When Dave Meyers sat down to write his treatment for Katy Perry's "Firework" video, he says he wanted to "play with [her] image a bit ... sort of demystify the candy-colored pop icon that she's become."
So you can imagine his disappointment when, as soon as he finished his first draft, the director caught the premiere of Perry's "Teenage Dream" clip, which stripped KP of her "California Gurls" candy coating and, in the process, sent him back to the drawing board.
"I had written the treatment already with the idea of deconstructing her a little bit, and then 'Teenage Dream' came out and deconstructed her all the way," Meyers said, laughing. "So I had to switch gears a little bit. But really, it was easy, because I connected with the song. I felt 'Firework' was very personal, and I was very drawn to that. ... We wanted to articulate the meaning of that song: what it means to be an underdog and have the courage, if you're on the outskirts of society, to be your own person."
With that goal in mind, Meyers headed to Hungary (Budapest, to be exact) to shoot "Firework," his first-ever collaboration with Perry. From the very beginning, both he and KP were on the same page about one thing: They wanted the video to be totally, 100 percent real.
"We were both very into the idea of getting away from Hollywood and featuring real people in the video," Meyers said. "So we featured real people; they weren't actors. Finding two gay guys in Budapest was a challenge, because it's not as accepted there as it is in West Hollywood. I found an actual, real couple.
"The girl in the video isn't actually a sick girl, but we got her to shave her head, and, if you're an 11-year-old, that's a massive commitment. The people's commitment to it was really beautiful," he continued. "And then in the last scene, that wasn't 250 extras, that was 250 hardcore Katy Perry fans. Those people were jumping because they were loving life."
Those 250 fans were winners of a contest sponsored by Deutsch Telekom (which followed them on the journey from their homes across Europe to the set of the "Firework" video), and when they were finally brought face-to-face with their heroine, much like the video itself, the reaction was very real.
"Katy was brought to tears when she met the extras," Meyers said. "And, really, that's her. She looks like a pinup, but she's got a lot of substance and a lot to say, and hopefully this video represents that."
But for all the talk of keeping it real, there is one aspect of "Firework" that isn't: the eye-catching shower of sparks that emits from the bodies of Perry and various characters throughout the clip. Turns out, they're mostly special effects. Though, in keeping with the spirit of the entire production, Meyers tried his hardest to figure out some way of using actual fireworks. Sadly, it didn't work out.
"I tried to figure out a way to actually rig real fireworks to real people," he said, laughing, "but it ended up being a hazard. Nobody wanted me to get close to Katy with them."
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