This is a love story. You may see the twist coming in the first 30 seconds, but it's beautifully told. The casting is great, the sullen dark lighting sets the mood, and I'll even forgive the needlessly distracting handheld camera movement thanks to the muted performances of all the actors. There's grandma, the grieving widow. She looks so alone, so deserted... until a handsome older man asks her to dance, and the whole room turns to watch, tears in their eyes.
Director Adam Berg is set to release this music video tomorrow on Valentine's day. It was actually Berg's brother who was instrumental in bringing the director’s attention to the band Happiness. Having had a hand in writing the song, he played Berg the track on a road trip up the California coast. Berg was immediately blown away.
“The song is, in many ways, about accepting your fate so we discussed the concept of doing something minimalistic,” explains Berg on initial ideas with the band.
The strategic use of a long opening-shot to introduce us to a grieving widow also raises intrigue at the outset of the story. “That happened quite organically,” Berg says. “I wrote a basic treatment, an outline for the potential story and then it developed from there.”
The music video was shot on the back of a Mercedes job, with Berg using the same crew and equipment after scouting a location. The work was also shot on Alexa with anamorphic lenses to lend a cinematic feel to the tale.
“As we began to shoot the older couple dancing together it began to have an effect on the people who were there,” says Berg, casting extras as the one day shoot progressed. “One woman was tearing up, and I knew immediately she could play the daughter.”
Authenticity in the performances came from Berg allowing them to naturally engage with the material. “I wanted everyone to simply react to the situation as it unfolded,” Berg continues. “I felt is was important for them to just do it without knowing what to do next.”
Berg also tweaked the image in post, creating slightly darker and more sullen imagery to match the mood of the story. “It’s very anti-commercial, almost the opposite of how one is made,” he concludes on the experience. “It was very liberating not having a shot list, or having anyone tell us what to do. It was all about going with a gut feeling. It was wonderfully organic and playful in the end.”
Asked of any challenges on the shoot, Berg admits to it being a passion project for all involved:
“The biggest challenge was getting this done as the band isn’t signed, so there was no money for the shoot,” he explains on carving out the work. “My desire is to work on more narrative-driven storytelling and acting material like this. I just hope people can take the time to absorb this story, are able to shut off for long enough to let the work breathe.”