We’ve all been there — a late Saturday night, eating Chinese food or walking the deserted streets. In Metric’s new music video for “Dark Saturday,” award-winning director and photographer Justin Broadbent uses just an iPhone X to capture the loneliness of Metric members Emily Haines (vocals/keys), James Shaw (guitars), Josh Winstead (bass) and Joules Scott-Key (drums) as they do their thing in the wee hours. The song is from the Canadian rock band’s still-untitled forthcoming album, due Sept. 21. Metric is currently on tour in North America with the Smashing Pumpkins through September.
Billboard spoke with Haines and Broadbent (on a call facilitated by Apple) about the concept of the video, its challenges, and if any dolt with an iPhone could come up with something so darkly exquisite and creative.
I’m terrible using my iPhone 7. Emily, how are you with taking video and photos with your phone?
Emily Haines: I leave that to professionals, like Justin.
It’s so impressive that you can do such a quality music video on a phone. Could this have been done on iPhone 8 or 7 plus or even the one I have, the 7?
Justin Broadbent: Yes, totally. I think for me the idea was really a lot more about the feeling and the connection to the authentic and real vibe of what the song is doing. That’s why we really wanted to use a phone, was just something that everyone is looking at all the time. We’re sort of used to viewing things that way, and sort of connecting to that sort of realness.
Haines: It anchors us to our daily lives. It’s not too much about the features about that particular phone I don’t think, as much as just the flexibility and freedom that it gave us, and also the fact that that’s how we look at the world is through that lens.
It had nothing to do with the phone per say, so tell me, Justin, when you heard the lyrics initially what were some of the visuals that came to your mind that led to the concept?
Broadbent: We actually sat down all of us and started brainstorming. We talked about the idea of the late late night, when it’s pitch dark, and 3am post-bar type time. We’re talking about potentially that feeling of going home maybe to meet up, maybe to go to sleep, whatever. The world is empty at that hour. We also visually talk about not having any color. That’s something we’ve pushed on this record. It’s a lot of black and white, really pushes that darkness feeling.
Is that a phone feature, black and white?
Broadbent: It is, I actually don’t know if you can shoot in black and white video, but I know you can in photo. I did the black and white in post.
That’s what I was wondering. Did you get each of the members to pick their opening location? There’s a restaurant, a bar, a street, and what looks like a motel room?
Haines: Yeah, Justin’s preparation for the video was quite intensive because what he had to map out was the whole life story of each of the four members in very different environments. So that was particularly impressive, I have to say, even though the video comes across as very spontaneous and off the cuff, and that was definitely the energy. There’s a huge amount of preparation required in terms of finding these locations and making the story of each member make sense, and then finding those magical moments where we overlap and connect in each other’s worlds.
Where was it shot and how far away were you from each other? And was there a crew at all, or was it really just you and the phone, and I assume lighting?
Haines: Let’s not talk about where it was shot because that defeats the purpose.
Broadbent: We just wanted to choose some iconic locations, so a Chinese restaurant, a motel, Jimmy was walking over an overpass, just these iconic memorable, ambiguous places that exist everywhere in the world.
Haines: In terms of crew, we had just one sort of superhero helping us.
Broadbent: It was a very light crew. We needed it to be because — I use the word “running gun” — we were moving quickly and in and out of spaces, even actually trying to grab some press photos at the same time [laughs], which was quite interesting. We were moving fast. It was basically me and one other guy.
I started off the interview with just how terrible I am using my video features on my iPhone. I always look at other people’s and wonder, “How come theirs turns out better than mine?” What kind of study did you do of the phone? You did the Shad video as well with the iPhone X. Do your skills as a photographer/director with regular gear play a factor?
Broadbent: My skills [laughs]. Yeah, I think so. I have a good eye and I have a lot of experience with tons of different cameras. At the end of the day, it comes down to framing and lighting. We just paid attention to that while shooting this. Even though, as Emily said, this should come across as very off the cuff and fun and spontaneous, which it was, it’s hard for me to get outside of my artistic eye.
And there were still commonalities in what each of the four members were doing as well right? With the car, the letters, the walking when their bodies are chopped and made into one.
Broadbent: We were trying to just create the sensation that they’re all living in these separate spaces, but they’re magically connected. That’s why we did those kinds of things where it seemed like they were all working together almost magically.
Haines: I love the moment when it’s the sound after the first chorus. There’s this kind of ambient sound and all four members look up in their different realities because they’re hearing the same sound in the same place. I think a lot of what we were going for is the sense of, it is being everywhere and nowhere in the video, these kind of non-places and that feeling of loneliness that you have of missing the people that make your life.
While you were shooting over those hours, are there some things that popped up that weren’t planned?
Haines: Yeah that’s what’s great about us working together, which we’ve done for many years now, is there’s a real comfort between us. It’s kind of a given that we’ll map everything out but without exception, something special always happens that, there’s too many to count. They always find their way in. The process is really enjoyable.
Justin, anything that couldn’t be done? Challenges?
Broadbent: The only challenge for me was wrapping my head around trying to make sure that I had all my connected moments where the four frames interact with each other. I had a list written out, so at every shoot I was making sure that okay, at around 1:14 in the song we’re going to be doing this [laughs].
Haines: Yeah, it was really quite tricky when you look more closely at how those interactions happened.
Broadbent: A good example was the car where we, at the end, have all the members show up at the car, and Emily passes through Joules’ frame, and then Josh’s frame, to find her frame. Just trying to wrap my head around the timing of that became a bit of a nightmare, but it worked out amazing.
How long did the whole shoot take?
Broadbent: I think we started shooting at sundown, so probable 10 until 5 a.m.?
Haines: The location is not being revealed. The whole point is that it’s anywhere.
The cost? Was it just the editing afterwards?
Haines: Kind of a weird question to answer.
Well, it’s different from a usual video, and Canadian artists, for decades, could access thousands of dollars in funding from MuchFACT [9,000 projects were funded since 1984, including videos by Arcade Fire, Celine Dion and Metric]. But that fund was canceled last year [by Bell Media]. There are probably a lot of artists worried they can’t make videos anymore. That’s why I wanted to know a rough cost.
Haines: I think people can come to their own conclusions on that, like how to make videos, I don’t want to put a number value on it.
Broadbent: I might add in that the reason we used the iPhone was because we felt it was the best thing to use for this video.
Haines: Exactly. We had a concept of wanting to create a certain atmosphere and feeling, and then as that concept evolved, that’s when Justin presented to the band, “Oh my God, I can see how we can do this using an iPhone.” But that was the sequence. It was the perfect equipment for the concept that we had.