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Interview with Ross Ching: Director of the Death Cab for Cutie 'Little Bribes' music video


Director/Cinematographer Ross Ching at work. (See his videos at rossching.com)

On May 15, Ross Ching took a risk. On July 1, it paid off in a big way.

In May of this year, the director/cinematographer from Los Angeles decided to make a music video for a song he didn't have the copyright for, Death Cab for Cutie's "Little Bribes." A month and a half later, the mesmerizing stop motion and time-lapse visuals of the video made it a viral sensation which eventually found its way to the boys of Death Cab. The band loved his work, and soon it was named the first official music video from the band's Open Door EP.

I was able to do a phone interview with Ross Ching and learn about the making of the video, its Internet success and his new career as a music video director.

What led you to create the "Little Bribes" video?

Well, I had this idea for a music video. The idea was to spell out each of the words from the song. I was looking for a song to use, and I was debating on whether or not I should just take someone else's music and make a music video for it or find the rights for a song that wouldn't be as popular. I decided I would take a risk and blatantly infringe upon Death Cab's copyright. But instead of them telling me to take (the video) down, they loved it.

Why the song "Little Bribes" specifically?

I knew Death Cab had just released this EP. I was kinda hoping I could piggyback off their fame while making them essentially a free music video. This would be a win-win for me and the band. People identify more with a band that has already set their status. The video would have had less exposure if it had been music I could have gotten the rights to. I was hoping (DCFC) would see it as a win-win for both of us, which they did.

What was the hardest part of making "Little Bribes"?

There are 211 words in the song. The hardest part was thinking of 211 ways to show these words. I repeated a number of them. And also there are times when there's a series of words on one screen. I went to a local arts and crafts store and bought $40 worth of supplies, and I got ideas from there. The clay on the wall was my favorite shot.

How did you create the glowing neon letters on the screen? Did you use graphics or editing tricks?

Everything was done in camera. I set my camera up to take 10-15 sec. exposures, then I'd take my flashlight in front of the camera and paint out the words, 30-40 times for each word.

Did you do anything special to promote your video online / How did the buzz get started?

I did a lot of research for how I could best get this video out to the most amount of people. I realized I had to get it on the front page of Digg.com. I made a few contacts on Twitter (BuzzEdition and webaddict). I got this dialogue going and I told them I was making a cool video and was curious what their opinion would be. They tweeted about it and submitted the video to Digg.

How did Death Cab first contact you once they'd seen the video?

Death Cab's director of marketing sent me an e-mail once they had seen the video. Atlantic Records hooked me up with backstage passes when DCFC was in L.A. I met them when I went to the concert.

Has the "Little Bribes" video led to any more work for you?

I'm just putting the finishing touches on a video for one of the biggest bands in Mexico. It's called "Electricidad" by Jesse and Joy. I'm also working on Collective Soul's newest video - and that one should be done by the end of the month. I definitely have a lot of work going for me.

What is your ideal job?

For now, I'm absolutely stoked about where my career is as it is. Pretty much every director's dream is to direct a feature, and that's where my ultimate goal would be set. I'm only 23, and have quite a future to look forward to. I can set a goal that high because I have a long career ahead of me. For now I'm sticking to music videos and some small stuff, and I'm hoping that it will lead to something really big.

Ross Ching's "Little Bribes" video for DCFC

Death Cab for Cutie - Little Bribes from Ross Ching on Vimeo.

Ross Ching's Bio

Ross is a graduate of San Diego State University’s film program.  His interest in filmmaking began when he was 14 years old making skateboard movies and has morphed into what he is known for today. The burning question in his career, he says, has been, “What makes me different?” 

Ross understands that anyone can make a short film and post it on the Internet. He says the problem is that there is so much clutter on the Internet that it is impossible to stand out from the pack. This is the main reason he started doing time lapse and stop motion; because it enables him to tell stories differently: "It catches people’s eyes and pushes the boundaries of motion pictures."

For more info: See more of Ross Ching's work, including the official music video for "Little Bribes" by Death Cab for Cutie and "Electricidad" by Jesse & Joy at rossching.com.

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