Los Angeles Times, Lindsay Barnett
When animal trainer Roland Sonnenburg of Talented Animals met director and choreographer Trish Sie in a meeting about a TV show several years ago, he had no idea that it would lead to the production of the music video above, for OK Go’s “White Knuckles.”
Sie mentioned that her brother was a musician and that she was interested in making a video for his band that featured animal actors. Sonnenburg agreed to discuss the idea, “knowing that everybody in Los Angeles has a relative in a band, and the odds of anything ever coming of that conversation were slim,” he wrote on Talented Animals’ blog.
What Sie neglected to mention was that her brother was Damian Kulash, the frontman of OK Go, a band known for its impressive music videos. (Kulash, a dog lover in his own right, has two rescue dogs of his own named Bunny Carlos and Dora. He talked about them and the importance of rescuing homeless pets in a video for PETA’s youth-oriented sibling, PETA2.)
Eventually, Sonnenburg, Sie and Kulash met in person and decided to move forward with the idea for a dog-centric video. But Sonnenburg was dismayed to learn that Kulash’s vision was to use a single take for the video, with no cuts.
“Now for those of you who have never worked an animal on film, we use cuts and optimal camera angles for everything,” Sonnenburg wrote on the blog. “They are the tools that let us succeed. Without cuts, the animals would have to all work at the same time with their trainers far away, and we would need to get each dog and trainer and [band member] and [crew member] to nail every single behavior all in the same take.” In other words: Hard.
The band came to Corvallis, Ore., where Talented Animals maintains one of its facilities, to work out the choreography for the video and complete filming — a weeks-long process.
One of the toughest parts, according to Sonnenburg, was choreographing what didn’t appear on camera — making sure that the 12 dog trainers and two furniture movers working behind the scenes could complete their work without crossing in front of the three cameras filming the action.
Another tricky thing was keeping the video’s theme secret. “Everybody signed a confidentiality agreement not to Facebook or Twitter or discuss the shoot in the animal community,” Lauren Henry, Sonnenburg’s wife and partner in Talented Animals, told the Corvallis Gazette-Times.
Twelve dogs star alongside OK Go in the clip; Kulash’s own dog Bunny Carlos even makes a cameo. (She’s the little brown dog seen at the left of the screen during the section in which band members spin three dogs on stools.)
The best part about the video, in our opinion, is that OK Go is using it as a platform to help needy animals. “Most of the dogs in the White Knuckles video are rescues,” reads a statement on the band’s website. “They’re the lucky ones — they have loving families. Unfortunately, there are countless animals out there who do not.” When fans download the video through OKGo.net, net proceeds from the download price (which starts at $2 for the standard-definition version and $5 for the high-definition version) will be donated to the ASPCA. Donations are earmarked for rural animal shelters, according to the band.
In the end, 124 takes were filmed over the course of more than three days of filming. (If you’re wondering, take 72 is the one used in the finished product.) You can see a short making-of clip below: