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.
David Knight - 10th Jan 2024
- Jirka Vrana
- Best Boy Lights
- Vít Morawski
- Ludvík Hradílek
- Prop Master
- Michal Jalůvka
- Adéla Veríšová
- Kristina Tukan
- Director's Representation
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