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Friday, March 11, 2011

Q&A with Alicia J. Rose, Director of Menomena "TAOS" Video

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Fri, Mar 11, 2011 at 9:29 AM

Alicia J. Rose on the set of Menomenas TAOS
  • Photo: Ben Moon
  • Alicia J. Rose on the set of Menomena's "TAOS"

By now we've all seen the striking video for Menomena's "TAOS," which sees new Menomena-man Joe Haege as a serial ladies' man with a singlet-wearing alter-ego (original Menomena-man Justin Harris) who has a proclivity for getting pinned in the ring. Er, bedroom... no, I was right the first time: wrestling ring! Right? It's all a rich tapestry of metaphor!

Anyway, the video's director, Alicia J. Rose, answered our questions about the shoot and the video itself. There was a lot to tell, and luckily for us, she felt like telling all of it. Here's the Merc's Q&A, which continues after the jump, with more pics from behind the scenes.

MERCURY: Question one: Uh... Justin's ripped. I guess that is not a question.
ALICIA J. ROSE: Its true. They say the camera adds 10 pounds, of RIPPED MUSCLE in this case. Justin may have pumped up his workout regime before shooting; he will have to confirm that rumor. But we were all impressed with his impressive athletic fortitude.

Who decided that the first Mines video would be for "TAOS"—you? The band? The label?
I'm not sure why it took them so long to decide on the first video for the album, other than I heard that they could not agree on things until the change in lineup. After that, my treatment suddenly got the go ahead. I submitted the concept last April, so it had nestled into their imaginations nicely, and when the time was right fought its way to the top.

Where did the wrestling idea originate? And where did you find the badass wrestlers?
Danny [Seim] slipped me a copy of Mines in February of last year. I fell head over heels in love with the album and started daydreaming about video ideas for multiple songs. The idea for "TAOS" came to me over a period when I was having a major Andy Kaufman obsession. There was something about Kaufman's boorish relentlessness in his inter-gender wrestling years that both disturbed and titillated my sensibilities. I mean, what would happen if the paradigm was flipped, and the WOMEN dominated Kaufman? Called him on his own game. He was a lovable douche, but I wanted to see him get a real taste of his own medicine. It was that which seeded my idea for "TAOS." I mentioned the concept to Danny and he encouraged me to put it into writing, and so the video "TAOS" was born.

The gorgeous and amazing wrestlers were a mix of friend of both the band and the crew. We held a relatively open casting call here in PDX, which yielded a nice batch of willing ladies and extras for the bar/ring. We saw about 20 women, but ultimately we went with seven ladies that either knew Justin or were willing and stoked with the wrestling concept. In casting we had Justin and all the girls do some sample moves. It was extremely hilarious. The girls with mucho gusto got the part!

Joe Haege and Alicia J. Rose on the set of TAOS
  • Photo: Ben Moon
  • Joe Haege and Alicia J. Rose on the set of "TAOS"

Joe [Haege] seems to fill the role of lothario effortlessly. Did you know he'd be able to do this so capably?
YES. The minute I had the idea for the video, I knew Joe Haege had to be the star. Strangely, it was long before he was asked to be a part of the band. Though his portrayal of a lothario may have appeared effortless, it wasn't method acting, since he's been in a relationship with stunning Tu Fawning bandmate Corrina Repp for years. But seriously, I've have the pleasure of witnessing Joe's acting chops many times, and he's an incredible talent. Like many things that coalesced perfectly for this project, he was willing and able to fill the role, and his comic sensibilities turned out to be amazing. The audio from his ad-libbing in the bar is PRICELESS. I have dreams of making a 30-minute music-sitcom-umentary out of the five hours of incredible footage we shot.

How did you convince Justin to undergo multiple beat-downs? Any injuries?
Part of what made me think they would enjoy this interpretation of the song is having spent many Menomena after shows backstage watching Justin wrestle anyone who was willing. His friends and family will attest, he loves to wrestle. As I guessed, it wasn't a hard sell. From the start he told me he was drawn to the core idea of wrestling to flesh out the song visually. I think that's why the video finally got made. He was stoked to play the alter-ego, and from my perspective both his and Danny's (as the Ref) active participation was essential to the whole thing. Justin's got mad skills, and with the help of our on-site wrestling consultant—Mega-Boy and his adorable seven-year-old daughter Jasmine. They were able to stage the bouts and train the girls properly. It all really happened in a day; it was nuts really. And amazingly enough, NO injuries! Though our costumer/production designer Jayme Hansen's sewing machine got toppled before Monday's bout. I remember coming home from the "Fight Day" battered myself, but completely impressed with everybody's stamina, hilarity and ownership of the concept.

Justin Harris on the set of TAOS
  • Photo: Ben Moon
  • Justin Harris on the set of "TAOS"

The song is pretty explicitly (at least to me) about sex. There's a line, "Underneath this flashy robe lies a beast with no control."
Its "FLESHY."

Oh! Well, even sexier. That line could be about a wrestling alter-ego, and it could also be about... uh, something else. Was the wrestling metaphor a way of dealing with it humorously?
The video is ripe with metaphors—within the lyrics of the song, from the band's point of view, as well as from my own personal stash. Justin was always clear about wanting to have the narrative revolve around "a wolf in sheep's clothing." So, together we found a way to represent that in a thematically fun way between the bar and the fight. Shooting at the Bye and Bye was perfect, as it's my local watering hole, and I've witnessed many a Lothario-filled evening. The working title for the video was "The Seven Days of Douchebaggery," dig? We also intended for the "arena" to aesthetically mimic the bedroom from the opening sequence, and we were lucky to be able to shoot both scenes in the same place to maximize the obvious and subtle similarities (like the basketball hoop). I think there is a part of all of us that wrestles with our dark socio-sexuality on the battlefield of dating. Bad habits are hard to break, and sometimes we enjoy them a little too much. Do we ever learn?

How long did the shoot take?
The bedroom/fight day was 19 hours for the crew, a tad less for the cast. The next day at Bye and Bye was a mere 14 hours. Ha! Big ideas like this are grueling but fun. When the fight was on, it felt like the real thing. Amazing.

Other than extreme slo-mo, what were some of the production effects you utilized?
It's funny with the effects... Originally I had lots of bells and whistles in mind for sfx, but when we got to editing, and saw how juicy the raw footage was, it just kind of worked to keep most everything in-camera—like the "black swan" mirror sequence with Joe and Justin. It seemed funnier, simpler. Of course there's the Ass Alarm Clock. I had that idea from the start, and thought it would get shot down, but the boys approved, and the folks at Two Penguins Productions brought it screaming to life. I asked for a psychedelic ass-in-singlet flippy alarm clock inspired by the spinning Batman signal. I think they knocked it out of the park!

Rose going over the shot list with DP Aubree Bernier-Clarke & 1st AD James Strayer
  • Photo: Ben Moon
  • Rose going over the shot list with DP Aubree Bernier-Clarke & 1st AD James Strayer

Where the heck did you find a wrestling ring?
I was put in touch by a good friend with incredibly talented wrestler and Portland luchador Mega-Boy. It turned out he owns a transportable, original WWE wrestling wring from the '70s. It's giant—20x20, and we had no idea how heavy. Once he graciously agreed to rent it to us and bring it to set, I knew we would be able to pull the whole thing off. Little did he know that he would be setting it up pretty much alone with Justin alone the night before. The thing has over 150 parts—steel girders, giant wood planks, huge corner posts. It was immense, and every piece was insanely heavy. Lucky for everyone, both Justin and Mega-Boy are built like tanks, so they ruled it. Once it was set up, we enlisted Mega-Boy as our on-set wrestling consultant and featured extra. You'll notice him rooting for TAOS/Justin on the sidelines in full Mega-Boy Luchador regalia.

Joe looks pretty happy at the end. Is the willingness to get one's ass kicked the secret to a satisfying sex life?
I think there's some truth to that. I think vulnerability is the most crucial of all strengths when it comes to relationships. And asses get kicked along the way, no matter how hard we try to keep it clean. This character in the video is simply struggling with his dark urges, self-perception, and imagination—something we can all relate to. How we work it out in the ring is up to each of us.

Final question: Who was your favorite wrestler from G.L.O.W.?
Oh man, it's hard to choose, but I'd have to say at the moment its a tie between Dementia and the Heavy Metal Sisters. We implied a bit of an ode to them with our Monday and Tuesday lady wrestlers in the video. Hot, brutal and over the top goth/metal—yes!

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