Director: Nima Nabilirad

Director: Nima Nabilirad

Artist: MESSRS

Video: Desert

Nima used to live in Iran. He watched a lot of films there.
He left there when he was 14.
Then he lived in Turkey. He watched a lot of films there.
He left there when he was 16.
He now lives in Australia. He still watches a lot films. 
And shoots and makes them too. 
He wanted to be Steve McQueen but that was already taken.
So he had to settle with being a director/cinematographer. 
He has long hair and a beard right now.
He dislikes bad lighting and boring people. 
He likes daydreaming, ripe cherries and Stanley Kubrick. 

How were you approached for the job?

This clip was actually part of an initiative grant in South Australia given by the Media Resource Centre. They pair up local artists/bands with filmmakers/music video directors and provide a budget and other equipment support. It was also sponsored by Canon so the camera and lenses came from them. 

I was approached by Messrs as they were looking to partner up with me to get a music video made as part of the initiative. There was a few other bands/artists that approached me as well but the Messrs track stuck in my head and I quite liked it so I decided to apply for the grant with them. I put in an application with the a concept treatment and stylistic approach, etc and was successful. 

What inspired you on your idea for the video?

The track has a distinct 80's vibe and feel to it and every time I had a listen I thought of kids from the 80's stranded in our time. 
I have a particular way I see the 80's and thought it would be cool to have that on screen. The 80's I always see in my mind is the stylish, more fashionable 80's (particularly early 80's) and always has kids/teenagers in it. I love the teenage adventure films of the 80's like The Goonies, Red Dawn, The Outsiders, The Monster Squad, etc, so that was what inspired it. 

What was the budget?

The budget was tiny and it was mainly equipment support. The camera and lenses came sponsored and there was a $500 cash budget. The band also put in $500.
In the end I had to actually put in from my own pocket to make it work, but I knew what it wasn't going to be a big budget deal and I wanted to still make something stylish and reasonably ambitious so there was a lot of favours and clever ways of doing things to get it all done for the minuscule budget.

Who were your key collaborators?

I always shoot the music videos myself, but the editor/colourist was my long time partner and collaborator Daniel Principe whom I've worked with since leaving film school and we've co-directed most of our previous clips. So it was great having him onboard, he also co-produced with me. 
I've also been working with Justin Pollheim as stylist/production designer for the last few clips i've done and he was onboard for this too. And my Fiancée, Anita Rutter does the make-up on all my shoots and David Tang who helps in camera department on a lot of our shoots. So it was good to be able to work with a lot of long-time peeps again. It wouldn't have been nowhere near as good without all their help and talent.

Have you worked with any of them before?

Oops, I think I kinda answered this one in the above answer. But yeah I've worked with Daniel Principe since 2003 and we know each other and our styles very well. I like working with the same people as much as possible on every job, it creates great consistency and we all know each others' language. 

Tell us about the production process?

In the concept I wrote and applied with, there was only 5 kids but I had the swell idea of going and changing it to 23 kids. A bit of a difference! So the main priority was about finding the right kids for the parts, which took up quite a chunk of the production process.

The next big task was to source all the 80's clothes for the kids, which was mainly done through op-shops and other cool second-hand clothing stores in Adelaide due to budget. 

I had the locations in mind when I wrote the concept so that was fairly straight forward and the big one there was to find a pinball/games parlour that had authentic 80's games and machines which we managed to find - there were some amazing machines there that I wanted to take home with me :) 

It was the longest music video shoot I've done at 3 days (we usually do 1 day shoots), due to the number of kids and the fact that the desert shoot alone took up an entire day purely because of transport time. There was also 8 hair and makeup artists working on the 23 actors all up, and the hair and make-up alone took half a day each day (we re-created the looks everyday)

My biggest aim was to create a unique 80's look for each kid. I collected a lot reference material and the wardrobe and styling fittings took 2 full days until each look was created that I was happy with, but I'm glad because it allowed for a unique look for each kid, I wanted each of them to look cool and be confident looking characters in their own rights. That's how I think of 15 year olds. You're really very cool when you're 15. Especially if you lived in the 80's when you were 15 :) 

The concept was there but there was a bit of organic story construction on the shoot itself. I tried to give characters to each kid during the pinball scene and show some complex relationship dynamics between a gang of kids and the underlying innocent sexual tension between them. I shot lots of cool love triangles that didn't make it to the cut. But some are there, for instance the nerdy kid yearning for the hot girl while she is oblivious to him, a love triangle between a guy, his girlfriend and another girl who likes him and of course the dynamics of the main character and being torn between two girls. You know, all the cool stuff that makes being 15 so much fun and also so horrible. 

I was away on a shoot for most of the editing process so I left it in the hands of Daniel Principe who used the story sections I had shot based on my concept treatment (like the ending, and the sections in the pinball parlour) and the more abstract bits and pieces I shot to create the edit. It became a cool balance of abstract and story based elements. I originally was thinking less story and more abstract vibe shots, but his edit was fantastic and it leant towards story more and I have to say it worked better that way. 

In the treatment, the fact that the kids were 80's time travellers stranded in our time was a lot more obvious and there was actually a glass/mirror prism shaped time machine that they all came from and went to in the desert. I even shot VFX plates for it on the shoot. But none of that eventuated mainly because of time/budget reasons and in fact its kinda cooler without it I think. Its more vague but flows better. Plus apparently it looks like a new Campaign for "American Apparel" or a similar brand, according to online reviews, which I'm pretty happy with :) 
A lot of that has to do with Dan's awesome colour grading as always. All I said to him was make it look sophisticated retro and he went and created the retro colour look. 

What were the limitations you faced with the production?

The Budget…The Budget… and… the Budget?
Haha, that old thing. but other than that there was a lot of logistical issues to overcome (such as getting 23 kids around and to a faraway desert) which kind of goes back to the budget. 
And also because the shoot was sponsored by Canon I had to use only Canon camera and lenses. 
Other than that I can't think of anything else.

What did you shoot on? What lenses did you use?

We shot Canon 5DMK3 and I used the 24-70mm 2.8 and the 70-200mm 2.8 series 2 lenses. I love and much prefer using zooms on music video shoots and those are my two favorites’ with DSLR shoots. 

What was the turnaround?

In reality it was about 4 months from the time we got the grant to the time it got delivered. But as far as actual time spent on it goes it was about a month of pre-production and then about 10 days of shoot/edit/colour. All of that got interspersed between myself and the rest of the crew's other paid jobs. 

Do you feel that the client understands the production process? How involved were the band and label?

Yes both the band and the funding body were great to deal with and understood the process well. The MRC believed in the project and its potential to do well and they were very supportive. The Band didn't get very involved but they dug the idea and allowed me to do what I wanted, which was great. Josh, the singer of the band had been on the latest series of Big Brother on TV and we were tossing up whether to feature him and the rest of the band in the clip, but closer to the shoot I realised it wouldn't work and was much better just to go with the storyline and they were cool with that. They mentioned they wanted the feel of the clip to be more abstract and that’s something I agreed on so it all worked out well. 

Did you cast this yourself, or were the actors presented to you?

I cast it myself. To me it was the most important element in the whole clip, so I was after very particular looks and age brackets. And also not just kids that looked great by themselves but ones that would fit into a gang and look like they would be hanging out together. The authenticity of it was very important to me. 

Daniel auditioned a bunch of kids and filmed it for me and I auditioned the rest. About 40-50 kids were auditioned all up from memory. 
From them I picked 23, it was a hard, long process and I took photos of everyone and put the photos next to each other to see who worked with who the best etc. 

Funnily enough though, two of the main characters, Nick (main guy in top gun jacket) and Sarah (his GF with the hat) were not my first choices to play the main parts. But soon as they put those particular costumes on, there was something special about them that I hadn't seen before and instinctively I decided to take a gamble and make them the main characters instead (they were just one of the extras at that point). 

It was the best decision I made. Those two are two of the most amazing actors I have had the pleasure of working with. They blew my mind with their effortless performances and they understood the characters they were playing so well. Without them the clip wouldn't have been the same and they're freaking stars as far as I'm concerned. Lauren (Nick's present-date love interest) was another amazing discovery and for a 17 year old she is way beyond her years in intelligence and talent.

Where did you source all the cast?

The cast was sourced through 3 different agencies here in Adelaide. All 3 of the leads however came from the same agency.

With such a large cast on set, were they all well behaved? Any issues directing so many young actors at once?

As well behaved as 14-17 year olds can be! 
I have worked with young actors many times before and I can get along with them very well and make friendships so its easy to get along with them and work together. I'm quite loud when I direct most of the time so that worked in order to get everyone's attention most of the time and I know tricks that keeps their energy up. 

I also split them into 3 different groups and gave them group numbers and for most of the shoot directed them in smaller groups to make it more feasible.
The idea with the concept was that they were in separate groups until they converged in the desert and also in the games parlour. The parlour was one of the only scenes where all 23 of them were together. It was actually one of the quickest scenes to shoot and went really smoothly. 

If you had a chance to approach it again, what would you do differently?

I would shoot it on a high-end camera like the Alexa to get better image clarity and less low light issues. And I would schedule it so I could play a bunch of games after the shoot in that games shop. There were a lot of cool machines there :) 

Photography credit: Aaron Citti  


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