Judah & The Lion | Insane


Q&A with director
Matt DeLisi

Q: You’ve collaborated on several different projects with Judah & the Lion. How did you first get involved with them? How did that relationship form?

A: My freshman year of college, I was actually roommates with Brian, the mandolin player. During college, I didn’t have that much film experience, so I did a lot of their promo videos while I was learning. I did some other video work for them, got better as a filmmaker, and they asked me to do their music video for “Rich Kids.” They loved it, and they had me meet with their management team. Since I had a relationship with them before, I started doing almost all of their music videos. I just love working with those guys because they’re good guys and we understand each other, creatively. 


Q: What was the process of pitching this idea? How did you sell them on your unique vision?

A: I had this idea to do a circle track [dolly] going in 360s around the performance, and I saw the red and blue color scheme in a trailer for a short film. When I got the project, I knew the color scheme would fit. So, we met for lunch and we talked about it, and they wanted to do something like “Paper Bags” where the video discusses vices, or other things you’re struggling with. Then, the whole video got put on the shelf [laughs]. I was messing around with compositing one day, and Brian came over and I showed him what I was doing. He was interested, you know, but when I showed him the eventual demos of the emoticons composited over people’s faces he freaked out. I was so excited about it that we shot at 7am, wrapped, and I immediately went into the edit at, like, 10pm.


Q: What was the thought process behind the flickering emoji heads? How did you accomplish that special effect?

A: So, I drew every emoticon I could think of in Illustrator, first. Then, I put those emoticons into Adobe Premiere and made a video of it, and sped it up and looped it. I added some different effects to it to make the emoticons look dirty and grungy. In After Effects, I did the facial tracking and embossing to make it look more like a face. I added a bunch of glitching and blurring to the clips to really help the aesthetic of it. I got the inspiration from Joel [Robertson]’s emoticon effect that he did for the Family Force 5 video. It was about feeling all these emotions at once, and it added to the “insane” aesthetic. It’s a light-hearted way to show a serious topic.


Q: You’re someone who is able to stretch a space into the most creative sets. Where did you film those performances, and how did you achieve the aesthetic that you wanted?

A: We filmed the music video in my parent’s garage [laughs]. I stuck this huge circle dolly track in there, and it barely fit — we had barely any room to mess around with it. We put blackout over the windows and we underexposed everything and turned the Kinos up really high. The Kino lights were clamped on the garage door with work clamps. It was literally just me and a PA on this set, and she had to push me around on the dolly. I even had a couple of the band members push me on the dolly when they weren’t in the shot [laughs].


Q: With depression and isolation as your inspiration, what elements of filmmaking did you utilize to capture those emotions? Like lens choice, camera angles, lighting, etc.?

A: My friend who worked on the record told me that when he first heard the song being recorded, he said, “Dude, this song, ‘Insane’… I can just see Judah in a dark room doing this crazy emotional performance.” That’s where the initial thought began, and then we really connected with the darkness of the space — like an abyss of loneliness. In the bridge when Judah is screaming and stuff, we did lens whacking to get that warped and distorted look. Moving the lens out in front of the camera sensor, I told Judah to act like he was ripping his hair out and to do crazy things with his fingers… I pretty much told him to go insane. The red and blue lens flares added to the aesthetic. The people running in the woods represent running to be free of something. They burn the flag, and it’s a moment of letting go. We wanted to show that in the most epic way we could, so we burnt a flag [laughs]. They run towards freedom. It was amazing to get a blank slate and have total creative freedom — such a fun video to work on.