For three, four, maybe even five years, Michel Gondry kept returning in his mind to the image of dozens of dancers wearing brightly colored outfits. “Sometimes you have a concept that doesn’t necessarily reflect some specific narrative,” the French film and music video director (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind) tells EW. “I have tons of ideas like that in the back of my head.” From time to time he’d suggest this idea to one musician or another. “They always wanted to add something to it, and I thought it would lose what I like in the idea, the simplicity…I was asked to maybe use it for a commercial, but I didn’t want to. I would rather pay myself and do it in a much lower budget than to ruin the idea and do it for a commercial.”
Then, about 10 months ago, Gondry met West Coast singer-songwriter Mia Doi Todd at a party. “I really fell in love with her music,” he says. “It’s incredibly fragile, personal, and very elevated.” They became friends, and soon Todd penned a new tune, “Open Your Heart,” that Gondry thought would work perfectly with the color-coordinated choreography he’d been wanting to use.
After signing on to direct the video for “Open Your Heart,” Gondry went with Todd to scout locations in east Los Angeles. “Basically, L.A. is not made for humans. It’s a lot of concrete and cars passing by. It’s very blank, which is a great background to put all these people with colors.” Next, they cast their stars. “I needed a group of people who could move together, but it would have been too affected if they were professional dancers. We found this marching band from Riverside Community College.” Over three sunny days, Todd and 100 or so marching band members-turned-dancers brought Gondry’s vision to life. Watch the video below to see how the video for “Open Your Heart” turned out. (More information on the song and video is available here.)
Not content to merely direct one music video for Todd, Gondry has also become her live drummer. He’ll back her in a monthlong Tuesday residency at L.A.’s Spaceland club starting tonight. “It’s fun,” he says. “I always wanted to be in a band again. But I don’t think the drum is really the instrument she needs, so I try to be as light as possible. Sometimes she feels I’m a little bit like an elephant. I’m going to amputate my feet and replace them with feathers, to be able to fit her music.”
Any possible amputations aside, Gondry is also planning a separate top-secret project with frequent collaborator Björk. (“It’s very undefined, so it’s hard to give more precision.”) On top of this, he’s busy editing his comic-book film The Green Hornet (due later this year), starring Seth Rogen; preparing to make an animated film with his son; and hoping to find a publisher for a book of portraits based on a recent Web series. “I have a lot of projects,” he says modestly. “People think I would rest, but instead of that, my brain is racing through all the ideas I have, and I want them to come out.”
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