Exclusive interview with director and producer of “Raise Your Banner”
On 29 November 2018, we were introduced to the official music video for “Raise Your Banner”, the second single from the upcoming Within Temptation studio album “RESIST“. The video is directed by the Dutch Rogier Hendriks and produced by the Switzerland based BOOST+. Donttearmedown spoke with both parties in an exclusive interview with them. Below, the interview including a peek behind the scenes.
First of all, thank you so much for your time! Can you tell us who are you, tell us something about yourself and your role in the new Within Temptation music video for “Raise Your Banner”
Rogier Hendriks: My name is Rogier Hendriks and I am a Dutch director/designer. After running a design and motion studio in Amsterdam for 16 years, I decided to leave the company to start a new adventure… For one year now, I have been working as an independent, freelance designer and director.
Nathan Ornick: And I’m Nathan Ornick. I’m an executive producer who left the USA back in 2002, and I’ve lived in Amsterdam, Zurich, and Dubai, producing all kinds of films, animations, and games. Earlier this year, my partner Varsy Buchmann and I decided to start our own creative production agency in Switzerland called Boost+, and we were ecstatic when Within Temptation called us. It turns out we had some mutual friends who recommended us, since we do a lot of commercial work with live-action plus visual effects.
I think we had an amazing connection with the band right from the start, and there was a ton of creative energy to work with. After developing a few high-level concepts with Robert Westerholt, we settled on a general theme and had the perfect director in mind.
Rogier Hendriks: Nathan and Varsy contacted me and asked me if I was interested in directing a music video for Within Temptation. Of course, I said “hell yeah”! I am always up for a challenge, to learn new stuff and work together with very talented people. This particular project was a huge challenge, I think for every single one who worked on it. As a director I was asked to shape the story and determine a visual direction for the video. Nathan, Varsy, Robert and I closely worked together on a daily basis to get this video produced, shot and delivered before its deadline.
How did you come up with the concept for the “Raise Your Banner” music video? Fan question: Was it inspired by a particular book or movie? (Zaina Z. Arekat, Bahrain)
Rogier Hendriks: The video is not based on any book or movie. Neither is it based on a game. The narrative in the video is actually part of a bigger story. It all started when Robert came up with an idea, which inspired me to write a short narrative about a young girl who’s building an army of humanoids made of scrap metal and old discarded robots, somewhere in a secret workshop. Her plan is to extend and amplify her “voice”, to get heard, to make a difference in a society where people have given up on the power of the people.
In times like these it is extremely hard as an individual to get heard, to make a difference and to have any influence on what’s happening in this chaotic vast world. As a group, chances are significantly better to get heard, make people listen and to get things done.This idea was funneled down into the essence of what I believe is the current state of our world; “Those who peacefully resist the system are confronted with violence from those who are empowered (often politically or economically) to keep things as they are.” Unfortunately, sometimes this means you have to stand up and fight back.
Nathan Ornick: I also think it’s worth mentioning that the game Detroit: Become Human has been brought up a lot in the online comments for the video. Believe it or not, nobody in our team had played or ever seen this game until the video released! But after all the comments, of course we checked it out and I can definitely see why so many people made the connection. I think the two big associations are the “android protest vs police that turns violent” and “androids with blue blood”. In our case, the blue blood was something that we came up with during the visual development of the film. We knew that the film would be quite dark, and we needed to make a very clear distinction between the blood of the androids and the real, dark red blood of the human girl. We found some really cool black-light photography with an almost magical luminescent blue color that gave us an inspiration for the look. When we shot the live action video, we brought really strong UV lights on set to make the blood glow and create this strong contrast between human and android.
For us, it feels like there’s more to tell with the music video. Can we expect an extended version, or perhaps a new music video which begins at the end of this music video?
Rogier Hendriks: As a director I can only hope so. I believe music videos and music in general are very powerful media to tell stories, to get audiences emotionally involved and to send out a message that make people think about or maybe even reconsider certain issues and events going on in the world nowadays. From this perspective I think making music videos episodic would be a super cool way of telling a story or visualizing a statement. A narrative spread out on a few tracks of a full album, that would be ultimate.
Is it hard to create a music video on which you need to add special effects later on?
Rogier Hendriks: Well, I would say it’s hard per definition. It makes the work a lot more complex and it’s a very time-consuming process. There are a lot of issues and concerns we need to tackle before the actual shooting can begin. A proper pre-production is therefore essential to make it all work in the end. Making storyboards and pre-visualizing shots helps a great deal, so everyone on set knows what to do and what the aim of the shot is.
Nathan Ornick: I think a lot of the challenge comes in how to balance production constraints. Of course, we carefully build a team with the right technical skills for the project. But we’re all perfectionists with huge imaginations, so there is always a difficult step of pulling everyone’s crazy (and cool!) ideas down into something that can actually be realized within a given time and budget. And when you want to go big in one thing, you usually have to make cuts somewhere else. CGI and VFX are no exception.
Proper communications and planning with the creatives, the band, and all the production units from the very beginning is absolutely essential. We also start with testing and look-development as early as possible. For example, some of the CGI work started weeks before shooting, since we already knew some of the 3D elements that would be needed, like the android parts.
Fan question: What’s the meaning of the Unity Girl in the music video? Specifically; What’s the meaning when she got shot and then ascends in white clothes, bleeding and surrounded by mechanical stuff? (Ian)
Rogier Hendriks: The Unity girl, “hero girl” as we like to call her, is the leader of this group. She is a human girl, leading a group of androids in a peaceful protest, “fighting” for unity of human- and droid rights. She symbolizes the fragile voice of a minority that means no harm. Recognition of species and the right to exist in peace and equality is their aim.
The shot of her ascending we call the “dream sequence”. This is actually a remnant sequence of the initial story, where the girl is building robots in her secret workshop. When the girl gets hit, we cut away to this dreamy sequence, where she finds herself amid destruction, everything she built, everything she stands for, and what the androids stand for is lost… all hope is lost. In this sequence we see her bleed real, red blood. This indicates she’s human, not android.
How did the idea to collaborate with fans came to life? Was it an easy decision or a last-minute choice and option?
Nathan Ornick: It was becoming a challenge to find all the cast we needed for the shoot, since we needed about 50 people who all matched a certain physical type, and our shoot was a night shoot that ran from Sunday night into Monday morning. This was really limiting our options.
So we floated the idea of reaching out to the fans and discussed it with the band. It certainly wasn’t an easy decision. It’s always a huge risk to bring people onto set who aren’t professional actors.
Thankfully, none of the concerns came true. Every single one of our extras was an absolute pleasure to work with. We had a great energy on set the entire time, even as the hours grew longer and longer, and everyone stayed focused and motivated. I’m also grateful to the band for being so incredibly cool to work with and generous with spending quality time with the fans. I really want to say thanks again to everyone who helped to make this possible.
Fan question: Was the band involved with the editing process? (Hans Vink, The Netherlands)
Nathan Ornick: We knew from the beginning of the project that the postproduction schedule was going to be pretty tight considering all the VFX that we wanted to do. So, it was critically important that we were in close communication with the band to make sure that things were approved each step of the way, and that we wouldn’t lose time in having to back-track. After we put together the rough edit, the postproduction and VFX teams could really dive into each shot. We had internal dailies with every new version of each shot, and we were sharing assembly edits with the band for review every few days. Robert and the rest of Within Temptation were a joy to work with, with a lot of trust and support in Rogier’s creative vision.
For this exclusive interview, we would like to thank Rogier Hendriks and Nathan Ornick – as well as Within Temptation to create this unique opportunity. Make sure to check out the music video for “Raise Your Banner” and follow Rogier and Nathan on social media for cool content.