I love Jesca Hoop's new song City Bird and the accompanying video so much so that I decided to get in touch with both Jesca and Elia Petridis, the director of her recent videos, to find out what makes them tick. Elia Petridis runs boutique production company Filmatics in Los Angeles, California. After making several award winning shorts and music videos he is about to start shooting his first full length feature The Man Who Shook The Hand Of Vicente Fernandez. I think his incredibly detailed answers throw an intriguing light on what goes into the creation of a very considered and beautiful music video.

When did you start working with director Elia Petridis?



Jesca: Elia is an old friend. We met in Los Angeles at one of my shows. He would say that he forced me to be his friend, which is kind of true though I would say that he used his clever imagination to lure me in. I'm glad that he did. The Kingdom was our first video adventure together.



Elia: A producer I'm working closely with these days said to me recently that humans are “meaning making machines” (a soundbite from some career seminar) but that phrase really resonated with me. I'm infatuated with screenwriting and personal mythologies, sometimes to the detriment of my own mental health. I grew up in Dubai for 18 years before moving to LA for film school - although Dubai had a lot of its own magic it didn't have a music scene to speak of so I'm always a little astonished by the talent I find in LA. When I saw Jesca perform live I really felt her music was very special and otherworldly, and tried to do my best to see if, as human planets, we could potentially orbit each other and become friends.



I would venture to say that the first time I saw Jesca Hoop live was one of the most astonishing musical moments I have ever witnessed. It was the night before Halloween and she came out in a marionette outfit, complete with rosy cheeks, and stood motionless while her back up players wound her up to life. For a visualist like me, a storyteller, it really had an impact. The whole endeavour of courting a friendship with her was kind of a lark for me because I honestly thought she had better things to do. It was just a matter of pushing the boundary between fan and friend and seeing how much I could get away with. Suddenly, unexpectedly, as with most of life's wonder, we had some mileage behind us and had transformed into friends. I will tell you that the first *official* conversation, the ice breaker, was when she was writing Tulip - from the Hunting my Dress album - and I was writing a screenplay dealing with Tulip Fever in Holland so I leant her my reference material. I knew I had two opportunities to wiggle my way in there - one to give her the book, and one to get it back!



Where was City Bird shot and where did the inspiration come from?



Jesca: It was shot in a miniature haunted house in downtown LA. We both wanted it to be a ghost story and Elia was the one to bring the children's narrative into it.



Elia: FALSE! The video was shot in a garage in Riverside, Ca. The whole thing was fractal - an infinite amount of information in a finite space, as the garage is attached to an 18th century 'Painted Lady' Victorian house owned by my fiance. So in essence, it was shot in a miniature dollhouse inside a bigger dollhouse which made the shoot utterly magic. I think what Jesca is communicating is that the story takes place in a miniature dollhouse in downtown LA. The whole thing was lit using candles and christmas lights.



Where did the idea for an animated video come from?



Jesca: It came out of limitation really. We had very very little money for this video so we just mused about what we could do with what time and money we did have. I set a pretty hard task considering the resources available and I am delighted with what Elia and his team came through with.



Elia: To me, the track is seance folk. That's the sonic iconography that City Bird evokes - a ghostly seance. When it comes to music and music videos I am not a literal thinker so although my mind knows the song is about the fright and sadness associated with homelessness that's not what my heart feels when I hear the song, and it's not what the dream theatre in my mind projects over it either. But here Jesca's mastery shines through, because the sonic landscape, right down to the very physical shape her mouth is making around the lyric is just as important as what she's trying to say; the two are organically woven together. The magic of Jesca's music lies in the alchemy that exists between form and content. All my artistic heroes do this, from Chabon, to Spielberg; they use genre to sugar coat the pill. So here she uses the disguise of seance music to coat the literal message of homelessness she's trying to communicate.



Now, narrative is something I am always running away from when directing a music video. Whenever I read a music video treatment from some kid that went to film school it makes me cringe and I think the best music videos come from documentary filmmakers who get a chance to put forward a psychology of form rather than one of narrative. But, having said that, my instincts on City Bird were narrative, perhaps because it's a kind of lilting waltz so it felt right to have a narrative to pull you through it. So, for the treatment, I sat down and wrote an entire ghost story from scratch, in the style of Poe or Hawthorne. I even wrote nursery rhymes about the ghost, because ghost stories are mostly aural traditions.



On The Kingdom video Jesca had a ton of input because I quickly realised that it would only reach its full potential if I pretended to be a paint brush and let her grab hold of the crew through me and paint. Once I took my ego out of the equation I realised there was something special there I was meant to service, and honestly, that's the best method of working with an artist on a music video, that's what you really cross your fingers for, isn't it?



But for City Bird Jesca was in Manchester and we were in LA shooting. Her schedule was tight, and I was really flattered that she had enough faith in me to let me just go and shoot because I know how much she loves her songs and how much faith it took for her to let go a little. I had originally submitted an entirely different treatment to her and had kind of resigned myself to the fact I wasn't going to do it, which was cool enough for me because god only knows how many talented people Jesca comes across in her travels. Surely, I thought, she can find people in the UK to make amazing videos, and surely, as an artist, she wants to go and do cool stuff with other cool people. So I thought I would just give it a shot. I submitted this treatment about metaphorical ghosts, which dealt with mis-en-scene of places that had just been left and abandoned - an unmade bed, plates on a table after dinner, a toilet still running, stuff like that, where humans had vacated the frame only seconds ago and you'd just missed them - kind of pretentious honestly. Then I came across my fianc