Parisian animator and filmmaker Alice Saey has created a new music video for Jo Goes Hunting, aka Dutch musician Jimmi Jo Hueting. Created for the track Careful, Saey has created a mysterious, fantastical universe full of colour and detail.
The visuals are packed with movement and synchronised objects and repeating patterns. The video’s concept is inspired by a plethora of references, including the different meanings found within the song’s title. “The song navigates between the possible meanings of the word: careful as in ‘full of care’ and ‘meticulous’, careful as in ‘being cautious’ and ‘discreet’, or careful as a warning for imminent danger,” explains Saey.
Playing with these contrasts and the ambiguity of the subject matter, Saey’s abundant visual universe uses textures from the music, but also pulls from scientific imagery, botanical illustrations and geographical maps. “I drew a collection of micro-scenes which all had in common the relationship between living creatures and the way they use and affect their environment,” explains Saey.
The compositions play with repetitive forms in nature and Saey says a trip to Indonesia also helped inspire the visuals not just through the batik art prints she saw while there, but also the people she saw and met out there and how they interacted with the environment. “The contrast between the locals blending and collaborating with the landscape, and the tourists using it as decor for Instagram selfies really stuck with me while developing Careful,” says Saey.
Saey’s work is detail orientated but often sticks to a fairly rigid colour palette, however for the music video she wanted to develop on her use of colour and characters. “I used a rich, cohesive palette that derives directly from the inks I used in initial sketches,” she explains. “I wanted to blend in two visual styles, the first deals with more organic, abstract shapes and line work. The second leaves room for larger swathes of colour and portraits.”
Sketching in ink in notebooks allowed Saey to exercise her imagination to its fullest and brought about numerous possibilities. “Looking back at the whole collection I found connections, recurring elements and possible links between the scenes,” Saey explains. “I started to draft different small storylines that could unfold over three minutes and be shown in parallel.” To compose the video Saey worked with a circle-based grid. “Only at the very end of the process did I place the landmarks in the background (the sea, the mountains etc), and that really binds it all together,” explains the director.
To contain the otherworldly elements, Saey adopted a methodical approach. “My approach was to deal with the animation elements like a database that I could repurpose, edit, delete, reuse in the compositing phase,” she explains. “It wasn’t until the very end of the process that I could see a final frame of the film. It was challenging to start from a very large set of visual options, and then to filter them out progressively to only keep the essential ones.”
Despite the wealth of material to sort through, it was having this creative freedom that allowed Saey to push the boundaries of her work. “A stimulating aspect of this project was bringing animation and design together, which I usually only do separately,” says Saey. “I enjoyed working with the song, it was a lot more abstract than for my other music videos. There were so many sound details to play with.”
These different elements are just one of the reasons why Saey is drawn to animated music videos, and she’s keen to point out they should always be more than decorative additions to a track. “I think it’s important to reveal a new meaning of the song. What makes animation probably more special is that you can basically materialise anything,” says Saey. “The imagination isn’t limited. You can have naked ladies and dancing animals, or singing volcanoes if you want.”
Working on these types of projects also allows Saey to express her other passions through her work. “Being a music lover but not being able to make it myself, it’s extremely satisfying to bounce off existing material and interpret it in your own medium,” explains the animator. “It’s like translation, and it often brings out unexpected interpretations to the songs, and takes you places you wouldn’t necessarily have gone by yourself as a filmmaker.”
Careful is a beautiful and hypnotic watch, and ultimately Saey hopes the video works in tandem with the track rather than simply framing it. “I see music videos as artistic collaborations, not as commissions from clients,” she says. “I aim to make them very personal, and ultimately I’m happy when it can seem like the music was made for the animation as well.”