After hearing the favorite memories of strangers in Chicago, the reminiscing continues with a new video from Montreal band The Belle Game. The video for Pink Carnations, directed by Toronto filmmaker Jeffrey Zablotny, depicts a man inventing a device that captures and records strangers’ memories like a photocopier. All is sweet and innocent until he finds, in someone else’s memory, one he had since forgotten of his own.
The video’s release today coincides with the band’s new EP ‘Sleep to Grow’ dropping. We spoke with Jeff about his relationship with the band and this Kaufman-esque trip into the subconscious.
PORTABLE: Tell us about yourself: did you study film? Why? What drew you to music video production?
JEFFREY ZABLOTNY: Having seen all kinds of amazing features growing up, I knew I desperately wanted to direct, and I figured there was a place somewhere that I could get my hands on an actual film camera and start making interesting things. Of course, the rug kind of got pulled out from everyone in that respect with this huge surge of digital cameras, and my education ended up being more of a great place to just meet like-minded people. Everyone who worked on this, including my producer and my cinematographer, are all people I had met while “studying” film.
As far as music videos go, Palm Pictures put out these fantastic Director’s Label box sets a number of years ago with legends like Spike Jonze and Mark Romanek, and I got to see those at just the right time growing up. These directors had simple ideas that always elevated the music, they were showing you another way into the track that was somehow always there. It just made complete sense to me that music and images could be so deeply intertwined.
What was it about the Belle Game that inspired your directorial vision?
Aside from going through puberty with a couple of them, their music is just completely up my alley. I love what they make, and seeing them play in a room together gives me goosebumps. That part is very straightforward.
What are some of the challenges of shooting a band as big as the Belle Game?
Shooting any band that large, it’s easy to see how people who make videos fall in love with the lead singers and just shoot everyone else peripheral to them. You really have to think of the whole thing as this big conversation that they’re having with each other and shoot it like that instead. Once you get the music into your head enough, it’s not that hard, and for something like this it’s a matter of sitting them down in a way that they all overlap each other. Everyone has their favorite music where they love this one little detail that happens, so this is my chance to grab you by the wrist and go: look at how brilliant they are here.
How was your approach to, and experience with, this video different to that of the Shoulders and Turns video?
Shoulders and Turns was all shot in studio, so everything had to be made and planned from scratch, and there’s almost nothing organic about doing that. As soon as you put anything in front of a camera in a situation like that, it’s all going to conspire to look stilted and dumb, and you’re constantly working against that. So all of us having pulled our hair out, the idea was to get far away from that as possible and just get outside, get in real locations, and make things messier and spontaneous-seeming. It’s easy to have fun doing that.
The Pink Carnations video is very high-concept. Where did the idea come from?
What informed the notion of this guy going around scanning people was this idea that we’re surrounded by all kinds of awesome stuff. We’ve got the internet, and shows—I could just stay in my house all weekend and watch five seasons of a television show. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s easy to get simultaneously blasé and overwhelmed by everything because there’s this constant never-ending river of amazing things to check out. So this guy in the video has this incredible ability to truly peer into people, but it doesn’t satiate him, and he doesn’t really connect with anyone. ‘Oh cool,’ on to the next person. There’s a certain emptiness that comes with that, and I wanted to tie that into dramatizing what the song’s really about to me, which is: wasn’t it greatest when we used to hang out and do nothing, and doesn’t it break your heart a bit that we can’t go back there?