Behind the Scenes Look of Music Video "Je vois le ciel" with Director Maria Garcia & Cinematographer Wes Cardino

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

Recently we got an exclusive look behind the scenes of the Gal Musette music video "Je vois le ciel"with cinematographer Wes Cardino & director Maria Garcia. They spoke to us about style choices, creative processes, and some of their biggest influences. 

PH: Hi! How are you? Can you share a bit about how you got into the industry?

Maria Garcia: Hello. I am doing well, thank you! I was drawn to story-telling from a young age. My grandmother Gilda, who was named after the character from her father’s favorite opera “Rigoletto,” was always listening to and singing various operas when I was growing up, as well as talking through all of their dramatic plots with me. As I got older she began to take me to the opera with her. She also let me try on all of her and my grandfather’s gorgeous clothes and I was very excited about costumes, play and the story-telling of it all. After doing a degree in fashion I moved to London to do a Theatre Studies degree where we got to read and write about plays as well as make our own work. From there I began dressing performers at opera houses around England and meeting and working with people in Forum Theatre, dance, opera and carnival arts. I would work as a costume designer, or supervisor and in my spare time make my own performance art shows where I could create multidisciplinary work from inception to realization that grew out of my own questions and investigations about migration, death and ‘liveness.’ This has recently translated into directing short form projects including music videos. 

Wes Cardino: Yeah very well thank you and thank you for the interview. From a very young age I have always been drawn to art and music, especially film and the moving image. When I relocated to Los Angeles after undergrad I reached out to an alum, Michael Spiller who had been a cinematographer himself…as a matter of fact a generous donation of his Aaton S16mm film camera to Purchase Collage allowed me to shoot many of my fellow classmates' thesis films! By the time I reached out to him though he had moved onto directing television and he was gracious enough to give me and a few friends jobs as PAs on the show he was working on at the time. That of course led to more work and I soon found myself in the camera department as a loader and assistant. Of course I was also shooting whenever the opportunity arose. It was an exciting time but I knew I wanted to be a cinematographer and so in 2008 I applied and was accepted to the American Film Institute. It was there that I had an opportunity to really hone in on my craft and work with other aspiring cinematographers and directors. I learned so much from that experience and have been shooting and operating ever since. 

PH: Was there a pivotal moment for you where you knew you wanted to work as a director? 

Maria Garcia: I think I always saw myself as a costume designer and a performance artist and it wasn’t until I wrote, designed and directed a show called “Laocoön with Cabiria at 9” for REDCAT’s NOW Festival that I began to see myself as a director. For me when I’m responsible for a vision and realizing that vision in any art form and in any job there is a deep sense of connection, responsibility and sort of exploratory bliss and madness that is hugely satisfying. 

PH: Was there a pivotal moment for you where you knew you wanted to explore cinematography?

Wes Cardino: I think there were many pivotal moments! As a kid I was really drawn to the visual arts, painting, sculpture, music videos and of course films. I was lucky to have gone to my city’s museum of art at a young age and was up close with some of the world's most renowned artists' works. Picasso, Metzinger, Steichen, there were so many. I was transfixed and found it so magical. I was lost in the imagery and worlds of the artists’ paintings and photos. I would get lost in my own imagination as well, wondering about the movement and stories depicted in the paintings, photographs and sculptures. It is a very powerful thing.

PH: How did you land in the career that you're currently in? 

Maria Garcia: While studying in London I learned about Augusto Boal who founded the Theatre of the Oppressed. I began volunteering for Theatre of the Oppressed company Cardboard Citizens and working in opera houses at night. From there I met artists working across multiple disciplines including theater, opera, dance, performance art, carnival arts and film which has sort of propelled me to where I am now. 

PH: Can you share some of your influences and how that's influenced and encouraged your own style? 

Maria Garcia: Inspired by my grandmother, I have always been hugely influenced by words, and music. Additionally, artists I've had the pleasure of working with in London including Cardboard Citizens, and its founder Adrian Jackson, and former Associate Creative Director Terry O’Leary as well as designers and performance makers Mamoru Iriguchi and Sophie Jump were also major influences on me because they taught me a sense of playful inventiveness, and the importance of creating opportunities for performers and the stories we were collectively telling. I also was recently hugely inspired and excited by the show “The Third Day,” for so many reasons, but in particular the work of costume designer Annie Symons. These days when I approach projects now it's from a place of investigation, reflection, play and learning, and I often explore themes of migration, ritual and death.

Wes Cardino: There have been many many influences across a broad spectrum of artists and thinkers that have inspired me. I would say my first major influence was the work of Vittorio Storaro. When I was quite young I saw “The Last Emperor” which Storaro was the cinematographer and I was completely floored. I can't say that I understood all the complexities of the film but the effect the images had on me was profound. It was as if I had been transported to the world inside the film, the emotions, the locations, the colours, the time period. After that I was looking up all the films he had shot in order to watch them and was lost in the images.  

PH: What led you to your latest project, Je vois le ciel? 

Maria Garcia: Wes and I had worked with Gal Musette for another one of her music videos for her song “Julia” from her previous record “Backwards Lullabye.” We have also collaborated with her on some of my performance art projects. For “Je vois le ciel,” Gal Musette reached out to me with a number of beautiful songs and asked which one excited me. I was immediately drawn to “Je vois le ciel” for its sense of longing, loneliness and the focus on the passing of time. It’s also a song so visually vast, full of endless opportunities and for me had a ritualistic feeling to it. 

Wes Cardino: Maria and I had worked on a couple projects together previously and when Gal Musette asked her to direct and costume design “Je vois le ciel” Maria reached out to me. I immediately said yes! 

PH: How is directing for a music video different then directing for film? What are some of the challenges you encountered? 

Maria Garcia: I think I approach both from prioritizing a sense of concept, question and story. But I think for music videos you need to constantly be responding to the music, to the sounds. That is your beginning point from which you tell your story. I think the question of timing in a music video is incredibly important, and so making sure you are organized and adaptable in pre production, while you are shooting and then in the edit is something I have learned that has been invaluable. 

PH: How is pre-production and how does your role as a cinematographer differ shooting a music video versus, say, a feature film? 

Wes Cardino: Pre-production is critically important to me and I would say the process is very similar regardless of whether I am shooting a music video, TV show or feature film. For me, pre-production is the planning stage, the exploration stage, the place where the ideas form and I can build an approach to the story and visuals with the director and other departments. With “Je vois le ciel” the pre-production was the key to discovering that we wanted to shoot in black and white and that in turn led to other decisions regarding costumes and locations. Without the in depth pre-production this project or any project I work on wouldn’t be as well executed. Extensive pre-production also frees you up on set not just logistically but creatively as well. That preparation allows you to think on your feet when challenges arise and opens you up to other creative possibilities. 

PH: How were your style choices integral in telling the story in this video? 

Maria Garcia: I wanted this video to be carefully crafted in every detail. With every decision we made from pre-production to post we continually interrogated how it would help us develop the story better. The first sort of style choice we made was in deciding to finish in black and white (many thanks to Matt Wallach at Company 3 for his fantastic colour grade). I knew I wanted to finish in black and white because I wanted there to be an emphasis on nostalgia and time but also a strange feeling of following and documentation. From there every style choice we made from locations, to camera movement, costume design and Gal Musette’s movement and obsession in her performance were guided by our story and the themes we were investigating such as following and being followed, living and dying, and revealing and concealing. 

PH: What does your creative process look like when designing and brainstorming?

Maria Garcia: I normally begin through connecting myself with the material through reading and writing and talking with whoever I am working with and collaborating with. From there I throw myself into further written and visual research, interrogating my ideas and adapting until I’ve arrived at a more full concept and design I can present and eventually realize. Because of my background in theater and carnival arts I’ve been trained to be resourceful and although my work can be abstract I am practical and want to make sure an idea can be realized in a way which both looks beautiful and can translate for an audience. 

PH: Can you share some of the challenges associated with this project? How did you pivot and creatively problem solve?  

Wes Cardino: I think one of the great challenges of “Je vois le ciel” was how ambitious it was. Maria has an expansive imagination and it is my responsibility as the cinematographer to allow her vision and imagination to flow unencumbered. We were shooting everything on location, some of which was in difficult terrain and with a limited crew. Because of our extensive pre-production I was able to find the right gear that would allow for us to shoot relatively quickly and photograph all the elements we needed to tell the story. We spent a lot of time scouting our locations and taking stills and talking through all the story points and that had a huge impact on what we were able to create. In fact, that preparation gave us more freedom on shoot days to capture moments we hadn’t originally planned for and opened up new possibilities for the storytelling. Without the pre-production we wouldn’t have been able to pivot like that. 

PH: What does your creative process look like when trying to decide how to tell a story visually? How does costume design play a key role? 

Wes Cardino: My creative process is always evolving for each project and each director but what is consistent is the preparation period. That is really important to me. I must have a connection to and understanding of the story because that is the guide for everything. The creative process visually is not always limited to pouring over images either. I find inspiration from all types of sources including music, novels, personal experience, and most importantly simply speaking to the director. As for costume it is an outward expression of a character, how they dress is a window into their existence. As a cinematographer I think about that and how the colours and textures and contours are rendered on camera. I like to be involved with the director and costume designer in order to create a unified vision for the project. The costume designer and the costumes they create are of immense importance because they add veracity and authenticity to the world that is being created. 

PH: Throughout the years, do you have any favorite projects you’ve directed? Can you share why? 

Maria Garcia: I’ve very much enjoyed these latest music videos with Gal Musette because her music is inspiring and I connect to it so much. For "Je vois le ciel” it was exciting to shoot the vast graphic landscapes and in the end it became a sort of site specific experience for us because our locations created so much opportunity to improvise and react to what was going on around us. “Laocoön with Cabiria at 9” was also a very fulfilling project to direct. It began out of an interesting encounter with a tour guide at the Vatican Museums where we saw the Laocoön statue in person in their sculpture garden, and the final product that we made with performer and choreographer Samantha Mohr and Wes as our cinematographer was wild, symbolic, theatrical, operatic and rich with questions and presentations. 

PH: Finish this be a great director, you need to...

Maria Garcia: be organized, collaborative and know what you are looking for and where you want to arrive and why. 

PH: What do you love most about being a cinematographer? 

Wes Cardino: I love telling stories. All the cinematographers and artists that inspired me as a kid and even now…I hope to be able to return the inspiration to others through story and images. 

PH: How have some of your past projects shaped you professionally? 

Maria Garcia: I learn from each one and continue to hone in. All of my reflections, and learnings and often my previous research informs what I do as an artist. I’m very interested in ritual, iconography, and symbolism, and that usually carries through in everything I do. Each project becomes a deeper exploration of that. 

Wes Cardino: Every project brings new and exciting challenges and insights. Across the spectrum of projects I’ve worked on, I'd say professionally it has taught me to be more open, more curious and more reflective. Every project lives on in me in some way not only in my creative and professional life but also in my personal life. 

PH: Is there a type of project you haven't been able to explore yet? What type of project would you like to do next? 

Maria Garcia: I would love to direct a feature length film. I think the challenge of telling a story in a longer format as well as the space and time to do so would be exciting. 

PH: Would you like to share any upcoming projects? 

Wes Cardino: Yes and thanks for asking! Next year “Florida Man'' starring Abbey Lee and Edgar Ramírez will premiere on Netflix. It’s an incredible show from the mind of creator Donald Todd and I’m excited for audiences to see it.

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