Director Mathew Cullen has helmed his fair share of videos. Last year, he garnered tons of praise for his work on Weezer’s YouTube-riffic “Pork and Beans” clip, even winning a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video.
But when he was tapped to direct the video for [artist id="988"]Green Day’s[/artist] “Know Your Enemy,” the first single from their much-anticipated 21st Century Breakdown album , he was understandably nervous, because it’s a pretty far cry from “Pork and Beans.”
“Oh, this was definitely the biggest video I’ve ever done. It has a lot of really big visuals, because I was trying to match the song, which is huge,” said Cullen, who, as the co-founder of production house Motion Theory, has worked on clips for Modest Mouse and Beck. “Not to mention Green Day are an incredible group; one of the biggest in the world, and definitely one of the most significant. So I just went in there and tried to bring all of that to life.”
The pressure was definitely on last week in Los Angeles. Not only was this a huge production (he rolled eight cameras on most takes), but Cullen only had Green Day for one night — or, as he puts it, “one really long night.” When MTV News spoke to him, he was just beginning to edit the “Enemy” clip, which debuts April 24 on more than 250 MTV on-air and online outlets worldwide. While he was definitely in the mood to talk, he kept most of the details about the video close to the vest. Still, we managed to pry a few bits of information from him.
“We shot in downtown Los Angeles — in a real urban center — and the video is Green Day performing. There isn’t another single person in it,” Cullen said. “It’s based very much on my interpretation of the lyrics, but it connects to the title of the song, and it plays to the environment of fear that we’ve created for ourselves.
“There’s a lot of symbolism that I tried to mirror [in the shoot]. I took a lot of influence from Green Day’s lyrics and the imagery of [street artist] Banksy,” he continued. “It may not sound like a lot, but it’s huge visually. It’s gonna be a new experience for a lot of their fans. I mean, it’s still Green Day, but it’s just bigger.”
That’s about as much as Cullen was willing to divulge. But he did add that he spent one additional day shooting “story elements and pieces” for the video and said the guys “look great,” dressing in “a timeless quality” that mirrors some of Breakdown‘s classic-rock feel (think the Who, the Kinks, etc.). Now that he’s shot the clip, he just has to edit it down into something worthy of Green Day. No pressure or anything.
“My number-one thing is making sure that Green Day’s performance is showcased. Because it’s big,” Cullen said. “The song is exceptional, the album is exceptional, and Green Day are one of the world’s great bands. I’m very much looking forward to bringing it all to life.”