Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
What Was I Watching Before? Bryan Singer Says 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Is "The True Birth Of The X-Men" What Was I Watching Before? Bryan Singer Says 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Is "The True Birth Of The X-Men" Review & Recap: 'True Detective' Season 2, Episode 3 'Maybe Tomorrow' Review & Recap: 'True Detective' Season 2, Episode 3 'Maybe Tomorrow' Zack Snyder Defends 'Man Of Steel' Finale, Ben Affleck Reveals Bruce Wayne Knew People Who Died In That Battle Zack Snyder Defends 'Man Of Steel' Finale, Ben Affleck Reveals Bruce Wayne Knew People Who Died In That Battle New Book Contends Eric Stoltz Was “Difficult” & The Cast Wasn’t Shocked He Was Replaced On ‘Back To The Future’ New Book Contends Eric Stoltz Was “Difficult” & The Cast Wasn’t Shocked He Was Replaced On ‘Back To The Future’ Watch: Scott Lang Wants To Call The Avengers In New International 'Ant-Man' Trailer Watch: Scott Lang Wants To Call The Avengers In New International 'Ant-Man' Trailer Watch: Epic New Trailer For Werner Herzog's 'Queen Of The Desert' With Nicole Kidman, Robert Pattinson, & More Watch: Epic New Trailer For Werner Herzog's 'Queen Of The Desert' With Nicole Kidman, Robert Pattinson, & More The 20 Worst Films Of 2015 So Far The 20 Worst Films Of 2015 So Far Zack Snyder Reveals The Easter Egg Idea He Pitched Christopher Nolan And David Goyer For 'Man Of Steel' Zack Snyder Reveals The Easter Egg Idea He Pitched Christopher Nolan And David Goyer For 'Man Of Steel' New Images Of Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, More In 'Batman v. Superman,' Ben Affleck Compares Batman To Hamlet New Images Of Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, More In 'Batman v. Superman,' Ben Affleck Compares Batman To Hamlet Mads Mikkelsen And Hugh Dancy Released From Their 'Hannibal' Contracts Mads Mikkelsen And Hugh Dancy Released From Their 'Hannibal' Contracts Paul Thomas Anderson To Write And Possibly Direct Warner Bros' ‘Pinocchio’ For Robert Downey Jr. Paul Thomas Anderson To Write And Possibly Direct Warner Bros' ‘Pinocchio’ For Robert Downey Jr. Watch: Michael Fassbender Plays ‘Steve Jobs’ In New Trailer For Oscar-Contender Co-Starring Kate Winslet & Seth Rogen Watch: Michael Fassbender Plays ‘Steve Jobs’ In New Trailer For Oscar-Contender Co-Starring Kate Winslet & Seth Rogen Tom Cruise Still Gearing Up For 'Top Gun 2,' Story Will Involve Drone Warfare Tom Cruise Still Gearing Up For 'Top Gun 2,' Story Will Involve Drone Warfare Watch: First Trailer For Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley & Nicolas Cage Watch: First Trailer For Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley & Nicolas Cage Review: ‘Terminator: Genisys’ Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney & Jason Clarke Review: ‘Terminator: Genisys’ Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney & Jason Clarke 'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" 'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far 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

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
Jay Z

How did you decide who to invite?
A woman named Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn did the invites. She's an art dealer in New York and has an association with Jay Z. But we didn't want it to be an elitist art world thing. There were many artists who were interested in seeing the event and who came. But we wanted to make sure people from all walks of life and social strata could come, including people who were huge Jay Z fans. People didn't know what it was, exactly. They knew it had something to do with Jay Z but they didn't know what it was or if he was even going to be there. There was a nice quality of surprise and excitement.

How did you deal with the crowd? Could people just hang out all day?
We had to control the flow of people, partly because the film office and the police were very concerned because if it spread through social media it could become something where they couldn't control the amount of people. We had 250 people at a time and we had about nine or ten groups of people. Jay did the song maybe four or five times for each group. And then we had to recycle them. And it all went off quite smoothly. Had it gone viral and gotten out of control, it could have been another exciting thing to film. But it's probably better that it didn't.

"I was continually surprised. And that's what's so joyful about watching it, too. It's kind of an endlessly inventing, surprising thing. It's a tsunami of joy."

What were you most surprised by?
I was continually surprised. And that's what's so joyful about watching it, too. It's kind of an endlessly inventing, surprising thing. It's a tsunami of joy. Everyone is having such a good time, Jay is having such a good time. Some people came and sat and absorbed the experience. Other people felt the need to perform or collaborate or come up with some sort of gag. There's no one encounter that is similar to another. It's a whole range of surprises. We had 30 hours of film, because we had 8 cameras going.

Are there any plans to do anything else with that footage?
We had some deleted scenes but I think we had a chance to artfully manage it. There was some talk of cutting it even more. The only person that Jay performed the song for from beginning to end, since most people sat for 30 to 60 seconds, was Marina Abramovic. We should probably put that version together.

How quickly did you have to turn this around?
At the end of the day, we had a bit of time. Everybody worked 14 hours a day from the moment we finished shooting until yesterday. But when Jay made the arrangement for it to premiere on HBO we knew what our delivery date was we had a little bit more breathing room. We had a mixer who has been nominated for 16 Oscars, who did "Schindler's List," which was great because it was a tricky mix. It's all live vocals. There's no lip-synching. The whole point was having a live document. So it was a challenge. We had four or five editors on it at any given time, trying to make sure we were capitalizing on the giant tidal wave of footage.

Were you worried about losing that sense of spontaneity?
To be honest, I wasn't worried about it. We could see how it was coming together in the spirit and tone we intended. It was so live and real. So the challenge was really how can we create a nice flow and structure to it and not leave out any of these terrific spontaneous encounters and these little sweet moments. And that's just artful editing. The filmmaking is very transparent. We didn't light anything. We chose a gallery that allowed for this great sunlight. We tried to make the filmmaking have as light of an impact on what was happening as possible.

What's next?
I've got three projects, one of them I wrote, another one's a black comedy, another one is a drama. I do want to make another film. That's my main goal.

Have you given up on trying to make a big studio movie?
I've made my attempts at making these large-scale studio pictures and it's not gone well. And perhaps what it's telling me is that I'm better suited to more medium-sized types of projects. I think that's a happier place for me to be.

Jay Z and Mark Romanek's "Picasso Baby" premieres on Friday night at 11, right after Bill Maher. Check out a preview below along with a montage of Romanek's music videos.

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.


E-Mail Updates