Last week we gave you an exclusive premiere of Atmosphere’s new music video, “Ain’t Nobody.” If you haven’t seen it yet we strongly suggest you do so. The visuals are hypersexualized, provocative, and probably deserve a “NSFW” hash tag. However, the most striking thing to us about the music video wasn’t its steamy nature, The Shining references sprinkled throughout the scenes, or the fact that the models in the video went to town on some popsicles (although we DEFINITELY took notice).
No, the thing that stood out the most was that the video appeared out of nowhere. The song “Ain’t Nobody” is on Atmosphere’s album, The Family Sign, which was released in 2011 and wasn’t originally intended to receive a music video. It wasn’t until Carmela Makela, an upcoming director and fan of the group, took a huge risk and invested everything she had into giving the song the treatment it deserved.
We were impressed by the aesthetic of the video, so we got a hold of Carmela to see how the music video came about.
Mass Appeal: How did you get into directing?
Carmela Makela: I just started out. I’m 22. About a year ago, I got the opportunity to work with an amazing director; his name is Vincent Haycock. He took me under his wing, it was sort of like a big brother thing. It started with me organizing his DVD collection, thinking that it was just going to be something to do. Then, organically, I fell in love with the medium. It went from helping with his treatments, to being on set, to ultimately wanting to be a part of it in a bigger way. I was inspired to want to create something of my own, you know? I just dove in head first, and that’s how it happened.
MA: What other videos have you done before?
CM: Actually, this is the first thing I’ve ever directed. I’m pretty excited about how it worked out.
MA: Wow, that’s crazy. That’s a really big project to undertake for your first music video.
CM: You know, go big or go home. Right?
MA: So speaking of the video, it’s hypersexualized, the women are the center of attention, yet the men seem disinterested. Did you have a specific reason for doing that?
CM: This is such a tough question, because I don’t want to disappoint anyone, or take away from their imaginations. I was so excited to see the comments provoking all of these questions. I think that any filmmaker would agree that they’d rather have people say they don’t “get it”, and that it’s “weird”, than people simply saying, “It’s a pretty video.” That’s boring. I like the controversy.
CM: One thing to point out is that yes, I’m a female, but I’m by no means a feminist – nor am I a traditionalist. There were a lot of comments about it being derogatory and about it being sexist and all of these things, from both girls and guys. This video was not supposed to be a political statement. I want people to interpret it however they want, but to ultimately know this: I love aesthetics. I love babes, I love dudes, and I love weird stuff. I like making people uncomfortable, and a little turned on.
MA: So why did you pick this specific song to write a treatment for?
CM: I was debating whether to even say this, but I guess this is one of the interesting things about this video and it’s part of the story. The song came into play about five days before the video was shot. I got awarded this video on my 22nd birthday, which was in February, and it was for another song. It was for a small underground rap group and I was just excited that some kid said that I could do a video. There was no budget and I was going to pay for it so I wrote this whole treatment – I just wanted to make something.
About five days before I was about to shoot, I had everything in place. The models were hired, the crew, I had paid for everything. It was thousands of dollars out of my pocket and I was a little bit resentful. I think I sort of had this moment where I was thinking, “There is so much time and energy being put into this and it’s for a group that’s being sort of unresponsive – I want people to see this. What if it’s the last thing I do?”
So on a whim, I e-mailed Rhymesayers. I said, “Listen. Here’s my visual references, here’s my concept, I really want to make a rad video and I want to make it for a band that deserves it” and I didn’t expect to hear back. Siddiq from Rhymesayers e-mailed me back, super cool guy, and he gave me a few options of different artists and different soundtracks. When I heard “Ain’t Nobody” by Atmosphere it clicked perfectly with my original treatment, even more so than the original song and that’s when I knew it was right. I didn’t want to sacrifice the aesthetics for the chance of getting a cool band, but when I heard “Ain’t Nobody” I thought, “This is meant to be. This works.” That’s the ironic thing about it. It was a very blessed kind of coincidence.
MA: That’s a great story, especially because you didn’t intend to shoot the video for the song that you used. We did not expect to hear that.
CM: The reason I was nervous to say that is because by no means do I want people to read this and think, “Oh, she made a video that wasn’t even for the song? What about Slug? What about Ant?” Because really, my heart and soul did click with that song, it just happened in a different order. People thought I was crazy, you know? I had never directed before and I took a big leap of faith. I didn’t even tell my crew I hadn’t confirmed it with Rhymesayers before our shoot day [and] that it was going to be for that song. But I kept my mouth shut and passionately shot a video. I took up everyone’s time, with the chance that I was going to get an e-mail the next day saying, “Sorry we’re not really interested,” and that I’d have shot a video for nothing. By the grace of God, Siddiq wrote back and liked it, and here we are today. It was a miracle.
MA: So we want to ask you about two scenes. We think a lot of people picked up on The Shining reference when [the girls] were climbing up the stairs, but we know the one scene a lot of people are going to be talking about is the “pinball scene.” How did you come up with the idea for that one?
CM: You know I think I’m discovering things about this video as we talk about it. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that sex sells. I don’t think it’s something I should be ashamed of because I’m a girl. We were in that bowling alley and I had some shots planned on the lane, etc, but much to the dismay of my AD, I threw the shot-list out the window. I wanted to put [the models] on top of the pinball machines and it’s just one of those blatantly obvious things, guys playing it in front of a girl sitting on it, what does it look like? It was so funny to me. It’s a scene that makes me laugh. It doesn’t have a deep political meaning. It’s literally just the fact that it’s fucking funny, and it was cool looking and I like to provoke people. One amazing thing that I learned from my cousin, who’s my hero, is “When in doubt, just get weirder.” Get as weird as you possibly can, because the last thing you’d want is to bore people.
MA: Then the second shot that we were taken aback by, not in a bad way, was just one of those moments where we were watching it in the office and were like, “Damn. Maybe we should go somewhere else to watch this,” was the “popsicle scene.”
MA: How do you convince two young women to just, “go to town,” on popsicles?
CM: (Laughs) You know, that’s one of my favorite scenes for sure. You can see that by how long we lingered on it in the edit. How do I get two girls to do that? Listen, a lot of times it’s a 40-year-old male director who’s on the sidelines and that can be kind of creepy. But imagine this scenario, there’s a girl, a young girl, standing next to two girls, and she’s just yelling, “Deep throat it! Deeper! Come on, get into it.” It was funny because I’m allowed to do that. I can go for it and have fun with it. They were really comfortable with their sexuality, and it wasn’t trashy, it was playful. You have to have fun with it. You have to push boundaries.
MA: Is there anything else that you want people to know about the video, that you feel like they may not get to know by just watching it?
CM: I want them to know that I fed my models very well on set.
MA: We think your referring to the sandwich comment?
CM: No, I didn’t see that. What was that?
MA: Somebody was like, “Those girls need to eat a sandwich.”
CM: (Laughs) Well, there were a lot of comments like that. There were a lot of, “Those girls are too skinny and girls these days should be like…” Listen, these girls were dope as hell. I picked them specifically because they were rad to hang out with. I’m not about hanging out with models that are bitchy and conceded. Number one thing I want people to know is that they were eating lunch with the rest of us, and were super cool and down to earth. I also want people to know that… I appreciate all of the youtube comments, I appreciate the interest, and the criticism – but really just lighten up. I wanted to make something aesthetically amazing, weird, and thought provoking. Draw your own conclusions and enjoy it.
MA: So what can we expect from you in the future? Do you have any other projects in the works?
CM: I’m really thankful to have even gotten this opportunity, but I definitely want to keep going. I respect people with passion and with talent, and I respect people on the film scene. Now that I’ve seen what it takes, I respect them a lot more and I want to be part of it. I’ve been writing on some different songs. I definitely see more directing in my future.
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