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Behind the scenes of an LA shoot for 'Kids in America' with director Dan Dowding

Interviews • Written by Maggie Joyner & Ellie Cameron-Krepp

Shot on the streets of LA and in a studio featuring a retro video installation, director Dan Dowding created nostalgic scenes of adolescent rebellion and young love in his latest music video, created for ‘Kids in America’ by Dan Soleil and released by Cloud 9 Music. 

Based in California, Dan Dowding is an award winning filmmaker and visual artist, and is known for his experimental video installations and merging old technology with the new. After the release of the music video commissioned via Genero, we caught up with Dan to chat about bringing nostalgia to life in his playful take on ‘Kids in America’.

Production for this music video took you across some iconic locations in Los Angeles. What is your favourite spot to shoot?

It’s always refreshing to get that perspective reinforced that LA is iconic because when you’ve been living here for over a decade and a half and working as a filmmaker you’ve shot all the iconic locations dozens of times. However, filmmaking thrives in LA for a reason and that’s because there are all these different nuanced pockets full of lush textured environments and character. Venice Beach will never lose its magical allure to me and I always get excited to go there.

‘Kids in America’ has been a classic since the release in 1981, how did it feel to be creating a music video for a cover of such an iconic bop? 

As an ’80s baby I’m all too familiar with the original track and it was quite intimidating to have to interpret the iconic lyrics visually during a pandemic. I tried not to overthink it and stick to my concept of making something commercially appealing using American tropes. I think it’s a pretty stereotypical play on what it’s like to be a kid in America and I think with such an iconic song it’s hard to go with anything more experimental. The car is a symbol for the American dream and a vehicle for the video moving them from location to location. Nothing says the American dream more than a red mustang convertible driving down the PCH, am I right?

Nothing says the American dream more than a red mustang convertible driving down the PCH, am I right?

The music video gives off some seriously cool retro vibes – from lava lamps to vintage cars – what was involved in creating the nostalgic feel?

I think this is where I was able to put my own spin on a common perspective and why it made sense for me to make this video. I’m a partner of a company Media Pollution that specializes in creating nostalgic technology-based installations. I mostly pitched the video around having a nostalgic TV 90s room installation of sorts. We own tons of old vintage electronics and props which we’ve been collecting and restoring for years.

Featuring those props in the TV room was a highlight of the video – can you tell us more about your work at  Media Pollution?  

My partners and I have been making these technology-based installations for over 6 years professionally now. It’s brought us opportunities to work with some top-tier talents such as David Hasselhoff, Bad Bunny, Moneybagg Yo, and brands such as Nike, Spotify, and MTV. Our nostalgic brand Media Pollution has been a great platform for us to connect with creators and often sets me up for directing opportunities.

From pre-production through to post, what was a highlight of this project?

I got to work with my team in the city that I love creating television installations. I don’t know what to say beyond that because I feel incredibly lucky to get to make films with my friends and crew. Just getting to make a project that falls in line with our brand so well is a highlight in itself. Specifically, though I’ve never driven a classic car and I went to Pomona to pick up the mustang and I got to drive it on the highway for almost an hour with the top down.

Production has obviously changed so much amidst the pandemic – how are you coping, and what have been the biggest challenges for your team to adapt your work?

I know this video comes across “normal” which was an extremely hard thing to achieve during a pandemic trying to highlight several locations across LA. We did our absolute best to stay safe and follow guidelines but at the same time there is an idea attached to the music that coincides with rebellion and we also wanted to catch a glimpse of that. I think more than anything the idea behind the video is that being a kid in America means not only being able to go wherever you want but being able to be whoever you want as well.

What is your focus for the rest of the year? What are you working on next?

My partners and I have moved our company Media Pollution to an even bigger space here in Los Angeles and are really focused on video production. We hope to collaborate with Genero again on potential future projects and we’ve just finished doing an installation for the MTV Movie Awards UNSCRIPTED.

Thanks so much to Dan for chatting to us. Watch the full music video below and join Genero here to find out more about working with us as a creator.

Credits

Director/producer/editor: Dan Dowding
Director of photography/color: Jack Schaefer
Assistant Director: Chaz Ahern
Art: Brian Fox and Veronica Gessa
Styled: Veronica Gessa
1st AC: Mike Campbell
Filmed at/Video Installation: Media Pollution Studios
Cast: Royce Nowacki, Joe Akira, Liliya Mirnaya, Riley Soriano, Savannah Tarver & Anika Gibbs.


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