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30 janvier 2006

Death Cab For Cutie Shoot Their Own 'Sledgehammer'

Earlier this month, Death Cab for Cutie were forced to make a difficult decision. It was time to shoot a video for "Crooked Teeth," the second single from their Plans album, and their label, Atlantic Records, was looking for something "a little less artsy" and a bit more "high impact" than their previous efforts. Which, of course, meant working with a big-name director. Which, of course, Death Cab were vehemently opposed to.

So they went with an unknown twentysomething named Ace Norton, a director with a penchant for claymation who had never made a big-budget clip before. Oh yeah, and they ended up submitting a video based on Peter Gabriel's 1986 stop-motion fest "Sledgehammer." Cue ticked-off label, right?

"I guess [Atlantic's] happy with it, because I haven't heard anything about it," Norton laughed. "I think everyone knew it was my first big video, and they didn't want to put a lot of pressure on me, but I knew there was a lot riding on it. And it was pretty crazy, especially with the way we had the whole shoot scheduled."

That schedule included just one on-set day for the guys in Death Cab, which meant that Norton would have to rip through the painstaking (and time-consuming) process of stop-motion photography at a breakneck pace. And amazingly, he pulled it off, shooting all sorts of stop-motion scenes (faces are painted, heads are wrapped and unwrapped, sweaters are removed) in just 13 hours.

"It was crazy. We had the band there and we had like five animation stations there just doing the same thing. And stop-motion takes forever to shoot. The wrapping and unwrapping sequence took like two hours for each guy in Death Cab," Norton said. "They were awesome about the whole thing; definitely the easiest band I've ever worked with. We literally did one take with each bandmember, and that's all it took."

If the guys in Death Cab were pros, it's because they have plenty of experience working with up-and-coming directors. The video for the first single from Plans, "Soul Meets Body," was directed by newcomer Jon Watts (see "Death Cab For Cutie Admit Magical Forest Video Is 'A Little Weird' "), and earlier this month, they unveiled the first clip from their
video anthology — which will showcase the work of 12 below-the-radar directors (see "Death Cab For Cutie Taking A Page From 50 Cent's Playbook") — on

But rarely, if ever, had they worked with a director whose motivation was so clear. Basically, Norton was looking to remake the award-winning "Sledgehammer," and though he's not sure if his "Crooked Teeth" video accomplished his goal, he's thrilled just to have it mentioned in the same sentence as Gabriel's classic clip.

"I grew up animating little movies with action figures, so 'Sledgehammer' is obviously a big inspiration to me," Norton said. "So I wanted 'Crooked Teeth' to be a tip of the hat to 'Sledgehammer,' because it's the greatest music video ever made. And the fact that people are even comparing them is amazing."

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