Thanks to everyone who entered Lights, Camera, LEGO! We loved watching all the entries we received, and are pleased to announce the winning film: The Little Director, by Carl Ferber of Backyard Productions. Check out his film below! There were also two runners-up: Noah Sprague and Josiah Skiles. Well done to the three filmmakers for their awesome efforts!
In this exclusive extract from Brick Flicks, film director Michel Gondry talks about his own LEGO stop-motion experience, making a music video for The White Stripes. (Scroll down for the video.)
In 2002, The White Stripes were looking for someone to make the music video for their hit song “I Fell in Love with a Girl.” Michel Gondry, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, and The Green Hornet, got the job by a fortuitous mistake. And the rest is LEGO block and roll history.
Were you presented with the idea of a LEGO stop-motion music video by The White Stripes, or did you come up with it? What inspired you to go down this route?
I had just bought the LEGO Studios camera for my son. We started to experiment together. I’d done some abstract LEGO animation with it and I thought that would fit the song, because the song is very punk. I thought the simplicity of the LEGO and the simplicity of the colors matched it quite well. When I met Jack and Meg [of The White Stripes], I had built Jack’s head with LEGO blocks to show them. They were immediately into it.
They had seen a Lenny Kravitz video for the song “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” which is an amazing video. And they wanted to work with whoever directed this video and mistakenly they thought it was me. And so they met me on the basis of that. But once they saw the concept of the LEGO blocks, they changed their minds and said, “OK, we’ll do it with Michel.”
How much of the film was storyboarded in advance, and how much was a product of playing with the bricks?
We shot a very classical video, with very small video cameras, just having them play on their instruments. I put a lot of makeup on their eyes—actually, Jack looked a bit like the guy from The Cure, Robert Smith. And I asked them to swim in the swimming pool, and they were running in the street. We were in London, so I shot some traffic passing by; some red buses because it would be easy to reproduce with LEGO. After that we edited the footage into a video. Then my father made a program to print out all the images at the definition of LEGO blocks with the shape of the LEGO blocks like big pixels. We had one printed frame per image and I hired a team of ten people to animate that. So they would construct a LEGO wall, which we shot with the 16mm Bolex camera, and then we would demolish it and rebuild another one and so on. You can just make out the red London LEGObus during its brief appearance in the short music video.
Why did you decide to stick with the traditional LEGO color palette and avoid the more recent colors?
When I was a kid in the sixties there were only black, white, yellow, red, and blue. Never green, never brown, never orange. It was a good idea for The White Stripes because they had this concept that they would use red and blue and white. First they wanted me to use only those three colors, but I said it [was] important to use the five colors of the brand, the initial colors, so they went along with it.
How long did you spend shooting the video and how big was the team?
Overall it was one month, but I think in animation it was two or three weeks. There were ten or twelve animators and they were pretty efficient.
Were there any ideas deemed too ambitious for the time frame or did you get to include everything you wanted?
I included everything because basically the limitation was set at the beginning—we would work with these LEGO blocks at this scale. And there are just two shots where we doubled the definition, by building the surface of the wall four times larger and you can really tell that they’re much more defined.
Did you enjoy using LEGO as a medium? How did you find the process of shooting?
It was really exciting. I liked this idea that you’re very limited in the definition and you have to manage to get the image across although it’s very crude. I’ve played with LEGO throughout my youth since I was a kid and I’ve always loved the system.
Was the LEGO Group involved at all?
What was funny was at the time LEGO was not at all interested in this project, and they were somewhat against it because they thought the image of The White Stripes was not fitting the image of LEGO. They didn’t provide any LEGO blocks and later on when they saw the video they wanted to make a deal with The White Stripes so they could use their popularity for their brand, but The White Stripes said, “No, no, it’s too late now.”
At what point did you realize this was going to be a really amazing use of the medium? Was it hard to see how it was all going to come together until the end?
I’d shot some tests, but because the video was very simple and you couldn’t recognize the faces, I was a bit worried. Sometimes when I do things in the beginning, I’m not sure if there’s a special quality, but as time passed by it became more noticeable, and I felt better and better about it. It was more than ten years ago, but I feel that it’s ageless in a way. The combination of shooting on 16mm and doing something as sophisticated as this is a good combination.
A lot of videos have been made with LEGO since and sometimes people think some are more complex and say comments like, “That should teach [Michel Gondry] a lesson,” but I did it first. Maybe I was not the first person to animate LEGO, but I think I was the first one to do it to this scale. I tried to make something really dynamic. We made a very magical video because we had no narration, no style really to think of, so it was complete freedom just to do something with a lot of energy.
To read the rest of this interview, buy your copy of Brick Flicks today.
The Brick Flicks brick-filming contest - Lights, Camera, LEGO! - is officially open for entries! We launched the competition today with the release of a brand new video from brick-filmmaker Jonathan Vaughan, featuring two of the popular characters from his Zombie films. And we're super excited to get the competition started and to see all your entries!
Jonathan is also one of the filmmakers interviewed in the book, which is due out in November. Keep your eyes on this blog for exclusive content from the book, interviews, and our favorite competition entries.
In the meantime, check out these behind-the-scenes photos from the set of Lights, Camera, LEGO! and the finished film.