Bob Industries director Trish Sie and her brother, Damian Kulash, lead singer of the band OK Go, grew up worshipping Connecticut-based dance company Pilobolus, known for its intense athleticism and imaginative physical interplay. "Instead of pictures of the Breakfast Club, we had pictures of Pilobolus on our walls," says Sie.
It seemed just a matter of time, then, before the siblings, who have collaborated on clips for Kulash's band, invited Pilobolus to partner on their latest effort, the new video for OK Go's "All Is Not Lost." It features a kaleidoscope of the band members and dancers' bodies, shot from below through a transparent barrier. While the shooting angle is quite unique --"I've heard there's a porn movie somewhere that was shot from below, but that's it," says Sie -- the video also breaks new technological ground.
The trifecta also partnered with Google to create an HTML5-powered interactive experience, which leverages the Chrome browser to showcase the clip through 12 separate windows of dances that shift along with the music. Users can also type in messages in Roman letter or Japanese and watch the band create the letters with their bodies. The result? A visually arresting intersection of dance, technology and direction.
For Sie, who has, as she describes it, a filmmaker's aesthetic with a dancer's mindset, this was probably one of the hardest things she's ever worked on. "There was nothing that had been done like this so I just had to go with my imagination," she says. Breaking new ground can be logistically exhausting too. To shoot from below, "we initially thought we would use Plexiglas but turns out that it's super expensive." They could only afford a small sheet, so the group's rehearsal space also ended up much smaller than expected.
Then, there was the headache of choreography. Although that happens to be Sie's forte--the former competitive ballroomdancer and instructor proved as much on OK Go's treadmill hit for "Here We Go Again" -- she and her partners almost had to think further than their brains could let them: whose arm would go under whose leg, whose face could be seen in each shot, who would go under. "We kept thinking there's probably a software that could figure this out for us," says Sie. "But of course there wasn't and our brain was just turning into mush with all the possibilities."
During the weeks of rehearsal leading up to the shoot, the group experimented with using hula-hoops and finger paints. "The sky was the limit," says Sie. "But at the end of the day, we were most struck by how beautiful human bodies looked from this angle."
And it was only then that Google entered the picture -- "Instead of one window we were suddenly going to have 12 and that gave us a lot more space to work with," says Sie.
It helped that she, the band and Pilobolus have a similar sensibility. "We were of the type that just went out there and played with things and then saw what worked." Google too, proved an ideal partner. "They knew it had to be a music and art project first," she says. "We wanted technology that showcased our art and they wanted art to showcase technology. It wasn't a marketing stunt, it was effortless collaboration."
Collaboration seems to be Sie's favorite word. She insists that one of the reasons she's ever been able to pull off any of her work is because of the people she has worked with. That's how she chooses her projects, too. "The idea is less important than how it is executed," she says. "It's all about the people who are working on the project. If they're good, even a paint-by-numbers on the side of a building can become successful."
And success has finally caught up with Sie's style. Since signing with Bob Industries in 2007, she has directed spots for Levi's and Haagen-Dazs, including the award-winning "Help the Honeybees" effort for the latter. She won a Grammy for her "Here It Goes Again" and went on to direct OK Go's video for "White Knuckles" off the band's sophomore album. Among Sie's current projects is a spot for restaurant franchise El Pollo Loco out of Goodness mfg and an upcoming commercial for Hunt's Tomatoes. And next month she will be working on choreography for her friends' film.
Overall, Sie's approach reflects her preference for the simple over the complicated, the human over the robotic. "Maybe it's because I never went to film school. I'm a writer and a performer, so I prize those things over the technology," she says.