Cinematographer Ian Holliday talks award-winning music video “The World Ender”

Success is no stranger to Ian Holliday. Throughout his career as a cinematographer, he has worked on countless celebrated and award-winning projects. However, it is getting to live his dream that is the greatest reward of all.

As a child in in Vancouver, Canada, Holliday loved filmmaking. This passion persisted as he grew, and turned into a career. Last year, he filmed the award-winning film Icebox, which was screened at some of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. He previously worked on the decorated film Tele, and the viral video Harry Potter in 60 Seconds, where in addition to cinematographer, he also was the director, editor, and lead actor. But taking a small side step away from films, Holliday has many achievements working on music videos. This includes the video The World Ender for the band Lord Huron, from their album Strange Trails.

“I had worked on a few videos for Lord Huron before this one, and always loved the experience. The band is very interested in building a consistent and cohesive world with their music, videos, and any promotional art they release. They are very focused on building a visually and narratively cohesive world in which their work exists, so participating in the creation and visualization of that world is a lot of fun,” said Holliday.

The World Ender tells the story of a man who comes back from the dead to seek vengeance on the people who took his life. The band had previously collaborated with a writer and illustrator to produce a comic book, exploring this story in more depth, which gave Holliday a bit of a narrative jumping-off point. Using the general narrative of the comic for reference, the video tells the story of Cobb Avery, an upstanding citizen with a loving wife and child, whose house is burned down by the corrupt “Winthrop Corp.” He comes back from the dead and works his way up the Winthrop Corp chain, ultimately cornering Winthrop himself and exacting his vengeance.

“I think you can really see the comic book influence on the story, which is intentionally exaggerated and trope-y,” said Holliday. “It’s always fun to work in such a stylized visual world, and to reference such cultural staples as the films of Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez. We struck a balance of being quite exaggerated in the grit and comic-book tone of the piece, while keeping it grounded enough for the violence and narrative to feel realistic, gritty, and shocking.”

The video went on to be an enormous success for both the band and Holliday. After premiering at the 2016 Austin Music Video Festival, it was an official selection at twelve more festivals, including the 2016 Orlando Film Festival where it took the top prize of “Best Music Video.” The video was also a Vimeo staff pick, which got the piece a lot of viewership.

“It’s always satisfying to see people comment on the specific techniques you used and references you were drawing from, and it was very satisfying to know we achieved that tone so well,” said Holliday.

While filming the video, Holliday and the director, Ariel Vida, decided to film in the style of 70s and 80s cinema. Referencing primarily the action and thriller films of the 70s, they chose a 2.40 aspect ratio for the imagery, and favoured extreme compositions within that frames, placing subjects on the extreme left or rights, or dead centre when appropriate. They welcomed dutch-angle shots with extreme lines of force within frame where possible. The teamwork between Holliday and Vida was pivotal for the video’s success.

“Ian is the most dedicated cinematographer I have worked with in my career in the film industry, which spans nearly two hundred film and video projects in positions from art department to producer and director. He has acute technical expertise and an unmatched passion for the craft, as well as the ability to communicate that knowledge in order to fully realize a creative vision,” said Vida. “His experience and instincts allow him to work with a variety of directors to bring to life and enhance their vision – whether it be a subtle and emotional work, or effects and spectacle-based – while also leading his crew with confidence and precision.  He is extremely clear and communicative to those working under him, as well as those who hire him. His drive, energy, and passion for his craft is infectious on every set I have shared with him. He imbues each job with an interminable enthusiasm that motivates a crew to rise to their full potential while regularly delivering a final product that not only meets, but exceeds a director and client’s expectations.”

Even with all of the success the video had, for Holliday, it was just about how much fun it was filming. For a cinematographer to have to opportunity to honor their filmmaking idols, while still capturing their own style, is truly once in a lifetime.

Check out The World Ender here.

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