Meet optical experiments artist Natalie Cleveland, aka petite prism, from Brooklyn NY. Director of the spectacular music video, Mad Magic by Chappo… her fantastical merrymaking certainly does not begin nor end there. Last we heard, she is going to be up all night working on her mermaid parade costume!
A few random facts about you? (1) I have a working rotary phone in my house, call me sometime :). (2) So I make fake beards and compete in charity-based beard and moustache competitions around the country. Some of my favorites include: the queen of hearts beard made with decks of cards, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle “pizza beard” (Michelangelo of course), and a psychedelic one made with strings of lights and mirrors – and I passed out 3-D prism glasses to all the judges. (3) I got married in a real speakeasy, and we signed our marriage contract on our friend while he was laying on a bed of nails. It was pretty epic! (4) I walk in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade every year – last year we dressed as Mermaid Clowns on Wheels!
Inspiration behind petite prism? I guess my love for rainbows, crystals, natural light, neon light and in-camera effects just can’t be contained! I’ve been playing around with camera filters for some time now, and collecting old chandelier pieces, varying diffraction sheets and whatever weird things I can find to naturally distort images.
Can you tell us more about the music video you made? It is superb – could watch it all day long. Love the floral overlays and all the colors – super creative, super unique.
I love that you love it! It was an amazing collaborative experience. I’ve been producing for a long time and this was my first project both directing and producing. A little backstory on how I know the band – my husband, Simon, and Alex Chappo (lead singer) went to college together. Simon is a lighting designer and has been collaborating with the guys on most of their live shows. Throughout all of this, I’ve been photographing them during performances and even produced a few of their previous music videos.
I was inspired by CHAPPO’s The Singularity – its a stop motion short film about Rene, an astronaut sent into space to make contact with a signal on the edge of a black hole.
For Mad Magic, I wondered what would have happened to Rene’s wife, Margaret as he was slipping through a black hole and sent off to other dimensions of time and space. Would it do the same to her on earth?
I imagined her traveling through time using crystals and dancing with her future former self using the light of her aura. I thought of it as a love story… I knew that Margaret’s hopeful energy would radiate and she knew she was destined to meet Rene again, in whatever infinite dimension of time that might be.
Most of the choreography in the video is pulled from the band’s live shows, where The CHAPPO SIRENS (Rawan Rhani, Nicole Salm and Caitlin McKenna) perform a “seance” on stage. The three of them portray Margaret as her future former self on a dying earth – 20’s future, 60’s future and future future. And we collaborated on their various looks inspired by retro fashions and make-up.
On the location day, the crew was kept super small: just myself, our DP, Justin Lee, and the sirens. It was freezing that day, but allowed for our near-empty surroundings around Bay Ridge and Coney Island. The rainbows and split screen effects were all done in camera using various sized crystals and diffraction films. For the interiors, my husband Simon was our lighting designer and I basically told him I wanted it to feel like a psychedelic aura with colors shifting around girls while they danced. I think we definitely succeeded there – it was trip being in a flashing room for 6 hours.
My editor Ben Keller (at BlueRock) is magic! As we started editing, we realized we needed another element to help take the story from one transition to the next. I was really hesitant to turn to graphics or having to do some re-shooting to solve it. It was Ben’s idea to use a scanner bed to capture the various props featured in the video. The layering effect he did was a beautiful unexpected element that pairs perfectly with all the other in camera effects. I’m so pleased with how it all came together, it’s was really all mad magic!
(Click HERE to view the video in case you missed it before!)
Do you have a spirit animal? Real life and/or dreamed?
They seem to shift, but lately I’ve been feeling like a hummingbird, never stopping and balancing a lot of different things at once.
What are your fave ways to nurture yourself and your creativity?
I just love to make things and collaborate with friends. Honestly, it can be anything – pictures, videos, rainbows or experiences. I’ve always been a maker and I don’t usually worry about the small stuff… like where it’s going to live or how it’s going to sell something. I know I need to keep my soul happy first, and the rest eventually falls into place.
Favorite memory from nature?
My mom’s garden – it’s her church. She tore up all grass in the front lawn and replaced it with sustainable gardening beds – it’s surrounded by beautiful rose bushes and tons of fruit trees. There’s a hammock and wind chimes all around, and I always feel blessed to have such a rejuvenating place to come home to.
Favorite memory with your lovely cat Nixon?
Around 4pm everyday, the rainbows will start to stream through the living room windows – this is playtime for Nixon and Mao (yes, we have another one, but he’s shy!) The prisms really are nature’s laser cat toy and I love that my cats are chasing rainbows all afternoon until the sun goes down.
You can follow Petite Prism on Instagram HERE.