Danish filmmaker and photographer Ada Bligaard Søby explains the story behind “The Hitchhiker,” her soft yet wild music video featuring homeless teens, launching this week. By incorporating music from the Parisian trio Tristesse Contemporaine, Ada portrays the journey of teens being on the road. ”You gotta love them, to film them” says the young director.
As seen her international experience with documentaries shot all over the world, Ada is quite the traveler herself. For Allday, she speaks on the film and shares her behind the scene material.
How did this idea of a music video featuring homeless people come across?
I wanted to explore wanderlust in a semi-post-apocalyptic landscape, and along the way hit hints of hedonism in regards to our wasteful relationships towards everything. L.A. is the perfect landscape for this as you sometimes feel like the world has run its course when in certain parts of L.A. I wanted it to feel like these kids were maybe the last ones alive and for it to feel dangerous and sexy.
“I wanted to explore wanderlust in a semi-post-apocalyptic landscape”
Did you overdub the music on footage you already had shot?
I shot the footage and then I experimented with different tracks during editing. I found that “I Didn't Know” by Tristesse Contemporaine topped every other track because of its inspiring inexplicable feeling of fear and its insisting progress.
Can you tell us a little bit about each character?
The cast was more or less friends, or were found on the street.
Andrew—one of the cast members—was a 20-year old ex-Marine whom my producer found at the skatepark in Venice Beach who had just returned from the war in Afghanistan.
Alexandru was an 18-year old drifter who came down from San Diego, and we found Angel on a website called something like Amputee Actors.
Angel was way too pretty for the part, but her elevated spirit—and her half missing arm—merged into the concept of a story of the elegant disaster that is a one-armed hitchhiker. It made it impossible to shoot Hitchhiker without her and made everything else irrelevant.
Aaron Frankel, the man making out / fighting with the mysterious woman was my hardest hang in L.A. that summer. He was a master at clearing locations and finding the best illegal freeway entrance spots. We more than once picked him up to go location scouting and brain storming ideas from his job redesigning the garden in the house where Charles Manson had killed Sharon Tate.
Aaron also introduced me to Ivory—the woman doing gardening in the video—at a pool party in Hollywood a week before the shoot. She is a clairvoyant with a high profile clientele and offered kindly to help me on the video, and we later became friends and I have also been enlightened by her vision of the future. Yet, I have to say that we were involved in a crash in our rental van with an 18—wheeler that she did not see coming.
“you gotta love them, to film them.”
How hard is it to involve and direct a homeless person in the project? What are the constraints? How fun was it?
We did meet two homeless fellows who ended up in the video. We just spoke to them and told them about the project and asked them if they would want to be filmed. And then we gave them some money. They were kind and didn’t mind.
There is a film genre of the “left alone”.. The Safdie Brothers’ latest film (“Heaven Knows What”) and some of Harmony Korine’s movies. Do feel that you belong to this genre?
I have yet to check out “Heaven Knows What,” but Harmony I completely love and feel that I get 100 percent, maybe 80 percent of the time. He’s definitely out to tell the tale of the outsider and does it with compassion and humor. I for sure try to do the same, “you gotta love them, to film them” is my motto.
What are your next projects?
A photography book that I’m working on with my French ex boyfriend Louis, whom I haven’t seen or spend time with in 17 years, and a short film about my goddaughter, Cisca who is 15-year old called “How To Make The Perfect Girl.”