The video for Tame Impala’s new track Let It Happen sees a man hallucinate dramatic scenes during his final moments of life. We talk to director David Wilson about what inspired the film, and why they were forced to edit the track to fit it….
Wilson’s promo opens with a scene that many of us will be familiar with, as a man is shown rushing through an airport, desperate to find his gate. Suddenly he collapses, and from there the story takes a surreal, psychedelic turn.
“The inspiration came from my own personal journey of understanding life and the pressures of life,” Wilson tells CR over email. “The way I get through situations of intensity is to calm myself and listen to the voice in my head saying, ‘just let it happen, just ride it through’. I liked this attitude. It’s very mindful and peaceful, and this is exactly what Kevin [Parker, Tame Impala’s lead singer] is singing about.
“So, the concept came from a learning to be aware of the stress and pressure in life and then accepting it. All the narrative does is amplify this concept. We see our protagonist panicked and struggling with the concept of facing his own death, but by the end of the film he’s at peace with what will happen, and accepts the reality of death and feels comforted in this acceptance.”
Wilson first listened to the track while on a flight, and this also played directly into the video. “As I listened I began to reflect on how mundane the inside of an airplane was,” he says. “How people are bored or watching the latest Adam Sandler movie on a tiny screen in the seat in front of them, whilst the most incredible psychedelic landscape of clouds is outside the window! I mean, that’s a sight that 50 years ago would be extraordinary to the majority of the world’s population, and, to be fair, still is! I felt that this contradiction of the boredom inside the plane compared to the reality that plane is flying above clouds was something that was an interesting area to explore as psychedelic visuals.”
Among the challenges in making the video was the realisation that the band would have to cut the track to make the video work. “One of the biggest bummers was the fact that we had to cut the length of the track,” says Wilson. “I know it’s upset a lot of fans (including myself), but it was the only way to maintain the consistent level of production that the film demanded.
“I was pushed really hard creatively with this job. The reality of the limitations of the budget meant that the scriptwriting process had to be constantly adjusted. I kept re-writing the script and re-doing the animatic on a daily basis for four weeks solid. Sometimes in really extreme ways. This got to the extent of throwing out whole sections and scenes constantly. I drew almost 400 individual shots over the storyboarding process in order to get to the final result.
“So, I was able to solve most production issues via re-shaping scenes around them, but one major challenge that was always present was how we were going to create the impression of the man falling through the sky. I had written the scene after recently re-watching Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and getting enthralled in those incredible dream sequences he’d created in that film, and the solution came from following Gilliam’s example and physically creating the cloudscape in a studio. I was put in touch with a young animator called Aron Bothman, who’d recently graduated from Cal Arts. I had one meeting with him before I left LA to shoot the live action footage and thankfully even after a brief meeting where I knew he was the man for the job. He was an incredible talent to have onboard.”
The video was shot in Kiev, Ukraine, which Wilson describes as “totally safe and totally cool”. “I’m glad to say that despite Russia’s activity on their border, the only sign of conflict we saw in Kiev were three Russian tanks on display by the Mother Motherland monument,” he says. As well as Wilson’s skill with creating psychedelic visuals, it relies on a sterling performance by Michael Instone, who despite having a very familiar face, is a virtual unknown.
“After a quick IMDB search you’ll see that the most notable role he’s had on screen is playing the role of a barrister in three episodes of Eastenders last year,” says Wilson. “Michael was so great. We shot everything in a packed two day schedule and he never let me down. He was on the money every single time. I hope this piece opens doors for him ‘cus he’s awesome.”
Production company: Colonel Blimp