Chris Cunningham on the Making of ”Frozen”
The booklet inside Chris Cunningham‘s Dvd collection of videos contains some interesting
thoughts of the director on each video. Here’s a very interesting Q & A on the making of Madonna‘s “Frozen“:
Q: Would she have just seen Come To Daddy or you have sent her earlier work or…?
A: No, That’s all she saw.
Q: That’s brave of her for the first single off that album… to go with such a distinct thing. It’s not a traditional pop video…
A: Before anyone else reacted to Come To Daddy, she was in there first.
Q: Were you surprised when you heard she was interested?
A: Yeah, that’s when things stared hotting up. It seems normal now. But back then it seemed people like a joke to me. I remember telling Richard James and him laughing!
Q: How did you first find out, was it through your production company or did you get a call direct from Warner?
A: She wanted to meet. She was in town I think. So I went over to her house and met her.
Q: Were you nervous?
A: Not at all. I was nervous when I met Richard James for the first time because I admired his music so much. But Madonna was what my little sister listened to. She was really nice though. I got lucky again because the track was quite cinematic and I knew I could do something with it. If it had been Ray of Light, I probably would have had trouble coming up with an idea.
Q: What was the treatment?
A: With that video I wrote a treatment which was pretty amibitious. It had motion control and helicopter shots in the desert, which was dumb.
There was a monsoon and the equipment got rained in and what was a four day shoot was eventually whittled down to a two day shoot. The original treatment was likie, massive piles of bodies in the desert. All these figurative sculptures made up of bodies that were all multiple Madonnas, they were all going to split and break up and change into ravens and then change into dogs. Just a performance video, but a really elaborate one using her, her clothes and any shapes that could come out of her clothes. Her black dress would form shapes and I would limit myself to really stark backdrops and her. It was some visuals in search of an idea. I ended up shooting fragments and having to stitch together in post something that vaguely resembled the original treatment. I think I was pretty depressed after doing that video too, because it was similar experience to the Autechre video. Having something too vague in my head that I never wuite organized into something coherent.
Q: was it just because of timing and delays and motion control, that you weren’t able to achieve what you wanted?
A: It was all those things but mostly a lack of organisation on my part
Q: What about the styling?
A: Jean-Paul Gaultier had made a beautiful collection of gothic dresses that year and Madonna asked if I was ok with incorporating them into the video. I was more than happy to. We spent an afternoon with Madonna, trying on all these different dresses and I picked 2 or 3. The look I wanted was a kind of gothic John W.Waterhouse hybrid. His paintings are one of my main passions. I never get bored of staring at them. They have a really powerful dreamlike atmosphere, not to mention the most beautiful women ever painted, which has been an influence on me since I was a child.
Q: In the end how did it come together, what made it the video it is now?
A: The reason I never put it on my showreel was because I wanted to cut out all of the motion control shots. I didn’t like any of the effects shots. I didn’t think they were good enough. No matter what I went through to get those shots, I would rather have just had the shots of her singing in the desert dancing around with that cloack on. That would have been enough for me. But the record company and she insisted that I kept those shots in. They had cost too much. I decided not to work with a big artist again because those decisions should be mine.
Q: That’s almost the opposite of the usual battle with label that artists want more performance shots and less conceptual footage.
A: And they would be right in most cases. With most really big artists who have plenty of charisma. I would rather just see them singing against a brick wall than have to sit through some video director’s conceptual bollocks. A four minute take of Madonna dancing in the desert would be far more captivating than some silly motion control shots. It looked pretty stylish, though.
Special Thanks to RemixDubBoy