Barcelona, June 9, 2001. "Ray Of Light" has just ended and the audience is waiting for the next act of the opening night of Madonna's "Drowned World Tour". The first notes of "Paradise (Not For Me)" start playing and since then the Madonna imagery has never been the same. But Dago González is much more than the incredibly talented director of the "Paradise" and "Bedtime Story" video interludes. With his company, Veneno, inc., he shot, produced and edited the most part of those amazing backdrop videos that made the 2001 and 2004 Madonna tours so unique.
MadonnaTribe had the chance to talk to Dago and here's what he had to say about him, his work, and his videos for Madonna.

 


MadonnaTribe: Hola Dago, welcome to MadonnaTribe. Our readers know about you mainly because of the two amazing video Interludes you directed for Madonna's "Drowned World" and "re-Invention" tours.
Let's take these as a milestone in your artistic career, can you tell us a Bit about what did happen before, and how did you start working in the entertainment and video production industry?

Dago González: I spent my 20's producing music television and specials for networks like MTV, VH-1 and Warner Bros. It was a great school because I had to do everything: book talent, interview, dress sets, edit, etc... And I spent endless hours in the editing room studying music videos, screening them and looking for the best shots to use in the story - so I did that until 1999 when I opened my company: Veneno Inc.

 
 

MT: "Paradise (Not For Me)" and "Bedtime Story" were both created for the live show.
What is the difference between working on a video created as a background Projection for a live performance, and directing a video, which is going to be on heavy rotation on TV?

DG: They're two different mediums.

 
 


When you're designing for a stage show, you have to take into consideration many things: what function does the video background serve in each particular song, what ratio(s) are the screen that you will be using, how will it compliment the choreography, lighting and wardrobe. you're working with this massive screens and is very easy to detract attention from the artist, because the artist (physically) is very small compared to the mammoth screens.

So, in that sense, you want to keep it abstract and provide mood whether it be a starck burned out forest like we did for Frozen in the Drowned World Tour or this three-dimensional world of data like we did for "nobody knows me" in The Re Invention Tour.


When you're doing videos for broadcast, then you have the full viewer's attention so it is my sole responsibility keep it.

MT
: "Paradise" and "Bedtime Story" worked as interludes in the concert allowing for scene and costume changes. In both videos together with the projections there was still some live act performed by the dancers.


How did the two work together, was that a concept developed together with the choreography or did you work on the videos alone?


DG
:
For the Drowned World Tour I only worked the video – JamieKing had the full picture and probably knew I had my plate full so he did not bother me with the Butoh dancers details. For RIT, However, we all worked as a team to make sure the performance on stage and the video created a congruent " experience" for the viewer.

So, throughout rehearsals, we met with Madonna, Jamie King, the choreographer and the musical director, along with the dancers and we went through every section of the song bringing the input of everyone to create the performance you saw on stage.

Everyone took a cue from everyone so that when the music gets distorted and neurotic, Madonna's' movement inside the box becomes neurotic, so does the editing and so does the movement and intention of the swing girls.



 

MT: The "Paradise" and "Mer Girl" videos in the "Drowned World Tour" were somehow anticipated by the fact that some pictures of Madonna photographed backstage during the shooting appeared in the press a few weeks before the tour started. The "Bedtime Story" video instead was a breathtaking surprise that was revealed only during the opening night.
Was it hard to keep everything top secret?

 
 


DG
:
No, it wasn't. There were confidentiality agreements that had to be signed by everybody on the tour (including the 100 or so people that worked under my wing) but it was no more no less than in any other project that we've worked on.

I mean, you're so busy all the time just trying to get your work done and you're working 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week for months and months so there's really no time to call anyone and discuss what you are doing... But there were some very erroneous leaks about what the video was going to be about and I always wondered where they came from.

 

MT: Your work at Veneno, Inc brought you a complete look at the entire process of development of both the re-Invention and the "Drowned World Tour".
From your own experience, which are the main differences between the two shows, and what do they have in common?


DG
: They're completely different shows.
From my perspective video played a complimentary role in the DWT, however in the RIT tour it was a featured element of the production. So the stakes were higher.

I mean we had 20 plus video pieces that had to be created. We put together, what I considered, the best team: from producers, to art directors, animators, illustrators, editors, etc...

These guys did not sleep for 4 months and each and everyone was expected to bring creativity to the project- so, as much as I would like to take credit for the work, it was really the creation of many fantastic, creative and committed people under the Veneno wing.

In this tour I also had the chance to work with Steven Klein and re-edit the incredible work of Chris Cunningham - It was the most exhausting experience of my life, but I'm very proud of it.

On both shows I had to executive produce and produce the video content as well as direct the video performances - which is an insane amount of pressure and requires an even crazier amount of work but then you look at what Jamie and Madonna have to do and I realize "I have it easy" I'm only doing video - they are dealing with the entire production!

MT: When did you first meet Madonna, and what are your memories of that time?

DG:
I met Madonna back in 2000, Jamie King introduced me to her, I've always been such a huge fan and so to this day. Now is starting to be funny but my first reaction was: panic. I kept thinking: what was I going to say to this woman that virtually invented the concept of music video! I was frozen, but she was very kind.

 


I met her husband and I met the children, the BMW commercial hadn't air yet but she showed me the rough cut (I guess trying to ease some of my fear) I just thank God that she had the vision to see pass me angst ‘cause I'm sure my eyes were bugging out, I was frozen and I couldn't produce saliva, I was pretty star struck… that was my first experience meeting Madonna.

 
 


MT
: The "Paradise (Not For Me)" video was meant to be part of the "Geisha" segment of the show.
Madonna did already pay homage to Japanese culture in the Harpers Bazaar photo session and in the "Nothing Really Matters" video. Nonetheless, the concept behind "Paradise" was very distinctive, haunting and inspiring.
How did it come to life?

DG
: Basically This was a performance video that opens the Geisha section of the show. The song is about suicide so we show Madonna getting ready to enter the " other side" It is a performance video so the story is really told by the lyrics and Madonna's intention as she delivers each line.

 
 

As production of the video evolved we kept discovering things and incorporating them as details. I worked with Arianne Phillips for wardrobe who has worked with M for many years and obviously knows what works and what doesn't.

We were going to use the kimono from the "Nothing Really Matters" video, but Arianne found this elder Japanese woman here in Los Angeles and she had this fantastic wedding kimonos that were from centuries ago, so we presented them to Madonna an she absolutely loved the one we ended up using on the video.

Things just kept evolving.
For example, Madonna was walking on this Japanese shoes which are wooden an they're very difficult to walk on.

I happened to watch Madonna when she started walking on them and she was doing this kind of shake and I walked to her and told her: "in the next shot we should do this walk, but I want you to walk exactly this way, just exaggerate a little bit more."

 

I don't know if she thought I was crazy but she did it and it worked really great - in this "I will resist till the last moment" kind of way. And in post production we ramped it so it had more of a robotic feel.
It worked great and it ended up being incorporated onto the stage choreography.

 
 


MT: The visuals of the video are very beautiful, Madonna is being dressed up by her maids and then proceeds "toward the light". What is the storyline or concept behind the video? Many fans wonder if there's an actual storyline behind the samurai swords and Madonna walking like a robot near the end of the video.


DG: Like I said it was basically a performance video that is supposed to open that section, it's supposed to show Madonna getting ready.

MT
: Is that the only cut of the video existing?
Or is there also a version edited as a proper video in your vaults, a version that might eventually be released commercially one day, possibly on a "The work of Dago González" DVD compilation as an anthology of your works?

DG: That's so sweet of you, I'm still very young at this, so I don't think there's going to be an anthology on me any time soon, but there is actually a new cut of it.

I always felt that I needed to go back and look at all this footage and I did, and I was haunted by her performance: the character that she embodied, the strength and the pain that she has in her eyes.

While we were editing for the tour, she kept telling me to hold back on the cuts (I did not get it at the time, I felt it could become too slow) but once I went back and looked at the footage I realized how right she was- I mean there are takes were you don't have to do a single cut because there is so much emotion and subtext behind every line that she delivers.

I was never really happy with the last scene of the video where the spirit is supposed to escape her. We tried different versions at that time and nothing was really working, so we ended up with the one that worked the best, but I re-did it this time so what in the original video happens to be like rays of light coming out, out of her mouth comes out this black ink, and is very cool.


I have to send it to her, and hopefully one day it'll be released.

MT: There's plenty of white both in "Paradise" and in "Bedtime Story".
Did it happen by chance of it's part of your own style?

DG:I love white, I'm naturally attracted to white (which is not the most cinematographer friendly color, as I've come to learn through the years), but in the "Paradise" video it just felt right.

It created a lot of challenges on that video but the contrast with the black and red was just fantastic

On "Bedtime Stories" Madonna was very specific, "she wanted everything white" (I panicked because I knew how difficult it was going to be) I had to separate Madonna who would wear all white from a background that was all white, but I had a fantastic director of photography, P.J. Lopez, and Arianne Phillips on wardrobe who saved the day.

As you know in Kaballah white is the color of divinity (all the colors of the spectrum are found in the color white) it became one more element in this show that is loaded with visual metaphors...

MT: The "Bedtime Story" video is really a "solo" performance in the re-Invention show and has no visual references to the songs it blends as an interlude.

Can you tell our readers something about the concept behind this video and about how did it originate?


 

DG: As anything that you do with Jamie King and with Madonna, when we started, I boarded this ideas, I had listened to the new mix, 'cause I knew that I was going to be working with this mix of the song and of course, how do you work with a song that already has one of the most amazing videos, Mark Romanek, who is one of my idols…


Continue to part two


 
Copyright 2005 MadonnaTribe

 


 
   
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