Exclusive – Coldplaying Interview with Ben Mor on the Hymn For The Weekend video

Last month saw the release of the official video for Hymn For The Weekend. Aaron (Atlas2000) our staff member had the privilege to chat with the brilliant director of the video, Ben Mor! 

Q: The crowd scenes with the children in the video are wonderful, how did you recruit the extras for the video?

A: We knew we wanted to find kids that could breakdance which is not as common in India, we did a massive city wide casting search and had tons of amazing kids come through. As with every casting session I ended up picking the kids that I thought had the best skills and personality and they did not disappoint on the shoot day. The kids brought such positive energy and life to the shoot and I am forever thankful for each and every one of them.

Q: The video features a lot of colour and is very vibrant. What was he atmosphere like on set with all the powdered paint and the kids playing Holi?

A: The atmosphere on set was exactly as it looked in the video. Everyone was in a festive good mood including the band members, the kids playing Holi and all the residents of Worli village that came out to watch Coldplay put on an impromptu concert in their backyard. After the first take everyone was covered in Holi powder including the cameraman and the crew and that only added to the energy of the scene.

Q: What was your favourite part of the video to shoot?

A: To be honest the entire shoot in India was a blast and I have so many fond memories and favorite moments, but if I had to choose the absolute favorite I would say filming in Vasai Fort with the Sadhu’s/Monks as well as Sonam Kapoor and The Movie theater sequence with Chris were my favorite.

Q: Was there any funny moments on set?

A: When my DOP and I had to both fit in the front seat of the tiniest Taxi cab as Chris was singing in the back seat was something i’ll never forget. 2 Grown men, a giant film camera, a playback monitor and me playing the music off my iPhone into a portable speaker all pretzeled together in the tiniest space has to qualify as the funniest moment.

Q: What lead you to your profession?

A: I started in music and organically transitioned into filmmaking without even realizing it. I was a treatment writer for other directors for a few years then I got tired of people taking credit for my ideas so I broke out on my own.

Q: When you were younger did you ever think you’d end up doing what you’re doing today?

A: Not at all, I went to college thinking I was going to be either an Architect or a Lawyer and luckily music changed my path which ultimately led me to filmmaking.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring directors?

A: Yes. Go make something right now! When I started out you needed a lot of money for film and camera equipment if you wanted to make something of quality. With cameras and technology as advanced as they are anyone with a DSLR or even an iPhone can make something fantastic. Many people already have. So just like the democratization of home recording studios film making is accessible to anyone. Your only obstacle these days is your lack of imagination. So if you’re really supposed to be a film maker absolutely nothing is stopping you.

Q: You’ve worked with big names before like the Black Eyes Peas, Katy Perry and the list goes on. This was your first time working with Coldplay. What was it like working with them, and would you do it again in the future?

A: I have said this before and I am not exaggerating when I say that everyone in the Coldplay camp is incredibly nice and extremely well adjusted. These people have reached such a level of Zen calmness that it’s infectious. It would be an honor and a pleasure to work with them again in any capacity. If Chris wants me to film his kids birthday party I’m there!

Q: The use of slow motion in the video is gorgeous, especially the shot where the woman’s makeup seems to come off her face and the children jumping into the lake. Why did you decide to shoot it in that way?

A: I wanted to create a good flow of energy throughout the video and strike a dynamic balance between slow motion and regular speed. If you notice in the video Chris’ performance is slightly slowed down during the calmer parts of the song and when we get to the chorus there is no more slow motion performance and the energy is ramped up in sync with the songs energy swell. With regards to the make up coming off shot and the kids jumping in the water there was a lot of natural movement in those shots and slowing them down a bit gave them a more poetic vibe that fit the part of the song they were featured in.

Q: What was it like to shoot on location in India?

A: Shooting in India was a dream come true. If you work in the visual medium you cannot help but be overwhelmed by all the energy that exists in a place like Mumbai. Casting? perfect! Locations? Perfect!  Wardrobe? Perfect!

Q: The video has caused quite a stir amid accusations of cultural appropriation. How do you feel about this?

A: As the Director of this video I am quite saddened by this reaction on many levels. While I do understand how some people might be frustrated by ‘outsiders’ doing a ‘take’ on their culture yet again, I make no apologies for Romanticizing India in film and sharing my love for it with the world in a respectful way. Isn’t that what every poet has done throughout the centuries? Or for that matter every India Tourism promo ever :)?

Do people really expect a 4 minute music video to be a complete balanced picture of a culture that is several millennia old? I should hope not.

I have come to the conclusion that If the beauty and joy in this video doesn’t make you feel LOVE, it’s quite possible you are either a cynic or an individual that is somehow offended by seeing ordinary people instead of modern hipsters up on the screen.

Portraying a more timeless India is just that- timeless! and infinitely more interesting and soulful than anything modernity has to offer in my humble opinion.

Furthermore, there is absolutely ZERO glorification of any poverty in this video but rather a celebration of life and joy and to claim otherwise is a mistruth.

Is showing an old movie theater that still uses an amazing Arclight projector disrespectful or rather full of character and style? Why would I travel 8,000 miles to Mumbai and want to film an IMAX Theater?
Are young kids from Mumbai Breakdancing American style appropriating American Culture or merely Appreciating and celebrating it?

Are we really offended by the respectful cultural cross pollination that is happening globally or merely feigning self-righteous indignation?

While there have been an exhausting amount of ‘think pieces’ on HFTW video claiming to discuss the all important subject matter of APPRECIATION vs. APPROPRIATION. I feel that a majority of them have been ‘CLICK BATE’ negative hype pieces and only a small fraction have discussed the matter with nuance and objectivity.

The most Fair and thoughtful article on the matter I came across is the following:

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/32201/did-coldplays-video-misappropriate-india/

I love India and I plan to return for an even lengthier visit next time and encourage everyone to do the same! There is so much to experience that no single trip will ever be enough and I hope that the ‘Hymn For The Weekend’ video will encourage many first time visitors to make India their next vacation destination. And I have a feeling that it will!

Q: What are you currently working on and can you tell us anything about it?

A: I’m always working on something but my current focus is a feature film that I am developing and hoping to start filming before the end of the year.  Stay tuned for details.

We’d like to thank Ben Mor for taking time out to talk to us and for directing the incredible video for Hymn For The Weekend!

BEN’S WORK:

Take a look at his reel here: http://www.rsafilms.com/usa/directors/commercial/ben-mor/commercials/

Check out his Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/morbros/