Cat Velez - 23rd Apr 2015

There's no mistaking the subject of J. Cole's Wet Dreamz. It's an autobiographical tale, both charming and explicit, about his (and his first girlfriend's) first sexual experience. Like many excellent storytelling songs, the words fire the listener's imagination - which adds to the challenge of anyone making the video. 

But Ryan Staake has come up with something for the Wet Dreamz video that's surprising, funny, very cute - and in its way also quite literal. The song is all about puppy love, and so is Ryan's video. It's just that he's used actual puppies. Just as in the song, these puppies fall for each other and navigate their 'first time' - and even that is a lot less explicit than the song.

Promo spoke to Ryan about the making of the video. We're just a bit concerned about what happened at the casting...

PromoNews: Where you surprised that J. Cole approved your idea of representing his story from a canine perspective?

Ryan Staake: Yes. I knew this would be a tough sell right off the bat, but I felt it was the only direction I wanted to take it. It’s quite a challenge to make a literal video for a track based on adolescent sex/loss of virginity… if you cast kids who come off appropriately young, as the lyrics communicate, it’s going to quickly get into this slightly taboo area of sexuality and youth. It also just felt so obvious to go that route, so I actually wrote the treatment in a way that began with a cover image of an embracing young couple, and all of these beautiful cinematic images of couples at sunset, flirting with each other, etc, and then had a page that basically said “fuck that, let’s use puppies”.

After I delivered the treatment, I hopped on a call with Bryan Younce, the commissioner, to verbalize some of the intricacies of the video, and quickly address any questions regarding why I wanted to use puppies in a hip-hop video. Cole’s camp came back with very positive notes, and had some very constructive ideas which ended up in the final video. He flew into Miami for a couple hours on our first day to film his first two shots, and was so kind and appreciative of the idea, my different take on his lyrics, and spent most of his time playing with the boy dog, Glade.

"I wrote the treatment that began with a cover image of an embracing young couple... and then had a page that said 'f**k that, let’s use puppies'."

How long did it take to find your ideal couple?

It took a little over a week. I was shown countless photos of puppies from our trainer, and requested iPhone videos of my selects. Then I had an inbox of adorable videos of excited puppies to deal with, all of these adorable dogs begging me to pick them. I was casting primarily for a strong feminine and masculine traits in the dogs, and then secondarily looking for dogs which seemed to respond well to commands from the trainers, but still had alot of energy and charisma.

We ended up casting Lola (the girl) and Glade (the boy) who were perfect for the roles, and the rejected dogs were promptly sent to a dog food processing facility.

Was the video hard to pull off?

Yes – working with puppies was like herding cats. From the start we planned the project in a way which would give us a fighting chance of getting the coverage needed to tell the story. We filmed at 96fps to ensure each second of usable reality turned into four seconds of usable footage in post, framed tight to allow the trainers to be very close to the dogs – and allowed the pups to take frequent naps in between takes to recharge their batteries.

We also filmed the “bedroom scene” with the dogs first, because they hadn’t met yet, so that we were able to capture all of their curiosity about each other… the licking, the smelling, the rolling over.  We shot for three days in Miami, and arrived back in NYC for the edit with hours and hours of footage to dig through to find the right moments. My editor Alan Capriles and I spent about a week finding all of the tiny moments (the glances, the winks, the head turns) that we needed to tell our story.

Do you think hip-hop videos are generally becoming more flexible and supportive of unusual ideas?

I think hip-hop artists have always been into unusual ideas. Look at Spike Jonze’s Pharcyde 'Drop' video. There are overused visual tropes and canned approaches in all genres of music and videos, and I think it’s just about finding the artists that are not only open to different ideas, but proactively seek them out from directors. 

PRO Credits

Credits

DirectorRyan Staake
Production CompanyPomp&Clout
ProducerMat Hollis
Director of PhotographyMike Simpson
CommissionerBryan Younce
Production ManagerJoycelyn Bejar
1st ADShawn Thomas
1st ACAnthony Cappello
Movi OperatorJustin Marks
Associate ProducerAaron Vinton
EditorAlan Capriles & Ryan Staake
VFXPete Puskas & Ryan Staake
ColouristMikey Rossiter
Post Production ManagerNatalie Westerfield
Art DirectionJerry Blohm
Make-upKarina Delbel
WardrobeChiara Solla
CastingChristina Beaulieu
PropsJerry Blohm
Other creditsProduction Assistants: Mike Garcia, Oscar Sardinas, Edmond Reid, Nas St. Hubert

Cat Velez - 23rd Apr 2015

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