Sub Focus & Wilkinson
Air I Breathe
with Promonews by David Knight
A man finds himself in an upside-down world, in Alexander Brown’s mesmerizing video for Sub Focus and Wilkinson.
Employing spectacular drone footage of Canary Wharf in London and a clever use of Steadicam, Brown toys with the viewer’s experctations and sense of visual perspective, in a slow-motion rollercoaster where Down is usually Up, and vice versa – and is occasionally vertigo-inducing.
Brown’s approach – which originated as a lockdown video idea and evolved as film limitations eased – is well suited to this dreamy dance track, with its lyrical references to gravity. Our hero – dancer Mikey Boats – appears to be unbound by such things.
“Air I Breathe evolved quite a bit from an initial embryonic pitch to the final project. It was an idea written in the midst of lockdown as an answer to the question – what can you shoot with limited production? I’d just had a music video fall through due to Covid restrictions pummeling the budget, so it was front and centre in my mind.
“I was lying in the garden and looking up at the sky, imagining that I was in fact stuck to the ceiling looking down instead of up. I wanted to make that idea work as a lockdown video. I pitched an idea using stock aerial footage flipped upside down, it was an idea I knew had legs – with the world feeling upside down at the moment, I liked it as a theme – people falling off the edge of the planet, as if gravity simply stopped working. The band loved it too.
Going from a found-footage lockdown video, into something using Steadicam, dance, locations… was a fantastic journey.
“It was a premise which worked perfectly with the lyrics, and initially, I wanted to just use stock footage, and shoot people falling. We budgeted for a small green screen shoot, and licensing a bunch of stock. We tested this approach using placeholder – but it felt like there was something missing.
“The problem was, while it worked great with some shots, the effect was very easy for the footage to simply look flipped. Some shots worked incredibly well, whereas others – it just looked like a lazy trick and simply using aerial shots felt like we were missing an important emotional element. It’s great to have limitations, but then as we pushed forward, something unexpected happened.
“During pre-pro, everything got very busy. The industry was firing up again. It felt like the clouds parted briefly and production was able to do more. We suddenly had lots of options for how to approach this – at one point we toyed with the idea of shooting in a helicopter for a couple of hours. But in the end, we chanced upon an incredible location to shoot in Canary Wharf, a location that without lockdown, I imagine would have been all but impossible financially.
“It meant the project evolved into something completely different. We could film in an incredible location, with a performer, and really just treat it like a conventional shoot — something that in 2020 felt like a luxury. Conceptually it made way more sense to have the video feel more like an experience of a single character, and meant we could have more of an emotional attachment to his journey, but being in such a wonderful location, with a bit of good weather – it really started to gather a life of its own.
“In the end, it really was a hugely collaborative project working with Theo and Sam. The video evolved into something which built on everyone’s efforts. Going from a found footage/post video, into something using Steadicam, dance, locations and all of the bells and whistles was a fantastic journey. So a big thanks to Theo and the label for bearing with me as the whole approach twisted and changed during the process.”