Rob Cantor, the man behind the "29 Celebrity Impressions" viral video, has struck again with another multimedia masterpiece – this time, with the help of an actual celeb. His new live performance video for the original song "Shia LaBeouf" recounts a horrific story involving the "actual cannibal" Hollywood superstar through interpretive dance and choral singing, and features a cameo from the actor who has recently been in the news for some…shall we say, "touchy" behavior.
We sat down with Cantor for an exclusive interview on how -- and why – this production came to fruition.
MTV News: How did you originally come up with the idea for the song?
Cantor: The inspiration came from my friend Andrew Laurich. One day, for no reason at all, he started dramatically whispering the words "Shia LaBeouf!" It was hilarious. The whole cannibal-prowling-the-woods thing grew out of the dramatic whisper. I recorded a demo of the song and posted it on my SoundCloud. Much to my delight, it caught fire. A guy named Coz Baldwin tweeted about it, and that started the viral ball rolling. That was back in 2012.
MTV: Why did you decide to make a video now, years later?
Cantor: I had always wanted to make a great video for the song. I figured Halloween was the right time.
MTV: How did you come up with the concept for the video?
Cantor: The idea of such an absurd song in a very serious setting just seemed funny to me. Passionate choristers, interpretive dance, string quartet bowing away -- all taking itself very seriously. And then the song is about Shia LaBeouf being a cannibal. I found out recently that's called bathos -- serious and absurd juxtaposed. I like bathos!
MTV: What was the process for organizing the choir and orchestra like?
Cantor: A lot of communicating. I don't think I've ever written more emails for a project than I did for this one. I recruited the groups one at a time, just emailing and pitching them the concept. I got really lucky that these amazing ensembles were into the idea -- I didn't have much of a budget, so it would have been impossible otherwise.
MTV: What about those giant Shia heads? What are they, and how were they created?
Cantor: Those 3D Papercraft heads were whole project unto themselves. I contacted a talented artist named Eric Testroete, to see if he could create one with Shia's face. He sent me digital files, which I printed, and I invited some friends over for what I thought would be a 5-6 hour craft job. In the end, it took five of us 16 hours to put them all together. Lots of folding, cutting and gluing. It took a long time, but to see them go from a stack of cardstock to those 3D heads was definitely satisfying. Plus they look cool on the dancers, so I'm glad we did it!
MTV: How long was the actual shoot, and how many takes did you need?
Cantor: We had the venue for twelve hours, and we used every moment of it. We shot the video in short sections and edited it together.
MTV: OK, the most important question: How the hell did you get Shia LaBeouf to agree to this?
Cantor: I looked up Shia's manager online and sent him an email. I explained that I was a fan, pitched the video concept, and invited Shia to participate. I knew Shia had heard the song, since he tweeted it out last Halloween, but it still seemed like a crazy long shot. I sent the email nonetheless. Three days later, unexpectedly, Shia's manager replied with a yes. I was shocked and delighted.
MTV: I assume you didn't have a movie star budget for Shia. Why do you think he agreed?
Cantor: I think he just really liked the concept and thought it would be fun.
MTV: What it was like to work with him?
Cantor: On set, he was extremely kind and gracious. Unpretentious and professional. And he nailed every single take, as you'd expect.
MTV: C'mon…Tell us the truth! Isn't he even just a little bit nuts?
Cantor: Like I said, my experience with him was smooth as silk!