Guest Blog

20
>10/26/11 - 10:39pm

All Your ‘Criminal’ Video Questions Answered

All Your ‘Criminal’ Video Questions Answered
So I've been staring at my computer screen for a few minutes now wondering exactly how to start this thing. Fearing that I could continue to stare at the screen all night, I decided to just begin writing what's floating around in my head and hope it leads to somewhere. I've done a handful of on-camera interviews about the "Criminal" video, and while I have no qualms with the actual act of interviews, the process is definitely awkward. You've got a bright light blinding you, while the camera lens stares at you... as if judging you. I try to be relaxed during them, but hot damn do I hate watching them back. I am never content with my answers. They are either too rushed or monstrously wordy. Point being, I was really stoked when Britney.com hit me up to be a guest blogger, because it's going to give me the opportunity to actually say what I want to say and be concise (with the occasional off-topic rambling). Ok, so here we go…

Well, let's start with an introduction and a thank you, shall we… I'm Chris Marrs Piliero. I directed Britney Spears's music video for "Criminal." Grammar Fun Fact: Yes, you add the "s" after the apostrophe for singular words that end in an "s." I double checked. Yup. I know. I get it confused all of the time, too. OK, then… The reaction to the video has been amazing, so I'd like to send out a "high-five" to all of you who watched it and enjoyed it. We had oodles of fun making it. I'd like to also send out a big "high-five" to the members of the British Parliament who were gracious enough to give our video a bunch of controversial buzz and publicity over such a trivial aspect of a fictitious story being told in a music video. Quite swell of y’all. Quick Side Note: While it may not be nearly as frequent as in the United States, there are plenty of gun-related crimes in London, despite their strict laws on gun possession. Why? Well you see, criminals like to break the law. It's this nifty attribute they tend to have. Even British ones. Another Quick Side Note: I think it's absolutely absurd and ridiculously stupid that musicians are held up to a different standard when it comes to influence over fans in comparison to other celebrities like actors, filmmakers or authors. A musician can portray whatever they wish to in their music videos just like a TV or movie star can do so. It's visual storytelling.

After working with Brit Brit on the "I Wanna Go" video, I definitely knew that I didn't just want to work with her again, but that I had to. There was an instant click between us on set — we vibed really well off of each other. It was one of the smoothest shoots I'd ever done (now adding "Criminal" to that list), and it was for one of the biggest pop stars in the world. That's not something one would normally expect, but it's 100% true. I'll be the first to admit that after hearing all the various interviews I've conducted about my experience working with Brit, it would seem that my lips have become permanently attached to her ass from kissing it so much. I know, I know… But it's not my fault everyone wants to constantly ask me about her and what it's like working with her. And it's not my fault that she's a super rad chick, and I love working with her. From now on if someone asks, I'll just tell them to visit Britney.com for my answer, cool?

I would say one of the things I love most about working with Britney is that in both of these videos, she's indulged in my desire to make her Badassney (that's one of the many rad nicknames that fans gave her after the "I Wanna Go" video). Being a fan of Britney throughout the years, I always yearned to see that sardonic badass side of her in her videos. While she's a natural at being sexy and seductive, I wanted to get more spunk out of her. I wanted to see a snarky Britney, to see her be offensively witty, appealingly defiant. I knew she had it in her. And she delivered it. There's a lot to be proud of when it comes to both videos I've directed with the Britster, but I gotta say that one of my proudest moments is the homage to Half Baked with both Guillermo Diaz AND Britney ranting, "F-ck you!" to the press with finesse. So rad.


OK, so… leading up to "I Wanna Go," I had done a string of music videos leaning more on the comedic side, so I was waiting for the right opportunity to come around where I could follow it up with a video that would tell a cool, dramatic story. That’s when I got the call for "Criminal." Awesome. I was stoked. Unlike with "I Wanna Go," Britney had a basic blueprint for how she wanted the "Criminal" storyline to go. I played around with the story-arc a bit and actually attempted to make it more violent than what we ended up with (the members of the British Parliament might have had a stroke after viewing what I originally intended).

Alas, Britney was set on the storyline starting with the high-society soiree that leads to her falling in love with the mysterious man who saves her from her a-hole boyfriend, admiring not just him, but his criminal lifestyle. I wanted to take her story and make it a wee bit more badass, give it some balls. Get some more Badassney in there again, ya know? Adding some snarky moments in the beginning was really important to me. Having her tell off the girl that her boyfriend character flirts with was a must, and I wasn't going to just let Jason come in there and save the day without Brit Brit giving a nice swift kick-kick to the dude to complete the beat down.


Then there was a matter of the ending. That part was still up in the air. We needed a good one. Something exhilarating. My original approach told a rather different story, so now that that was out, I needed something cool to bring this piece to a climactic finish. Several movies have scenes where the characters escape, and you can't help but ask yourself, "How in the heck did they manage to get away?!" Well, I wanted to take that to the next level. While this is a crime drama, I approached the concept like a fairytale. Fate has brought our two criminally inclined lovers together, and their love will conquer anything that comes in their way. I wanted their final kiss to be this magical moment of beautiful chaos, a breath-taking visual. Their lips touch, their bodies embrace, bullets fly and destiny takes control. They are together. Nothing else matters. The tension outside. The destruction inside. The bullets zipping by their bodies. The passionate kiss between Britney and Jason. It's a perfect moment. I love it. Definitely my favorite part of the video.


FYI (that means For Your Information, FYI) — in the video, they rob the grocery mart, and then some time goes by. There is a news report highlighting the fact that they went on a crime spree (we let you use your imagination… hooray for creative brain usage time!), then they rob a bank and steal the car. That sequence of events seemed to get lost on a select few, so I just wanted to clear that up. Apologies for any confusion this may have caused some of ya. I hope you didn't lose too much sleep over it. If you're reading this and thinking to yourself, "Yeah, I know that's what happened. Duh, Chris…" Well, then congratulations! You just won yourself 20 Internet points. Use them wisely.

Not sure if you noticed, but there are a couple of rather intimate moments between Britney and Jason in the video. Britney and I spoke on the phone early on about where we wanted to go with these scenes, and to my surprise, we were pretty much on the same page. I remember being on the phone preparing to ease my way into how steamy I wanted to make it, thinking I was gonna have to pull some hypnotic verbal trick over the phone to convince her to be into it, and to my surprise, she was down with it. We both wanted to turn things up a notch… but with class. The goal was to make some really sensual and passionate moments that were still beautiful and tasteful. And hot damn, that's exactly what we did. I particularly love the shot of her hands pressed up against the glass of the shower as her head turns… such a rad shot. There is such a pure chemistry captured between Britney and Jason during those intimate moments. The passion is authentic, and that's what makes it so amazingly daunting.


Before I go on, I just gotta say — Britney looks gorgeous in this video. I mean, seriously, how hot is she in this sucker? She's pretty damn smokin'... In "I Wanna Go," I wanted to give viewers a super hot, fun Britney where she’s carefree, kicking ass and just plain having a good time. It was all about smiles and smirks for that one. But with "Criminal," I needed an alluring and beautiful performance from Brit, and I think it's pretty obvious that she brought it. One of the things I love most about Britney are her facial expressions. The way she moves her lips… the way her tongue accentuates "L” words… and those eyes. Those eyes! She just looks into the lens and your mouth drops while your heart has to pause for a moment to take a deep breath.

Whenever I'm prepping to work with an artist, I always make a point to watch all of their previous videos to get better acquainted with them. When doing so for Brit, one of the things that stood out to me was how much more provocative we make her out to be in our minds when watching her simply from the way she looks at us through the screen. Go back and watch everything she's done. She's managed to be super sexy and captivating without being overtly provocative. She just has this natural seductive charm that makes everything she does that much more enticing. It's her eyes, I'm telling ya. She's like a sultry Jedi with those suckers. I'm rambling, aren't I? Yup, I am. Crap. OK, moving on… I was stoked on set while we were shooting her hallway performance and super stoked while I was editing the footage. Couldn't help but think to myself: Heck yeah... It's Britney… Bitch. Side Note: If Brit ever does a rap song, she should start it off by exclaiming, "It's Brit Brit, Mother F-cker!" Just a thought…

Alright, now I have a Britney.com exclusive for ya — it was actually my abs super-imposed onto Jason's stomach to make him look so buff. Yup, all me. Sorry, Jason. The truth had to come out sooner or later. OK, that's a lie. The dude is ripped.

By now it's no secret that I wasn't exactly stoked on the idea of Jason being in the video (though I kept it to myself). He'd never acted before. Why would I have been stoked on that? I wanted to use an actor for the part. That being said, once Britney and I discussed the sex scenes, I knew that there was no other option. She wouldn't have been able to be comfortable being that intimate with some random guy, while Jason just chilled on the sidelines. Once I came to terms with this in my head, it was a matter of going at the video with a positive and confident mindset. I was going to make sure Jason was awesome in the video. Lucky for me, Jason arrived on set with his game face on and the dude killed it. Eager for direction, he was a really good listener and delivered. While this isn't some extravagantly demanding role, you believe him. I was really impressed… and relieved… phew.


The tattoos on his body are fake. Britney wanted him to have some tats, and I've always been a fan of how badass George Clooney looks in From Dusk Till Dawn, so we went with a thick tribal design for his back. I'm not sure if it was Brit or Jason who came up with the "Freedom" tat on his neck, but the "RIP Goose" is a reference to Jason's good friend who sadly died weeks before the video. So while it would have been cool if it turned out Jason was just a really, really, really big fan of Top Gun, it's actually really cool that it has such a deeper significance.

We filmed "Criminal" in London over two days (with a few extra hours on a third day for city shots). Really awesome city. It was my first time out there and my first time working with the crew. I didn't have a single one of my usual guys from the States on the shoot, but hot damn did they do a fantastic job. The Director of Photography was a gentleman by the name of Will Bex. The dude is bloody brilliant. We shot in London because Britney was getting ready to kick off her European tour. While we weren't filming all over the place, the little doses of London throughout really add a nice touch to the video. I'm so glad we had the opportunity to film out there; it just would have been a completely different vibe if we shot out in the States. The cobblestone streets, the texture and architecture of the brick buildings… these little details mean so much to the final overall feel of the video.


There are a few Easter eggs hidden throughout the video. The newspaper that talks about Jason being a suspect for recent bank robberies features three photos at the top — those photos belong to Will Bex, me, and Art Director Sam Tidman. In the grocery mart, there are Marrs Attacks soup cans on the shelf next to the vanilla candles — Marrs Attacks is my company name and my Twitter ID (@marrsattacks). Yup yup. Fun stuff. And I'm sure you're aware of this, but Britney is a big fan of vanilla candles. I knew this was something that was pretty much common knowledge amongst the fans, so I thought it would be fun to have Britney grab one and toss it into their shopping basket that they eventually run off with. In addition to that, I decided to reference the vanilla candles again at the end of the credits to poke fun at the typical disclaimers at the end of movies. A lot of these things I just toss in at the last second and hope Britney goes for it. Kinda like the Crossroads 2: Cross Harder marquee sign in the "I Wanna Go" video. I wanted to put something fun on there for the fans and just crossed my fingers that it'd be cool with her and whalaa…

So yeah, hmmm… I think I've run out of things to say. So I guess it's time to say goodbye. Thanks for reading. You're pretty swell in my book. Have yourself a rad day. I hope it's filled with several life-changing viewings of "I Wanna Go" and "Criminal." I leave you with this very important message: No matter how tempting it may be, don't eat cardboard. It's not good for you.

- CMP

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