Pan Out – Portrait of Patrick Daughters, Director of Feist Music Videos
Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably seen Patrick Daughters’ work. After years of making a name for himself in the music video world, he hit it big when his collaboration with indie-rocker Feist (on the video for “1,2,3,4”) was picked up for use in an iPod Nano commercial. The video, which didn’t contain a single cut, may have gotten his name out there, but Daughters is no one trick pony.
The Scene: Int. A cramped New York City apartment – Night
The camera circles and we see a geeky young magazine writer with glasses sitting on the couch. As he turns on his television we move into yet another iPod commercial with trendy music. There’s counting, like we’re sitting in a kindergarten class. A woman in a blue sequin jump suit is accompanied by a crowd of people that whirl around her like clothes in a washing machine. The Apple logo comes up on the television screen in an attempt to get us out the door to the nearest retailer.
We rotate back, picking up the curious boy as he lifts himself off the couch. Drop down to reveal the carpet squishing beneath his toes before his feet hit the hardwood floor that his desk rests on. Floating up his body we follow his index finger as it touches the pad to wake a computer from slumber.
A quick search brings up three key terms: “1,2,3,4,” Feist, and Director: Patrick Daughters. The arrow follows the lead of the man’s name and within a few clicks we’ve reached a bio of the video’s director. Dark hair and a face much younger than the Spielberg’s or Scorcese’s pops onto the screen.
The boy sings to himself, “Tell me that you love me more,” as we come off the screen and pick up his eyes. He speaks softly, “Why do you do it in one take, Mr. Daughters?” Click. Click. Click. Reflected on his glasses is a list from the screen, and we rotate to see it, reading like a Who’s Who of popular indie artists: Death Cab for Cutie, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, and, of course, Feist.
Zoom in on his fingers as they punch keys. The camera lifts up to reveal a video on the screen: “Maps,” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Daughters tracks across a cafeteria– another long shot. People linger and he follows as they walk toward an empty stage. A singer comes out of the wings and begins playing his guitar as the camera closes in on his face.
Another rotation, and we see the writer puzzling over his subject. His brow furrows as we hear the clatter of computer keys.
“Music videos aren’t what they used to be,” he pauses. “No.”
The camera snaps around as the cursor moves backward, deleting the last few words. The clattering keys begin again and words emerge on the screen. We read along with them:
Why does Daughters do it? The fluidity, the lift, the way it makes me feel…
Music videos have evolved over the years, using seizure-inducing editing techniques in an effort to keep teenagers engaged. That is, if you ever see one anymore. MTV has sequestered their rotation to a small, two-hour slot in the mornings, filling the other 22-hours with mind-numbing reality TV. In this type of climate, it makes it all the more impressive that Patrick Daughters has been able to break through.
The boy whispers to himself: “What about his background?” A browser window comes up on the screen and he searches more. Reads. Thinks. Writes:
The thirty-three year old Berkley, CA native recently left his old representation (from his days as an award winning short film director) for the “The Director’s Bureau.” The emblem for the group is a black and white eagle with wings spread open that seems more suited for the Oval Office than up-and-coming directors. But the “Bureau” isn’t a government agency, it’s an elite collection of talent that brings him one step closer to the top-tier of Hollywood. Only eleven directors are represented through the “Bureau” and Daughters is one of them, listed right beneath indie film royalty Sofia Coppola.
Like Coppola, Daughters appears to be drawn to projects that are the equivalent of indie rockers dressed in clothes from the Gap: all the credibility of something off the beaten path delivered in mainstream packaging.
We now circle our writer at an ever-increasing speed as he speaks and types at the same time.
It’s not just that his music videos appeal to a commercial market. He recently went as commercial as you can get: directing 30-60 second advertisements for companies as mainstream as Clark’s Footwear.
But what makes Daughters unique is how he is slowly redefining the meaning of “mainstream.” A majority of the artists he has worked with (including The Shins, and Beck) started indie, but signed with major record labels within the past few years.
It seems less than coincidental that Daughters’ music video debut (the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps”) put the previously underground band in heavy rotation on VH1. And Feist, already well known on the indie circuit before Daughters, found herself the recipient of four Grammy award nominations shortly after their collaboration began. In short, he is delivering indie to the masses.
The writer stands. He grabs a tape recorder off the desk and begins pacing back at forth at a hurried speed. The sentences flow out of his mouth and float through the room:
But it was Feist who was the first artist to do as much for Daughters as he did for her. “1,2,3,4,” put his name in the spotlight, even becoming such a pop culture staple that it was lampooned on MadTV. He didn’t build his resume using a single style, but the one shot technique he employed in several videos is the best representation of a theme that is apparent in all of his work- a joy that makes for a universal appeal, which Apple latched onto.
Instead of accentuating the music by cutting in relation to the drive of the beat, he uses his camera as a tool to move the viewer around the space. Fluidity is the key; it engages and empowers the viewer, and creates a near-euphoric experience of the songs he works with. The camerawork is as polished as Fred Astaire’s shoes, and many videos contain choreography and saturated colors that hark back to the golden age of movie musicals…with a modern day twist.
His progression up the ladder of the directing world has been almost as steady and seamless as the camerawork in “1,2,3,4.” Even though specifics are under wraps, Daughters will soon make his feature length debut as a writer and director on a project produced by the team behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
The camera follows the tape recorder as the boy drops it on the couch. He collapses beside it a moment later. We sit in silence as he surveys the room. He picks up the remote control and turns on the TV as a commercial for a Zune media player fills the screen. Fluid camerawork, trendy music, and joy; he gets up and goes the computer once more. A quick search brings up the words “Zune,” “Music,” and “Patrick Daughters.” The boy smiles as we fade to black.