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THRILLER 40 AIRS ON PARAMOUNT+ DEC. 2
A few preview frames and a note on the doc's visual language
“Visual language” is a phrase I became quite familiar with while working with Baz Luhrmann on ‘The Get Down’ birth of hip-hop series for Netflix. The director often talked about the ways in which the subject suggested the framing and editing style used in its telling. For that series, Baz developed a “weave” for sound and image that attempted to parallel the unique techniques of the early Bronx DJs. I worked for Baz doing research on his ‘Elvis’ film and, again, got to talk with him about finding a visual language for that larger than life subject. In that film Baz employed multiple screens to connect Elvis’ music and performing styles with the black artists he was influenced by. At one point he even used three frames across the screen, making the viewer see the connections without having to use dialogue.
When I was asked to direct a documentary on the impact and legacy of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ for its 40th anniversary, ‘Elvis’ was in theaters and I thought Baz’s multi-screen approach could also be a tool to both reflect the album’s creation and to illustrate it’s continuing resonance. So be prepared to move your eyes across the frame a number of times in ‘Thriller 40’ as I attempt to play with space and time, contrasting past and present (eg: how K-POP acts embrace MJ’s moves), and illustrating how many of the songs were composed by layering how various instruments were arranged by MJ, Quincy Jones, and the musicians. In the frame above editor Darrin Roberts and myself went wild and had four squares jammed into one frame. I won’t tell you which song this was for, but I will say that most of the keys synth programmer Anthony Marinelli is playing are from the actual ‘Thriller’ sessions. As we get closer to the air date, I will share more images and details of the production.
Worth noting is that December 2, is 40 years to the day that the ‘Thriller’ short film premiered on MTV.