Portugal. The Man - "Feel It Still" | Directed by Ian Schwartz & Fourclops
What about the song inspired you?
Ian: I think broadly that it was such a toe-tapper and had a pop sound, but from a somewhat left-of-center band, inspired the sensibility of the video. We wanted to lean into the pop aspect but come at it from a weird angle.
And I know the band wanted to speak to the dual feeling of outrage and apathy, which comes through in John's (lead singer) performance, and the interactive elements. Rebel just for kicks.
Eli (Fourclops): I loved this dual concept as well, it's a pure pop song, especially compared to the band's other music, but if you listen a little closer there's a subversive message underneath. So we tried to mirror this theme with our video approach. On the surface it's a somewhat traditional music video yet, there's an interactive layer of easter eggs that promote audience curiosity and provide resources to resist the Trump administration. The song and video is a collective response to the 2016 election.
What's your relationship to the artist, if any? Was this a single bid?
Ian: This was a bit of a weird one because it was a collaboration with Wieden + Kennedy Portland. This job came in through the interactive department at Prettybird. I had a 2nd degree connection with the band through cinematographer Mike Ragen, who had worked with them on many of their previous videos, and who I had collaborated with before. I know that I would not have gotten the job had he not vouched for me (I can't speak for Eli there!). Since it was SUCH a quick turn around, I think it was quasi single bid pending approval of my reel and the Ragen vouch. I don't think we needed to submit a treatment before they awarded.
Eli (Fourclops): This was the first music video we'd ever done with an ad agency involved. We'd worked with WK on a few interactive projects before, so they approached us to help figure out the interactive side of the video. The agency had a simple, yet compelling jumping off point - a resistance toolkit disguised as a music video.
My co-founder Jeff Greco and I brainstormed the various ways of accomplishing this and eventually landed on an unconventional approach, we could use shoppable video tools. Wirewax has a service that allows for interactive shopping cart style videos. They typically use it for brands to allow viewers to click on items of clothing while watching a video and buy the products. We realized that this video concept could use that style of interactivity except with hidden hotspots and links to anti-trump websites instead of Amazon products.
Our executive producer Derek Richmond knew that the band wanted to work with a director with a really strong visual aesthetic, so he suggested pairing us with Ian. This idea excited me because Ian and I were friends, and fun fact, we both got our start as PA's at Prettybird years ago before joining the roster as directors. So it was a full circle collaboration for us.
Where did you find your imagery?
Ian: I worked backwards from the concept. Knew it would be basically two locations: A Fear and Loathing style party and some apocalyptic "pop" setting. For the latter, I was thinking a quarry or something industrial with scale. I remember being inspired by the Andreas Gursky photograph of tires. We ended up kind of getting that with old cars.
And then I also pulled from the thousands of images I have on my computer for treatments I didn't get.
What was the budget?
Ian: It was 30k for production (and maybe 20k for post and Wirewax, if I'm remembering correctly). I ended up throwing in my fee at some point to pay for something we needed. To put in context though, I've thrown in my entire fee on 90% of music video jobs I've done. I think it's very normal for these kinds of jobs, but shouldn't be. This one was a fun and rewarding experience, but not everyone has the ability or luxury to do a job without pay.
Eli (Fourclops): In the end, this video was a labor of love for everyone involved. I hope in the future music video directors and crews will have the option of revenue sharing opportunities. As of the time of publishing this treatment, the video has nearly a quarter of a billion views and none of the production staff or video creatives have seen a penny of the YouTube ad revenue. This model needs to change.
How did you arrive at the idea you had and how it might've changed, what the labels reaction was to it - did they approve everything or have changes? Anything else about this experience a young filmmaker would find interesting?
Ian: This was such an atypical project. There was an ad agency involved (who were friends with the band), but the label was not on set and didn't give notes in the edit (to my recollection). It was awarded before we finished the treatment. It was interactive. The song BLEW UP.
The turnaround was very fast... I think 2-3 weeks from pre-concept award to delivery. That's tough in any scenario, but figuring out all of the interactive elements conceptually and exceptionally made it a particular challenge. We had a basic framework for what the video wanted to be and then spent our prep week writing, refining and and adjusting as we did the actual work of prepping. A lot of working things out as we went. Fourclops were heroes in that regard. And Mike Ragen was a hero to me because he had such a close relationship with the band and there was a lot of mutual trust there. Also he's just a very talented guy, which is invaluable when we're improvising things on the fly.
Beyond wishing we had more time (and money) to dial things in, I remember it being a good experience creatively. The band and the Wieden+Kennedy guys were just good people and really easy to work with. To the extent that things changed from the treatment it was usually because we couldn't afford to do them or didn't have time to prep them. And the treatment was collectively understood to be sort of a malleable starting point. Everyone was on board for the same mission which is definitely not always the case. And I think they had to trust us, because the deadline that they imposed didn't really leave a choice.
Eli (Fourclops): The video took on a life of its own after it was released. First, the political angle pissed off Alex Jones. Then the song blew up. We won a few awards. But perhaps best of all, Mike Judge made a special Beavis and Butthead segment about it, which played as the intro to PTM’s concerts.
Watch the interactive video here: