Justin Tyler Close directs ‘Sorry’ for Deb Never.
Words from Justin below.
Justin, could you share any thoughts on blending performative and narrative elements.
Whenever I get commissioned to make a piece for a musician, I try to approach it like a short film with musical components vs. traditional music video. Selfishly, I need to hear something other than the music (even if it’s just for a second) to feel more immersed in the story.
I love abstractions, symbolic characters and don’t love to over-explain films, so whatever the audience takes from it is okay with me.
Lots of ideas here. What proved the most challenging to implement on set?
I have expensive taste and ambitious ideas, which can be challenging on music video budgets, but I can’t help myself… I like what I like.
The major challenge is always about money and time. Never enough of both. Sometimes these challenges can excite me and get into that problem-solving filmmaking mode where you’re wondering “how the f*** are we gonna do this in one day?” And then somehow you just figure it out. When it’s too easy, I can get a little bored.
The major challenge is always about money and time. Never enough of both.
I was also fortunate enough to work with Andrew Yuyi Truong (DOP) and his crew. Together, we approached our restrictions on and off camera in a similar way, which created this fluidity on set that made room for experimenting. That’s where I’m most happy… on-set, all the people around me, all the gear, film cameras/film, at the right location, painting with light and in a ‘soft panic’, which is often confused for excitement.
We’ve seen a trend in floating persons in music videos in recent years. Was this something you’d considered or been aware of?
I don’t ever fall down the rabbit hole of paying too close attention to what other directors are doing or not doing. I write stories that feel personal to me and to the music I’m writing for. It’s a toxic waste pit to start comparing myself to other artists, or filmmakers… unless it’s Tarkovsky and then I’m all ears!
It’s a toxic waste pit to start comparing myself to other artists, or filmmakers… unless it’s Tarkovsky and then I’m all ears!
Also, I’m not pretending to be the first person to pull off this floating magic trick on film, and it was far from perfect (although I can’t tell you other films that did the same? Exorcist? Ha!) But, hopefully, the way I weaved the stunt into her story of ‘rebirth’, feels unique enough.
I do believe tricks can be repeated but no one is going to be under that light, under that tree, on that day, wearing those clothes… being Deb Never! Personally, I think the originalities of the shot outweigh anything else. Also, I like to do something new on every shoot, and this was it. Now I can make people levitate. Is there a club to join? Is David Blaine in it?
I don’t ever fall down the rabbit hole of paying too close attention to what other directors are doing or not doing.
Had you worked with Deb before? If not, how did you build trust?
It was our first time working together, I pitched on the job and thankfully she loved what I wrote.
From the beginning, we had an equal amount of trust and respect for each other’s work. There was this sense of playfulness too, that I really enjoyed; no idea was a bad idea. I take commissioned work quite seriously where I want to make something for Deb’s audience, for Deb of course but also something that can challenge me as a director. I think this walked that tight rope beautifully.
Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
‘Letters to a Young Poet’ by Rainer Maria Rilke (for the hundredth time).
- Director of Photography
- Casting Director
- Production Company