Under POPfilms and The Creators Project, Broken Bells—Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton and James Mercer of The Shins—and director Jacob Gentry have come together again on sci-fi short inspired by and titled after the rock duo's forthcoming album, After the Disco, out Jan. 14. The trio first collaborated on the video for Broken Bells' "The Ghost Inside", starring Christina Hendricks. Released in two parts—Part One: The Angel And The Fool and Part Two: Holding On For Life—After the Disco tells the story of star-crossed lovers Oliver (Anton Yelchin) and Helen (Kate Mara) who struggle to connect through space and time.
The production crew spent two days in the canyons of Malibu and a warehouse in downtown LA shooting the short. What resulted is a stunning and brilliantly colored film, one that can only be described as a dream. Complex got the chance to speak to Gentry, Yelchin, and Mara about the genius behind and the production of After the Disco.
As told to Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
On coming up with the concept for the film:
Jacob Gentry: Brian Burton and I went to college together, but our creative relationship began more as friends. He would give me music for some of my films and I would use his music as inspiration. I was more of a fan, and we were just friends who didn’t really work together until that first Broken Bells video. So for this second one, Brian came to me with this short story he had written. We had talked before that about doing some kind of film project together, something that was more of a narrative about the whole record. We took that and some of the concept art for the new album and developed it into a short film.
As for the space aspect of it, I’m obsessed with science fiction. I work on mostly horror films so working with Broken Bells gave me the opportunity to exercise that muscle. The After the Disco album has that feel already, so I took it even more in that direction. James Mercer was sending me images of Barbarella and Logan’s Run, that sort of late ‘60s/early ‘70s science fiction. The same way we mixed all those visual styles is the same way Broken Bells mixed all the musical styles from every era to make something unique. It has an otherworldly feel.
On bringing in Kate Mara and Anton Yelchin:
Gentry: James, Brian, and I had a dream of what we wanted and Kate and Anton were included in that. We didn’t want it to feel like a cameo video with well-known actors. They were cast as if it were a movie. Anton has finally come into his own as a man at this point, but he still has that childlike innocence, and that’s something Kate has as well. But she has a soulful maturity at the same time. I just put two pictures of them together, looked at it, and was like, “This could be a great couple.” They’re also very grounded, and that was nice to balance out the fantastical elements of the piece. They carry out a believable, sincere relationship inside a stylized universe.
Kate Mara: I said yes before I even listened to the song and before I had seen Jacob’s previous music video because I’m such a fan of Anton’s and I’d always wanted to work with him. And I’d always wanted to do a music video so I jumped at the chance.
When I met Jacob and Broken Bells, they said they were fans of House of Cards, but maybe they thought I just look like a space alien. [Laughs.] But it was cool to collaborate with artists you really respect.
On decoding the movie:
Gentry: You always have an idea of a message, but in the same way people interpret song lyrics, it ultimately ends up meaning different things to different people. It’s about finding the balance between the metaphor and the actual narrative of the piece. It all comes back to the Broken Bells album and the feelings they evoke. I just wanted to tell a melancholy love story in outer space.
You gotta look at the whole thing as a balance between dream and reality. You have to look at it like dream logic as opposed to day-to-day logic. Movies are kind of dreams anyway.
Mara: I don’t think it’s one thought. It’s the type of film that people talk about what it means to them. For me, there's this desperation to it. They’re lost in this monotonous daily life they continue to lead and they want to escape so badly. When they do, it feels like heaven. When they have to go back to their normal lives, it’s quite sad.
Yelchin: There are two dream worlds overlapping and we’re never sure which one is the real one, and I like the self-consciousness of that. I appreciate the surreal qualities in any work. I also think that it’s essentially a story about two lonely people trying to connect in these dream landscapes.
On whose music video they'd star in, living or dead:
Mara: I am obsessed with Robyn. Maybe Sleigh Bells, because that’s a group I love. But it would be cool to to do one with a really random band and an amazing director.
Gentry:I hope that people enjoy the story and the simplicity of it. I hope that it makes people want to seek out the music of Broken Bells. That’s the driving force behind it. Their music is brilliant.