Brain Place: An Interview with the Creatives

"Brain Place" is a stunning view of ordinary life on the edge of collapse told through a music video of Dru Cutler's songs. Jesse Newman the director and Kaela Hill producer worked with Dru Cutler to bring his robotic paradise to life. 

Jesse Newman (director) and Kaela Hill (producer)  - Photo Credit Vladimir Weinstein

Jesse Newman (director) and Kaela Hill (producer) - Photo Credit Vladimir Weinstein

Who are you and what do you do? 

We are Jesse Newman (director) and Kaela Hill (producer) - and we are a filmmaking duo. Our recent creative work has been primarily music videos in the last year, and we also run a digital content + video team at a branding agency part time. 

How did you get involved with the music video project "Brain Place" by Dru Cutler

Dru is a long-time friend of Jesse; they've been collaborating on music videos for the past 10 years. He came to us an open brief for the video, so we got pretty ambitious with it. 

What was the production process like? As in how long for prepro/prod/post? There's a lot of visual effects and I'm curious how long this all took to put together. Embarking on a narrative project like this (vs. a more visually focused concept) requires more conceptual and pre-planning work.

We spent a number of months in the pre-production phase - ideating concepts, writing and optimizing the script, diving into the themes and symbols we wanted to bring through in our vision, figuring out the production design and styling, getting our cast and crew signed up, etc. Production took us about 6 full-on days over 2 weekends. In post, we got our storyline in place in a matter of weeks, but we finessed visual FX over the course of 2 months. 

What made you want to blend motion graphics with visual effects in this video? 

Since we didn't have the luxury of working with a “movie-sized” budget, we had to really get creative with building out our sci-fi world and enhancing the technology and city through the lens of visual effects. 

What inspired the art direction?

We generally like the sci-fi realm of things, so there was a lot of inspiration from a number of different sources combined. We didn't reference anything specifically, but we did want to play with the idea of a world where we are only slightly ahead of today. Shows like “Black Mirror” and movies like “Her” start to guide your imagination of what could be in the near future. Thinking about how we spend most of our time on our phones these days, we wanted to take that tech to the next level in an immersive AR/VR experience – creating a contrast between living in the digital realm vs. the real world. You almost have to choose which realm you want to be in. 

What was the collaboration process like with Dru to create this vision? 

Dru is an amazing collaborator. He really gave us the reins to develop our own concept, but he was an active participant in brainstorming as we started developing the story. 

Any fun or crazy stories to share on set while shooting?  

Yes! One of the hardest styling challenges was getting those cloudy contacts in people’s eyes. Dru never wore contacts before, so we had him laying on a rock, in the middle of the forest, trying to jam them in his eyes. We were racing the clock for sunlight, so the stakes were pretty high. Both Jesse and our makeup artist Brandie were trying to pry his eyes open. That same day, we made him jump into a freezing lake and swim out to the middle…but he only lasted about 10 seconds before swimming back, shouting obscenities. He was a good sport for doing it at all. 

Dru Cutler - Photo Credit Vladimir Weinstein

Dru Cutler - Photo Credit Vladimir Weinstein

What was the hardest part of making the music video? 

The hardest part was trying to do a lot of advanced ideas within a short amount of time, a tight budget and a small crew…so we were always thinking on our toes and trying to make things happen.

What's your favorite shot in the video? 

The last shot is one of our favorites…the lighting outside turned out to be better than expected, and we had to get it done in one take. The dinner scene was a fun one to film! 

What made you want to direct music videos? 

Music video work tends to be highly creative and fun, as well as fast – you typically have the freedom to throw out some wild ideas. The launch timing is also pretty fast, so it’s great to work really hard on something and see it live soon after. 


Fun questions

If you were stranded on an abandoned island what five items would you want with you?

  • solar panels

  • a house, obviously

  • rain water filtration system

  • seeds

  • copy of “The Art of the Deal” …to keep a fire going

If you could grab lunch with any film director living or dead who would it be and why? 

Spike Jonze. We love the wild cerebral and visual ideas behind his work. Would be great to absorb anything from his head.