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Supermodel 'Push' by Joe Connor and Emile Rafael

David Knight - 10th Jan 2024

A young woman attends a séance, where events take an even stranger turn than expected, in this riveting cinematic spectacle, co-directed by Emile Rafael and Joe Connor for the pair's own synth-based music project, Supermodel.

Set in a grand hotel, with a cast of characters gathered in their finery to engage in the séance, the narrative element of the video for the pulsating Push moves into a dreamlike world, where the participants are engulfed in sensory overload - visally expressed in charged blur of colour and choreography.

It's an intense and mesmerizing experience, with superb cinematography (by Michal Babinec), editing (by Liv Ay at Trim) and VFX work (at Agile Studio). It means that Emile Rafael and Joe Connor's first collaboration as directors is easily as successful as their musical partnership.  

We spoke to the pair to discover more about how they started making music together, and how they made the video.

For me it’s a story about grief.

 
PROMONEWS: How and when did you start making music together? And when did it get serious and you wanted to release it as Supermodel?

JOE CONNOR: I’d been trying to write another sad folk album (after my first one in 2017), but I was really uninspired. I just wasn't that sad anymore. I started messing around with synths and drums to find a new sound. Emile, I think, was doing a similar exercise, just exploring music that chimed with a kind of post-Brexit decay we both felt. We started passing tracks back and forth and out of that, we got one of our first releases, Have You Forgot. It was a miracle process and we decided to keep going with it. 

EMILE RAFAEL: Yes, it was Covid and we all were at home and not being able to shoot and we were depressed along with everyone else (I actually secretly enjoyed the lack of any FOMO). 

This is when I got a few dusty synths out and started working on some sketches. I was a big fan of Joe’s music already. I spent a whole job in Toronto once listening to it on repeat. We had a few chats and then I sent him one of the music ideas and the lyrics that came back were just so right. Then a friend of ours, Steve Spiro liked it and decided to release it on his small label. And suddenly we thought to ourselves: wow, is this thing real? Can it become serious? 

Then we were at a film party and Joe said “What about SUPERMODEL as a name?” and I said 'yes' right away. Two hours later at the same party I was telling people how I’m in a band called Supermodel. 

But we still have no memory of how we actually met. 

JC: I think Sing J Lee introduced us….but then, I can't really remember.

Now you’ve made a video for Push, as a directing collaboration. What was the process? Did you come up with the idea together - and did that happen after the song was completed?

JC: Emile actually came up with the concept. I thought he was mad. Turns out he is mad. He had the idea of setting the track to a seance, and we just developed the video from there.

We both worked on the styling, casting, and storyboarding together - and then the shoot day was unique. I have a different approach to Emile, I like to plan like crazy and then have the space to improvise. Emile, quite rightly, likes to plan and then follow the plan. I can’t blame him. I blame myself. 

ER: Yes, the song was done, and we knew this was the big one. Co-directing I think was a big interesting event for both of us. I mean Joe is the insane one. It’s like dealing with pure creative chaos to my very intense focus. 

In music we both occupy a bit of our own space that sometimes intersects. In directing we realized we are very similar in our taste, but we get there in a very different way. I think we learned a lot from each other while seriously putting each other on edge a few times. I think you can definitely feel that in the video and it needed that intensity.

It’s a very abstract and dreamlike narrative. How would you explain the story? How does it relate to the song?

ER: I had an idea for a bit about a séance after seeing some very old pictures of people with ectoplasm and glowing things. It was all very early manipulation of photography that must have been incredibly hard to pull off. Or was it?  

Creating visuals for our own music... makes total sense. We’re building the whole world.

But once we started developing a story I think we injected a lot of things for both of us. For me it’s a story about grief. The main character comes to the séance to try to reconnect with her lover that died in an accident that they’ve been in together. And so is everyone else, trying to connect to people that are gone. And then in this ritual she gains a sense of power over her grief, or at least let’s go in some way letting go. The hugging is all of them giving each other comfort. 

How does it relate to the song? What’s the song about Joe, again?

JC: The song is about being stuck. Grief is a pretty apt vehicle to explore stasis. Stuck in a rut, stuck in stasis, stuck in-between places. I think we've all experienced that post-2020. 

It looks amazing - a big expensive production. So how did you pull it off? Where (and when) did you shoot it?

JC : We’ve both been in the industry long enough that all our friends happen to be exceptionally talented. The technical crew on this film is a list of close collaborators, friends and family who all gave their time to help us realize this vision. We were really proud of what we managed to achieve with the resources we have.

Which I must also say, shout out to Agile, Arts & Sciences and Rogue (our respective representatives) who got behind the project and helped us realize it, and in the case of Agile Studio and Agile Post, really gave a lot of time and love to finish the project off. 

ER: It was mostly me telling Joe “watch me make this happen” and then not taking no for an answer from everyone. 

JC: You took a lot of ‘no’s’ but…I applaud you.

You’re both solo directors, so what was it like to co-direct this? Did you divide responsibility, so Joe in charge of one aspect and Emile another, or just went all-in collab on everything?

JC: We did a bit of both. Obviously, our working practices are different, but the reason we collaborate on music is they kind of complement each other. We can both direct, produce, post-produce, write and compose. So for each project, we divide and conquer some elements and collaborate on others. So in the instance of Push, Emile really led the producing, and budgeting. While I swaggered around drinking coffee and dancing with the cast. 

Co-directing isn't something I've ever thought about. But in the case of creating visuals for our own music with Supermodel, it makes total sense. We’re building the whole world. 

ER: I agree, I put this whole thing together and it was very nice for Joe to grace us with his presence on the day. In all seriousness it was nice that at least he wasn’t on his phone the whole time. 

JC: Let's be honest, I make this whole thing look and sound great.  

ER: You do. The biggest reason I’ve plunged into this with you. 
 

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David Knight - 10th Jan 2024

Tags

  • Director's notes
  • Interview/Q&A
  • Narrative
  • Pick of the Day
  • Electronic
  • Séance

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Credits

Production/Creative

Director
Emile Rafael
Director
Producer
Matouš Marcinko
Producer
Emile Rafael
Production Manager
Alžběta Novosadová
1st AD
Matěj Bláhovec
Executive Producers
Myles Payne, Mal Ward, Marc Marrie, Kate Taylor, Charlie Crompton, James Howland

Camera

Director of Photography
Michal Babinec
1st AC
Filip Kettner
Steadicam
Daniel Vagenknecht
2nd AC
Michal Vojta
DIT/VTR
Lubor Riedl
BTS
Rita Watson

Lighting/Grip

Gaffer
Jirka Vrana
Best Boy Lights
Vít Morawski
Grip
Ludvík Hradílek

Art

Prop Master
Michal Jalůvka
PA
Adéla Veríšová

Wardrobe

Stylist
Tereza Kopecka
Make-up
Phil Noiraude
Stylist's Assistant
Filip Vlček
Make Up Assistant
Anna Ipatová

Choreography

Choreographer
Kristina Tukan

Casting

Casting director
Arwa Salmanova
Lead actor
Kristina Tukan
Cast:
Waitress
Barbora Jílková
Medium
Tereza Hofová
Dancers
Tina Breiova, Marek Mensik
With
Hana Janata, Julie Rezková, Veronika Vaculíková, Oswaldo Osorio

Editorial

Editor
Liv Ay
Editing company
Edit Producer
Noreen Khan
Sound design
Izaak Buffin
Online Editor
Joe Corrie
Sound Producer
Maddy Lebel
Voice Over Recording
Lukáš Mutňanský

Grading

Colourist
Tom Mangham
Colour Producer
Jade Denne
Colour grade company

VFX

VFX Company
Agile Studio
Post Producer
Oksana Steblyk
VFX Team
Kevin Marien, Thomas Dunleavy, Andrew Loughnane, Andrius Vizbaras

Agent

Director's Representation

Misc

Set design
Matěj Kos
VFX Producer
David Horsburgh
Special Thanks
Special Thanks
Rogue Films
Special Thanks
Arts & Sciences

Other credits

With Thanks To

Anna-Agata Denzenová of SoundSquare, Paul Hardcastle, GeorgeK & Graham Bird, Jack Sedgwick, Dave Holmes, Nina Wigfall and Elin Juniper, Taya Fraser

David Knight - 10th Jan 2024

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