The wonderful video for Coldplay’s current single, Princess of China feat Rihanna, was co-directed by Adria Petty and Alan Bibby. We dropped them a line to find out a bit more about it.
So the Princess of China video has now been watched 25m times since the start of June. You must be pleased with the response?
We are blown away and delighted.
How did you guys come to be involved with the video?
AP: I have always wanted to do a project with my good friend Alan Bibby. When Chris Martin called me to do this with him and Rihanna I could not imagine doing it without a justice league of superhero power. So I called up Alan to co-direct and co-concept. Alan is an expert director but also a connoisseur of culture and this extends to the kung fu cinema genre, something I am not nearly as versed in. So basically we collaborated very equally and did a divide and conquer.
AB: It seemed like the perfect opportunity to collaborate on something that we both felt incredibly passionate about.
Did you have lots of ideas for the video, or was what we see in the finished video always the plan?
We had tons of ideas. But with the limitation of the shooting and prep time we landed on the ideas you see now in the video. The video looks just like the video we had in our minds.
How would you describe the concept of the video?
The concept of the video was about a complex love affair. Complicated by power, external forces and a male female power dynamic. We wanted to use the trailer format to combat the tricky time signature and unique songwriting. There is only one chorus in the middle of the song and a long outro. We also felt strongly the video should feature them both in what felt like a film event. The story is sort of a victorious rōnin returning home to find his loved one has become a bit of a gangster geisha. She now has become a match for him and a butterfly that is impossible to catch.
How closely did you aim to tie it to the lyrics?
AP: The only lyric that really had significance for me was "once upon a time… ". Just setting up the fantasy of the whole thing. Because I feel videos should let songs speak for themselves.
The geographical influences of the video seem to stretch beyond just China – was that intentional?
Yes. We did not want to be on the nose about the world we were creating being China. We wanted to create our own visual mix of influences from a variety of different places and times, from many different genres
Where was the video shot (and over what period)?
A day and a half in the deep outskirts of Los Angeles.
Did it all go to plan?
Yes miraculously it really did. We had a top level crew and a bunch of great people in both Coldplay and Rihanna’s organisations that really guaranteed that.
The bits with Rihanna and the multiple arms look particularly complicated – was that hard to achieve?
All in a day’s work.
How about the flying sword fight scenes?
With a lot of the video we wanted to stay true to the practical effects that the kung fu films and samurai epics we love used – so for these scenes, Chris and Rihanna were suspended from harnesses and cables, allowing them to literally fly through the air. They were both incredible with their own stunts.
How were Chris and Rihanna to work with?
Chris and Rihanna were both so professional and gorgeous to watch. We had so much great footage we could have made a second video with it. It really was quite a high to see them on camera.
Presumably adding the special effects took a while after the shoot?
It was a particularly complex and involved process, especially as everyone who was involved had such high expectations. We were incredibly lucky to be working with an amazing team of friends and collaborators who took it to such an amazing level. there were definitely a lot of late nights involved.
Did it all end up as you’d hope it would?
Yes we love this video. It is one of our favorites.
Finally, we ask all Coldplay.com interviewees for their favourite Coldplay song. What’s yours?
AP: Mine is We Never Change.
AB: Mine’s The Scientist