Frame-by-Frame: Robots Don’t Sleep – “Little White Lies”
Welcome to the first instalment of our new Frame-by-Frame series where we subject music videos which inspire us or otherwise please our creative senses to close analysis. Taking four frames from a video, we let the directors tell their own story about the process of realizing the work. Today it’s the turn of Berlin-based director and editor Pol Ponsarnau, who was commissioned to make the video for “Little White Lies”—the first fruits to be borne of Robot Koch and John LaMonica’s new project Robots Don’t Sleep. You can see what they’re capable of by watching what happened when they hit the Boiler Room recently. Enjoy.
“The characters in the video were inspired by ‘Invisible Empire’, which is a series of black on black photos by photographer Juha Arvid Helminen. We contacted him about collaborating; he loved the ideas that we were shooting around, and in the end he designed these two outfits for us.”
“We were lucky that Medea Paffenholz, our female lead, was not only an actress, but also a very skillful acrobat. These shots were captured on very high frame rates and Medea is actually doing extreme drops on a trampoline. The outfit that she’s wearing was designed by Mareike Bay, it’s pure silk—we wanted the fabric to come alive in the air.”
“The story in the video in part deals with themes of power and conformity. In the short screen time that we had we wanted to establish a power relation between our characters. We went for a seductive, paternal angle, and I think that it really comes through on this particular still.”
“The only actual color that’s in the video is blue. We shot black on black, with some of the outside shots shot after dark. Pana, who did our color grading thought that we could make the blue even more powerful if we went for real black and white. It was a great choice, and it gave the video this nice indie film look.”
And a short Q&A with director Pol Ponsarnau and creative director Lukasz Polowczyk below:
How did it get filmed, animated and edited? What’s your technology of choice and how many people were involved?
Pol: It was a three-day shoot and a long post production process of about four weeks. We shot two days at the Blood Orange Studios in Berlin and one more day at a real lake, also in Berlin. This was October so that meant neoprene suits for Sebastian and Medea. It was freezing cold. Everybody involved was simply great. All in all we were around 15-20 people and it was one of these smooth shoots where things fall into place naturally. It is very important that this magic happens during a shoot, that people from different departments help each other and we become something of a big machine. It sounds cheesy but it’s not easy to achieve this and it is really important. I believe this is something that emanates from the video when you watch it—you can definitely sense this.
Was there a pitch with several possible directors like the old days? Did you feel like family?
Lukasz: It was an old school pitch. I’m not sure how many people we were going up against originally. We were only told that Partizan had a candidate in and that they had a very solid idea. So for us it felt a bit like going up against Goliath because Partizan is a great production company and their references are thick. But in the end we were told that our idea sparked with everyone, from the band to the label and the management. And yeah, the Robots are definitely family!
P: This was definitely an encouraging step for our Polacos project. We just started this creative tandem with Lukasz, and winning a pitch against Partizan at the very beginning of it—I wouldn’t have believed it if someone would have told me that this would happen a few months back. Robot must’ve heard our mantras, we do them over coffee every morning.
Why you have these topless girl shots in the videos which make the video kind of NSFW. Is this a plus for a video these days?
L: Actually, this character was envisioned as a young man in the original draft, but Robot asked us to cast a woman instead. So what would’ve passed under the radar before is getting a bit more attention now. But seriously, it’s 2012 and I really don’t know how anyone could have a problem with an exposed human body, male or female. And we’re only featuring it in the video because it was a part of the story—we’re essentially spinning a coming of age theme.
P: We never thought of it as a plus in that way, but it is a very strong point in the video: a fully covered body vs. naked skin. We wanted to raise questions with this, but the emphasis was not on having a topless girl in the video. Sexuality or beauty are definitely not the main topics and I’m sure people will notice that. ~
Director / Editor: Pol Ponsarnau
Creative Director: Lukasz Polowczyk
Line Producer: Paul Ohmert
DOP: Alex Jentz
Camera Assistant: Timon De Graaf Boele
Technical Assistant: MMC Group Berlin
Costume Designer: Juha Arvid Helminen
Stylist / Costume Designer: Mareike Bay
Tailor: Sabine Otto
Make up Artist: Tilo Nethe
Electrician: Mantas Jokus
Electrician: Daniel Goede
Production Assistant: Rudolfs Osins
Postproduction Lead / Online editor: Henning Falk
Postproduction / 3D artist: Eusebi Malvárez
Postproduction Composer: Robin Lochmann
Color Grading: Pana (Uncle-Berlin)
Shot at Blood Orange Studios, Berlin Lichtenberg.
Published November 30, 2012. Words by moritz.schmall.