As soon as we saw John Legend's "A Good Night" music video, we've been determined to speak with Mishka Kornai. In addition to directing this incredible music video on the Google Pixel 2, he's been inspiring all kinds of filmmakers to take their creativity to new heights with his commercials, music videos and short films like "Growth," which was shot 100% overhead using drones and a camera crane

How did the music video that you directed for John Legend’s “A Good Night” come to be?

I’ve worked with John [Legend] and his team before and I jumped at the opportunity to shoot with them again using a Google Pixel 2.

What kind of planning went into it?

We scouted the space beforehand for its geometric shaping and interior, which we knew would look good in deep focus. Then we decided to mount the lighting grid above the set so we could separate our characters from the background.

Google wanted us to use the phone without any filters or lenses, so we mainly used the Beastgrip Pro, a Freefly Movi, a DJI Osmo Mobile 2 and a tripod as far as gear went. We also used the FiLMiC Pro app to shoot the video and the Lightroom app to capture stills for the bullet time shoot.

“We love the Beastgrip Pro. It’s been a great tool for us and is definitely necessary for shooting videos. It’s a simple tool that allows you to mount stuff to it… and at the end of the day, that’s what you need.”

Were the body mount and bullet time rigs that were shown in the behind the scenes video custom made?

The body rig was a pretty standard Snorricam rig (editor's note: here’s an example of how to make one) and the bullet time rig was fully custom. It was a wooden body that was connected together with 3D-printed parts. 

Tell us about some of the other mobile projects that you're working on and why you chose to use a smartphone as your camera.

Over the past year, I’ve created two short films shot completely on an iPhone 7 (editor's note: these films are currently in post-production) and I’m also launching the first-ever smartphone filmmaking collective very soon that’s dedicated to telling stories with phones, called Pickpocket.

"Smartphone filmmaking reminds me of when DSLR cameras were first released, and everyone thought that they were just a gimmick. And then you quickly realized that it was a cost thing, and then you realize that the money isn’t a gimmick... and at the end of the day, the changes in technology drive the types of stories that we can tell." 

These two films were shot on phones for very different reasons. One of the films was shot illegally (guerrilla style) in the metro system of Montreal, Canada over 40 days. We couldn’t legally film on any other camera and in fact, photography and filmmaking is forbidden there so we had to do it on a phone. The other film is a story about a kid from the perspective of his phone, so the story is driven the phone and its content.

When will they be released?

They've both taken a while to edit since they're very post-production intensive and have a significant amount of motion graphics, but we're submitting them to the film festivals this month!

Have you ever encountered any challenges editing mobile footage?

Editing phone footage can f**king suck sometimes [laughs]. Our editing software can be horrible with the iPhone footage that we’ve shot, but it’s not really that bad [laughs]... you just have to plan for what it’s going to look like and understand the restrictions that the smartphone provides.

When filming with your phone, you have to make sure that you have your exposure right, just like you would with an SLR or another old-school camera that doesn’t have that much flexibility.

"If you want your footage to be dark, shoot it in the dark, and vice-versa if you want it to be light. You can’t really overexpose and then plan for it to look good later."

In other words, you just have to shoot it like old-style film, where you know what you’re exposing and are a bit more careful with your lighting than you would be on an Alexa [camera] or with modern film.

Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

Absolutely! Although our website for Pickpocket is just a splash page right now, we have a ton of new mobile projects in the works: commercials, series, and much more that we’re really excited about.

You can also check out Mishka's other work on his IMDb profile, Vimeo, Instagram, and official website. BG
May 15, 2018 — Sean Lawrence
Tags: Interviews