Behind the Video: "Amerika" by Wintersleep

by Carl Wiser

The first note of music doesn't appear until 90 seconds into the video for "Amerika" by the Halifax rock band Wintersleep. It portends an apocalypse, opening with a monologue that looks like it was culled from a found archive, then pointing to the sky, where an ominous comet hurtles toward Earth.

The song was written as Donald Trump was making waves as a viable candite for president of the United States. Lead singer Paul Murphy describes it as a song about "trying to live through struggle." When Trump won, it took on a whole new meaning.

The Toronto director Scott Cudmore helmed the video, which incorporates part of a speech from Donald Trump. In this digital age, a skilled director with a talented crew can produce videos for smaller bands that rival those of big-name acts with big-time budgets. And often, these videos have far more compelling storylines, which is the case with "Amerika." Scott takes us behind the video.
The opening monologue is a parallel with the rest of the video, although it is meant to be ambiguous to a certain degree. She is talking about a lost civilization, one that had perhaps extraordinary, magical powers - they could fly, they could breathe underwater... perhaps they felt that they had dominated nature, that they were the apex of humanity and of consciousness itself. Perhaps if our civilization now were to be wiped out, which is essentially what is happening in the narrative of the video, people would look back and see maybe see a civilization that felt like they had done the same. I filmed it on VHS so that it might feel like a relic itself.

At lot of people see this as a political video, probably due to the inclusion of the Donald Trump speech, but I never saw it as a political video and I still don't really. It's about our humanity as a species and so politics are obviously a big part of that, but I was trying to step a bit further back and look at the big picture, not just a specific isolated thing like a single election or public figure or something like that.

It's definitely not a video about Donald Trump. I think that through our obsession with material things we've deeply lost touch with who we really are. We've become disconnected from ourselves and then, inevitably, from each other. I think that somebody like Donald Trump and what he says about "winning" in his speech, as if there is somebody to defeat, is a symptom of this disconnection from ourselves, from one another, from nature, and from the universe of which we are woven into the fabric of. His speech is so small-minded and sad and I think it ties directly back into the monologue told at the beginning of the video.

The video was shot by Peter Hadfield who is an amazing director of photography that I've had the pleasure of working with a few times now. He always brings an amazing visual clarity to every project we've worked on together - it's always been a great collaboration. I'd attribute the visual look of this video to him. The video was shot on the Arri Alexa. We would have loved to have shot it on film, but the project was already so ambitious for the small budget that we had that film wasn't really an option.

February 1, 2017. See more of Scott's work at his Vimeo page.
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