Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Trailer For 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Unrated Blu-Ray Edition, Will Also Feature An Alternate Ending Watch: Trailer For 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Unrated Blu-Ray Edition, Will Also Feature An Alternate Ending New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Watch: First Teaser Trailer For 'Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation' With Tom Cruise Arrives, If You Choose To Accept It Watch: First Teaser Trailer For 'Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation' With Tom Cruise Arrives, If You Choose To Accept It Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Interview: Mark Romanek Talks Jay Z's 'Picasso Baby' Short Film, Says "It's A Tsunami Of Joy"

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist August 1, 2013 at 3:00PM

Tomorrow night, at 11 pm, Jay Z (the hyphen is gone!) will premiere his brand-new video for "Picasso Baby" on HBO, a highlight from his recently released Magna Carta Holy Grail album. It's an art installation-style 10-minute short film, in part based on Marina Abramovic's "The Artist in Present," an installation (and later, feature-length documentary) at New Year's Museum of Modern Art, in which the famous artist sat at a table for hours on end while everyday people would sit across from her and stare. For the Jay Z project, the rapper rented out a downtown Manhattan art gallery and invited people to perform the song too. So it was kind of like the Abramovic thing, except much more of a party. We got a chance to talk to Mark Romanek, the director of "One Hour Photo" and some of the most memorable music videos of the past two decades, who told us where the project came from, how he put it together, and why the music video format might be dead.
1
Romanek

Tomorrow night, at 11 pm, Jay Z (the hyphen is gone!) will premiere his brand-new video for "Picasso Baby" on HBO, a highlight from his recently released Magna Carta Holy Grail album. It's an art installation-style 10-minute short film, in part based on Marina Abramovic's "The Artist in Present," an installation (and later, feature-length documentary) at New Year's Museum of Modern Art, in which the famous artist sat at a table for hours on end while everyday people would sit across from her and stare. For the Jay Z project, the rapper rented out a downtown Manhattan art gallery and invited people to perform the song too. So it was kind of like the Abramovic thing, except much more of a party. We got a chance to talk to Mark Romanek, the director of "One Hour Photo" and some of the most memorable music videos of the past two decades, who told us where the project came from, how he put it together, and why the music video format might be dead.

Romanek, it should be noted, has some history with the rapper, having directed the brilliant, stark video for "99 Problems" and helped with the promotional campaign for Magna Carta Holy Grail. Secondly, we should let you know that we haven't seen "Picasso Baby" yet. HBO is keeping the surprise in store for both critics and audiences until Friday night. So we'll be watching, right along beside you tomorrow, and the sound system will be turned up very loud. Until then, here's what Romanek had to say about the endeavour.

Magna Carta Holy Grail

How did this project come about?
About 3 months ago, Jay Z called me and invited me over to his office to listen to his new music with an eye towards some sort of creative collaboration and we ended up doing that series of Samsung spots and had a good time. And he said, "I'd really like you to do a video." And "Picasso Baby" was the first single.

And how did the art gallery idea evolve?
He said would you like to make a music video for "Picasso Baby?" My reaction was, I definitely want to work with Jay-Z. It's very exciting. And something about making a quote unquote music video in a traditional sense, didn't seem very interesting to me. The song name-checks a lot of fine artists and I thought, what could we do with that fine art world that isn't a traditional musical video but is part of the zeitgeist—something unpredictable and [that] utilizes social media? I didn't want it to be a hermetically sealed experience.

The idea of performance art came to mind. I was aware of Marina Abramovic's "Artist is Present," even though I was in London shooting "Never Let Me Go" and didn't get to go. And the idea that Jay Z regularly performs to 60,000 people at a time, I thought, "What about performing at one person at a time?" He absolutely loved it. He interrupted me and said, "Hold on I've got chills. That idea is perfect." He thinks, like me, that the music video has had its era. I also wanted to make sure we had Marina's blessing. So she attended the event and took part in the event. She couldn't have been more happy or enthusiastic about us using her concept and pushing it forward.

"I feel like I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I get to make commercials or music videos or TV pilots, and they all compliment each other"

Had you stayed in touch with Jay since the "99 Problems" video?
Yeah my wife is friendly with Beyonce. So we ran into each other socially. We did a Budweiser spot and then the Samsung spots. I mean who wouldn't want to work with him? He's an icon of our era.

Was part of this idea scaling down that icon to a more manageable size?
Not really. I've know him over the years and wanted to bring out a side of him that people don't normally see. He's not a street rapper anymore. He's a wealthy businessman and a father. In this video I think he's very relatable.

How important are these smaller projects to you?
I feel like I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I get to make commercials or music videos or TV pilots, and they all complement each other and fill up my spare time. I'm always working with new people and trying out new technology. I don't take it for granted. It hasn't been my focus to do music things for a while, just because I did so many of them for so long. I did a bunch of those iPod silhouette spots in the early aughts, so I felt like I didn't have to do music-related things for a little while.

Why do you think the traditional music video form is dead?
It wasn't exciting to me anymore to do something that was kind of preconceived. What we did was build a machine in a way – we designed the space and did a lot of acoustic tests on the set and built a bench and did wall texts in a gallery, even made these giant vinyl banners that you see in these galleries, and did invites. Everything about it was designed in that respect. But once everybody came in we didn't know what would happen. It might have been a big dud for all we knew. There was a lot of excitement. We had to hang on by our fingernails and film this. And the idea that people could take photos and do Instagram and take Vines and have this be a hub for a series of spokes that we couldn't control, was very exciting. We didn't know how long it would be. The piece ended up being 10 minutes long, but a lot of people have said that they wish it was longer just because it was so fun to watch.

This article is related to: Mark Romanek, Jay Z, Interviews, Interview, Picasso Baby


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

E-Mail Updates