Hornet & The Decemberists

We recently posted a trailer for Hornet’s visual-collaboration with The Decemberists. However, off the tails of Monday’s premier at UCLA’s Royce Hall, it seemed appropriate to follow up with a more in-depth look, including notes from each director.

After deciding to make a film to accompany their new album, the band initially approached Jonathan Wells of Flux to curate, who in turn brought Hornet on-board to produce the pieces with three Hornet directors and a fourth. Although the assumptive budget of a project like this was a mere fraction of most commercial campaigns, this is a positive reminder that production companies are content-creation partners and curatorial entities — hopefully a sentiment that continues to permeate the mainstream.

Broken up into the four sides of the vinyl album, the directors each chose a side to work on with the decided theme of the seasons. Similar to Exquisite Corpse style projects like Psst! Pass It On, the directors were able to work independently of each other, and consulted one another when they got to the end of their section.

Here are extended cut-downs from the hour-long piece: Side A (Peter Sluszka), Side B (Julia Pott), Side C (Guilherme Marcondes) & Side D (Santa Maria)

Guilherme Marcondes:

The unifying theme for the project as a whole was “the woods”. Somehow we all did something involving trees, forests etc. To divide each director’s segment we created quick graphical transitions representing the four seasons. My segment, for instance, was connected to the previous by autumnal falling leaves and to the following one by a shower of snowflakes.

I developed my segment along with artist Andrezza Valentin. We wanted to do something that would look like an environment for the band to perform in front of. It should be an animated set-design that would hopefully transport the audience into that world, providing a special context for the songs to be performed. we didn’t go literal on the interpretation of the lyrics. The idea was to enhance the overall mood of the music. Our sequence of songs was the darkest in the album (which I liked very much) so we decided to go for some eerie symbolism combined with more abstract psychedelic moments. There were several elements representing the passing of time like the sun, the moon, an eclipse, ruins and human bones.

I used a high speed camera (Phantom) to shot some elements. Other elements were illustrations or photographs. Everything was composed later in After Effects. The biggest challenge was to create such a long duration film in a relatively short amount of time.

Peter Sluszka:

Listening to the Hazards of Love, an animist theme becomes apparent very early on in the narrative. I wanted to explore this aspect of the story and how it related to the mysterious, forest environment, which is why I focused on vegetation and organic elements, shooting them as if they were animated by the same spirits driving the plot and protagonists. Musically, the Prelude is stark and minimal, transitioning to a fuller second track that evokes a sense of travel and discovery. Visually, the film mirrors this progression, starting with a void as seeds spiral in hypnotically, resolving in a dense, overgrown forrest that helps establish an ambiance and mood for all the narrative to come. The third and fourth tracks continue in this vein, with animated leaves, trees, mushrooms, and flowers synced to the music in an abstract interplay with the plot and characters.
All four tracks from the first side combine high speed footage shot on the Phantom camera with stop-motion animation, photographed largely on a multi-plane set up.

Santa Maria:

After we listened to the album and heard the lyrics a few times, we decided that we should shoot video. We thought of something that could be eerie and a little unnerving as well as magical and nostalgic. So we decided to literally go into the forest with a camera a bright light and a fog machine. In the end it was more or less an experiment, along with an abstract story about shooting stars.

The band didn’t want to dwell on the lyrics so much so we decided to make a piece based on the feeling of the music. Overall the music flows very naturally and is a strange mix of beauty and sadness… we tried our best to match that with melancholy imagery.

Julia Pott

Some of the imagery was based upon diagrams and drawings found in science text books. I also borrowed from old nature magazines and journals to create a collaged background to set off the hand drawn animation. I wanted to make each scene like a moving illustration. I looked at the naive style that is currently popular in contemporary illustration. I have a whole bunch of National Geographics from the 80’s which I used as a reference for the animal characters. The season that I was assigned was summer. I tried to use imagery that I associated with summer but without being overtly bright and warm. By setting most of the film at night I could use summery imagery whilst maintaining a sinister edge. When working on more commercial projects you’re often required to squeeze a lot of information into a very short amount of time. It’s been great to work on a project in which there is opportunity to let the work breathe and use a slower. It’s also a rare chance to work alongside other filmmakers to be part of a bigger picture


Client: Capitol Records
Agency: Flux
Creative Directors: Jonathan Wells and Meg Wells (Flux)
Production Company: Hornet Inc.
Executive Producers: Michael Feder (Hornet Inc.), Jonathan Wells (Flux)
Producer: Hana Shimizu (Hornet Inc.)
Editor: Anita Chao (Hornet Inc.)

(Side A)

Director: Peter Sluszka
Editor: Anita Chao
Compositor: Andrew Macfarlane
Fabricator: Matt Christensen, Connie Chan
Live Action Producer: Joel Kretschman
DP: Othmar Dickbauer
Gaffer: Michael Yetter
Key Grip: Joe Mandeville
Art Dept.: Tim McDonald, Kevin Coyle

(Side B)

Director: Julia Pott
Assistant Director: Robin Bushell
Compositors: Matt Layzell, Danny Boyle, Tom Brown
Animation Assistant: Rosie Miles

(Side C)

Director: Guilherme Marcondes
Art Direction: Andrezza Valentin and Guilherme Marcondes  
3D Artist: Diogo Kalil
Live Action Producer: Joel Kretschman
DP: Othmar Dickbauer
Gaffer: Michael Yetter
Key Grip: Joe Mandeville
Art Dept.: Tim McDonald, Kevin Coyle

(Side D)

Director: Santa Maria
Key Grip: Sarah Edney

Management: Jason Colton and Ron Laffitte for Red Light Management

Special Thanks: Dan Cohen, Danny Lockwood, Sharon Lord, Shawn Kirkham, Cem Kurosman, Angelique Groh, Zack Kortright, John Harrison, Michael Yetter