The Band Explains: We Raise Bears - 'To A Distant Plain' (Video)

Dublin-based indie band We Raise Bears talk to us in depth about the ideas behind their music video for  'To A Distant Plain', loosely based on the obedience studies of Dr Stanley Milgram in 1962.
'To A Distant Plain' is the intense lead single taken from We Raise Bears' self-titled debut EP which is available for digital download here.

We Raise Bears Explains:
Where was 'To A Distant Plain' filmed?
The video was filmed in the science building of University College Dublin. We wanted an academic location to fit in with the theme of the video. Director Jose Miguel Jimenez had been quite taken by the curious mix of minimal open plan contemporary architecture of the school’s entrance and how it quickly adjoins the retro 1960s laboratory spaces. Most of the filming took place in two of the electrical engineering laboratories which really helped set the scene and inform the mood of the video.

How does the video compliment the song?
The video is based on the obedience studies of Dr. Stanley Milgram from 1962 which tested subjects’ responses to taking orders from an authority figure. 'To A Distant Plain',as a song in itself, is not strictly about the obedience studies, it’s more about people’s willingness to follow societal pressures. We thought it fitted well as a metaphorical reference which has its own story and layers which can play out alongside the song.

Structurally the song is quite dynamic as it has two dramatic climaxes and we thought it could visually work extremely well with the Milgram subject matter. Lighting was probably the most important aspect that Jose and Luca concentrated on when filming the shoot, and a blacked out set meant they could really create drama using light.

Any behind the scenes stories?
We worked with a very small but amazing crew and shot everything within a day. Funnily enough we got final permission to film on the morning of the shoot, so we had arrived with mountains of equipment and our fingers crossed. Conor is a student in the college at the moment, so that probably helped sway things! Our main actor who played the part of the ‘electrocutee’ is Ger Kelly. Ger is well known on the Dublin theatre scene and we were extremely lucky to have him work on the project (we made sure to nab him before he went off touring “The Plough and the Stars” for months in the US). It was a crazy day of shooting, damn hard work but such a joy to see collaborative storyboarding and ideas come to life on camera. Sharon also became a master in basic electrical circuitry through hours of prop-making!

Tell us about the ideas/ themes/ imagery used?
We had a very firm narrative in mind for the video. It was based on the experiment itself, where the subject, called ‘teacher’, was instructed by an authority figure to administer electric shocks to a ‘learner’ when they got a question related to memorised word pairs wrong. The ‘learner’ was an actor in the original experiment, but, for the interest of creating drama, we thought that we’d portray the learner being actually electrocuted. We experimented with subtitles to assist with this narrative, but decided in the end to go with their minimal use so as to not distract from the visual impact of the video. We are very happy that we achieved the vision that ourselves and Jose had at the beginning of the project.

We had found some of Jose’s amazing short film work online earlier this year, and immediately loved the mood of his work which often has a lovely dark ambiguity. We loved the way he works a camera, plays with light and can create the most gorgeous tonal qualities. Having the Milgram experiment subject matter in mind and it being something that would need drama, we knew we definitely wanted to work with him.

While working with Jose on ideas prior to shooting, we discovered that we shared a common appreciation for certain film genres and directorial styles, which meant great grounds for collaboration. Jose and Luca ran with an approach which came out of this and ended up creating beautifully shot work. Careful editing to really reinforce the underlying narrative was the final time consuming but critical part of releasing the video.

What is the message the video is trying to convey?
These are pretty scary times and you’d like to think that people have learned from history’s mistakes, but that isn’t always the case. The motivation for Milgram’s obedience experiments was that he wanted to know why otherwise rational people in Germany would go along with the persecution and murder of Jewish people. A few hours after we put the video up on You Tube, Donald Trump was elected President of America. After all his hateful rhetoric, you’d be worried for the future.

Interview feature by Karla Harris

(VIDEO CREDITS: 'To A Distant Plan' was directed, filmed and edited by Jose Miguel Jimenez and Luca Truffarelli.)