As the quantity and complexity of Unofficial Music Videos continue to evolve right before our blinking eyes, the cats at TikiKiti want to ensure that proper attention is paid to the burgeoning ranks of creative artists that manage to blow us away on a daily basis.
Joseph Hyrkas directed the most recent video to take home the coveted TikiKiti Award for Excellence. Set to the song “Falls” by Odesza, Hyrkas has conjured an absorbing black-and-white reverie about love and loss.
The winning filmmaker was kind enough to answer a barrage of questions about his production, process, and past.
Can you tell us about your film and production background? Are you a pro, student, hobbyist?
Definitely not a hobbyist, not quite a pro, but certainly always a student.
I’m 30 years old and currently operate an independent videography/post production business out of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Most of my work affords me the opportunity to travel making music videos, promotionals, and commercials.
Describe your conceptual process in regards to the Odesza “Falls” video.
I start by creating a rule set with limitations, which I then cling to like a religious fanatic! The goal was to keep it simple, intimate, sincere, and emotional. In every single case I start with asking how and why.
How do I visually represent a character’s emotional state of mind that is cyclical, divisive, and potentially self-destructive? How do I interpret that through framing, movement, perspective, and editing patterns? What is dictating that cut?
If we do cut, whose perspective is it? The character’s or the viewer’s? When is it objective? When is it subjective and why? If any creative decision that follows can’t answer or support these questions, then it’s not worth pursuing.
Doing something “cool” for the sake of it often leads to dead ends. In my experience, having that crucial foundation in place helps free up an actor and helps them cross a chasm of confidence to lay their soul on display for all to view. At the end of the day, the question really should be, “did you feel anything watching it?”
I love the stark tones you get in the video. What inspired you to shoot in black and white?
I could say, “Well, color is emotion. Anyone that far down the emotional rabbit hole clearly wouldn’t see the world in color!” But in all honesty, the tight shooting schedule didn’t afford us the luxury of proper lighting and production uniformity.
These constraints backed us into B&W photography for simplicity’s sake. Deciding on that tranquil hue of B&W early in the process eliminated a whole slew of problems from the production.
What was your gear setup?
Another self-imposed limitation was to use very little gear for this project. No dolly, drones, toys or gadgets. Just a single BMC (rarely two for safety). Breaking out the occasional ND, LOW CON filter, tripod and available light. If we couldn’t make this work emotionally with one camera than we weren’t doing the job correctly.
I love the discipline of committing to a particular frame size and focal length. For post-production we used the always reliably buggy, but equally efficient ADOBE PREMIERE. The goal in post? Manipulate time, action and emotion like a rubber band. Compress when it’s convenient and contract when it’s necessary.
Who are some artists (any discipline) you admire or are inspired by and why?
I’m sure recently obsessing over [French-Canadian filmmaker] Denis Villeneuve [Sicario, Blade Runner 2049], and his devastating masterpiece Incendies (2011) didn’t dissuade me at all. If you haven’t seen it I insist you drop everything and watch it now.
In this case, I was certainly taking my marching orders from storytellers who are not afraid to squeeze mileage out of seemingly mundane situations. Reynolds Woodcock ordering that absurd breakfast in Phantom Thread, anyone?
Do you have any sage advice for the young and hopeful?
I can only preach what has worked for me. All I can say is maintain vigilance, persistence, and patience, followed by more patience. Make every single mistake you can imagine, you’ll still be alive at the end of the day. Tell a story only you can tell. And while you’re at it stick to your intuition.
If you find yourself having conversations about what other people may think, just know deep down that it if means something emotionally to you it will mean something for others. Creative Darwinism will win out. Chic and fashionable will not. Never ever chase trends because something is in vogue. It’s not about world domination, start by making people “feel” first.