Go behind the scenes of Hot Chip’s latest claymation music video with director Alice Kong
Claymation is a testing medium, but the results are always worth it. Here, French director Alice Kong tells us about tackling that task and the lessons she learnt along the way.
- 12 December 2022
- Roz Jones
Alice Kong studied photography at the renowned Gobelins, l'école de l'image in Paris, while operating under the misguided notion that you had to learn photography before learning to direct videos – “as if it was some sort of imaginary next level!” she says. Although, long term, that misconception worked in the French director’s favour. It was at this school that she had access to equipment used to shoot her first short film, which was shortly followed by her first-ever music video for French artist Vendredi sur Mer.
Levelling up is something of a consistent motif in Alice’s practice. And right at the time, she was spying her next level: English synth pop group Hot Chip's latest project. “I had been shifting into directing campaigns and was craving a creative playground,” she details. “I was always strongly attracted to animation but knew nothing about it (I still don't know much!). I thought it was a next level I couldn’t access yet.” It was love at first listen and Alice heard Hot Chip's new track. “I was so inspired by the song, the story came to me immediately and I wrote the script in an hour or two.” Her excitement couldn't be much clearer in the theatrical claymation video that followed – a technique to which she immediately took a liking. “I surprisingly discovered my brain really loved writing for animation and can't wait to direct more,” Alice tells It's Nice That.
Though Alice’s live-action work has been featured in Gucci, Sonia Rykiel and Hermes campaigns amongst others, animation was something entirely new. “I wrote it just like live action but quickly learned there were some do's and don'ts,” she notes. For example, designing the hand gestures for the malleable little main character, the titular Eleanor, proved difficult. “I also learned animation meant working with multiple scales of puppets and set design which I had no idea about either.” That meant that there were multiple scale versions of each visual element to get specific shots. She had stepped onto a moving train but something about the choppy motion of claymation lends itself to a touch-and-go process full of happy accidents, “constant adaptation and finding creative solves to still convey the shot's message.”
For one shot, Alice explains: “I paired giant Eleanor with tiny buildings (the different scales!) to create this Godzilla shot where she takes control of the city.” Now fully aware of the creative scope of claymation and having a blast, Alice still had to contend with the technique’s particular limitations. “Every second counts,” she explains. “Lighting takes way more time than live action, you can only work with specific lights because many vary in temperature with time or would make the clay melt.” It’s a give-and-take process that definitely took some getting used to but Alice still found time to pepper in a few easter eggs referencing the band and song. Elsewhere, a high-angle shot inspired by a lyric mentioning Irish theatre director Samuel Beckett can be spotted, if you’re looking closely.
The story is, at its core, a homespun take on self-realisation and taking control. But, in rounding out the plasticine world with a considered eye and attention to detail, Alice tells a spellbinding tale overflowing with humour and charm. “I wanted to convey that message in an amusing and almost caricatural way, with a very simple storyline, almost like a story you would find in a children's book.”
GalleryAlice Kong/Partizan: Hot Chip, Eleanor (Copyright © Domino Recording Co Ltd)
Alice Kong/Partizan: Hot Chip “Eleanor” (Copyright © Domino Recording Co Ltd)
About the Author
Roz (he/him) joined It’s Nice That for three months as an editorial assistant in October 2022 after graduating from Magazine Journalism and Publishing at London College of Communication. He’s particularly interested in publications, archives and multi-media design.