Even if you don’t know Robert Lopuski’s name, you might recognize his work. Responsible for Jay Z and Kanye West’s grandiose Watch The Throne documentary as well as a popular doc on New York hip-hop called We’re Gonna Be Lords, the director/editor has developed a cinematic style that breathes a weight of importance and intrigue into life’s simplest moments.
His latest feat involves giving new life to Melana Cadiz’s 2010 song, “Sleeping.” Placing Cadiz’s vocals and gentle guitar plucking in a haunting wooded setting alongside rumbling sound effects, the song takes on an edge that wasn’t apparent on first listen. Here, it becomes the soundtrack to an eerie encounter with exploding trees, wild hair, and mysterious visitors. Fittingly, the video’s concept was born out of a piece he had originally developed for a pitch to Bjork.
“The song ‘Sleeping’ had a nice linger to it and felt wide open allowing me to have room to play with visually,” he says of his decision to work on the project. “I was doing a lot of research on Norse mythology at the time when I came up with the idea for the earth rituals. I also kept having a dream of a girl swinging from her hair and it all just kinda came together. That summer I spent time in Montana with a number of older ranchers and found their attachment and understanding of the land very curious.”
Watch the video above, then continue reading for Lopuski’s behind-the-scenes account of the long journey to achieve the exploding tree shot.
“The tree explosion(s) were all shot in camera,” Lopuski says. “I met a guy on the internet in the midwest who had a blog of videos he shot with his own manmade phantom/slo mo camera. I commissioned him to shoot an exploding tree for me. He went over budget and almost destroyed all of his equipment when the tree exploded. The guy filled a 30 foot tree with an explosive liquid and shot it with a rifle. Ha.
“He contacted me a few days after his shoot, very upset, and sent me a very low res file as the camera and hard drive took some damage during the shoot. VFX wise the shot was unusable on every level. I had to hire a house in India to upres the footage and rotoscope every single piece of debris. It was in slo motion so the shot was 14 seconds long. It took a team of people 4 weeks to do.”