A series of BYU connections in Hollywood yields extraordinary opportunity
Every Christmas season since 2006, The Killers have released a new single. In tune with the season of giving, the proceeds from sales go entirely to charity.
This year, Killers frontman Brandon Flowers went to personal friend, BYU alum and director of Napoleon Dynamite Jared Hess to produce a music video to go with the song. Hess pointed Flowers to BYU, suggesting students could create it.
Despite a window of just three weeks to plan, shoot and edit a live action animation video, BYU animation program director Kelly Loosli couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
“With the high-profile nature of the project and the value that it would bring to students, plus the chance to participate in raising money for charity, we just couldn't pass this up,” Loosli said.
Loosli turned to his first-year animation students who had been in the program for less than a semester, and even some pre-major students, to work on the video. He couldn’t afford to pull junior and senior students away from other large group films, so it was the youngsters who found themselves with the chance to work on a music video for a platinum-record rock band.
“Working on a Killers music video was pretty surreal, especially because the opportunity came in my first semester,” said BYU animation student Josh Poulsen. “It was a lot of work, and we put in some crazy-late hours. It was the funnest and most enthusiastic group I’ve ever worked with, and the process was exhausting.”
The majority of man-hours for the production of the video took place in Provo. BYU media arts and animation students worked tirelessly on the postproduction. It was a meticulous process for the students to comb over video, transforming filmed elements into animated elements and transitioning within the video from live action to animation.
“Seeing the end product, it was really rewarding,” said BYU film student Cassie Hiatt. “When we were in the process, we thought it was something that was never going to end. It really took a lot of work and managing our time well. But now that it’s done, it’s awesome to look back at and think ‘Wow we did that.’”
Before the project got to the BYU campus, the actual filming took place in Los Angeles. The team had one day to shoot the video, and three hours with the lead character, Owen Wilson. Wilson’s involvement in the project came because of a relationship with Flowers.
Loosli needed to pull together a crew to shoot the video in LA quickly. He started by calling a few former students and some of his former classmates who are now working in the industry. Those calls immediately paid off and the crew came together quicker than expected, thanks to the BYU connections.
All of the BYU students, professors and alums donated their time on the project. Even the record label, iTunes, the band and the actors donated their time and resources, meaning 100 percent of the proceeds from sales of the single go to (RED), a charity founded by Bono which is supported by numerous musicians and works to fight against AIDS in Africa.
The cinematographer on the project was BYU alum Bengt Jonsson. A number of BYU faculty were involved: Mike Warner and Seth Holladay did visual effects; Cynthia Hogan was heavily involved in the animation; and Brent Adams, Tom Lefler and Kyle Stapley helped manage the project and resources. Key students involved in the project were Hiatt, Poulsen, Nick Dixon, Jordan Hunter, John Jackson and Stephanie Tse.