A sea of pulsating volcanoes mark the beginning of Alice Saey’s animated music video for Careful by Jo Goes Hunting.
It is a sign of things to come, and a wonderful array of scenes follow this, all linked in a near allegorical tale surrounding the misuse of natural resources. “On the borderless map of a magical planet, little beings pick, brush, weave, fish and collect elements from their natural environment to sustain their life as a group,” says Alice. “This essential balance turns to chaos once they misuse their findings to polish their individual appearance."
The film provides a real visual spectacle, with multiple scenes playing at once within small circular sections of the screen, something that Alice says represents a “magnifying glass view.” When watching the film you find yourself studying one small section intently, only to realise that there is so much going on elsewhere too. This is because Alice doesn’t intend for the film to be digested in one viewing: “There’s only so much the eye can process at once; the video is meant to be watched several times.”
Alice, who is Franco-Scottish, is based in Rotterdam. Before moving into animation she tried her hand at a number of disciplines, including graphic design, painting and illustration. She explains to us that she "felt oddly underwhelmed by the finality of drawing. I’d think one image wasn’t enough - which is ridiculous since most of my inspirations are painters and illustrators.” With this in mind, there was only ever one medium for her: “I started gravitating around the most time-consuming medium ever. In animation, being able to play with drawing, time and sound felt so magical to me.”
Alice has quite a particular style that she tries to adhere to, doing away with three dimensions and depth in favour of a flat approach to space. She also tries to embrace imperfections in her work, something that she feels has been informed by her self-taught methods. “My visual style relies on line work drawn with brushes, and a taste for bold, non-naturalistic colours,” she explains. “I animate on paper, which makes the line unpredictable and vibrant. You can only be so perfect on paper; a big part of it is dealing with surprising accidents and building on them.”
When creating a music video in such detail, obviously, the visuals have to tie in with the sound and the brief at hand, which was something that Alice focused on specifically. She thought about the multiple meanings of the titular lyric ‘Careful,’ and the distortion of this word that is present within the track. “It creates a distortion that enhances the ambiguity, the ear starts hearing different words,“ she says. “I needed to create a visual experience that would embody that, in several layers of perception, in a non-linear storytelling.”
Furthermore she also tries to provide some sort of link between the visuals and the beat, which is achieved throughout the film in multiple ways. “I use a lot of repetition and I strive for a musical, rhythmical feeling in my camera moves,” she says. “Up until now I have almost never worked with editing. I use ever evolving compositions; I find it more hypnotic for the eye, and relevant to the experience of a song.”
We last featured Alice nearly three years ago, but she feels her work has moved on quite considerably since then. She describes her previous work as a “linear visual experience,” with a more basic colour palette. A sharp contrast with Careful, which she feels “scatters dozens of subjects simultaneously, that cannot all be processed at once.”
Many of these developments seem to stem from a different and more open approach, and, it is one that is evidently paying off. “With this video I thought a lot more about the scale of the film,” she says. “I consciously made it for the big screen.”
Alice Saey: Careful
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.