Major Lazer have shared their video for “Cold Water” featuring Justin Bieber and MØ. Staying within their tradition of creating absolutely wild music videos – they take things in an epic direction by going to glaciers of Iceland with four mind-blowing dancers. Needless to say - it’s wild. The big visuals meet the infectious vibe of the track until everything explodes into fiery dancey goodness. With the song spreading across the internet like wild fire, we talked to Matt about the experience of directing the video and the process leading up to it.
First thing first: This location is unreal. Where is this place and how'd you end up choosing your location?
Originally the film was meant to be shot in British Columbia but I pushed right away to move it to Iceland as it is one of my favorite places on earth. It offers tremendous vast landscapes that are completely breathtaking. So much of the land is still evolving so you get really strong contrasts of elements and looks.
There are extreme changes of landscape and the sceneries are out of this world. Can a glacier be that diverse or did you have to travel between locations?
We wanted to create strong contrasts between scenes. Fortunately, Iceland is a volcanic island that is millions of years younger than the continents so you have lots of spaces packed together that look very different and very primal. We were able to capture all of our locations within a two hour drive.
"I just wanted to make a piece that was full of energy and at the same time beautiful."
The song is a huge hit. What were your thoughts leading up to shoot knowing that you had to relate to such a massive audience?
To be honest I didn’t think about relating to a massive audience too much. I just wanted to make a piece that was full of energy and at the same time beautiful. I tried to push the standard dance video to a new perspective through the use of landscape and practical lighting.
Can you talk a little about the dancers and the approach to choreography and direction here?
The girls only had one day to rehearse their routine before shooting and we were all jet lagged from LA upon arrival. I was amazed by how fast they got the routine down. In the edit we did incorporate some freestyle takes for their individual shots to add some spontaneaity and energy in the cut. When you go back to them as group it’s a nice contrast to see such precise movement.
To what extent were Justin Bieber and Major Lazer involved in the creative process of the video composition?
The only real involvement was from Sara Nataff who is Major Lazer and Diplo’s creative director. She is a long time friend so we were able to mesh really well together. Sara and Diplo came with the original concept of dancing on a glacier and we blew it up to as many locations as possible
I tend to not watch anything else before I go shooting as I try not to get other people’s work in my head on set.
Leading up to production, did you watch any music videos for inspiration?
I tend to not watch anything else before I go shooting as I try not to get other people’s work in my head on set. What I did do was look for videos that had dancers in vast landscapes and the only thing I was really finding was old Bollywood videos. I used them as an inspiration for blocking talent in different spaces in locations so they weren’t always in formation.
Especially in those wide drone shots, how did you synchronize the dancers to the music? Did they have to perform “deaf” on count or were you able to hide speakers in the landscape?
All I have to say was there was a lot of screaming with the drone as we didn’t have walkie talkies, don’t know how that happened? Anyway, we did have a large PA system that we would hide outside of frame so they could dance to playback of the track.
Taking the dance video and nesting it in such a vast location is neat idea. Can you talk about the edit and your balance between going big and small?
I think the change in framing was really impactful in the edit. Shifting between smooth wide drone shots and then energetic, close-up handheld shots was a nice way to add contrast and feel the intimacy of the dancers and vastness of the landscape.
It seems like all four elements are being visually introduced during the video. Is this coinciding with the number of dancers?
Honestly I didn’t really think about the “four elements” per say. I just knew that I wanted ice during the day and fire at night. And everything in between. What is great about Iceland is you get landscapes of just rock, or just sand, or just moss. Elements are often isolated in a unique way and I wanted to hightlight that.
How many days were you guys out there and any interesting anecdotes or shout outs from the shoot?
This was a really tough job and we had a very limited crew. My team was set up through my friend Unnar Helgi, who round up some of the hardest working people I have ever met to work on the shoot. Some were professionals in the industry and others were friends of his helping out. My 2nd AC usually worked in a fishing boat yard so his lack of camera knowledge was made up by his brute strength and perseverance. I want to personally thank everyone on the Icelandic crew for making this possible!
Are you a Bieliber?
I am not sure if I was before but I am now.
BTS Photogragh: Matt Jacoby