between her and her ex-lover, if the world was to come to an end, this boy would be the one she’d want to be with for her last moments. Some ties are beyond our understanding. The connection is unspoken, just there, and it could be compared to the connection we have with nature – it’s beyond words and beyond anything rational. That’s what dance is for me: beyond rational, and connecting people.”
“That’s probably why I imagined from the start that the kids would be brought together by dance… Even in a world choking from an excess of signs and industrialization, there is this one thing we can go back to, this primitive place that we still carry within us, and it’s vital. There is that and sex, and sex is hard to show on screen, and even harder in a clip… Somebody on YouTube was really shocked at the fire dance scene, they found it obscene, which I thought was funny because obviously there is absolutely no sexual side to it whatsoever. They mistook physical surrendering with sexuality. Physical trance is intense, but is not a sexual occurrence: dance is just another way human beings commune with each other.”
“As for Los Angeles and the light in the clip… I chose L.A. because I lived there for five years and there is something incredibly primal about the light there, from dawn to dusk it follows you, overwhelms you everywhere, and I wanted to explore this. The fire scene was heavily inspired by one of my idols in photography, Bill Henson, who photographs teenagers like no other one.”
Where did you find the actors/dancers? And what was it like to work with them?
“The first picture I was sent was the one of Jeff, the kid who got cast. It was like this for all the other kids – the casting director did a great job, and out of the twelve kids I actually saw, nine were perfect. It was a dream of a cast.”
“The kids were all between 13 and 19 and most of them dancers, so even though they had very little to no experience on a set, they had the enthusiasm of their age and the discipline of dancers.”
“For the non-dancing bits, well, acting is like a dance, really, you go through a series of motions in a certain order, in a certain rhythm, so for example with Jeff, whenever he found it hard to do the non-dancing bits I would refocus him by treating the action as a dance move. 1-2-3-4 you stare ahead, 5-6 head to your right, 7-8 head down, etcetera.”
Can you say something about the production process and about the challenges you faced?
“I got extremely lucky, the label and the band gave me absolute artistic control. And Mourad, my producer at El Niño, unconditionnally supported the project and made it possible for me to work in conditions I didn’t even dream of on such a low budget. I had two weeks of prep and two plus two days of shooting. An L.A. based production company organize the shoot, Daft Arts - Daft Punk’s production side.
“Warren Kommers, the director of photography gave an incredible amount of time to the prep of the clip ... He owns the camera we used, a Red, so we spent some time on our own rolling all the B roll in the world: sun through palm tree, etcetera.”
What band or what song would you like to do a video for, and why?
“Any catchy song by the following, because there is nothing better than getting to do a video for a song that nobody can get out of their heads, and these bands or singers are the ones who have stuck in my mind in the past few months: Radiohead, MGMT, Lykke Li, Feist, Bat for Lashes, Sébastien Tellier, Midnight Juggernauts, David Byrne, Fat Boy Slim, Justice, P.J. Harvey…”
“And for the ones that will never get made: “Rock’N’Roll Suicide” by David Bowie, “La Ballade de Melody Nelson” by Serge Gainsbourg, “All We Ever Wanted” by Bauhaus, “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone.”
What are you working on at the moment?
“And on the side I’m currently working on a couple of fiction projects and music videos. I also do commercials. One of my fiction projects is meant for the web. It’s called “Those For Whom It’s Always Complicated”, and is about my generation of artists, our hopes, our constant travels, our clumsy yet enthusiastic pursuit of love. It’s shooting between Paris, L.A. and other major cities. It’s tender, a little in the tradition of “Annie Hall” by Woody Allen. It’s a free spirited and exciting project in many ways – almost all the actors are friends of mine, and so is the crew.”
More Eva Husson videos on the website of production house El Nino: