Touted as “a glimpse into the memories of a deteriorating relationship,” Lauren Rothery and Jeff Melanson’s latest music video for Brooklyn based band Auto Body’s most recent single, “Say What You Will,” is a stylized exploration of the tumultuous relationships we find ourselves in and how difficult they can be to let go of, even after many years of wrestling with the situation. Following a ‘first love’ relationship coming to an end years later, after an argument ensues, the couple revisits memories which track their steady undoing; a direct result of an increasing inability to communicate. Ultimately the two must determine whether it is best to start fresh together, or apart.
The music video, which is Rothery’s debut co-directed by Melanson, it is also their first collaboration. Produced by Tibaut Bowman, the video defines a mindset of DIY culture in the Brooklyn community, highlighting the pooling of resources and talents to create a completely unique piece of film. The band, that has been described as an ‘avant garde supergroup,’ fit the mould perfectly for Rotherly and Melanson’s project, as the visuals are as equally as grand a statement as the lyrics and melody while still having a sense of individuality and humbleness to them.
This is consolidated by the creative duo’s belief in keeping film photography active amidst a digital-minded generation, something which can be easily lost in translation in an era that relies so heavily on the internet. Portable spoke to Rothery and Melanson about the project, strong relationships and bold decisions.
Portable: How did the collaboration come about?
Jeff Melanson: We met working on an independent feature, and then again on a short film a few months later. We quickly developed this ongoing dialogue about storytelling. We spent so much time analyzing the filmmaking process, the filmmakers, the storytellers we look up to. Finally we got off our asses and decided to tell a story. Luckily I had worked with Tibaut a few years back, and we were able to start with a great band, and a powerful song.
P: What did you think of when you first heard the song?
Lauren Rothery: I really tried not to listen to the words the first time. Jeff and I didn’t want the video to feel too formulated or match the lyrics in an overly clean way. But there was an immediate sense of nostalgia for both of us I think. The concept of miscommunication or rather, complete lack of communication as realized through memories came later.
P: What was your initial idea for the music video and how did it evolve? What is the story?
Lauren Rothery: The initial idea was pretty broad. We wanted to convey this sort of absurd alternate universe where people are collectively compelled to write what they can’t say on the bodies of other people. Then it became more focused and oddly dark with just these two people in the aftermath of a fight. Finally we split the difference, and the writing became a metaphor for the lack of communication which is a common thread for this couple.
Jeff Melanson: It all starts with that moment in any great friendship or relationship where it’s a good thing that you don’t have to say anything, and you still get each other. As kids, he’s writing I’m scared, he doesn’t say it, but she’s looking him dead in the eyes and she knows. It’s only years later that their habit of under sharing becomes negative.
P: What is your background in film? When did you first become interested and have you had any formal training if any and if so where?
Lauren Rothery: I grew up loving film, it was very important to me but it wasn’t always something I had in mind as a career. I started training in Costume Design but last year, I decided to try my hand at directing.
Jeff Melanson: In high school a friend of mine worked at a movie theater and she would get me in for free. I would go and just sit by myself and watch a movie. I fell in love with the whole experience. Later on I narrowed my focus as a cinematographer, but what got me wasn’t technical, it was escaping into those stories.
P: What draws you to the relationship between music and film and why?
Jeff Melanson: I’ve always been a musician. As friends, Tibaut and I share this love of music. For me, there was a lot to live up to with this song, there’s a world that is created in great songs. We wanted to do that world justice.
P: Can you explain the writing on the body. What is it meant to represent?
Lauren Rothery: The writing is meant to represent everything these two people can’t say, or choose not to say to the other. In a relationship you are uniquely affected by what you can’t know about the other person, what goes on in their head. You carry it around with you and the weight of it builds over time.
P: What inspired you and the band?
Lauren Rothery: “Say What You Will” to us is about miscommunication, the way it builds over time. It’s about needing someone to know you, and not always being able to verbalize that need. Such a universal idea, when paired with the nostalgia of this song, the concept had to be really tangible. We felt inspired by how such a big sound could feel personal and unique.
P: Who, what or where are your influences and how do they affect your work?
Lauren Rothery: I’m really influenced by writers. The great ones are able to suck you into a character or a story in such a personal way. There are musicians like that too, listen to Jim Morrison doing improv poetry performing The End, it’s a story.
P: What equipment and techniques did you use?
Jeff Melanson: We shot 16mm film, aside from the apartment we didn’t light. Everything was handheld. We wanted a very natural feel, we wanted the video to play out like an intimate series of memories.
Lauren Rothery: Jeff and I are still adamant that the images you can create with film are irreplaceable. This film in particular just didn’t suit any kind of mechanical reference visually. The movements are soft, the story is loose, the film just captures the moments in a very natural way.