Mass Appeal’s Director’s Chair turns the lens on the creative minds behind some of the hottest music videos.
Once in a while a music video comes along that is so over-the-top, ludicrous, and, simply put, fucking hilarious, that you can’t help but watch it ten times over. This week, that video was Girl Talk and Freeway walking down the street, kicking ass, and ruining weddings. Also, Waka Flocka takes out somebody’s fucking eyeball! Their song, “Tolerated,” gets amplified by its killer visuals. The man behind this campy video, none other than Allen Cordell.
Mass Appeal: Where are you from?
Allen Cordell: I actually was born in South Korea. When I was four years old I moved to North Carolina. Then, when I was 10, I moved to Upstate New York. So I grew up in Upstate New York.
MA: How was it growing up there?
AC: It sucked. I mean, it was alright. The entire time I was there I had an itching to get out.
MA: Right. You left for college, right?
AC: Yeah, I went to SUNY Purchase. I was in the film program there.
MA: Are music videos what you went into film for originally, or were you trying to make movies?
AC: No, the goal for me is definitely feature films – and it still is. Music videos are definitely a great way to hone your skills as a director and to try out different things. Establish a name for yourself.
MA: What was your first experience with music videos?
AC: My very first memory of a music video was Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” when I was a little kid. I don’t know why but that is the first music video I remember ever seeing.
The first music video I ever directed was for Dan Deacon’s “Big Big Big Big Big.” We went to college at the same time, and after I graduated, I asked him if I could make a video for him. He was totally down with it.
MA: What was that experience like – directing your first video?
AC: Well that video was kind of interesting because there was absolutely no money at all. It was before HD was a common thing. So shooting SD, and not having any money – my goal was to make it as crazy as possible without being able to invest a lot of money. Just to make it visually really interesting.
MA: How did you manage to pull that off?
AC: It’s a pretty psychedelic video. There’s a lot of cheap video tricks that you can do for very little money; Final Cut Pro, strobing lights, kaleidoscopic backgrounds. I have this fat guy in a mask running around the woods and then I play that stuff backwards. Just weird shit like that.
MA: How did you link up with Girl Talk & Freeway for “Tolerated”?
AC: Well, I did a couple of music videos for Beach House. Beach House and Girl Talk now have the same manager. Girl Talk had this idea where it was him and Freeway walking on the street murdering people that are coming at them. That was the seed, and then Mookie, their manager, emailed me and was like, “Hey! This is an idea that Girl Talk wants to do for a video. I think you might be good for it. Are you interested?” I was like, “Fuck yes!”
MA: So Girl Talk came up with the treatment for it? Or did you guys collaborate on that?
AC: No. It was literally a one sentence idea. I took that idea and sort of elaborated on it and honed it into the treatment.
MA: It gets kind of gory. It’s not just going around kicking ass.
AC: Based on what he had said, my take on it was that he wanted it violent. But when I read that I definitely interpreted it as violent, but funny. Like, it had to be funny. I wanted it to be kind of inspired by movies like “Old Boy” or “Jackass.” Just things that are violent, but funny.
MA: Right, right – I didn’t mean violent in a serious negative way.
AC: Not that “Old Boy” is funny, but there’s some pretty good fighting in that movie.
MA: What’s your favorite ‘altercation’ scene in the video?
AC: My favorite moment in the video is definitely when Girl Talk punches the hole through the guy eating the hamburger.
MA: [Laughs] Why is that one your favorite?
AC: I just think it looks the coolest. It was an interesting effect to pull off and I’m just really happy with the way it came out. I like that after he punches through the guy he gives the middle finger – it’s just so ridiculous.
MA: I love Waka’s scene in it because it’s kind of some medieval times restaurant shit. What inspired that?
AC: Well here’s the thing – we had two main shoot days with Girl Talk and Freeway, and Waka was only available for a very short amount of time. We were filming in Los Angeles and he was only available for two hours one day. We were trying to figure out a way to incorporate him that didn’t involve Gregg [Girl Talk] and Freeway.
I was like, “What if you ripped off a guy’s arm and tossed it through a doorway. Waka’s just sitting there, grabs it, and it becomes his own mini-scene?” Then Girl Talk was like, “Yeah that’s awesome. Maybe we should do something like get an animal – maybe a horse.” I told him I don’t think the insurance is going to cover the horse because they’re considered dangerous animals but we could rent a vulture. He said, “Okay. We’re renting a vulture then.”
MA: That’s hilarious.
AC: It totally works out because Waka plucks his butler’s eye out which is something a vulture would do.
MA: Other than that, what plans do you have for the future as far as videos with other people? Are you working on a feature film or anything?
AC: Yeah, I’m working on a feature. Hopefully that’ll get going this year. The screenplay is finished. I’m definitely open to doing other music videos. I don’t have anything particularly interesting lined up right now. My whole thing is I could be doing more videos more often, but I’d rather wait until a really good one comes along and I get to do something unique. Go all out.