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Behind The Video: Cloé Bailly on Coldplay's Champion Of The World
In Coldplay's latest video, Chris Martin plays a bullied schoolboy - an unlikely idea perhaps, for pretty much anyone other than French director Cloé Bailly (above right, on set with Martin).
In Champion Of The World, Bailly showed that her visual imagination and talent for fusing fantasy with an edge of gritty realism could work for one of the biggest bands in the world.
We spoke to her about the project and the challenges for turning Martin into a schoolboy who is forced to repeatedly escape reality, and into his own dreamworld.
What kind of brief did you get from the band on this? Did they provide a basic idea of what they wanted to happen?
CLOÉ BAILLY: Coldplay’s brief was pretty open. They wanted a whimsical, poetic world away from realism. They also suggested Chris would be up to play the young boy.
What were the important ideas that you presented in your treatment that really appealed to the band?
I think they liked the narrative which really worked with the lyrics of the track, but also the surrealistic take. Dreams, fantasy and imagination were a major part of the concept which I guess really appealed to the band.
Chris really trusted me... he is a natural performer, even though he’s not a professional actor.
Did Chris Martin take any convincing to play a young schoolboy?
He was very much up for it, not questioning anything, not overanalyzing or anticipating at all. He really trusted me which was extremely motivating and productive on set!
Honestly, I didn’t have to direct him that much. He’s a natural performer, even though he’s not a professional actor. He adopted the body language and the facial expressions of a bullied boy very easily, without ever overacting.
You’ve created something that is both sad and uplifting, as we move from reality to fantasy world. What were your main references (films, etc) for achieving that mix of sadness and feelgood?
Definitely Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Danny DeVito’s Matilda - but also Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. These are three masterpieces which, even though they’re very different, carry the same whimsical melancholy.
Dreams, fantasy and imagination were a major part of the concept which I guess really appealed to the band.
The location was obviously very important for the right tone. Where did you go to shoot this?
L.A. We mostly shot east side and downtown.
What were the biggest challenges leading up to the shoot?
We thought we’d never manage to shoot everything. There was so many shots, so many locations and so many constraints: shooting with kids, operating a drone over a school, switching from Chris to his child’s version in each location. Just thinking about it I want to go take a nap :)
Sounds stressful! How long was the shoot, and did you end up with everything in your original script/storyboard? Was there anything that happened that didn't really work out on the day(s) - and anything that ended up being a bigger part of the video than you originally planned?
The shoot was two days long and - obviously - absolutely packed. Everything had to be shot twice - the Chris version and the kid’s version - and shot with the normal camera as well as with the drone. On the first day we shot in a studio - the bedroom, the kitchen and the greenscreen. On Day 2 we shot the school scenes, then the streets scene, then the house.
Surprisingly and against all odds, we shot everything that was planned and storyboarded. We never thought we could achieve it. Of course there had to be some tweaks and readjustments but overall everything just worked out.
Chris was riding his bike in the street on his own, I was running after him… quite absurd but hilarious.
The whole video is lovely, but was there any part that was particularly enjoyable shooting, and you're really pleased with?
I totally underestimated the street scene until we edited and VFX’d it, which is only when I realized how much I loved it. When we shot this scene, the atmosphere was light and fun at this point because we were reaching the end, which made us relaaaax. Chris was riding on his bike in the street on his own, gone with the camera rigged on the bike… I was running after him… It was quite absurd but pretty hilarious.
The scene where the vehicles start to take off around Chris on his bike, is probably the most spectacular part of the video. Was that the biggest challenge when it came to the post production, or was it something else?
The challenge on set was shooting everything we needed before the sun went down because we shot it at golden hour. Then second and biggest challenge was definitely post-production. The incredible Martes Studio from Barcelona, Spain, absolutely nailed it. For them the challenge was dealing with a magical/surrealistic element in a daily environment, and making it look integrated. 3D Lighting and compositing was the key to make it work. Also colour treatment helped to make the cars look more real...
The drone shots were done for real... Drone Dudes navigated the drones with incredible ease, even when they had to aim for a tiny mouse hole
The latter part of the video features a series of drone shots where the viewer sits on top of Chris's toy rocket - including inside his kitchen at home, and into a school hall where the boy is playing has a full house. How much was the drone footage done for real, how much was created in post?
Everything was done for real. The wonderful team of Drone Dudes absolutely nailed shooting these precise and complex shots. They used a GoPro on a small racing drone as well as flying the big drone with the Alexa Mini. They navigated the drones with incredible ease, even when they had to aim for a tiny mouse hole (in the kitchen). What we created or smoothed in post is the transitions, then the topshot at 3’ over the street with the surrealistic moon decor, and then everything was created by Martes Studio from the exit of the mouse hole till the end.
The band performance footage in Chris's Viewfinder creates a different, more handmade aesthetic. How did you create those environments around the band?
Again, the wonderful Xavi Trilla, Roger Amat and Joan Molins at Martes Studio created the environment. I gave them directions - I wanted something more vintage-looking that contrasted with the rest of the video and looked more homemade - then we brainstormed and the guys proposed me ideas. They found some footage on reference banks and tweaked them.
What’s amazing with the guys from Martes Studio is that they’re not only strong technicians. They also have a lot of humour and are very creative, so they push the VFX to another level. It is wonderful for a director who isn’t technical like me, to be able to brainstorm and talk creatively with VFX artists.
Martes Studio in Barcelona nailed the challenge of dealing with a magical/surrealistic element in a daily environment, and making it look integrated.
Filmmaking is always collaborative, so apart from Chris and the band, who were the important collaborators with you on this project?
Definitely the guys at Martes Studio, as mentioned above. As soon as I got the brief, I contacted them to discuss my ideas and improve them with their input and technical advices. All along the creative process we’ve been going back and forth which was extremely reassuring and inspiring.
Then Patrick Meller, DoP, of course. I had already shot an Axe campaign with Pat and absolutely loved working with him. He’s an incredibly strong technician who also has very good taste in terms of cinematography. A true artist. It’s very inspiring to exchange references with him. Pat challenges your choices and pushes you as a director to always make your piece better. He has been a very supportive and invested collaborator on this project.
The stylist Bex Crofton-Atkins was a key collaborator as well. Not only because she creates worlds and characters just with one outfit, but also because her investment and vibe on set was such a game-changer. Definitely makes the whole experience a better, more pleasant, more inspiring process.
Fernanda Guerrero, Production Designer, has been a great collaborator on this project too. She really has created powerful, cinematic worlds in each location.
And finally, Daniella Manca, EP, has been a key collaborator. From day one till the release she has advised me and supported my ideas in the best possible way. She has believed in this project and has done everything in her power to make it exist, which I’ll never be thankful enough for!
• This episode of Behind The Video is a co-production by Promonews and Caviar
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