The Artist Explains: Georgi Kay - 'American Psycho'
Georgi Kay talks us through the creative process behind her cult and horror influenced visuals for edgy electro pop single, ‘American Psycho’.
Where was the video for American Psycho filmed?
We shot the video in an old, tucked away warehouse in South LA.
It was a huge space, and lucky for us – came with a set of oil drum barrels and a massive, weird triangular shaped backboard. Both of which we rearranged to set the iconic cult member scenes.
How does the video connect with the song?
‘AMERICAN PSYCHO’ tells a story about a woman who yields similar traits to that of a Greek mythological siren or succubus – she lures outsiders into her web, exploiting and manipulating their genuine feelings towards her and using them in ways she can further succeed and progress, regardless of the collateral damage her actions may create.
The song is told from an observer’s perspective.
I wanted the video to add a different texture to the story behind the song. I didn’t want it to be a literal on the nose video with a pretty woman luring both men and women to their unknown demise. That’s too overdone and if I’m getting the opportunity to create something fresh and tastefully shot – I want to milk that chance for all it’s worth and bring forth something beautifully dark to life.
My friend/director Tiffany and I pinballed back and forth over various scene ideas – until finally we stumbled upon the idea of a cult sacrificing victims to their “Higher Being”.
I had recently been watching the film adaptation of Red Dragon, with Ralph Fiennes as Francis Dolarhyde – and I became obsessed with his transformation and “Becoming” into the ‘Red Dragon’.
So the idea of sacrificing someone in a way that transformed them and forced them to “Become” something more than they were kind of became the central pillar that cemented the storyline of the video.
The storyline then took a life of its own and became something both extremely symbolic yet equally ambiguous at the same time – like most of my work, if I’m honest!
The creepy cult members and masked assailants complimented the sinister aspects of the song perfectly. And the victims, played by good friend Henry Morillo and my incredible girlfriend Francesca Chiloiro, brought so much real fear to the theme of unwillingly being stripped of their individuality and identity, transformed into something they are so afraid and reluctant to “Become”.
Do you have any behind the scenes stories you can share with us?
When you watch the video, you may notice Henry (the ‘Skinny Man’) has cuts and scrapes on his body. This was not makeup. Being dragged across an old warehouse floor is not a walk in the park, and he definitely collected some nice bruises and sores over the multiple takes. We ended up cheating the shot by giving him a heap of burlap to lie on so it made the dragging a little less uncomfortable and painful for him. I felt so bad! But Henry took it like a champ and insisted we kept filming – he was an absolute trooper, and his cuts definitely added to his “torture chic” look.
Despite the eerie vibe of the video, when we wrapped all the cult member scenes – we all had a group dance sesh together to celebrate. Couldn’t have worked with a better team.
Could you tell us about the ideas/ themes/ imagery used?
Symmetry was a big use of imagery in the video, predominantly used in the cult member scenes. The simplicity of it is so powerful and tasteful at the same time. It adds a lot of depth with very little effort, as we are naturally drawn to people, places and objects that express symmetry within their physical makeup.
Seeing as the song is told from an observer’s perspective, we kept that third-person storytelling theme in mind for the video. Making sure that whoever is watching feels like they are genuinely present in that moment, as if they are a key piece to the story, like a wallflower watching the whole scene play out.
One of the most obvious themes and imagery we used were associated with all things horror and thriller. As you may be able to tell from the title of the song – I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers and horrors.
The use of symbolism and ambiguity in films like Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ and Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ made me fall in love with the suggestive ways of subtlety. For example, in the famous shower murder scene in ‘Psycho’, we never actually see Marion Crane get stabbed with Norman’s knife. We see the shots before and after the stabbing, which is a brilliant yet subtle way of building tension in the scene and thus making the moment feel far more gruesome and frightening than it is.
An example of how we applied this directing style in the video was during Henry’s (the ‘Skinny Man’) “Becoming” of a cult member.
Our subtle and far more ambiguous/less bloody way of insinuating his sacrifice to the cult and the “Higher Being” they worship made for hauntingly beautiful slow mo shots of him struggling to fight his way through the cult members’ grasp. It allowed us to play out those shots longer as they were so beautifully mesmerising, focusing more on the pushing and pulling of hands on raw skin, bouncing hair and flailing limbs rather than on bloody knives piercing into flesh (as most standard sacrifices play out).
Is there a message the video is trying to convey?
No particular message in mind, to be honest. What I love the most is hearing what others think the video means, and how it makes them feel. That conversation is always far more exciting than my reasoning for making the creative decisions I make, and often what matters more than the actual creative content itself.
Interview feature by Karla Harris