An Inside Look At The Weeknd's New Video, "In The Night"
Prostitution, revenge, violence, and lots of sensual rain: Surprisingly, that’s not the premise of a new Quentin Tarantino movie. It’s the storyline that drives The Weeknd’s newest music video, “In The Night.” Directed by the extraordinary duo BRTHR (comprised of Alex Lee and Kyle Wightman) of Legs Media, the video was inspired by the song’s lyrics, which are, aptly, about a lady of the night. The clip also directly references two iconic pieces of pop culture: Taxi Driver and Prince’s Purple Rain.
The striking video, which stars The Weeknd, born Abel Tesfaye, and girlfriend, model Bella Hadid, highlights the singer’s vocal gymnastics (which are definitely fantastically, reminiscent of Michael Jackson). It’s also a testament to BRTHR’s own niche in the music world; they create incredibly cinematic and vivid videos. And, even though the duo already has an amazing repertoire of work under their belts (they’ve created videos for Charli XCX, Iggy Azalea, and The Drums, amongst others), it’s safe to say that this video is about to launch them farther than ever. It’s dark, gorgeous, and violent, and it’ll definitely light up the timelines.
I sat down with Alex and Kyle to talk about the inspiration behind the video, working with Abel, and what they last texted each other.
You’ve worked with so many incredible artists. How was working with each, and were those experiences different than when working with The Weeknd?
Lee: Working with Abel was actually really easy, because they contacted us directly a long time ago, and that usually means they’re willing to let us do whatever we want. It really depends on the artist. Like Charli XCX let us do whatever we want, Abel did…I guess it depends on whether they’ve followed our work or not.
Wightman: Abel’s team kind of has an interesting structure, where they’re not so much governed by labels. They really have their own team, so it wasn’t like people from the label were controlling us. On the shoot, it was mainly Abel and his people, who we had a good relationship with.
Lee: That’s true. Usually when you work with a big artist you hear a lot of horror stories, like when we worked with Iggy [Azalea] it was really tough.
Wightman: It’s cool too because, creatively, Abel really wants to push things and it’s unique for a big artist to wanna do that, and to be able to do that. That kind of freedom is really nice.
The video is completely cinematic. How did the themes of prostitution, revenge, and violence come about? Is this what you immediately pictured when listening to “In the Night?”
Lee: Well, the song’s lyrics are about a prostitute. But, when we first talked to Abel, he said he wanted to incorporate violence and blood, and then we all thought we needed a strong performance and tone. I had an idea of shooting Abel in the rain because we had been working with rain machines on some commercial stuff, and we always thought it looked really cinematic. The whole prostitution stuff came about organically with Abel through discussion, but we came up with the story.
Wightman: All the intricacies of the story and the video basically came about through brainstorming. We had a base idea and just built on it from there.
You’re known for using very vivid colors, and this video is no exception. Do you think they add to the story that you’re trying to tell?
Lee: Yeah, we like to have strong looks in our videos. We talked with our DP and came up with how we wanted most of the strip club scenes to be red and pink, and then the performance will be kind of cold. I think by adding those colors it feels more like a trip, for sure.
Yeah it definitely made me think of Nicolas Winding Refn.
Lee: Our biggest inspiration, in terms of look, is Wong Kar-wai or Spring Breakers. Enter the Void also has really great colors.
Wightman: Another thing is that we’ve always wanted to do a non-linear violent narrative like this, so the song worked out perfectly to explore that.
You guys definitely gravitate more towards a cinematic approach, and I know you both studied film. What is your personal philosophy when making videos?
Lee: We’re just trying to do something different each time. I don’t think there are many music videos that have the same sort of content. Like The Weeknd video is not something you can find out there, and that’s obviously a conscious decision. We watch a lot of videos ourselves, so we know what would be different. That’s one conscious thing we have. The cinematic thing is just something we have more fun doing, nowadays. When we first started, our work wasn’t as cinematic, but it started becoming more that way because we think having that energy in a music video is pretty empowering for an artist.
When we were talking about The Weeknd video, Abel was talking about Michael Jackson videos, and how they had a lot of impact and how they felt like a huge production. That’s what we tried to do with this video, but just with darker subject matter.
Wightman: In terms of us and studying film and our philosophy, I think now we just really want to work to stand as [our] own unique entity; not purely a music video and not purely cinematic, but something in between. Something that’s layered. We have a performance, but then within that we have moments that feel very cinematic.
Lee: Yeah, Kyle and I are very interested in doing narratives one day, but what we like to do in terms of music videos is try to complement the music rather than have it be all about our narrative. We try to make it comp up the music above anything.
What was the funniest story about the making of “In The Night?”
Lee: One of the girls had a rage fit. At the time it wasn’t that funny, though. Basically, when we finished our shoot she lashed out at us because she lost her credit card. She was casted because she sent Thom, our agent, a video of her in a bathtub, and we thought it was really bold, so we casted her. But, she turned out to be pretty crazy.
You guys have a long relationship with LEGS. What’s your favorite part about working with them?
Lee: People at LEGS really understand what we’re trying to do, and I think they’re not just about business, which is cool, because we’re not just about business either. And Sara Greco, who produced this for us, really busted her ass to help us with all our videos.
Wightman: We have a real comfort level with everyone there, and I think everyone there has a real understanding of art and aesthetics. We kinda just get along with everyone.
What’s the first film that you remember having an impact on you? Also, what was the last movie you watched?
Lee: For me it would be The Matrix. As a kid The Matrix was my movie, for sure. The last movie I watched was Ratatouille. [Laughs] But, there’s a really cool scene that I was really inspired by. Actually, it made me wanna cook.
Wightman: The last movie I saw was The Night Before, with Seth Rogen. I really wanna watch The Revenant and Love, by Gaspar Noé.
If you could only watch one of your videos again for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
Lee: Probably the Ben Khan one. That one’s a good memory and I think it’s one of the videos that we were able to do something we wanted to do.
Wightman: Yeah that video represents some sort of turning point for us.
What is the last text you sent?
Alex: I just sent Kyle a text saying, “Your face looks so smooth on Skype.” Was there a filter on?
Kyle: No man, it’s all natural.
All images stills of “In the Night,” courtesy of Legs Media. Stay tuned to Milk for more behind the scenes coverage from the video.