CMA Awards 2018

'Fade' Video Director Says 70s Porn, Grace Jones, 'The Fly' & 'Dancing With the Stars' Inspired Kanye West Video

Courtesy of Tidal
Kanye West's video for "Fade."

It might shock you to hear this, but the 24-year-old director of Kanye West's soft-core "Fade" video spent time "researching" the look of the clip by trolling Pornhub for adult films from the 1970s and 80s. Young gun Eli Russell Linnetz -- who is in the midst of a one-year "artist residency" with West -- told the New York Times that his boss surprised him last week when he called to say that the video -- which Linnetz was not done with yet -- would be debuting at the 2016 MTV VMAs.

To recap: the video in which G.O.O.D Music singer Teyana Taylor does a seductive workout routine in a barely there leotard and then turns into a cat and makes love to her fiancĂ© Cleveland Cavs forward Iman Shumpert in the shower and ends up in a field of sheep (with a baby) was inspired by old-school porn.

Kanye West's Choreographer Explains Teyana Taylor's Catface in 'Fade'Video: 'The Lioness Always Protects Her Baby'

But also a lot of other things, according to Linnetz, who is also working on Yeezy's current Saint Pablo tour and its signature merchandise. "I just got an email from Kanye superlate at night saying, ‘I want you to direct 'Fade.' Space, space, space. ‘Teyana Taylor dancing. Iman Shumpert, taking thousands of years of culture and throwing them into a single frame or moment," West wrote to his protĂ©ge. "That’s our approach whether it’s 'Famous' or 'Fade' or fashion or the tour.”

 

 

FADE_002 #FADE #TEYANATAYLOR #KANYEWEST

A photo posted by ELI RUSSELL LINNETZ (@elirusselllinnetz) on

 

Certainly not the most detailed creative brief for Linnetz, a University of Southern California grad who served as an assistant to director/playwright David Mamet when he was 15. Linnetz said he met West when he was 17 after a friend cold e-mailed the rapper about his DONDA creative agency, which sparked a fruitful friendship and creative partnership. "If someone is willing to put in the work and execute and deliver, he doesn’t think about their age," he said of West.

As for the video, Linnetz said that the film Flashdance was an obvious reference, but so too were Ohio Players album covers from the 1970s, iconic Grace Jones boxing images by Jean-Paul Goude and the aforementioned porn clips. "I pulled a lot of references from ’70s and ’80s porn, just on Pornhub. That was less about the imagery and more about the texture of the skin, the oiliness," he explained.

 

-- THANK YOU. FAMOUS. NOW STREAMING ON TIDAL. #tidalxfamous #webrokeit #famous #blessed

A photo posted by ELI RUSSELL LINNETZ (@elirusselllinnetz) on

 

Mix in some references from John Carpenter's film The Fly, and then a few inspirations that you might not immediately think of. "There’s also things like Dancing With the Stars, the Olympics and the N.B.A. championship," Linnetz said. "I brought on Guillermo Navarro, who shot Jackie Brown, as the cinematographer. Renelou Padora did the styling, and then Tino [Schaedler] did the art direction. He’s done everything from Harry Potter movies to Daft Punk videos. It all seems fragmented, and then it’s all boiled down to this one image because Kanye is so good about overseeing the people involved."

Linnetz said West was on set the entire time and "super involved" in every detail, down to props and whether they should use weights from 1976 or 1981. Though he initially said he wasn't into doing "a random video of a girl dancing," once he met Taylor his mind was put at ease when she said simply, "I got this." 

 

 

excited to share my new video FADE starring @teyanataylor and @imanshumpert link in bio #FADE #KANYEWEST #VMAS

A photo posted by ELI RUSSELL LINNETZ (@elirusselllinnetz) on

 

The best part? This isn't the end of the story. "Kanye and I had worked a lot with prosthetics, with people who work for [famed special effects guru] Rick Baker, who did some of the most famous effects of our time," he said of the confounding cat mask Taylor models at the end of the video. "We had worked with those people on 'Famous,' so we wanted to continue that language in a new way. The last image is foreshadowing bigger things to come, which you guys will find out about soon enough."

Read the entire New York Times interview here.