Belgian director Chris Ullens knew what he wanted to do early on once he was asked to direct country music star Lee Ann Womack’s new hit, “Hollywood.” Rear-projected and with the look of a vintage Hollywood Kodacolor film, the piece tells the story of a couple on road trip to LA through the motel-filled desert surrounding it. The man and woman are represented by fashion dolls who may or may not portray a contemporary Womack and a lover, both living a very retro story.
“Because the song is called Hollywood and Lee Ann sings in it of the make-belief side of images on the silver screen,” Ullens told us, “it quickly spoke to me and I knew I wanted to do something that was a technique based video that has that made-up quality to it. That’s when I thought of making the video with the rear-projection technique. And then, what best to illustrate a song called Hollywood about a couple’s drama than a road trip in LA and it’s surrounding desert?”
He then met with producer, Jade Bogue, DP, Jamie Durand, and the art directors Jess and Alex, called “The Joy of Sets,” to discuss how to actually employ the idea. “It was a great concept on paper I thought,” he said, “but when I got the green light on the project we wondered how we were going to make it work.
“After multiple meetings and tests, we were happy to move on. The art direction team went on to create the car using some parts of various model cars, many parts that they 3D printed themselves.” One of the things that strikes you as you watch the video is the hyper-realistic reflections on the car of the late day SoCal light. Ullens explained, “In order to make all the reflections as strong as possible on the car, the car had a real car paint job!”
Jade Bogue then carefully studied locations, routes and motels to stay in and planned the perfect trip for Durand and Ullens to fly to California from London and shoot all the backgrounds needed for their rear projection technique. “We had a frenetic five day shoot in LA and surrounding deserts darting around day and night in a convertible car shooting,” said Ullens. “It was exhausting, but really great.”
“The big challenge was to manage to blend all these background images we shot in California in a studio with our miniature foregrounds.” Separately the sets and the background footage each looked phenomenal, but the challenge was to manage to get the make-belief side of the film look as good and not too much like two separate entities that don’t work together on screen.
“We had planned for a 1 and a half week shoot and it ended up lasting almost 4 weeks,” he told us. “That was due to the lighting and aspect of the video and the quality of the sets and the time it would take to build them.
“The way for the blending of the projected background and the miniature foreground to work was to carefully choose our lenses and camera angles. But more so, Jamie Durand did an amazing job at lighting the foregrounds! For each separate shot, the lighting of the foregrounds had to match the lighting of our background footage, e.g. we had to study where the sunlight would come from, study the color of the light in the background footage and so on and mimic all that with our lighting kit in the studio.”
“In terms of the sets, they were just so full of amazing details than when we had to break one set to build the next one in the studio was a lengthy process of putting the sets together to camera as well as details like making the TV in the wooden set working for real with a second projector; the light in the bathroom were real miniature LED lights that needed fixing and so did all the ceiling lights; the bed linens had to be folded, ironed and pinned in place; the mirrors he’d to be hung in the right places for the shots to work reflecting the characters and so on and so forth the list of gorgeous details in those sets was huge.”
For more behind the scenes on this in-depth production, see the bts videos below:
Directed by — Chris Ullens
Produced by — Jade Bogue
Written, animated and edited by — Chris Ullens
Director of Photography — Jamie Durand
Art Direction by — The Joy of Sets
Model Makers — Connor Chung, Areeya Bass, Kat Joseph
3D Technician for Models — Michal Bogusiak
Facial Expression Effects by — Aaron Lampert
Grade — Jack McGinity at Cheat
Projectors Provided by — Event Projection
Time-lapse Processing by — Dan Lowe
Studio Assistant — Caoimhin Coffey
Studio Provided by — Scenic Sets
Title Font by — Typesgal