Catching Up with Director Elia Petridis

Posted on December 11, 2016 at 10:23 pm

I loved talking to the immensely creative Elia Petridis at Comic-Con last summer, and so was glad to have a chance to catch up with him to talk about the haunting Jesca Hoop music video he directed, a small gem.

The last time I saw you we talked about a lot of very cutting edge things like virtual reality and today we’re going to start by talking about something that’s a little more conventional, “The Lost Sky.” The first thing I want to ask you is about casting because the faces of the people in it were so interesting.

Film is such a visual medium that I’ve always cast faces. I cast for character, not for physique, I guess. But all the greats do it too, you know. I’m not in it alone.

How did this project come about?

Jesca and I are old friends. This is our fourth video together. And this is very intimate story. A few years ago, I was in a car accident. I was in the hospital and my partner left me while I was recovering. Jesca wrote this song at that time because we were friends. Many years later she came to me and she said “Look, I wrote this song, I’m looking at directors to do it and would you mind talking to one of the directors?” She told me it was inspired by my experience and other things but the seed of it was sort of what I was going through. She was like, “Elia, you have done three videos for me and this is a very personal story for you. Do you think you’d want to do it?” She said, “What’s very important to me is the theme of abandonment, what it’s like to be abandoned when you can’t really fend for yourself, you’re metaphorically left for dead, what’s that like?”

I sat down with Jesca and said, “Why don’t we do what I do and what I love to do is tell stories. I’d love to have it be a page turner, like a what is going to happen next kind of a situation. We’ve got the beating heart of the piece but what’s its skin, what genre? What does it do?” I said, “Do you want to do something Hitchcock? Do you want to do something like a little ‘Vertigo’ where he is stuck in this loop and he keeps waking up and you’ve got surprise and suspense where the first time that he is surprised but the second time that he is all suspense and the third times like a synthesis of that and you wake up and you find out that there is a real twist?”

And the more I went down that way the more I started thinking about things that I’ve always loved like the unreliable narrator. Jesca is an amazing artist and each of her songs is such a distinct character unto itself that I felt like I’d like to give this song its little place in the world. So, I started playing with the unreliable narrator and the loops and Hitchcock and shooting it like that because it’s all a metaphor for a marriage falling apart. Who’s really to blame? Is it the woman who was poisoning him? Or is it the man who has something to hide? And does he really have something to hide? Or is it all in her head? And then the two women together at the end. It’s kind of like wanting to sugarcoat the pill of all those big ideas by just really doing something suspenseful in these loops. Because the song also audibly is a loop that gets more intense as it goes along. The second verse is a bit more instrumented and layered and the third verse is much more lush so the song itself is a loop. I thought of Hitchcock’s mastery of “What happens next?” He was so good differentiating between surprise and suspense and how they are two different things.

There were moments of real emotion as we made it. When Jesca is crying in that out of focus shot, she’s really crying and there’s something about her crying — I was crying, the DP started crying, the whole crew started crying. There was something old and warm between us that she had taken it into her art form and then had handed it back. And then I had given it back in my art form, two friends that were sort of confiding in each other through their art, and supporting each other through their art.

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