It just makes sense that Drew Barrymore's first music video would be for Best Coast. There's the California connection, and both Barrymore and BC's Bethany Cosentino have an airy casualness to them. It's not hard to imagine Best Coast soundtracking one of Barrymore's romantic comedies.
Their youthful sensibilities align in this clip, which features a pair of teenage sweethearts torn apart by rival gang affiliations-- think West Side Story meets The Warriors. It's buoyed by performances from a slew of Hollywood's most promising up-and-comers, including Donald Glover (Troy from "Community"), Tyler Posey (the teen wolf from "Teen Wolf"), Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly from "iCarly"), Alia Shawkat (Maeby Fünke from "Arrested Development"), and especially Chloe Moretz (Hit Girl from Kick-Ass), who steals the whole thing with the kind of gutsy acting rarely seen in music videos.
The clip was shot for MTV's Supervideo series, and Barrymore made both four-minute and ten-minute versions. The longer edit is below, along with our chat with the director, who talked about loving Shazam and Duran Duran, and why it's good to scare the shit out of yourself sometimes.
Pitchfork: How did you find out about Best Coast?
Drew Barrymore: I think Shazam is one of the coolest inventions on the planet, and whether I was in a thrift store or in my car, every other week I was Shazaming another Best Coast song. So I downloaded the album and loved it from start to finish, which is especially great in the current "buy the song" world we live in. Then I met Bethany at one of their concerts, and we became fast friends.
A couple months later, [executive producer] Kashy [Khaledi] from MTV came to me with this opportunity to do one of these things called Supervideos, which don't have the band in them. The idea is to tell a story rather than film the band playing the song. I thought it would be a fun challenge, so I wrote a mini-script and figured out what I wanted the world of the video look like. I'm very homework-oriented-- I'm a little Tracy Flick-ish-- like, "This is what it will look like and feel like and here are the details from A to Z." They said yes and off we started.
Pitchfork: Did you always picture this to be more like a short film than a video?
DB: Well, as I started prepping, I realized the song was just two minutes and seven seconds long. And I was like, "How in the eff am I going to tell this story in that time?!" That's when the short film came into my brain. And that made me have to work so much harder. I prepped for a month and brought the actors in early so I could explain exactly what I needed. We had no budget and two days to shoot it all, so I worked with my art director to build books of images and called my stylist friend, who started building a warehouse of clothes. It was crazy, but really fun.
We figured out that in order to do this we'd have to do 100 shots a day. I remember eating dinner a couple days before we were going to start, and having this sick feeling, like, "What if I can't pull this off... and why have I done this to myself?" [laughs] I was welling up and not really being able to swallow my food, and my boyfriend was kind enough to say this quote, like, "A great idea can come out of not a lot of time and money." I think it's attributed to a great filmmaker, maybe Sidney Lumet. Anyway, I just needed to hear that at that moment. It's all about keeping yourself sharp and trying things... and scaring the shit out of yourself all the time for no good reason. [laughs]
Pitchfork: Were you a big fan of music videos growing up?
DB: I'm 36-- totally in the MTV generation-- and I was obsessed with videos. Some of the mini-worlds that filmmakers have created are so ingrained in my love of culture. There's a great Bat for Lashes video called "What's a Girl to Do" that has this one-shot genius-ness, and that technique is so wonderful when it's pulled off well. And I loved Duran Duran's "Girls on Film"-- it was really sexy and naughty and totally weird. When you're a kid watching that stuff on television you're like, "Well, we are opening up as a society!" [laughs] And I love "D.A.N.C.E." by Justice, so creative and cool.
Pitchfork: What are some bands you might want to make a video for?
DB: I really like LCD Soundsystem but they've stopped making music, so that's probably not gonna work. I like so many different types of bands: Digitalism, Royal Bangs, Cut Copy. And I was totally blown away when I saw Lykke Li, too.
Pitchfork: What were some of the visual inspirations behind the look of this video?
DB: One thing that got me started on it was the jean jacket. It's an item that could make you believe you're in the 50s or punk-rock 70s or grunge 90s. I was really focused on timelessness, and I think music is very timeless; Best Coast has elements of a girl group from the 50s or a rock band from the 70s, and they've got this modern, west coast beach-y sound that ties it all together and doesn't make it feel anachronistic or retro. I always like worlds where you could be in several different time periods. I tried to pull a lot of images from, like, The Outsiders-- jean jackets galore, best film ever, and totally stands up today. That was made in the 80s to be emblematic of the 50s, it's a perfect example of transcending eras.
Pitchfork: What really put this video over the top for me was the performance of lead actress Chloe Moretz, who is just 14. Do you feel like your experience as a young actress helped you communicate with her as a director?
DB: I wrote this for Chloe and luckily she said yes. I really want to tell so many different types of stories, but I always want to make it personal. So I feel really connected to these young ladies I get to work with; I'm dancing around with them and playing music for them. We sit down and get to know each other so we have a shorthand. I love when someone's smiling or crying and it's real. I can tell when an actor's forcing tears, and it's tricky because you then have to film it and edit in a certain way to skirt around the issue. But with Chloe it was a total blessing because she really did get into it and she's so capable of going there. I was right there next to her, crying with her. [laughs] When we were sitting there crying I was like, "This is so awesome! This is everything I was hoping for!"