I’ve had the great creative fortune to collaborate with both Michael Stipe and REM over the years. They are wonderful, encouraging, embracing people with an astonishing spark of creativity.
While recording Collapse Into Now they decided to make a special visual project to commemorate what they knew was their last album together. Michael curated a gallery of visual artists who were each given a song, a small budget, and the freedom to do whatever they wanted. I felt It Happened Today had a very positive take on death and the next realm and so Michael and I tossed some ideas and references around.
I’d been working for about a year with 12 year old actor Silas Yelich in preparation for my feature film The Cold Lands. Michael and I decided I’d write a little story for the song that took place in the forest near Silas’ house in upstate New York. It was a 3 day shoot in a blizzard and Silas handled it like a pro. He’s now a videographer working with fashion lines and hip-hop artists.
I wanted to create a little 3 act story for the piece and felt I needed more space. I asked the band for access to the ‘stems’—-basically the original tracks recorded in the studio—-so I could remix and rearrange the elements and to create a new middle section. This kind of access to the raw material of a band’s songs is basically unheard of, but we’d all been friends so long the band agreed. I extended and remixed the song with Aaron Kant, a wonderful musician, music editor, and friend of the band.
In typical REM fashion they took the idea one step further and after the release of the video made the stems available to their fans so they could also create their own versions, which I thought was really cool.