The music video “Hello” for Canadian artist Hedley looks and feels big. That’s a well-planned out and executed result by producer Evan M. Landry, director Matt Leaf, and the band’s lead singer Jacob Hoggard. They wanted the storyline that appears intermixed with the band’s performance to remind the viewer of some of their favorite filmmakers. They were all adamant about the use of Chris Lew as the cinematographer on this production. Though Lew has been involved in music videos, the vast amount of his career has been in film. He instinctually brings a grand scale and feel to his approach, which is the exact reason the video’s producer approached him to assist with “Hello.” Landry professes, “The video perfectly showcases Christopher’s illustrious talents as a cinematographer, as each shot captures a wonderful pastoral understanding of character and story. He thrives in putting forward vastly colorful shots, paired with more focused cuts of his characters as they interact with their surroundings and those around them. The video very much captures the youthful innocence and coming to terms with rejection; a theme that is very much present throughout the song. Not only did Christopher shoot this video in a way that captures this theme, but additionally presented the video in a way that audiences and fans could enjoy on the other side of the screen. The video currently has over 2.8 million plays on YouTube, a glowing achievement that would not have been possible without Christopher as the cinematographer, helming these responsibilities throughout production.”
As the cinematographer on this video, the intensive storyline and only one shoot day made Chris’s schedule somewhat frenetic. The upbeat character of the song inspired him to use a higher key lighting approach. Lew also notes that the storyline appealed to his natural inclination. He states, “I prefer plot based, or videos that can seamlessly weave a plot into a performance. I believe music videos should be a form of artistic expression and beyond that, an extension of the artist’s music. The videos I find that speak to me the most are the ones where the director took the song and created a world or a story based on the feeling of the song; not necessarily making a story based on the literal meaning of the lyrics but making something that invokes the same mood. I love it when the song is almost like a soundtrack to a story. When the the audio and visual work together in tandem it’s a beautiful thing.”
“Hello” is inspired by a real life romance in lead singer Jacb Hoggard’s life and he envisioned the experience as told by some of the great filmmakers of the day. The look and feel of the video is best described as a Wes Anderson inspired look that was in the world of 90’s era John Hughes films. Lew describes, “Both filmmakers have a very clear style, particularly in how they frame and capture shots. Wes Anderson tends to shoot very symmetrical images, placing characters in the center of the frame. He also likes to use dollies for lateral tracking shots and push ins and pull outs. It was in this way that we were inspired by his films (Rushmore in particular because of the setting of our story). We used a lot of symmetrical framing and smooth controlled camera moves, all of which are staples of Wes Anderson’s style. To achieve this type of movement with camera we chose to differ from Anderson’s method and shoot the video primarily on Steadicam rather than a dolly. This allowed us to get the controlled moves we wanted while also being quick and mobile. We also shot anamorphic because it fit the style and energy of the story and performance so well. The anamorphic lens produces an image that has a natively widescreen image. Older anamorphic lenses, like the ones we used for this video, also tend not to be optically perfect: they flare, bright spots in the image will glow, and the focus will soften around the edges of the frame. Nowadays a lot of cinematographers prefer these lenses paired with digital cameras because it can take the edge off sharp, high-res image sensors. Because these are older lenses, the imperfections create a nostalgic effect as they were used frequently in the 70’s and 80’s. It gave us that comfortable and warm feeling that you get from Anderson and Hughes films.”
Differentiating from many DP’s, Chris often favors the Steadicam and Handhelds rather than the dolly for his work, in particular when it comes to fast shoots with multiple scenes. While it is harder on the body, this approach more than makes up for this in terms of quickness and ease. It takes expertise, skill, and experience to effectively use these…qualities which Lew possesses in abundance. He confirms, “I love the freedom both give you. The camera literally goes wherever you walk and it’s so liberating. Dollies are great because of the precision of the moves, but it’s also a commitment. It means laying down track, leveling it, mounting the camera to the dolly. It takes time, and on set every minute counts. Once it finally is set, you really only have a limited number of ways you can shoot the scene because you’re locked to that track. A Steadicam on the other hand goes anywhere the operator can fit while still giving you a smooth move. The same for Handheld, in which case I like to operate myself. Being free and open to any possibility is how I like to work. There are so many variables on a film set that can change at any moment and I want to be able to react to them just as quickly. These methods allow me to do that.”
“Hello” perfectly meets the aspirations that its creators had. It is epic and yet familiar and personal. In the same way that Rushmore and Sixteen Candles feel vulnerable, scrutinized, and intimate, “Hello” allows you to connect with the main character and feel his pain while also seeing the humor in the gravity he gives it. Some of our favorite storytellers have the ability to allow us to feel life’s difficulties and reflect them back to us as if to say, “It hurts but in the grand scheme of things, it won’t be that bad.” Chris Lew’s images on this video rank him alongside the same professionals who reassure us that we’re going to live through it and laugh about it.