In French-speaking Europe this week, it seems everyone was talking about the new official Stromae video, “Quand c’est ?”. Social media was on fire. Journalists interviewed those who are personally battling cancer for their reactions to the video. One mother suggested that the artist receive the French Legion of Honor award for producing a video that makes smoking less attractive to young people. Meanwhile, the francophone press released behind-the-scenes details on the filming of the video. We’ve translated some of these articles below. If more details become available on the creation of this remarkable video, this article will be updated.
This video clip was co-produced with the Mosaert label and created by Benuts, a firm based in La Hulpe that specializes in special effects.
“We provided all the production and filming. The work was carried out by a French graphic designer, Xavier Reyé,” says Michel Denis, director of Benuts. “The video was shot in the Liège region, in Seraing, in the Jeusette Theater. We needed a performance space that was beaten up, delapidated.”
With its dark, gloomy perspective, the video is graphically very successful. Far from the crazy and colorful world to which the Brussels artist has accustomed his audience. It shows Stromae interpreting a strong text on the topic of cancer while performing a choreography for which he alone has the secret. (note: maybe his choreographer, Marion Motin, also has this secret ~ stromaeometre)
“Alone on a theater stage, he is struggling with a kind of spider with giant tentacles that represents the disease. For efficient rendering of the battle between them at the end of the video, we hung a rope from Paul’s wrist (Editor’s note: Paul Van Haver, alias Stromae) and someone was hiding behind the curtain to pull from above so that the fight would be more realistic,” says Michel Denis. “The graphic animations were added afterwards. Our desire was to conduct filming in one long take, in one shot. We had to redo it twenty times but ultimately, we kept one of the first taken. We managed to complete it in a day.”
This is not the first time that the company, based in La Hulpe since January, has worked with the artist. “We’ve been working with Paul since 2012,” says Michel Denis. “At that time, we created the video for one of his famous lessons for the track “Humain à l’eau.” (note: Benuts is listed for “postproduction” in the credits for the lesson ~ stromaeometre)
The adventure between the company from Brabant and Stromae continues in 2014 when the artist opens the door again at Benuts at the time of the release of his album, Racine Carrée. “He wanted change in his sets. He asked us if we’d be interested to work on animations for his tour,” says the director.
So Benuts’ animations followed him throughout Europe during his Racine Carrée tour, which more than two million people applauded in 2014. He was also given a Victoire de la Musique for the best show of the year. Any way you look at it, Stromae seems to appreciate Benuts’ work very much. “For this clip, ‘Quand c’est ?’, he wanted it to be a piece of the concert, filmed, to which animation would be added. That of the beast that comes out and goes to attack him.”
Meanwhile, Stromae began his US tour in Miami, September 12. Notably, it will include the famous Madison Square Garden in New York on October 1st. The United States, a country where he is still unknown…
From Le Soir
Heading: The artist’s entourage happened upon the room through “urban explorers.” Now disused, the location will be renovated soon.
Thanks to Stromae, one of the forgotten places of Seraing is traveling around the world. The most fashionable Belgian artist of the moment has in fact chosen the former Jeusette Theater, located in the Rue de la Gare in Ougrée, as part of his latest video, “Quand c’est ? “
The place, better known as the Sérésiens hall Ougrée Marihaye, actually owes its new fame to urban explorers, who made it one of their favorite places to play.
“We had a request from a location scout who sought disused places for the next Stromae video,” recalls Florence Conradt, of the Clap (the office that is in charge of the reception of film projects for the provinces of Liège, Namur and Luxembourg). “And to clarify his request, he provided us with a photo he found on a “Forbidden Places” style website. Now this was a picture of a place we knew. So we contacted the City of Seraing to obtain the necessary permits. “
The location did indeed appear among the list available to the Clap of sites that could accommodate filming.
Only one problem: it’s the subject of a major renovation project for the city of Seraing, which has plans to transform it into a cultural center. The fear was that the work had already started. But fortunately, that turned out to be nothing. So in late January, Stromae’s teams and the singer himself landed in Ougrée to take possession of the location and turn it into the nightmarish place where they would unleash the artists’ choreography, struggling – in the clip – with cancer.
“The shooting lasted a few days,” says Florence Conradt. “They first spent a few days preparing the room, which had been invaded by squatters. It had to be cleaned, to have the torn seats removed… but everything was done with the utmost discretion.“
We had to wait until the day the clip “Quand c’est ?” was published to discover that the OM hall had hosted the one who is without question the biggest Belgian artist of the moment seven months earlier.
Will he return one day to tread the stage of this Seraing hall, promised a rebirth from its ashes to become a cultural center that will house a performance space that seats 1,500?
The artist would thereby provide the City of Iron the finest of thanks for the “loan” of its infrastructure.
An artist, incidentally, who is very friendly, says Ms. Conradt: “The production team invited us to go on set during the filming. We were looking at the technical installation when someone tapped us on the shoulder to greet us. And we realized that this was Stromae …”
From Le Figaro
After having called upon the artist Sylvain Chomet for his “Carmen” video, this time it was the French graphic artist Xavier Reyé who was responsible for putting images to the Belgian artist’s words.
The video, which came together last winter, was shot in Liège, Seraing in the Jeusette Theater. For a perfect rendering destined to glorify the shadowy theater, the director searched a long time for an ideal place.
Via the Urbex amateur association (urban exploration of abandoned places, immortalized by adventurous photographers), Xavier Reyé happened upon this amazing decor, dating from 1948, which once housed the village hall of Cockerill. It was also the property of ArcelorMittal in 2010, before becoming a cultural center project.
“This is an old theater that was along a dock in Seraing, but is no longer accessible as such today because of construction,” says Jean-François Tefnin, coordinator of the reception bureau for film projects in Wallonia. “Xavier Reyé contacted us to find out where this place was. We in turn contacted the City of Seraing, which granted the necessary permits and filming could be done,” concludes Jean-François Tefnin.
UPDATE November 5, 2015: Yesterday, special effects company Benuts published a video showing some of the process behind the creation of the special effects for “Quand ‘cest?”. Watch it here, and while you’re there, leave your questions and comments for Benuts.
In a news report broadcast on Belgian television via RTL seven weeks after the video’s release and posted on Benut’s Facebook page today, Benuts director Michel Denis summed up the history of the organization’s professional relationship with Stromae this way: “At first, it was really just chance. Afterwards, it was a relationship that went well. Then, well, I think he’s happy with our work.” (Read more on Stromae’s history with the company here.) In the RTL report, special effects director Ronald Grauer expresses his appreciation for the valuable exposure the “Quand c’est?” video has given the company as they look forward to the future.
UPDATE December 3, 2015: Mosaert has shared an album of 19 photos taken by Michaël Ferire last January on the day of filming. While the video presents Stromae in extreme isolation in keeping with the song’s theme, these photos tell a very different story. They show his active collaboration with video co-directors Luc Junior Tam and Xavier Reyé, stylist Coralie Barbier, and choreographer Marion Motin, among others. The director of Benuts, Michel Denis, is also visible in one photo.
UPDATE December 10: Click here for an album by Michaël Ferire that includes a few more previously unreleased behind-the-scenes photos of the filming.
cover photo credit: Sacha Wiernik