By: Director/Writer/Producer Elia Petridis
By: Patrick Donovan – Author/Screenwriter
Seattle, WA (The Hollywood Times) 6/27/2019
“…Red White and Black is a poem, like a snapshot, set in post-civil war USA when slavery was ‘abolished’ and swiftly rebranded by the prison system…”
– Ellen Johnson
Notes about Elia Petridis:
Elia Petridis is an accomplished director, screenwriter, and creative director with over a decade of experience in feature films, music videos, branded content, and immersive storytelling. He founded production company Filmatics in 2007 and immersive entertainment agency Fever Content in 2017. The two companies work together as a transmedia network, exploring innovative ways to tell stories across mediums. Elia brings a strong narrative and artistic focus to his work, utilizing music, storytelling and emerging technology to create highly engaging transmedia experiences for immersive and traditional platforms. He released live-action horror VR experience, Eye for an Eye: A Séance in Virtual Reality supported by an expanded companion short film and an original music score designed to deepen the VR experience for multiple viewings.
Beyond interactive, Elia is best known for writing and directing The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez, starring Academy Award winner Ernest Borgnine in his final on-screen performance and Academy nominee June Squibb. He has also directed numerous music videos for major labels including Sub Pop, Def Jam, Sony Music and more. Elia has a Masters from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
The review by Patrick Donovan
There’s a story in everything we see and hear and so it is with Red, White and Black. At the outset, a woman is playing her guitar or trying to, perhaps practice, when she’s distracted by a commotion outside her apartment window. She hears and sees what’s going on and like some things in our own lives, that outside distraction then comes straight into the door of our lives without our permission.
The woman being chased in the video is wearing a black full bodysuit, with red accents and our guitar player is dress in a white suit, loosely knotted tie and white shoes with a red electric guitar. Now the two women, our white guitar player and our African American woman being pursued have come together with the pursuers, men in masks (neutral in color) continue to come out of the shadows. The woman dressed in Red and Black is now protecting the woman in White.
Two lives intertwined until the end when you see both with masks and they cannot discern who is “friend or foe.” But it’s only when both take off their masks that they realize that they are now together, not by accident, perhaps but by fate as you would have it. Together, they are now in the fight and together they will survive or die.
The music by Jesca Hoop is really cool. It’s a smooth and light vocalization of what I believe the music video is about. The lyrics are long to post here but here’s a quote from Paste Magazine’s Ellen Johnson on May 22, 2019 that really is the embodiment of what I believe Elia Petridis was trying to do.
“Red White and Black” is a poem, like a snapshot, set in post-civil war USA when slavery was “abolished” and swiftly rebranded by the prison system. It’s a personal acknowledgement and willingness to join the conversation for change.
I thoroughly enjoyed this video as I am sure you will as well. It was done in one take and that for me proves the mettle that Elia Petridis possesses to give him the ability to coordinate, calculate and choreograph this music video is a testament to his talent and ability. Bravo!
Enjoy the questions and answers from Elia Petridis and watch the video for yourself.
Special Supplement: An exclusive Q&A with the producer and director Director/Producer and Writer, Elia Petridis.
Patrick: Elia, along the way, you decided that music videos needed something more. What made you decide the time was right for a change and how did you go about doing it in the artistic masterful way you have especially with just one take, amazing!
Elia: That’s part of my job. To explore where the medium can go, where genres can go, how to turn things on their head, how to re-imagine, revisit tropes and introduce them in new ways. As a part of this filmmaking community, it’s what I have to contribute and it’s also just part of the vocation of being in this realm. I didn’t decide the time was now. It was the creative problem that was handed to me and the muscle memory and the creative force of habit, that compulsive habit to creatively solve problems that led me to this final outcome. I was just following a pattern and a routine I had begun a long time ago and in terms of loving and honoring my craft, and it just kind of led me here.
Intrinsically, I’ve been doing it in an artistic way since I was a kid. So it’s second nature to me. I was just exhaling and inhaling and putting one foot in front of the other. I do think creatively a lot. So there was no sleight of hand here, it is my job. This is what I do.
Patrick: What music genres do you love and why? What musicians in the past and present were an influence for you and how have you incorporated their styles in what you’ve done here with Red, White and Black?
Elia: As an avid musician and someone who knows the focus, dedication, and love it takes to play an instrument well and to make good music, I like all genres of music because I know that each one of them is a very special undertaking unto themselves.
My influence from musicians in terms of my visual design of Red, White and Black is an oxymoron. Musicians that have influenced me like Jesca Hoop, obviously whom i like very much, contribute a part of the fabric of my life and as a friend she’s very much a part of my formative years.
Patrick: The quote from Ellen Johnson, above, speaks about what Jesca Hoop’s music is really about. Can you tell us what in the lyrics drew you to this music and why you wanted to make this video? What about the quote and joining the conversation for change do you believe will make the viewer realize that we have a problem that needs immediate attention?
Elia: I wish I had the lyrics in front of me. There’s a moment in which she paints a picture of a flag derived from a cotton field and that really spoke to me. That was a really strong visual. I did go line for line through the lyrics with Jesca and so literally like they were a piece of literature, they very much spoke to me and gave me the thread of a story to tell. I think the strongest visual for me was about the flag as expressed through the cotton field.
The video is not designed as a battle cry. It’s not supposed to be an ultimatum for change. It’s supposed to be a piece of art that captivates your attention for a few moments to reconsider steps you might have taken and steps you might take. I would be blessed if it stayed in your head for more than 12 minutes after that. I would be blessed truly if it really impacted you that way. But it’s what I can offer as an artist. It’s by no means an ultimatum or a mandate for change. It’s simply a contribution to what I believe is inevitable which is that we are going to all have to learn to live together one way or another, so let’s get to work doing so, and let the building blocks of that work be love and respect for all.
Patrick: How long did it take you to conceive, develop and create the video for Red, White and Black? Where was it shot and why did you choose that location or locations?
Elia: To conceive 90 seconds, to develop 10 days and to create seven days. It was shot at a very famous warehouse in downtown LA where numerous commercials and music videos are often shot. We were lucky because it had a motif of red, whites and blacks going through it. So we thought that it was lightning in a bottle and it had these beautiful opportunities to blend all kinds of lighting from natural lighting to source lighting. That’s something I’m really a fan of these days is how to go in and out of these mixed lighting tapestries. I really dig that. It’s also got this majesty of space and intimacy of rooms and we thought it was just right for the piece.
Patrick: Do you plan on making more insightful videos using music to tell ‘your story?’ I say this because in some way, we all have our own stories to tell. So, was there something of you that you put into Red, White and Black’s video that you’d like to tell our readers about?
Elia: No. I think I put my sense of common decency. I think common decency is really important to me. I also think what was valuable for me as an artist was that I’m Greek/ Lebanese, so to offer a perspective into this conversation I thought could be potentially a nice outside the box way to contribute by not being an American. I thought that was really meaningful to me because I come from a tradition of very big complicated ideas expressed very simply that seems to really resonate with me about my culture. They say very big things beautifully, very quickly. That really rang true for me doing this.
Patrick: What advice can you give to up and coming students who are considering creating music videos that will help them in telling a story that they read/hear in lyrics and finally, what gives you inspiration outside of what you create (outside of the industry)? What is the drive within you to “show” what is only heard through music and not seen?
Elia: Watch everything. Watch great music videos. We do that often, spend clumps of time just watching music videos. Watch commercials. Watch avant-garde cinema. Go look for techniques that you can appropriate into music videos. Go look for cool camera techniques. Go look for cool art design in cinema. Go look for cool clothing and wardrobe design. Go look for the cool little traits of each department from different walks of visual storytelling that you can then bring together in one place. Get in tune with the DNA of your artists. Be really aware of where they’ve been, where they’re going, and where they are. Think about what this piece of music does in relation to the piece that came before it and the piece of music that is to come or where they might head. The closer you can stay to the heart, the beating heart of your musician, the artist and the song, the more authentic that this video is going to be. Ultimately what you’re chasing is that one should not exist without the other. The best music videos seem like they were made in tandem and for and with the song in mind and vice versa. So that’s really the holy grail that you’re after, where people couldn’t imagine the video without the song and the song without the video.
Being a musician myself, it is of interest to me to tap into the emotional blueprint of a song.
Having a little bit of know-how of how things are composed and how chords progress, I’m often trying to map visuals to the emotional blueprint that I hear in a song. So what I’ll do is I’ll go through a song and I’ll break it up every 10 seconds or so, or every time an emotional change happens. Then I pick one word to describe that spot of music. Example, from 0:0 to 0:10, if I’m feeling apprehension, I’ll write down apprehension. From 10 to 22 seconds, if I’m feeling anxious or I’m feeling joy, I’ll write that down. So by the time they get to the end of the song, I’ve got this emotional blueprint and it just gives me a starting point for which to craft visual design. The lyrics are actually your last concern of a song because if you’re going to literally represent the lyrics, that’s an exception to the rule. That verges on being didactic and telegraphing. So what I would do is skew towards an emotional blueprint and actually stay away from lyrics because the artists can handle the lyrics. That’s their job. It’s not really your job to do a picture book for the lyrics. Unless you’re doing in a lyric video. In that case, take two and call me in the morning!
Also, get out. Get out of the house unless your artistry is purposefully in hermit mode for some reason. Or else, get out, meet people, see places, cool communities in town, cool spots in town, experience the stories of your life in order to share them with others over and over. At one point, they’ll start to see themselves in you, and the stories just get better and better told.
Thank you, Elia, for your contributions to the art and industry.
Quote from: Ellen Johnson | May 22, 2019 | https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2019/05/daily-dose-jesca-hoop-red-white-and-black.html
Watch the Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfHPGNMvbtM