How long have you guys been in Berlin and where do you originally come from?
Vivien: I grew up nearby Frankfurt and Fabian comes from Würzburg. After our studies, we moved directly to Berlin and have been here now for two years. But it feels like forever, since so much has happened. Faye is already one year old, which felt like five years to me and before that much happened as well – we arrived, met various of people and worked on a lot of projects. At the beginning, we lived in Neukölln but are now completely thrilled with our new flat in Bergmannkiez.
Cool tent you have here. Where is it from?
Vivien: I sewed it myself with some kind of patchwork technique, but it was too much work, which I didn’t realize until after I had started the project. I saw a children’s tent somewhere that cost 300 €, so I thought I could just do it myself. But after many nightshifts, I suppose the tent is truly worth 300 €.
Did you know a lot of people here already or did you start entirely fresh?
Vivien: Fabian’s brother had worked for a long time at HORT, through which we got to meet a lot of people. This was obviously amazing work-wise, since we got our first job, The Knife video, through them.
And how did work develop?
Vivien: A lot happens through the website, but we also receive directly a lot of mails and requests. At the beginning, we obviously introduced ourselves to the production firms here and began to ‘pitch’ through them. In the first year, we only shot a few videos, in the second year it became more and more and now we even have representatives sitting in London.
Fabian: London is very interesting to us, since the music is much more of a satisfaction there. German gigs are usually pure horror to us. Of course there are good ones, too, but overall I don’t appreciate the music. It is often noticeable that artists are pushed by people into a certain direction, without really doing what they’d like. In London, everybody has their own style, which they have had since childhood and find it cool. In Germany, the artists often look normal or even narrow-minded and will be put into specific clothes by their Label, which at the end is obvious and doesn’t reveal this person as particularly fascinating.
When you work with the London representatives, do you often work locally?
Fabian: Actually not. The artists love to come shoot in Berlin.
Fabian: Yes! Berlin is something unusual for them right now…
Vivien: …our next gig is supposed to have this 90’s vibe and Berlin has lots of exciting locations to offer.
What brought you to Berlin?
Fabian: Primarily, it was because of the people we knew here. But as well the undeniable fact that this was a Metropolis. Every other city in Germany was out of question. For some time, we were in L.A for our final Diploma project – a place that we could also see ourselves at in the near future. At some point we considered a house-swap. L.A. is absolutely amazing to film at. You take the car to the outskirts and will be surrounded by desert, you have mountains covered in snow, as well as the ocean.
Vivien: And everything is just so beautiful – the houses, the light, the vast landscapes…you can shoot at every hour of the day. The city is incredibly photogenic – also because we are familiarized with it from so many movies. As a child I watched so many American films that it almost feels like coming home every time.
Fabian: I also thought it surprisingly easy to film there. Every minute we thought to get busted by the cops, since we used a very big high-speed camera, ‘toaster-ish’ looking, which is impossible to hide quickly.
But nothing happened…
Vivien: No, somehow not.
Fabian: We had firecrackers with us, which was complete nonsense considering the location. We had bought them in China-Town.
Vivien: Yes, it was just like in the Simpsons. You go to China-Town and they show you these small “Sparklers” in their store, then you say “Bigger,” they throw you a quick, bewildered look and then take out socks from the selves and present you the great ones…
Would you still consider yourself as music video directors in the future or perhaps move onto pure film?
Vivien: At the moment I would say “No,” it is not the right time yet. But some day perhaps it will be.
Fabian: I think about it from time to time, especially when I see Tom Ford’s films. He is just astonishing, but in his manner also quite uncomplicated and simple. Nothing like David Lynch’s work.
Vivien: Or Godard! It is unbelievable how many ideas there are in his work. We need at least another 20 years of experience.
So how does it work with the music videos – who develops the ideas, how many restrictions do you get from the artist and his/her management?
Fabian: Best case scenario – nothing.
Vivien: Often we receive a briefing with one sentence: “Open Brief – Artist doesn’t need to perform.”
Fabian: Or “likes bubblegum.”
Vivien: And of course the song and then it will be pitched.
How do you develop your concepts and ideas? Have you created a strategy over the past years?
Vivien: We have a galore of notebooks filled with ideas and specific moments, which we utilize. Every day we are bombarded with these seemingly ordinary but surreal moments…The other day I observed a young child who refused to get up from the pavement. There was still snow around and other kids, passing by, covered the stubborn child with a blanket. Also, an invalid man in his wheelchair stopped and tried to convince the child to get up again. It created an obscure ambiance, yet nothing severe occurred. Another time we witnessed some people in Neukölln who were throwing firecrackers against a building. Actually nothing spectacular, but in a sense utterly beautiful and vicious. If one is not blind to it, the everyday life is packed with motifs.
Do you usually focus on the lyrics or on the melody of a song when you work on a video for it?
Vivien: Usually we have different approaches, but the lyrics are often the ones that are less vital. At times it is hilarious to realize that the lyrics perfectly match the scene, which you had envisioned beforehand already.
Fabian: For example, I have a plethora of ‘Moodboard” collections, which I then combine with suiting images.
Vivien:For me, it’s mostly about the actual music. I calmly listen to the song over and over again and actively think about it. It cannot be played along the side – Fabian needs the exact opposite.
And you always find each other within the individual ideas?
Vivien: We complement each other.
Fabian: During the last shootings, I was often alone, since Vivien stayed at home to care for Faye. Sometimes when I got home from work at night, Vivien would be almost outraged with what I had done with work.
Vivien: True. Very often I said: “ These are all stills that are impossible to cut. But then at the end, magically, everything fits together like a puzzle.
Is there some sort of distribution of roles?
Vivien: A little. For instance, I always cut everything…
Fabian: And you take care of the styling. I don’t really care much about it.
Vivien: It’s almost like ping pong between us.
How is it to work as a couple?
Fabian: I could not think of it any differently! Our life is concerned with Faye and our joint labor.
Vivien: From time to time, when you converse with other people about projects, it becomes clear that between us there exists a certain naturalness and established harmony.
Have you ever worked without each other?
Vivien: No, our teamwork already began during our studies – we met at the very beginning and immediately decided to collaborate.
Has it always been a dream to make music videos or were there other notions?
Vivien: It has always been a dream of mine. In the old days, right after coming home from school, I would watch Mac Gyver or MTV, and when I saw the black and white video of No Doubt, directed by Mark Romanek, I was aware that I would make music videos one day, as well.
What about idols?
Vivien: A massive amount.
Fabian: Numberless. I watch a lot of Documentaries, and Fellini was the last one that blew my mind.
Vivien: Also Antonioni. I had always liked him, but actually thought “Zabriskie Point” to be quite a bore. But last year I finally grasped it. After that, I only consider it a masterpiece. Obviously there are some music video directors who I value, such as Romain Gavras.
Fabian: Apart from them, there is Lynch, Hitchcock, Wes Anderson…
The videos’ mood is usually quite gloomy….
Vivien: Yes, that’s true. But it also portrays sides of humor and playfulness. In one way we are these likeable and cute parents, but also act out our somber visions within the videos.
Fabian: However, they should not distribute any sort of bad temper.
What is most annoying during the process of your work?
Vivien: The financial and bureaucratic aspect.
And what is most enjoyable?
Vivien: The best part is when you realize that the cuts function properly! Even though the video is still not finished, you have the sensation of it working out. During the final steps, one makes out too many mistakes.
Fabian: It is also great to receive all the emails and comments at the end.
Is there a specific artist you would like to work with?
Vivien: I would love to work with M.I.A.
Fabian: Kanye West has been a long dream of mine.
Have you ever been in contact with them?
Fabian: No, never. But we felt absolutely ecstatic when Kanye once blogged a video of ours. We walked around grinned-faced for days. It was the video Blue Roses from our student period.
How did you arrive at your technique – the shift-technique in particular?
Fabian: We found these old pictures which had an amazing 3D quality. Since then, we just wanted to work with this kind of material. At the end, it was so much harder than we had expected it to be. Since the focus always changes, you don’t take one picture but 25 of them.
Vivien: You really have to be extra careful and be precise. Nothing can be displaced or shifted, otherwise the nose and the ears wiggle.
Fabian: We improved the technique a bit for the new video. The images not only shake back and forth, but also sway from right to left. However this gets extremely complicated during the post-production.
Vivien: For two weeks, we worked on a series of experiments, which Fabian retained in some charts – it seemed by the hand of a mad professor.
What do you do in order to relax? Do you have any hobbies?
Vivien: Video games! A lot!
And which ones?
Fabian: A lot of Super Nintendo.
Vivien: Oh yes – Street Fighter, Zelda, Arrow Fighter…other than that we find pleasure in magazines, music, exhibitions, flea markets…
Thank you both for a lovely afternoon and a interesting conversation! To get an impression of their video works, check out A Nice Idea’s website!
Interview: Cosima Walther
Photography: Philipp Langenheim
Text: Sarah Weinknecht