Women in Music 2018

Director Colin Tilley Talks Concept Behind Future's Epic 'Mask-Off' Video

Courtesy Photo
Future and Amber Rose in Future's music video for "Mask Off." 

With a top five record on the Billboard Hot 100 sitting comfortably on his lap, Future knew that his "Mask Off" video needed to be epic. On Friday (May 5), he unveiled his apocalyptic visual co-starring famed video vixen Amber Rose. 

Directed by Colin Tilley (who directed Kendrick Lamar's political anthem "Alright"), Future finds himself driving in the middle of an armed robbery gone haywire. In the midst of all the burning buildings, masked lawbreakers, and bloodthirsty shoot-outs, the "Draco" star coolly watches everything unfold with Rose riding shotgun. To cap off the gripping video, Future raps his lyrics on a rooftop, amid all the drama. 

Billboard hopped on the phone with Tilley to speak on the direction for the "Mask Off" video, Amber Rose's role, and his favorite memories from the fiery shoot. 

What was your vision for the "Mask Off" video?

First of all, when the album dropped, this was the song that I was listening to. I was like obsessed with this song. I kinda love when this happens, when I'm not really listening to a song to really think about the video. I was just living with it already. I happened to be in the Bay Area when Future called me about it. He was like, 'Yo. Do you like the song?' I was like, 'Yeah, yeah. Of course I love the song. I'm super down.' So, literally, that was when I had to put my concept cap on.

What I wanted to do with it, I kind of always want to stay relevant with everything that's going on in the world and be able to tie it back to the music, the artist, and everything that's happening. I wanted to create this really gritty, raw world, but capture it in a really surreal, hyper-realism way. I was really taking this shi--y situation that we have with our president and everything going on right now in the world, and taking it two, three years from now, but having Future basically be the puppet master that is controlling everything as he's moving through this world kind of untouched in this chromed-out car where everything basically bounces off it. I wanted to capture everything off of that car, too. I really wanted to pretty much feel the world from that car's perspective. 

Where was the video shot? 

So, we shot it in Los Angeles. Since I shoot in Los Angeles so much, I'm always searching for new locations and new places where I can set up and create new worlds. We actually shot it in Boyle Heights, which is kind of outside in the downtown area. I was scouting and I found this amazing little town area, which I kind of felt I could turn it into my own back lot. I got together with my team and basically shut down a bunch of blocks in this area and we just used it in our back lot, created this world, and casted all these people to really bring it to life. 

How long did it take for everything to come together? 

Future called me. I wrote the treatment within like a day. I sent it to him and he was like, 'Yes. This is perfect. This is exactly what I wanted.' Literally, like a week later, we were shooting. Then we shot for two nights in a row and did our post thing. I basically was sitting with my editor for like a solid week in a half straight. We pulled straight up all-nighters and just used up all of the energy we got while it was super fresh and knocked it out. All of a sudden, it's out. So, yeah, I love the process, man. That's the beauty of it. I get to really see it all the way through.

Whose idea was it to have Amber Rose in the video? 

We were trying to figure out what would be the most iconic moment to have a female figure in this video. Future brought up the idea of Amber, and I was like, 'I love that,' because it just feels like a f--king moment. I didn't want it to just be somebody random. We had to really make a statement with it. That was amazing getting Amber. And then, in the edit process, our whole thought process behind it was really giving it a slow reveal. You basically see these details in the first verse, and then you're like, 'Wait. Is that Amber?' Then, all of a sudden, you get the Amber show at the end of the video. I just really love reveal factors in videos. 

Are there any memories from the shoot that sticks out to you the most looking back? 

Man, there were a lot of incredible moments. I really had fun shooting a lot of the narrative moments in the piece, as far as the shootout, as far as the home invasion, where all these people were robbing this home, and we did like a fast drive-by going 60 miles per hour shooting in super slow motion and just letting that ride out as a one taker. To me, that's what really excites me and challenges me to continue to push the narrative. 

Future is one of my favorite people to work with. He just has so much energy. He kills it from start to finish. He's there until the sun rises. Every single performance you see him like really kill it. I think the sickest performance, the sickest moment with Future was when him and [DJ] Esco were in the middle of all the mayhem and we were doing this 360 move around them. I mean, that whole take could have played out the entire video because they just had so much chemistry and were f--king murdering it. So, that was definitely one of those moments where everybody on set was like, 'Oh sh-t! It's going down!' So, that was just incredible, man. It's amazing working with such talent, because every time you put the camera on someone like Future, he's gonna bring it. 

Were there certain things that you wanted to add that didn't make the final cut? 

No. I mean, with the amount of time that I had, I had to be very, very precise about what I shot. So, I pretty much was very exact with what I shot, and obviously, it's one of those things where there's so many great moments in every single take, and that's the beauty of getting in the edit room. You choose your selects and make sure that it's all flowing in a certain way. So, nah, I definitely think it was all super precise for us.

What's the next thing you're going to be working on? 

Honestly, man, it's crazy. I actually wasn't really doing videos at the moment, because I've been basically working on this film. I'm shooting this film in August. But really, as soon as I got the call from Future to do this, I was like, 'I have to do this!' It was good times, man. I love when stuff like that happens.