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Dan Streit Interview – Billboard

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Deploying a “found footage” aesthetic that’s more Harmony Korine than Cloverfield, the video for moody singer-songwriter Joji’s massive new single “Glimpse of Us” is a kaleidoscope of destruction, uncivil behavior, and heartbreak.

The director, 28-year-old California-native Dan Streit, chopped approximately 15 hours of footage — shot on a Sony DCR-HC32 miniDV, across multiple states — into four hypnotic minutes. The juxtaposition between the unadorned piano ballad and images of wild urination, police harassment, derelict living, reckless Citi biking, and high-speed drifting makes for one of the most unusual music videos of the year. 

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The video’s success – it currently has more than 16 million views on YouTube – has contributed to the overall “Glimpse of Us” viral moment, which began on TikTok and led to the single debuting in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 on the chart dated June 25. It’s the long-awaited crossover moment for Joji, who has a devoted following but hadn’t yet reached this level of mainstream exposure.

Streit began directing low-budget music videos with musician friends from his social network during college. After sharpening his skills as an editor and animator, he began working with Diplo and Major Lazer, and has gone on to direct videos for Justin Bieber, BROCKHAMPTON, and Charli XCX, to name a few. Citing David Lynch; Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!; and Malcolm in the Middle as formative influences, he’s attuned to the suburban uncanny and the latent absurdity of TV advertising. “My work has the sensibilities of a cartoon, but played in real life” he says. 

But “Glimpse of Us” is different. The video is designed to blur the line between reality and fiction. You watch it wondering what’s staged and what isn’t; you don’t know where to comfortably laugh. Streit has all the answers – but there’s only so much he’ll explain. 

What was the genesis for this video?

Joji had an idea for making a video that would be hand-held, shaky, where you’re following a group of kids and there’s lots of fast cutting and destruction. He listed off some ideas, like maybe there’d be drifting and things on fire, [but] it was pretty loose. We could do whatever we wanted as long as it fit that framework. 

Stylistically, the No. 1 thing I wanted was for it to feel totally real. I also didn’t want it to feel simply like a compilation of crazy things happening. The emotion of the song and its lyrics deserved more of a narrative than just chaos and destruction set to the song. So I found a good, cheap camera that we could get a bunch of to send around to cool subjects. And so certain ones worked and others didn’t, but the ideas evolved as we went along. 

So you did send cameras to some “nonprofessionals”?

Yeah. I wanted to make sure the video didn’t feel distinctly like one city or one place. So [my crew and I] went to Atlanta and then shot in Tennessee and Alabama, and then we shot in Los Angeles as well. But the only time that sending the camera out and getting good stuff back worked out was with a crew in New York. 

Was that Citi Bike Boyz

Yeah. We gave them instructions and they knew what to do.

As someone who lives in New York, I immediately recognized the bulky blue bikes.

Right. That became an issue because we were shooting in L.A. [in that style] and the bikes were not blue; I could only use specific moments because of that.

How many hours of footage did you edit from?

I think it was about 15 hours. It was a lot. But also, after getting all our footage, I would hit up friends and be like, Hey, do you have any footage from something crazy? My friend Sean Lopez sent me over some good stuff that’s used very quickly.

You don’t know what you’re watching, in terms of how constructed it is. How did you start to build a narrative? 

There wasn’t much of a plan. There was no shot list or storyboard or even breakdown of what happens when. We had a specific outfit, this wardrobe that we wore, but would also pass around to different people, to do different things. And we wanted to let the emotion of the song guide what we used. This feeling of experiencing something crazy and awesome but you’re distracted by something from the past. But while we were working I would never have described the video as a narrative video. 

I like the moment where it transitions to the hiking sequence, and the guys are arranged in a circle on a rock. 

When we were getting close to the [final cut] that moment wasn’t even there. It was so hard to find certain moments that I initially liked because there was so much footage. But in terms of blocking the video out by section, when we were editing, that felt like the best ending to that section.  

The external world starts to creep in at that moment too – you see the family hiking. And you’re wondering: Are they in danger?

Yeah. The idea that something bad is about to happen was my subconscious approach to everything. It wasn’t like I was consciously thinking, let’s bring in this family now. That was just a clip that we got. 

So that’s a case of nonprofessional actors appearing in the shoot?

Yeah. That’s a kind of documentary reaction. They weren’t planned for.

Is there a particular sequence that you’re most proud of, or that was most difficult to pull off?

The car on fire was the biggest in scale. We knew it was under control but it was unpredictable. Everything else was spontaneously approached, but this was planned for. 

How long were you shooting? 

Probably a week total. Which isn’t unusual for a music video. 

What was your philosophy when editing? It has a similar style to your video for Charli XCX’s “Forever,” which uses seemingly user-submitted lockdown footage.

[That connection] dawned on me when we were shooting it. I was wondering how these things were going to flow together, and how so much cutting would make sense with such a slow song. One thing that I brought up early on was wanting to have the audio from the clips in the video, to make it feel really real. And I’m glad that [Joji and his team] were down to do that. Some artists don’t want to obstruct the song so much, but they let us include the audio.

And editing, it was a give and take between the song and letting the audio from the scenes play out. On the Charli video I realized that I could edit via motion or subject matter, like teeth cutting to teeth, or cutting from a bright lens flare to another bright lens flare. So the first thing I did going into editing “Glimpse of Us” was organizing everything according to where we were physically or what was in the footage.

A lot of your work is humorous and ironic, but reading the YouTube comments on “Glimpse of Us,” there are lots of earnest, emotional reactions to the video. Did that surprise you?

A little bit. I mean, the song is sad. What he’s singing is sad. But I didn’t expect to see people saying that they related to the characters in the video, or saying that they knew people who lived like this. 

There’s a symbol that recurs in the video, an unfinished square with a dot — you see it tattooed on someone; you see it spray painted. What is it?

I actually don’t want to answer that. When we showed Joji’s team the footage they asked, “What is that?” They wanted to know if it was some kind of hate symbol. It’s not, nothing like that at all. It is a symbol that exists, but I don’t want to give it away.




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