January 13th, 2014

Director Alex Maxwell takes us on a road trip through the American Southwest complete with cacti, canyons and bull riding in a new music video for electronic dance music DJ/ producer Gareth Emery. Alex shares the details of his process, photos from the set and the teamwork behind the creation of this beautiful video below.

How did you come up with the concept for the video?

We received a brief that they wanted an Americana road trip. This is obviously an exciting brief to get but with a few traps that we were determined not to fall into. The concept started with thinking about the types of characters, then the region I wanted to focus on and finally what type of trip these characters would go on in this place. I chose the southwest because nothing sings Americana quite like it. For a couple weeks, I just felt like a travel agent looking into cool stops along the way. I didn't want this to be a series of post cards, rather stick to the blue highways and off the beaten path. Another big influence is seeing the motorcycle rigs from a mountain town in Colombia modified to help people commute on train rail. We adapted their design to something more hard-hitting American with the help of our awesome fabricator Sean Jordan at Grim Cycle Salvage in Utah. This "Motorailer" was going to be the culminating moment in their journey. As they say it's not about the destination but in film, you kind of need one. This scene turned out to have big significance for the underlying message. 

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What role does the musician and track play in your process?

Huge. It all comes down to the track as that's the foundation you build your images off of. For this particular concept they wanted to break the mold a bit and even though the track falls under electronica, they wanted something more grounded in humanity. Case in point was the performance section, I guess typically on an EDM video you would have the artist performing in a much more tech'd out setup, big party and lighting effects and all that, we had him and Bo Bruce performing in a dimly lit motel room. It integrated them into the narrative and fit with intimacy of the track.


Did you face any challenges during this project?

Inevitably on an ambitious project like this you're going to hit roadblocks and it's all about how you handle them. Sometimes, at the roadblock, you're gifted a detour that opens up a better, stronger route for you to follow. Sometimes you just have to floor the gas and kamikaze your way through it. We had both occur on this shoot. What kept us going through sleep deprivation and breakdowns in the middle-of-nowhere was the collective understanding that we were capturing beautiful images and moments out there so it was all worth it. Also, whenever it got tough, you could just look around at the incredible beauty of where we were and take a deep breath of sage and feel okay again. No doubt we had the best and worst of luck on this shoot but what matters was when we were rolling, the clouds would lift and things lined up for us in magnificent ways. I also got a badly cut with machete but the reason why isn't nearly as cool as it sounds so I'll leave it at that.

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What was the best part of the project?

The best part of the project was the team I got to make this with. Starting with Alexander Hankoff the DoP. We've been working together for a while now and are two heads of the same beast. We have total trust in each other's decisions, which keeps things moving.  At one point he was fastened to the hood of a truck with a climbing harness, rolling on train track and flying forward handholding his Red. He brought so much passion to this project and I'm very grateful for that. There is the producer Brandon Ellington who wore countless hats on this shoot and really battled it out to make all this happen for us. There was our boy wonder Andrew Smith who came on as an AC but ended up also being our gaffer and DIT. He did not stop moving for a week straight. Andrew is so artful and in tune with Hankoff's camera movement and his focus decisions are always right on -- even when he has to make them from fifty yards away because of a fear of snakes. Mill editor Alex Trierweiler was so intimately aware of the incredible amount of footage we shot that in post, it felt like he had been on-set with us. Also, the team over at Three Six Zero were so great and supportive of what were doing out there. They put a lot of faith in us.

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And our incredible cast of two: Nick Suttle and Roxy Calabrese. They are my close friends, a real life couple and not actors. I brought them on because they basically were the characters I was envisioning and I knew they could handle the challenges of making something like this. They brought so much sincerity and soul to the performance and stuck it out with us even after the Motorailer derailed from the tracks on day one -- a very scary moment and they didn't let it stop them.

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What do you plan to do next?

What do you got? ..... There is some talk about making this a video trilogy and carrying the story of these characters into new chapters. I hope this happens, I'm a glutton for punishment and would love to go at it again with these guys. We'll also be sharing a few more behind the scenes photos from Alex on our Instagram. Now watch Gareth Emery's 'U' from director Alex Maxwell. You can also pre-order the upcoming album on iTunes here before it's release on February 4th.