Warren Fu is one of the world’s most decorated music video directors. The US creative has worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Daft Punk and The Strokes, and was formerly an art director at Lucasfilm, with his creations appearing in the Star Wars saga.
Ahead of Clipped Music Video Festival at Vivid Ideas, Fu shares with us his most memorable moments on music video shoots with some of the biggest names in the industry.
Haim – If I Could Change Your Mind
Danielle Haim and I had known each other since 2008, when she joined Julian Casablancas’ touring band. We had talked about doing a video together one day so it was pretty awesome that we finally got a chance to make that happen. When we first met up for coffee to discuss ideas, she said she always wanted to make a dance video. I had always wanted to make one too. So we talked about our favorite ones and we both came to the conclusion that we could only make this with Fatima Robinson. She made some calls, we got Fatima on board, and our dream team was in place.
My favorite memory was actually before the shoot. The sisters came to my house to discuss the various looks and lighting setups and we were just surfing the web looking for reference images. Any time we’d bring up an artist the girls would suddenly snap into perfect harmony, singing whatever song we had just mentioned. Maybe they shouldn’t have named the band Haim. Buncha Showoffs would have been a more appropriate band name. We get it, you’re talented. Jesus.
The Darkness – Everybody Have A Good Time
I have a pretty absurd sense of humour, but I rarely get to put it to use. This is one of the few times I got to put it to use.
Favorite memory: it was 1AM, we had been shooting two songs back to back, and none of the crew was in a good mood. The stripper bear comes marching into the room, humping the table, doing splits in the air in pink panties, etc. I was trying to so hard not to laugh. When I finally yelled cut, I turned to my producer, and he just looked annoyed.
“So, do you need another take or what?”
I looked around the rest of the room and no one found it funny. I thought I was taking crazy pills. I guess humor is pretty subjective. Luckily I finally caught out of the corner of my eye, the sound guy holding the boom mic. He was shaking trying to control his laughter, and he had tears streaming down his face. Thank God I had one spiritual warrior with me that day.
Daft Punk ft. Julian Casablancas – Instant Crush
My favorite moment: when we were shooting Julian’s performance in the red room, and he started doing the robot dance from ‘Around The World’. Completely useless footage for the tone of the story, but hilarious on set. Hilarious until the producer leaned in and reminded me:
“This is 35mm film, not digit-”
“Oh shit, OK CUT!”
Electric Light Orchestra – When I Was A Boy
I was excited to work with Jeff Lynne because I love his music. This is a man that was not only known for his classic songwriting with ELO and the Traveling Wilburys, but also as a producer working with members of The Beatles, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison.
Everything was going smooth on the day of the shoot, but we started to encounter some technical difficulties with our equipment right when he arrives on set to shoot his scene. So there’s a moment where he’s sitting and watching the monitors and I decide that this is a good chance to make some small talk.
Me: “I really love that Roy Orbison song you produced from King of Hearts… I’ve been playing it non-stop recently.”
Jeff: “Oh yeah? Which song?”
Me: “After The Love Has Gone”
Jeff: That’s the song on the album I DIDN’T produce.”
Awkward silence. We both stare ahead at the video monitors.
Me: “OK… um… I’m gonna go check on the set and see how that’s-”
Jeff: “OK cheers.”
The Strokes – Threat of Joy
We were set to make a video for a song called ‘Oblivius’ that was on the political tip, and I guess you could say it would have been a bit controversial. But two days before the shoot I get a call saying that we are no longer making that video for ‘Oblivius’. It was too late to cancel everything because people were already building sets, we had already booked a sound stage, cast actors and had cameras and equipment already rented.
So Julian says, “Didn’t you say ‘Threat of Joy’ was your favorite of the new songs? Why don’t you come up with a new idea for that?” To be honest I was freaking out a bit over the sudden change, but my video producer said to me, “Don’t worry. We’ve got a camera, some equipment and a rock band. We will make a video. Not the video we intended to make, but we’ll make SOMETHING.”
He was right. I ended up making the new video concept about the old video being shut down. Sort of a music video within a music video. I was still making stuff up AS we were shooting the video but it turned out OK. I remember one of the actresses coming to set and no one told her that the concept had changed.
“Wait… what am I suppose to be doing then?”
“Good question. Gimme a minute to think… OK, stand over here…”