Monakr - "Rosemary" // Behind The Scenes

A few weeks ago I got to shoot one of my favorite concepts to date for a fantastic track. Monakr is a super group composed of members of Hey ChampGemini Club and fronted by the haunting vocals of Matthew Santos.

The concept of the video was to create an etherial mood piece featuring a spooky muse enchanting the audience with medusa like looks and Dionysian movement. The band almost conjuring her into existence (like a genie) with their music. The song is very a haunting nod to the 80's era of music and has constant references to William Shakespeare's masterpiece Hamlet. Specifically the death of Ophelia.

Representational painting of the death of Ophelia - Inspiration for the piece

Representational painting of the death of Ophelia - Inspiration for the piece

When I listened to the track, I resonated with the undertone of spirituality and godlike/archetypal quality of the girl in the song. The song to me is an exploration of lust. It's a girl with whom a man is obsessed with to the point where she has complete control of him. Like medusa, her beauty has turned him to stone. I wrote this bit below about the Charachter:

Ophelia is greek tragedy manifested in a woman. Ophelia is other worldly and supernatural. Irresistible to any man. The physical muse for our song, it should feel like the band is playing her into existence. I see Ophelia having lots of see through lace, and moving seductively. Rolling her hips, and slinking around almost like a cat. Graceful, beautiful and powerful. She is a personification of perfection. The goddess of all muses on earth. She simply should not be real. Her whole being prophetic, and it is our unavoidable fate to witness her. Much like Medusa, we all (figuratively) turn to stone upon viewing her unparalleled beauty. Her beauty is her superpower, but also her weakness, and she knows it. She longs for closeness, and much like King Midas, can never obtain it. As a wise man once told me: “Monogamy is the great causality of beauty.” Let’s personify that in Ophelia.
— Nick Cavalier
Some historical/mythological references in my treatment

Some historical/mythological references in my treatment

The band resonated immediately with the concept, our only concern being it could end up being cliched. A pretty girl dancing in a dark room doesn't sound very magical. But the devil is always in the details. Our number one challenge was casting. We needed someone who looked the part, a fair skinned beautiful and enchanting girl. Black hair, bright eyes, tattoos and curves. She also needed to be a high level dancer to be able to move in a seductive way. This is about presence. Captivating the audience is key. I worked closely with my producer James Waters and we sent the track out to a pool of dancers and asked them to submit a dance to the track with their own flavor to it. I wanted to see how they were feeling and interpreting the song. After many dances were reviewed we decided on Tracy Lynn Stanbury

The Beautiful Tracy Lynn Stanbury

The Beautiful Tracy Lynn Stanbury

See Tracy's dance submission below.

Tracy's movement had such athleticism and control to it as well as the mysterious and enchanting flavors of middle eastern dances. Tracy also has the presence we were looking for. When she makes eye contact, she almost cuts through you.

I wanted the performance and the storyline to have motivated moonlit lighting

I wanted the performance and the storyline to have motivated moonlit lighting

So much of avoiding the cliche' was in how the dance and performance was presented. I wanted the cut to start out ambiguous and mysetrious and slowly reveal the band and the dancer over time. Micro > Macro. I enlisted Tyler Clark, a talented young DOP to work on the aesthetic with me in pre-production.

Lighting tests

Lighting tests

Prism tests

Prism tests

We took steps to make sure it was shot in a specific way that felt current, but had a tinge of the 80's era music videos, (Soft focus, vignetting, lens filters) while adding current aesthetics such as Lens flares, prisms in front of the lens, and high concept lighting. The result is something stunningly unique and beautiful. 

Another huge part of this concept was art direction. We plan on having "Fantasy" cut aways or inserts exploring some of the more magical or archetypal imagery in my treatment. I enlisted Inda Blatch-Geib as our art director and she brought a decorative eye to the treatment. It was important to me we not be to "on the nose" with the references below:

We really wanted to contrast the idealized version of her with the reality of her being. What the man lusting after her sees in his head, versus what she actually is. Also, we wanted Iconography that implies female sexual prowess, femininity, fragility, delicateness.

I wanted the inserts to feel roman, and sort of pagan at the same time.

We shot this over two long production days with a half day for tech and pre-light. We were able to set up 4x4 banks on the truss at OSV Studios in Cleveland and have two looks to bounce back and forth from. This made our ambitious shot list possible. Enjoy some behind the scenes below:

Prisms helped us create specialized lighting effects.

Prisms helped us create specialized lighting effects.

Mikey Tell (Key Grip) napping hard. Mikey was on a night shoot with Matthew Mcconaughey and came straight to our set. That's dedication to your craft.

Mikey Tell (Key Grip) napping hard. Mikey was on a night shoot with Matthew Mcconaughey and came straight to our set. That's dedication to your craft.

Witchy Woman

Witchy Woman

I am beyond excited for this one. I am already digging deep into the cut for this and spending lots of time finessing. I really feel like we have something special here, both the track and concept mirror each other in a special way. Excited to get it out to all of you. Huge thanks to all of the crew who worked on this. It was an extremely ambitious project for the budget and we pulled it off because of all of you. 

First and foremost thanks to Monakr for the opportunity to make something beautiful to an amazing piece of music. Thanks to Craig Smith and the folks at OSV Studios for the hospitality for two days. Huge thanks to the camera department for all their back breaking work on this. Tyler Clark for his vision on the look. Thanks to Mikey tell for sticking it out on our small time set after Mcconaughey wore him out. (allright allright allright) Thanks to Jordan Pellegrini for his razor sharp focus pulling. (shot at 1.4f) Thanks to Josh Quiros for his camera operation ability and overall help on set. Thanks to Adam Tolley and Jeff Wexler for the assistance throughout both days. Huge thanks to James Waters for his pre-production wizardry. Thanks to Magan McLaughlin and Luke De Jue for Production assisting. Thanks to Katie Wyatt & Morgan Jones for the beautiful Hair and Makeup. Thanks for the beautiful art direction and vision of Inda Blatch-Geib and Dred Geib. You guys brought Ophelia to life. Big thanks to Julia Toke and Anna Wallace-Birchler for being hosts to a bunch of dirty band dudes for 3 days. And last but not least, thanks to the beautiful Tracy Lynn for being a patient soul with the very physical demands of her for this one.