Taylor Swift Really Stood On A Horse And 7 Other Secrets From 'Blank Space'
Back when the internet was working (i.e. before Kim Kardashian broke it), there was a brief period of time when Taylor Swift and her latest video, "Blank Space," had won it.
The video, which plays like a celebrity blogger's fever dream, is the perfect companion piece to the song's meta, in-on-the-joke tone, and people ate it up to the tune of 30 million views on YouTube.
Joseph Kahn, who has previously worked with everyone from Katy Perry and Britney Spears to Eminem, directed "Blank Space" and collaborated with Swift to bring what he describes as "her vision" to life.
When I spoke on the phone with Kahn, he shared some secrets from the set and kept a few for himself.
Here's everything I learned about the making of the "Blank Space" video.
1. Taylor came up with the concept herself.
The singer has said on a couple of occasions that "Blank Space" started as a joke meant to play directly into the media's perception of her personal life. From there, the song evolved out of wondering what this person everyone thinks she is would actually be like. For the video, she wanted to explore that concept further and came to Kahn with that in mind.
"It all came from her. She gave me a call and had a very thorough idea of what she wanted," the director said. "It was basically following the lyrics, in terms of specific moments and scenes."
2. The video was shot over the course of two days on Long Island.
The majority of Crazy Taylor's estate is Oheka Castle, the second largest house in the United States. (It's also a wedding venue if you're engaged and loaded.) The production also shot at the Woolworth Mansion.
3. Time was tight.
Kahn filmed for a total of 30 hours, over the course of two days, and the timing broke down like this:
· 12 hours filming the video for day one
· 18 hours filming the video for day two
· 10 hours, total, filming the American Express Unstaged interactive video
4. Taylor went full-crazy ... in a good way.
On set, Kahn was expecting Taylor to follow through with the concept they discussed, but not to the level she did. And as is apparent watching the finished video, it was that commitment that made the difference.
"It's one thing to say that she's going to do that concept," he said. "The most interesting thing for me when we got on set was that she took the concept seriously. She doesn't really wink that much when she's freaking out. She's fully freaking out. She's completely willing to present herself in a completely negative light.
That, to me, is one of the coolest things I've ever seen an artist do."
5. Kahn borrowed some techniques from Steven Spielberg.
One of the reasons that the video looks so distinctive is how carefully each shot was planned out beforehand. Each setup was carefully constructed, but Kahn used a collection of different filming styles, a technique he identifies Spielbergian.
Switching between handheld, dolly and Steadicam shots is essentially seamless, and that was very much Kahn's intention. "There's a very constructed feel, but hopefully the audience doesn't notice that and just feels the story being told in the most effective manner possible," he said.
6. The video was partially inspired by "A Clockwork Orange."
Though maybe the character in the video doesn't go full Alex DeLarge, the director took some inspiration from the Kubrick movie he was watching when Swift originally called him for the job.
"There's a lot of symmetrical framing that's Kubrickian, which is a really funny way to approach a pop video. But it's there if you look at the way there's center-framing and symmetry throughout the whole thing," he explained.
An example of the symmetry can be found in one of the video's most-discussed shots....
7. Taylor did stand on a horse, but she had some help.
Kahn wouldn't say what post-production work went into completing the shot that everyone immediately fell in love with, but while there is some movie magic on display, T. Swift really stood on a horse.
8. But don't worry. She didn't actually wreck that car.
Sure looks real, right? While Kahn wouldn't fully reveal how he got Taylor on that horse, he did confirm that no antique cars were hurt during the making of the "Blank Space" video.
Because, the shot, like the rest of the video, is all just well-made make believe.