Q&A: Georgia Hudson on making P!nk's What About Us
Luke Bather - 5th Sept 2017
In a relatively short space of time, Georgia Hudson has gone from low budget music videos to being a directorial force to be reckoned with in both the music and commercial worlds. With huge names like Mø and Ellie Goulding already in her videography, the only logical place for her to go now was BIG.
So, it should come as no surprise to you that her latest video for Alecia Beth Moore - better known as P!nk – is a massive, sprawling dance trip full of ambitious set pieces and a raw, emotional physicality that’s hard to top.
We wanted to know more about the making of the video for What About Us, and so we chatted with Georgia about shooting a pop video whilst being able to hear gunfire nearby, letting the kids have a say in their style, and lighting a scene with a helicopter...
Promonews: There’s an incredible level of emotion displayed physically in the video – in your mind, was this always going to be a dance film?
Georgia Hudson: Oh man, I have been dying for the opportunity to put my entire heart and guts into a video - I find this job an irresistible opportunity to get emotionally high and can't help but drop my feelings in for the ride. And to top that off, my absolute favourite thing in the world is dance and it seemed the right way to talk about these ideas that the track presented, in an inclusive and exploratory way, which is also what the song demands. I find that dance transcends semantics because it is driven by emotion and response - and that was what was necessary for the song. So yes, an emotional dance film, that’s fine!
"I have been dying for the opportunity to put my heart and guts into a video"
The way our choreographers, The Goldenboyz translated the messages into the dancers and Alecia’s bodies was breathtaking. I knew they had the potential to push standard choreography and it was incredible to work so closely with them to achieve this. Throughout all the dancing, it is meant to be driven from the stomach, guttural, raw and screaming passion, inspiring, communicative! And so, with this desire for real emotion, when we cast it, we had no roles to fill, we were seeking the people that this video was going to be about, and the synergy was strong!
We were on a trip with this video, and I think you can just see that. The cast fed back such gratitude at having the chance to express their frustration and feeling towards the current political climate, that we could all feel for a moment the release of expression, of community. All the things this song is about was totally microcosmically mirrored in our working process. It was very emotional, and as always, the actual vibe on set translates into the image, I believe those subtleties are the magic to image making really.
Do you have a favourite scene or moment in the video?
Honestly, the dance between Chaz and Ty, the two men, was so moving for me. It was absolutely electric filming it. The idea was to illustrate a condensed version of the course of a relationship. This scene was a loosely guided freestyle, and each time it grew in intensity.
We wanted to set a space and a story for them to be animalistic in, for this to be raw and unexpected, for their guts to spill, it was absolutely fucking insane. We had a helicopter flying overhead to light them from a spotlight, this track booming like a monster against downtown LA night, gunshots (unconnected!) going off from the neighbourhood, our
steadicam op Bryan Freesh behaving like a hypnotised snake, a total acid energy. Of course I was in tears, it took a long time to come back to earth, so just for the pure experience of it - this is my favourite thing I have ever done I reckon!
"Alecia had told me about this dream she had, and we worked it in to the choreography for the final desert dance. When she saw it she was moved to tears"
I am also really satisfied with the diner scene, staging that extraordinarily raw, frustrated, bursting out its own skin-choreography - both inside and outside of our location – gave a great image and consolidated the idea of a community uprising from everywhere, that you are outside looking in at first, until you are right inside and a part of it too. That big drop into this section gets me still!
Each scene in the video has a distinct style in terms of the location, wardrobe, etc. So can you talk a little bit about the decisions behind the aesthetics?
Whenever you are considering the edit flow of the video in advance of writing it, you want to make sure the scenes can shift aesthetically and tonally with the track, that there is always contrast, that in this case, there is a narrative appeal while also being in reverence of this being a pop video! So yes, apocalyptic concrete sprawls, evocative interiors, natural
expanses of dream optimistic potential, you know, a bit of everything that gives to the filmic approach as well as the POP video power. Evocative entertainment!
The wardrobe, beautifully brought together by both Kim Bowen and for the cast, Elise Navidad, was inspired by the UK art school scene fused with LA skater-woke-kids vibe. I love how in the rage against mainstream fashion - which these days is a topshop massacre of alternative tropes - kids now are getting really creative and wild. There is no one look that
gives you your tribal identity, the look is standing out authentically and being well-referenced. You have to truly show you understand what you are wearing, and it’s like a fusion of say grunge with folk, or punk with tie-dye and sportswear.
I’m no connoisseur (of course I think I am) but I do believe you can dress with soul and authenticity, and generally
those two things are the only way to make an impression, in all walks of expression. So that was the vibe, basically for everything. And actually, look at our insanely cool cast, they come with their own looks too. Always check with them that what their wearing is alright. Youth knows better!.
"Steve [Annis] made sure that we understood that nothing would be as good as an actual helicopter. Which was expensive and true"
How was the collaboration between you and Steve Annis?
Steve Annis pulls no punches with his lighting list, using a helicopter as a top light was a totally unique experience for me and Steve absolutely made sure that we all understood that NOTHING would be as good as an actual helicopter, no faking it. Which was expensive and true. Our helicopter ops were pretty gassed to be operating using 40-80mm zoom lenses on a shot over helicopter - an industry first apparently (geek note)
Steve is well known for his incredible aesthetic. I knew he would be able to read beyond a pop icon expectation and give us a proper soulful image that could hold some integrity. It was an honour to finally work with him and see his subtle yet incredibly detailed approach to lighting the scene. It looks effortless, natural, but it is so meticulously designed with such sensitivity to location, tone, action and wardrobe. Steve somehow manages to be both absolutely wild and absolutely pedantic.
And what was it like working with Pink herself?
Working with Alecia was such an immense privilege. She really knows how to hold the creatives around her. She is so inspiring and so heartfelt and REAL. What an incredible, mad, powerful and impressive woman! She does not like to dilute anything which is a great asset for me as it means she backs the big ideas and isn't scared to take a risk! She is a real
artist, I actually quite love her. She had told me about this dream she had, and we worked it in to the choreography, for the final desert dance. When she saw it she was moved to tears, she was there with us you know, involved, I respect her.
With this being a highly-politicised piece of work, have you had any pushback or angry comments?
YouTube comments as always are a wealth of confusion and comedy. The video is read by some as being a conversation with God!? Which of course I guess it could be if that’s what you want. Not my place to say it isn’t... And there are small-minded furies bubbling everywhere, but the video isn't designed to placate necessarily, but neither to enrage. It’s an anthem for those that want it and its just proudly there, as it is, no apology, no coercion, no shame.
"This is an alchemy of talent, so in many ways I got to sit back and watch all these insanely creative, well experienced people just sort it all out."
If you could do the whole shoot again, is there anything you’d change?
Normally I would say yes, and be able to point out all sorts of flaws and missed opportunities! On this occasion, I am genuinely proud of the result. I approached this job with a lot of conviction, I really believed in what I wanted to do. And let’s be honest, we had a mad crew - everyone was at the top of their game. This is an alchemy of talent, so in many
ways I got to sit back and watch all these insanely creative, well experienced people just sort it all out. Bit of a pleasure. BIG UP CAST AND CREW!!!
• Georgia Hudson is represented by Agile Films
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Luke Bather - 5th Sept 2017