Having shot videos for 'NSYNC, Jay-Z, Nelly and Alien Ant Farm, director Marc Klasfeld has gotten used to complex location shoots, big budgets, special effects and large casts. That’s why he wanted none of that for Sum 41's "Hell Song" clip.
The video features action figures with tiny photos of the bandmembers' faces adhered to the figures' heads. The Canadian pop-punks' miniature stand-ins dance around a Lite Brite toy displaying "Sum 41" with its colored pegs and frolic with dolls depicting Korn, Kiss, President Bush, AC/DC, Snoop Dogg, Destiny's Child, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, and others. There's no high-tech animation; the figurines move Mr. Bill-style, with hands visible in nearly every shot.
"For this video, I was thinking to myself, 'What if some 14-year-old Sum 41 fan made a video with his existing dolls? What would it look like?,' Klasfeld said. "The video looks like a piece of sh--. Anyone could have done this video, and I think that’s the whole point. It's kind of a 'f--- you' in the face of production value and all these high-budget, high-gloss things that we see all the time on television."
Klasfeld had the video concept long before he was approached about "Hell Song" by Sum 41, for whom he's already shot four clips, including the recent "Still Waiting."
"I did a lot of research on the Web and I realized that there were a ton of rock star action figures," he said. "I mean, literally, for about 95 percent of the rock stars you can think of. So I thought to myself, 'What an amazing detail about our country. Isn't this the reason why the whole Middle East and the rest of the world hate us? We have these amazing freedoms to waste our time with rock star action figures.' I just couldn’t believe how many of them there were, and I thought, 'My God, if anybody ever shot a video of this, it would be amazing.' "
Since Sum 41 had been pleased with everything Klasfeld had done with them to that point, they quickly gave him the green light. They were even more sold on the idea when they found out they wouldn't have to appear on camera.
"They said it was the easiest video they've ever not worked on," Klasfeld joked. "The whole idea of the video is that it's a concert for Sum 41 and everyone is there, but there aren't any Sum 41 dolls, so we just took photographs of the guys and cut them out and put them over the faces of other action figures, which I thought would be way funnier."
Klasfeld shot "Hell Song" over the past year at his and his friend's apartments and during downtime on location for other projects. Initially he wanted to include shots of Janis Joplin, Frank Sinatra and Jim Morrison dolls, as well as one of a Michael Jackson doll throwing a baby into the crowd. But getting legal clearance for those shots proved sticky.
"Just what you see in the video had to be re-shot 10 to 15 times," Klasfeld said. "Getting permission to use the stuff was the hard part, and it ended up being a lot more costly than you might think."
No one should be surprised to find out that Sum 41 have created yet another fun, silly video. But anyone who knows what "Hell Song" was inspired by might be a little confounded. The track was written by singer/guitarist Deryck Whibley about a close friend who was diagnosed HIV positive (see "Sum 41 Sober Up On Does This Look Infected?").
"You can't tell that the song is about that from hearing it," Klasfeld said. "You could interpret it to be 10 different things, none of which being that their friend was diagnosed with HIV. ... So we figured there would be no problem."