Everyone knows that the classics never go out of style, and sometimes, with the help of technology, they reach their former glory once again. Yesterday Bob Dylan released an innovative video for his 1965 song "Like a Rolling Stone." Directed by Vania Heymann, the video presents a unique experience where you have the option of flipping through television channels—a sports game, a rom-com, a financial news outlet—and on every show, the characters are lip synching the words to Dylan's song.
With the help of the digital production company Interlude Studios, Heymann was able to simulate a real television experience, including cameos from celebrities like Danny Brown, an experience that becomes uncanny when paired with Dylan's lyrics. The video addresses our relationship with pop culture and spans the bridge between music and imagery. We contacted Heymann via email to talk to her about recreating Dylan's famous song.
How were you approached to create this video, and was the concept for it to always be interactive?
Sony and Bob Dylan’s management were familiar with the Interlude technology and approached us to collaborate on an interactive music video.
How involved was Bob Dylan with the creation or brainstorming for the video? Why did he want to put a video out for a song that came out in 1965?
Dylan’s management was an integral part of the creative process and worked with us at each step. “Like A Rolling Stone” was chosen because it was and still is an iconic classic that resonates with everybody. Since an official music video had never been made, it was a perfect opportunity to do something truly innovative.
What inspired you and/or Dylan to use television and changing channels as the foundation for the video? Is it supposed to be literally referencing the lyrics?
I wanted to use form (the TV medium) to reinterpret content (Dylan’s lyrics). The video tries to walk the thin line between dealing with TV as a medium (Like Eric Andrea once said, "Television is dead. Long live television”), and dealing through TV as a window through which to look at ourselves. By giving the viewer the ability to change the interpretation of the song by flipping the channel, we changed the passiveness of flipping channels to an active roll as interpreter.
Since you are going to keep adding more channels as time goes on, how are you deciding the "shows" that you are displaying on the mini-TV? Will this video project ever end?
I have to say “no comment” so we can surprise you in the future.
What influenced your decision to include the rapper Danny Brown in particular, but also from Pawn Stars? Was it Bob Dylan's choice to include older footage of himself in it, too?
I am a huge fan of Danny Brown and felt that the contrast and connections between his work and “Like a Rolling Stone” would be artistically interesting… and besides, he was a lot of fun to work with too. The mix of channels was created after many hours of watching American cable television and trying to capture its essence. Dylan’s management offered us access rare Dylan footage (shot by D.A. Pennebaker), and we thought it would fit perfectly in the experience pulling it all together on one hand, and, on the other, giving a new depth to the music video by presenting the only “real” channel.
How long did it take to film all the footage and get everyone to sing each part of the song? Has this been in the works for a while now?
All of the production happened over two months. Regarding the singing, in fact, everyone was actually filmed singing the entire song. That’s the beauty of it. You get to experience the video differently every time you channel surf. And the song (and lip-synced lyrics) proceeds seamlessly at all times.
This isn't the first time you've blended the technological, artistic, and commercial worlds together at the same time in your work. How important are the intersections of these spaces to you, and how do you feel that they came together for this video in a new way?
The world of video is constantly changing, and I’m excited about the new options and possibilities this new world is offering digital filmmakers. The lines between technological and creative roles are blurring. I try not to limit myself to one side of filmmaking. It’s all different aspects of the storytelling process, and I want to be involved in all of them, for example, even doing the visual effects myself. Luckily, the technology that exists today allows it.
Overall, I try to work on whatever it is that keeps me interested. It was a great honor to work with an iconic artist like Bob Dylan and a song like this—this important, 48 year old classic—and to give it a modern day twist.
Do you think that the future of music videos and television is interactivity?
Definitely. Think about it. With all the digital platforms out there today that are interactive by nature, and audiences already excited to lean forward and engage with interactive content, there are amazing opportunities for artists to express their visions in new and exciting ways. And that’s why it is personally exciting for me to be a part of the Interlude team where we have created a platform that is focused on keeping the video seamless and tries to push art, through technology, forward.