#TBT – This is an article that I wrote about two years ago, but never shared. After hearing Justin Timberlake’s ‘Mirrors’ on the radio for the first time in what feels like years, I started to reminisce about the good time I had on set while making this video.
Last weekend Justin Timberlake thanked me in his acceptance speech at the MTV VMAs. Ok… so that’s stretching the truth a
lot bit. JT didn’t exactly get on stage and sing my praises
to the world- but I’ll take it, because back in March I had the opportunity to be
a part of making the ‘Mirrors’ music video with him.
Originally I was going to pass on the job in favor of spending more time visiting a friend at “real college” at Colgate in upstate New York. But the reaction I got from a bunch of intoxicated frat boys at the thought of my helping Justin put on him “Suit & Tie” made me realized that if I didn’t take it, I might one day regret it.
The majority of it was shot inside a beautifully ornate townhouse a block and a half from where I grew up on the Upper East Side. Arriving to set at 6:45am (ouch) we were met not only by the biting cold of winter in NYC, but the sight of what I (as a dorming student surviving off of shitty meal plan eggs), thought was one of the most beautiful views in the world: an all you can eat/anything you want breakfast truck. Thank you JT.
I should point out the fact that this was my first music video and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. It turned out that for the most part my job was the same as it normally is when assisting on set at any run of the mill photoshoot. Only, much faster. If any of you have seen the video (watch it here) you will notice that there are tons of dancers/extras in the video. Now think about each one of these dancers having to be styled, fitted, and then actually dressed multiple times by a team of only four people.
Not only does this give each member of the team a great deal of responsibility, but it can also create a very stressful situation at times. Everything has got to be done fast and more importantly, it’s got to be done right.
The concept of this video was how two people who have spent their entire lives together – encompassing both the ups and the downs –become ‘a mirror’ of the other. Then exploring the emotions that incur when half passes away. The older woman (representing Justin’s grandmother, Sadie Bomar) has lost her husband (the older man representing his grandfather, Willaim, who sadly passed away not long before the video was made) and is being flooded with memories of their life together as she prepares to move on.
The three categories of looks we pulled for were the ‘20s, the circus, and the ‘70s. The video’s main stylist, the beautiful and talented Laura Morgan, worked closely with the video’s director, Floria Sigismondi (who, by the way possesses a kick ass style of her own). Obviously there had been a lot of previous discussion about what they were going for, but there was also a lot of on-the-spot decisions being made. I’m sure it can be challenging at times, but that spontaneous creativity is something I find to be incredibly exciting. I am someone who loves research and planning, but sometimes an idea can just come to you in the moment and end up being better than something that was agonized over for hours.
At some point, all of my memories of those days got a bit jumbled up in a caffeine-induced haze of polyester, clown shoes, and Swarovski. It’s fun to re-watch the video and have certain moments come back to me. Like spending the better part of an Sunday morning calling everyone I knew who might have an extra dance-belt Justin could use because none of the supply stores were open at that hour. Or, one of the more forward extras making me feel incredibly uncomfortable by attempting to hit on me while I dressed him.
Being thrown into it, the process of working on the video was like a compilation of many individual shots. A range of quasi-interconnected sequences set the repetitive track of a new Justin Timberlake single. It was undeniably fun, but it was still work. Moving on and getting caught up in other jobs and finals at school I nearly forgot about it until one Saturday morning I came across the final product by accident while watching the Top 20 Countdown (a part of my Saturday ritual since high school). At 8:21 long, the video had the feel of a short film rather than a music video. It’s romantic, but it’s real. It’s a nice testament to a time back when people actually stayed married.