João Retorta directs ‘Limbo’ for Royal Blood.
Words from João below:
João, there are many comments associating Daft Punk and Tron references, are these incidental, or were you aware of these during production?
JR: The references were completely incidental and didn’t inform any part of my creative process, but I’ve been aware and conscious that people would probably associate the video to Daft Punk from early on in the production process.
I had some comments from people involved in its making saying that they were into the sort of ‘Daft Punk nod/homage’ that I was doing, as I guess the group is very fresh on everyone’s minds considering that they’ve just called it quits but, in all honesty, I didn’t even think about them or have any intention of referencing them when I was coming up with the idea.
For me, it has always been about bikers. Particularly, about this random YouTube phenomenon that I stumbled across when I was thinking about the track called ‘biker dance’. In short, it’s a bunch of videos of people dancing in the most mundane locations while wearing full-on biker kits (helmets included always).
Here are some examples:
I thought there was something quite interesting about it, as it’s not what you would immediately expect to see from fully geared-up bikers and there’s also a sort of mystery and anonymity associated with the helmets, so, I decided to develop an idea and a world around it. Thoughts of Daft Punk and Tron didn’t play a part in this concept at all, but I can understand why people associate it with them, especially the former.
We’re guessing the beauty of the masked performances is that you were able to select stunts and dance separately?
JR: Creatively speaking, the masked performances were one of the main reasons that made me pursue and develop this idea. I was interested in making a video where you never see any of the characters’ faces or expressions, while still being able to set them apart and convey their contrasting traits. The blue crew being more punk, rough and ready; the black gang more clean-cut and almost military and establishment-like. This decision is something that we tackled through costume, art department, choice of locations, and ultimately, the movement direction and choreography that Alexandra Green created to really highlight a distinct separation between the two.
I also made sure that the riders were fully briefed and aware of the personality of the respective group that they were portraying and that their riding was aligned with its character so that we could weave between the stunts and the dancing seamlessly. Getting back to what I was saying, in the video, the blue gang feel more punk, free-flowing, and lawless with more wheelies and some recklessness on and off-road, and the black gang are more composed, contrived, and clean-cut, with fewer stunts and a lot more riding formations and dancing going on.
In a practical sense, it made it a whole lot easier to switch between the dancing and the stunts. We looked for dancers and riders of similar heights, so we could body double them without raising too many questions, considering that they are all wearing helmets and having their identities hidden at all times.
I was interested in making a video where you never see any of the characters’ faces or expressions, while still being able to set them apart and convey their contrasting traits.
Could you talk us through how you approached the stunts?
JR: We made a set of rules/parameters for the general riding and each crew. The blue crew would look and feel more reckless, free-flowing and riding R-L, whilst the black crew would look and feel more composed and riding L-R, in scenes that were allocated to a selected loop at a busy and lively part of the city that offers a variety of different backdrops on screen. Outside of this small set of rules, we allowed the riders to be completely free. We were in constant communication throughout the shoot and kept tweaking and trying new things, both riding and camera-wise.
As for the actual crash itself, there were various conversations involving miniature bikes with the stunt coordinator during prep. Yet I’d be lying if I said that it went accordingly to plan on set, as we were really up against it time-wise and only had a couple go’s to get it.
What are you reading at the moment?
JR: I’m reading ‘Men without Women’, a collection of short stories by Haruki Murakami and ‘My Riot’ an autobiography by New York Hardcore Punk godfather/legend and Agnostic Front frontman Roger Miret.
- Tom Birmingham
- Director of Photography
- Taff Williamson
- Production Company