David Knight - 24th Nov 2008

A few months back Seattle-based Matt Daniels of Thinklab directed an evocative portrait of American suburbia for Throw Me The Statues' Lolita.

Now Matt shows a wonderful facility for quickly-established drama once more with his new video for Damien Jurado - but this is way out of the comfort zone of the burbs. It's a riveting, brooding, wince-inducing snapshot of the brutal life of the American West, where death is painfully close by...

It's marvellous, beautifully shot work, filmed in central Washington State. Jurado wrote the scenario, and his younger brother Drake plays a central role, supported by other members of the band.

Matt Daniels on making the video for Damien Jurado's Caskets

"[Damien] gave us a framework to work from. We knew the story would feature Damien's younger brother Drake and the rest of the band. I decided to set the story at the turn of the century in a Terrence Malick, "Days of Heaven" world, lots of wide open landscapes. I love experimenting with new genres on each project. I hadn't done western or horror, so a gory western made sense.

"We knew we wanted to escape the city and use real locations. Two and a half hours east of Seattle had these epic landscapes, abandoned structures and slightly more predictable weather. Armed with a bunch of reference images from Flickr, our producer (Jaime) and assistant camera (Phil) did the initial location scout. They found the abandoned house that became the location for the surgery scene. Phil grew up in Eastern Washington and showed us Quincy Lakes, and many other locations, but Quincy lakes was probably the most epic location we had to work with.

"The video features no professional actors, just the band (Damien, Eric, and Jenna) and the Damien's younger brother, Drake. Our rehearsals and acting prep for the shoot were literally done on the drive over the mountains, on our way to the first location. We (the crew) were all amazed at how great the band looked in costume, in these locations. They were all nervous and natural in front of the camera.

"A small crew, a flexible schedule, and a relaxed attitude allowed us to move fast do a ton of exploring while we were shooting. We left with all kinds of stuff you just can't script - an owl flying from tree, a praying mantis landing on our production designers shoulder, flies on the curtains...

"Drake walked for miles, barefoot and shirtless, across sharp rocks, on a cliff, through a lake. On the third day he was extremely sunburnt and had to lay in a dirty bed for over 8 hours while covered in blood and guts. Lucky for us, he was willing to do anything... never complained, smiled more than anything. He even came back a week later to be dropped into a coffin about 15 times.

"And in trying to shoot the final scene of the bed burning we were having a terrible time finding a location where we we weren't at risk of starting a major fire. It was windy everywhere. We found an open, hilly field that shielded a lot of the wind. As we were setting up a farmer drove up in his truck and informed us we were on his property and that it had recently been seeded.

"We spent the next two hours racing against sunset, in search of another safe location. With minutes of sunset Phil found the perfect spot, a rock Quarry with banks blocking the wind and the sunset off in the distance."[/pay]

Watch: Quicktime movie Behind the scenes: here

Credits

Production CompanyThinklab Inc.
DirectorM
ProducerJaime Keeling
Director of PhotographyMike Ragen
Production designerCourtland Premo
StylistKira Arnold
Make-upJennifer Popochock

David Knight - 24th Nov 2008

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