Missy Elliott wasn’t sure what the video for her new single, “Pass That Dutch,” should look like, but she definitely knew that she wanted to be Riverdancing in it. So, within minutes of getting on the phone with director Dave Meyers, she was roped into doing her “Lord of the Dance” high-stepping moves in the middle of a cornfield underneath a huge spaceship. In other words, just a typical day in the lives of these frequent collaborators.
“Every time she calls, she demands to be totally different,” said Meyers, who has directed the landmark clips for Missy’s “Work It,” “Get Ur Freak On” and “One Minute Man.” “In addition to trying to keep up with her growth, I have to reinvent my wheel every time. She loves having a dance element, so we always find new ways to do innovative things around dance.”
During a phone call in which they bonded over their love of the same movies, Elliott and Meyers agreed that “Pass That Dutch” would be a tribute to fallen comrades as well as to movies such as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “King Kong,” “Drumline” and “Signs.” The clip, shot mostly in front of blue screens over three days on a Los Angeles soundstage, opens with Missy sitting at a desk writing a letter and honoring such lost hip-hop and R&B heroes as Biggie, Tupac and Aaliyah.
The scene quickly switches to a cornfield, where Missy and her troupe of dancers do a modified Riverdance on a crop circle among the stalks as a huge “Close Encounters” spaceship hovers overhead. While the spaceship was computer generated and added in later, Meyers said he trucked in more than 500 real cornstalks to create the effect of a spooky cornfield.
“I was glad she went along with the ’dancing in the corn’ idea,” said Meyers, who makes his first-ever cameo in one of his videos when he is seen dragging Missy into the cornfield. “When she said Riverdance, in my mind I went to the country and I said, ‘What about cornstalks?’ because I was reading a script at the time called ‘Scarecrow.’ And she said the theme for the album was militant and she wanted some black outfits and then I mentioned crop circles and the whole thing was very stream-of-consciousness. Then, I thought it would be very postmodern to switch from the black military outfits to marching-band clothes.”
Most of the video was shot on the soundstage, though Missy and Meyers took to the street outside the stage to film a sequence in which she and her dancers give props to the late Fred “Rerun” Berry of “What’s Happening!!” The soon-to-be infamous footage of a Hummer packed with full-figured women shaking and blowing out its tires as they devour a pesky man was also filmed outside, with some computer-assisted work on the back end to make the Hummer appear to vibrate.
Real crows were used in the shots in which Missy is hanging on a pole like a scarecrow, but Meyers said the rapper didn’t go anywhere near the birds, who were added in later. “The crows were real, but we had to shoot them against the blue screen and then composite them in because Missy won’t get near a crow,” Meyers laughed. “She’s not into critters and birds that peck. She hated the bumblebees in the ‘Work It’ video.”
Elliott added a rare autobiographical touch to the video during a short bit in which she plays a prom queen, a reference to the classic horror flick “Carrie.” Meyers opted against pouring buckets of blood on Missy, but he cut in a quick shot of the rapper singing to a room full of dolls, a reference to Missy’s love of singing to her captive Barbie audience as a child.
The clip ends with a giant-sized Missy as King Kong, swinging from the top of a building as planes and helicopters swarm around her like flies. Meyers said that while he borrowed the grainy black-and-white look of the 1933 “King Kong” movie, he wasn’t actually trying to reference the film. “It was more about Missy being on top of the world,” he said. “It was a metaphor about her being larger than life and reaching the pinnacle of success, then reaching down and using her visibility to inform the masses that it’s OK if you don’t have all those things. Instead of getting preachy with the visuals, I wanted to put it in an entertainment landscape.”
After their bizarre trip through Riverdancing alien prom gorillas in crop circles, Meyers said he and Missy were satisfied that “Pass That Dutch” cemented their reputation as a dynamic duo. “At the beginning, I wanted something very emotional, because she’s always really cartoony,” he said. “But I think this clip plays up her seriousness while still being really entertaining.”