When the video for Lovett’s “Eye of the Storm” hit the Internet, the reception by the steampunk community was immediate and immense. Several other sites have looked behind the scenes at the technical aspects of the making of this short, but I had a chance to ask director Christopher Alender some questions myself, and how could I resist.
How did you come to work on “Eye of the Storm” with Ben Lovett?
Ben (aka Lovett) is an old friend of mine since our college days in the late ’90s. Over the years he has become an extremely talented composer for film and television and has worked on many projects with me professionally. When he finished this album, he invited me to a listening party and it blew me away. Most of the album is much more “radio-friendly”, but this deep cut really spoke to me in more of a cinematic way. Since he has such a strong background in composing for film, the idea began to take shape that a lot of his filmmaking friends would each take a different track and create a short film or music video to accompany them. I immediately jumped on the “Eye of the Storm” track and began formulating my ideas.
Where did the steampunk concept originate? What led you to that idea?
A few years ago, I was hanging out at this amazing bar in downtown LA called The Edison. It’s a real life steampunk place in itself, built from the remains of the old Edison power plant. They were projecting a film on the wall with the sound turned off that kept grabbing my attention. It was this amazing steampunk animated film called “The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello” (nominated for an Academy Award in 2005). I immediately became depressed, wishing I’d made that movie. The images kept haunting me though, and I began to wonder if we could make something inspired by that but with live-action instead of hand animated characters. So when I heard this song, all the images I’d been thinking about just kind of fell together and I very quickly sketched out some boards and a script for the piece.
Were you familiar with the steampunk movement/scene before this? If so, how did you come across it?
I’ve been a fan of the deep well of imagination the steampunk movement has inspired for quite a while. It’s a very visual genre with lots of creativity and details. That stuff really gets my mind racing. Old drawings and films of Jules Verne’s “20,000 League Under the Sea” are a constant source of inspiration for me, as was “A Trip to the Moon”. But I also enjoyed cherry picking inspiration from random sources like “Nosferatu” (for the contrast and elongated fingers) and “Sin City” (for obvious reasons).
Were you expecting the incredible reception it’s gotten?
Not at all. It was kind of scary making something in a genre that has such a diehard fan base who tend to be so intelligent, well-informed, and very picky. Especially since I took some liberties… I assumed they’d tear it apart. But I think the fact that it was made with love and attention to detail comes through, and people appreciate that. I have a list a mile long of problems and mistakes with it, but at some point the film just has to be done and we had to put it out there. I’m proud of the final product.
This past week, Panic! at the Disco released a steampunk-style video as well. Do you see more of this coming in music videos? Do you expect or plan to do other works in a similar vein?
I’m not sure if we should prepare ourselves just yet for a tidal wave ushering in the golden age of steampunk. There have been many quality offerings over the years “Tonight Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins, “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails to name a few… Perhaps the steampunk elements in the new Sherlock Holmes movie helped put it in the forefront of the collective consciousness most recently. I think it will probably remain sort of in the periphery of pop culture, which probably suits its fan base just fine. As for me, I’d love to do more in that world, the trick is finding a way that it serves the story properly and doesn’t just end up being a gimmick, which is an easy trap to fall into. We’ve been discussing a motion comic/ musical combo with more adventures of the captain, so we’ll see what happens on that front.
Throughout the video, the pilot is discarding/releasing various things: the green liquid, the box, the dragon. Given that the song is about the end of a relationship, do those items represent baggage the pilot is letting go or things that he has lost with the relationship? We see almost nothing of the pilot’s face, so it is not clear whether he is happy or sad, relieved or resigned about things. In the final scene, he could be either hell-bent on self-destruction or optimistically moving on. Certainly this ambiguity helps create a more dreamlike feel to the video. That said, was there an intended interpretation or were the pilot’s feelings always meant to be opaque
I do have very specific reasons for each step he takes, but I think it is more powerful for the viewer to apply their own life experiences to piece. Those specifics led me to creating the metaphors, and aren’t really intended to go the other direction. I think it works broadly enough to be relevant to relationships, addictions, and life’s journey in general. I hope the takeaway theme is that if you want something bad enough, then it should be worth fighting for no matter how big the struggle, and it should be worth making sacrifices for, not matter how steep the cost. And you never know how life is going to turn out in the end.
Sincere thanks to Christopher Alender for taking the time for this interview.