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Editors 'Sugar' by Joe Vanhoutteghem

David Knight - 11th Mar 2014

He's mainly occupied making ads, but Joe Vanhoutteghem's ventures into music video have resulted in jawdropping work for The Hickey Underworld and Balthazar. Now for Editors' Sugar, the Belgian director has moved into new territory. The alienated characters of his previous videos are replaced by band performance.

But that unmistakeably unsettling quality of his videos – of reality being twisted into something else – certainly remains. From the moment the band start playing, something strange is going on. Their shabby rehearsal room keeps changing: walls collapse, slide away, then reappear, then close in. Other people, unseen by the band, fly sideways through the room, slide along floors, hang upwards...

So we spoke to Joe, to ask him about the video...

Your music video projects are fairly rare. How did your Editors video come about? How did you describe the idea for the video to them?

It was hard to describe, it was even hard to explain to myself. The thing was that they wanted to have a performing video. I always refused them in the past. So it was a challenge. I had to come up with a performing idea  but I still wanted some kind of storyline. I thought it was maybe best to do something visually interesting. So I proposed a documentary feel on the band in the rehearsal room and after the transformation we kept the sound realistic, hearing the music muffled in the presumed rooms next door to create some strange effect. Although I was aware that some of the Youtube fans weren't going to be happy. 

Is there something you’re looking for in a track or a band that makes you want to work with them?

Not really. I don't think so much in wanting to shoot for a particular band. I just like to tell stories apart from the music but in the spirit of that music. For me a music video is always at it's best when the music feels kind of a soundtrack. That's why performing video's are so hard. Sometimes I have ideas apart from a track. Later that track starts lingering in your head and the vibe of the band and the guys in it. Slowly it comes all together. 

The video is full of ingenious FX tricks and ideas - and it’s not easy to figure out how they’ve been achieved. Is this an existing set or location of collapsing and sliding walls, or did you create the room yourself? And how did you control the movement of the walls and ceilings?

I shot a similar project before with the same art director. It was all shot in camera. We shot this in the art director's warehouse. There was a small shabby place not so far that we used as the existing rehearsal room. Then we re-build all the walls, the floor and ceiling in the warehouse. we had a forklift for the ceiling but the movements of the walls were all just controlled by manpower out of frame. 

And how did you get your cast to slide along floors, hang upwards, etc?

We casted some young free runners who were up for it. We also had a professional stunt coordinator and his team. They rigged the runners for a couple of shots and also Justin, the guitar player. 

Have these tricks been stored in the Vanhoutteghem locker for a while, or did you develop them especially for the video?

There's a lot of useless stuff stored in a very small locker :-) There were some basic idea's but then you start talking, and adding and skipping things together with everyone involved. 

Your previous videos for Hickey Underworld and Balthazar have been very uncompromising. Were you intent on adopting a lighter tone for this one?

It's often lonely in a dark room. I'm happy I succeeded to deliver a bit of a lighter tone for once. This was different from the others because I had the performing part to deal with. But it was equally fun. 

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David Knight - 11th Mar 2014


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Joe Vanhoutteghem
Lander Engels
Production Company
Executive Producer
Eurydice Gysel


Director of Photography
Lieven Van Baelen


Art Director
Geert Paredis


Martin Leroy


Post production company


Hammy De Beukelaer
Stunt Co-ordinator
Marco Maas
Indra Sierra

David Knight - 11th Mar 2014

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