Director Ryan Patrick talks about his music video for Tesla Boy, “Circles”, in competition at SXSW 2017

Russian band Tesla Boy premiered their single for “Circles” last year to much acclaim, and now its music video is being featured amongst a special selection of clips from around the world at the 2017 SXSW Film & Music Festival in Austin, Texas, for their annual Music Video Competition. In advance of the festival screenings, we caught up with the video’s director Ryan Patrick to learn more about him and the video:

Who are you and how did you get into the world of music video direction? Tell us your origin story!

Hey – I’m Ryan Patrick, a director based in Los Angeles. Right after I graduated college, I make a video for Cut Copy purely on spec, funding the entire video myself. I put it out there and sent it to the band’s manager, who told me the band loved it. They ended up putting on their YouTube and I used that to get a bit of press going behind it. It ended up as a nominee for the Cannes Young Director Award and I used that nomination to seek out a music video agent who helps me get real work.

How did you come to work on this project?

The band, Tesla Boy, has reached out to me to help with a video idea they had for a song called “Fantasy”. We did the video with absolutely no budget, with me directing it over Skype. A year or two later, we re-connected and did a video for their song called “Nothing” with a better budget. “Circles” is a prequel of sorts to the story told in that video. Only this time, we tell the guy’s story.

Tell us a bit about the concept of the video.

I think people tend to over think it – but it really is about a guy with multiple personalities just wanting some chicken for dinner.

How much of the concept was the artists/bands and how much of it was yours? Or did a third party get involved?

The band mentioned the movie Cloud Atlas as a reference. I knew I couldn’t do something on that scale, but liked the idea of doing a video where one main character plays a bunch of different roles. From there, I wrote the story based upon references like Holy Motors and Saturday morning cartoon where a character is trying to get something that always just ever so slightly out of reach.

What were the biggest challenges with the project?

It was definitely the budget, and getting everything we need to get shot within the 2 days we had. Makeup prosthetics were something I also hadn’t done before, so I really wanted to make sure we got that look right. Luckily, we found Eric Fox of MorbFX who was the easiest person to work with, not to mention extremely talented. We shot the video in almost chronological order, and ended up with little time to shoot the karaoke scene. When we started editing, we realized the ending just didn’t work, so we went back and did a 3rd pick up shoot day to show him in the final “normal” outfit. Maybe you noticed: in the very last shot, he’s not in the correct outfit. Oops.

What surprised you most about the final product, compared perhaps to the original vision?

I think that it worked! When you try to conceptualize one actor playing multiple characters, it’s a challenge. This is was the most mind-numbing during the scene where all the characters go after the chicken. What’s their timing? What are their cues? When do we need body doubles and where? If you take a look at the overheads I made for that scene (linked here) you can tell how confusing it was at times.

Do you have a favourite shot in the piece?

People constantly tell me how much they love the hand dance at about 1:00 in. I honestly thought this was going to be quite a boring shot and considered cutting it altogether. But it works really well, thanks to our choreographer (Denna Thomsen) and the actor’s (Maaz Ali) performance. It was certainly a surprise and has become one of my favorite shots ever.

What do you have coming up and where can we learn more about you?

You can check out my work at ryanpatrick.us. I’m currently working on a short horror film as well as a handful of new music videos and commercials.

“Circles” will screen as part of SXSW’s Music Video Competition, which commences this weekend in Austin, Texas. Learn more about the event and find out when the screenings take place HERE