Misfit Heart
Interviews,  Official Release,  Singles

Sam J. Lance – The Man Behind Better Off Video, Brave Liaison 11.07.2023

As I wrote the article about Brave Liaison’s track Better Off, I was left with many questions for the Director Sam J. Lance. He very kindly obliged and answered a few of them, I was floored 🙃. Thank you so much Sam for taking the time and providing such detailed answers 🥰.

[Sam] Hey Claire! Thank you for getting in touch! I’m more than happy to answer some questions, thank you for taking such an interest in the band and the video, it really means a lot to all of us! I do ramble a little bit, so feel free to trim down any of my answers haha!😁

Doctor Who Vibes & Easter Eggs

[Claire] No trim necessary. The storyline you came up with is straightforward and yet it is not. I have a mix feeling between The Others by Alejandro Amenàbar and The Lake House by Alejandro Agresti. At least it is how the visualization of the story shows up to me.
How did you come up with the storyline?

[Sam] The storyline was a collaboration between the band and I. Usually one of us comes up with a pitch or a concept, and I build on it and return to the band with what I have. So for BETTER OFF, the band suggested an idea in which a character sees the vision of an ex-partner throughout their day to day life – and their day repeats with more frequent visions and encounters.

It was a super cool concept, so I built on it by expanding the role of the secondary character and showing both sides of the experience. That was for a couple of reasons, but mostly to switch things up a bit from my usual work. I think the idea of switching out the main character half way through a storyline is a bit different and works well for the song, giving a chance for the audience to consider the two sides to such a situation.

The idea of both characters co-existing in the same space while rarely seeing each other is an idea I borrowed from a Doctor Who spin-off show (a source of much of my inspiration!). Admittedly, it was as much a technical limitation as it was a creative idea, but I think it’s an interesting commentary on how each person involved in a breakup always feels like they got the worse deal, and how both often tread the same metaphorical path as they navigate through the ordeal.

© Sam J. Lance 2023 – Still photo from BETTER OFF, Brave Liaison video.

The climactic scene of Alistair’s character scribbling the lyrics to the song was somewhat of a personal projection. I think a lot of creatives – songwriters, musicians, writers, photographers – turn their stresses into art. That was a visualization of that idea and, I guess, a reflection on how these kinds of songs come into existence in the first place.

I struggled to find an ending to the video – the song doesn’t feel like it resolves the issues it discusses, so I opted to match that energy and leave the video suitably unresolved, yet with a certain finality to it.

There’s a few little details built into the video that I’m really happy with. The clock turning over to 10:00am at the beginning is a reference to this being the tenth music video that Brave Liaison and I have released together. I’ve directed every release since 2019, with the time at the end of the video (22:19) referencing that year too. It’s very subtle, and means nothing to anyone but me, but I’m glad it’s there.

[Claire] Now this is so cool! I love it when directors put that kind of stuff in their videos. Wicked! 👏

The small connections between each experience that the characters go through are things I’m particular proud of, even if they are subtle. Alistair picks up Frankie’s t-shirt on the bed during the opening scene, which she is seen wearing during her parallel scenes later on. The tap is left dripping between the bathroom scenes, indicating a recent usage. Similarly, the front door is left open after Alistair’s scene. I’m a sucker for interwoven narratives that kind of fold in on themselves (again, a Doctor Who-inspired thing!).

My work also has some identifying themes that you can spot throughout a lot of my music videos. I love incorporating mirrors in interesting ways, you can see them frequently Brave Liaison videos and photos throughout the years, with BETTER OFF being no exception. A lot of my early used to follow a strict blue/orange color scheme. Though I’ve moved away from that in recent years, it was nice to return to that look a little bit for this video.

© Sam J. Lance 2023 – Still photo from BETTER OFF, Brave Liaison video.

[Claire] How much of the true intent behind the lyrics is included in the storyline?

[Sam] Beyond the basic concept being a vague reflection of the lyrics, very little! I try not to tie myself down with specifics too much, unless I see a good parallel I can make. The inclusion of some lyrics as scrawled notes is probably as close to a direct link to the song as I have ever gotten in a music video!

Dream-like

[Claire] The video has a predominance of, yet discreet, sepia tones, like it is all a dream or in one of the characters’ head. Why that particular tint? Ok maybe not really sepia, but I guess you understood my meaning 😉.

[Sam] I love this observation! It wasn’t fully intentional, though the dreamlike effect was (I mostly utilized the slow motion visuals to get that across though). The color of the video was mostly dictated by the location we managed to secure. I had a lot of issues finding a place to film this video (as sometimes happens with small scale productions), so our chosen location was our only option! Thankfully, it was someone I knew personally who had a really lovely house, with a clean blue aesthetic throughout. I decided to match the actors costumes to that tone, and as a result I got quite a natural blue/orange color pallet throughout the video. I love the pale blue tones in this video, as it gives a somewhat clinical feeling, adding to that ghost-like vibe.

[Claire] By the end of the song, you changed the tone to red. It is usually used to bring forth anger, passion or hatred as I mentioned int the article. But could it be a tint of supernatural too? Which is it?

© Sam J. Lance 2023 – Still photo from BETTER OFF, Brave Liaison video.

[Sam] So the red tone was actually improvised on the day of the shoot! I was originally going for a much more tungsten-orange look, to suggest a lamp-lit night time setting. Eventually I realized a red hue across the image actually matched the energy I wanted to portray – somewhat panicked and anxious. I guess I was trying to emulate those sleepless nights that you might go through when experiencing relationship troubles, so a deep and alarming color was definitely the way to go. One could definitely infer some supernatural stuff at that point of the video too, as there’s quite a lot of evidence for it throughout the first half of the narrative.

[Claire] The phone is a killer 😅… why do both characters disappear at the end?

[Sam] I’m glad you liked that part! I was pretty happy with it myself. Originally that was going to be a Polaroid photo but I didn’t have the time to get it printed and looking authentic. The inspiration for that was, of course, the “why don’t you just erase me from the back of your mind?” lyric. What better way to visualize that than a selfie with disappearing people?

The justification for both people fading out of the image was to tie in with the experience being shared by both characters. I felt that was important to reinforce at the end. We start the video with Alistair’s character, but we match his experiences with Frankie’s later on. These things are always a tale of two halves.

Backbone of the video

[Claire] Both Characters in the video, according to my very twisted mind, feel like ghosts to one another (hence the references to the movie The Others earlier on). Both actors played their parts brilliantly, I was in their shoes as I watched. You tweeted that it took you a while to lock the actors. What was it in particular that you were looking for? Why was it so difficult to find them?

[Sam] Love the ghost inference – that’s definitely something I was going for. I think there’s something to be said for the way a relationship or breakup can follow you around a little bit – I’m glad that came across on screen!

Locking things down for this video was very difficult haha! I had to delay shooting as things weren’t falling into place and I couldn’t find people who were available, as both cast and for the location hire. This happens sometimes, but for some reason this video was very difficult to pull off! We ended up shooting only a week before I had to hand in the edit.

The band and I wanted a mid-20’s couple for the video, with a slight alternative edge where possible. So the brief was pretty open, beyond the age and vague aesthetic we were considering everyone who showed interest.

© Sam J. Lance 2023 – Still photo from BETTER OFF, Brave Liaison video.

Frankie Soan was my original choice for her role. We’ve known each other for several years, and I’d previously directed a music video for her pop punk band Pink Lemonade. She’s a talented actor and fantastic to work with, so she’s naturally one of the people I keep in mind for roles. She couldn’t make our first filming date, and so we continued the search. With location falling through, I had to delay filming and the person I had in mind to take the role couldn’t make the second date. Everything lined up though, as Frankie *could* make the new shoot date and was still interested!

It was a similar situation with Alistair Hunt’s role. Many actors I had in mind were busy during the shoot date, and I ended up sending out a casting call to a few actors I know to see if any of their colleagues would be interested. Alistair got in touch with me about three days before filming. A quick call later and suddenly all my anxieties about the shoot were lifted – he was perfect for the character I had in mind, and beyond that he is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever worked with. Absolute professional all the way through!

I’ve said this a few times when sharing the video, but Frankie and Alistair were the absolute backbone of this shoot. Due to me needing to delay the video, none of the band members could actually make the filming date, and so it was literally just the three of us pulling this video together on the day. On top of that, it was well over 30 degrees inside the house where we were filming, so it was definitely a physically tough shoot for all. Despite that, we absolutely pulled it off and as a result, BETTER OFF is genuinely one of my favorite videos I’ve directed.

[Claire] Thank you so much Sam and wow, such a treat to have you here. I loved that video, can’t wait for some more.

[Sam] So glad you’ve enjoyed the video! Hopefully there will be many more on the horizon with the band and I. I have another coming out with a different artist at the end of this month, it’s very different to this one but I think you might enjoy it, it’s very nuanced too!

[Claire] Looking forward to watching your next project 😁.

Be kind to each other and take care of yourselves 🥰
Yours Truly,
Claire 😘

One Comment

  • Erika

    Incredible, thank you Sam J Lance for your gifted insights on creating this great video!! As always thank you Claire, for once again sharing your brilliance and insightfulness!💪🔥❤️

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