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INTERVIEW: Philip Andelman On Working With Taylor Swift, His Video Prep Process, And More!

INTERVIEW: Philip Andelman On Working With Taylor Swift, His Video Prep Process, And More!

When you think of the music industry, what kind of roles come to mind? Singers? Songwriters? Producers? Directors should definitely be near the top of your list – they can turn a song into an immersive visual experience with the right music video, and it just so happens that Philip Andelman is one of the most talented directors out there.

Philip has worked with some of our favorite artists, including everyone from Lenny Kravitz and Beyoncé to Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez! With that impressive of a catalog, you can surely imagine how much talent he has and how much hard work he’s put in to grow as a creative.

We recently got to ask Philip all about working with Taylor Swift, his start as a video director, how he gets ready for a video shoot, and more! So keep reading to learn more about ‘Begin Again’ and ‘Everything Has Changed’ from the director himself, as well as more about his impressive career.

This interview is part of our Flashbacks & Echoes series, which celebrates the artists, performers, and creatives involved with Taylor Swift’s 2012 Red album! See more posts from the series here.

What do you most remember about your experience working on the ‘Begin Again’ and ‘Everything Has Changed’ music videos?
‘Begin Again’ was shot the day before my wife was due with our son, which was actually the reason we had to shoot in Paris (we live there). So there was a big added pressure on top of the usual on-set anxieties we always face!

Was there a certain moment of each video shoot that particularly stood out to you?
Being on the rooftops of Paris across from the Opera House (my favorite building in the city) at dusk, the light fading with each passing second, the wind picking up, Taylor giving her all in her final performance of the day was pretty special.

You shot the ‘Begin Again’ music video on location in Paris, and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. How did you choose which areas of Paris to film in? Which area was your favorite to film in?
Shooting (and getting around) Paris is pretty tricky.  I wanted places that felt timeless, varied, and instantly recognizable without being the usual (Eiffel Tower, Alexandre III Bridge, etc…).  So we had a fun time putting together a little map of the city where each move was rarely more than a few blocks away from the next.  

The ‘Everything Has Changed’ video was notably one of the first times that one of Taylor’s music videos largely centered on someone else’s story, following two young kids as they befriended each other and started falling in love. How did you develop that concept?
Full disclosure, that was entirely Taylor’s idea!! I filled in the details and the various scenes, but she had the overall vision of it being a first-love story.

Clips like Taylor standing on the rooftop in a purple dress in ‘Begin Again’ and the kids dancing around with their own disco ball in ‘Everything Has Changed’ have become some of the most iconic clips in Taylor’s discography. If you had to pick one shot from both music video, which do you feel captures the energy of each video and song the best?
Glad you like the disco ball, though I was always partial to the tattoo scene in the ‘Everything Has Changed’ video!!  As for ‘Begin Again,’ I was thrilled to be able to shoot on the Pont des Beaux Arts with all the lovers’ locks, as that no longer exists.

Were there any challenges you faced while working on the videos, whether it was during the planning process or on set?
It’s always a challenge working with children due to the limited time you are allowed to have them on set.  So while a normal day would usually be 12-14 hours, we might have only had them for 6-8 (I forget). And in Paris, the pressure of having to change locations eleven times in one day is something that is kind of unheard of – most sane producers would only allow you to change locations 2-3 times in a day at most.

When the Red (Taylor’s Version) era came around, Taylor became a director in a new sense with her ‘All Too Well’ short film, marking her first time directing a film. How involved was Taylor in the creative and technical aspects of the ‘Begin Again’ and ‘Everything Has Changed’ music videos?
As I mentioned, she came up with the initial idea for ‘Everything Has Changed,’ but other than that she was pretty hands-off.  

You previously worked with Taylor on the cinematic video for ‘Safe & Sound’ with The Civil Wars, which came out in February 2012. Was there anything different about working with her this time around?
Of all three videos, ‘Safe & Sound’ may have been the most special for me due in great part to the location, a sprawling ranch in rural Tennessee. We landed there in the dead of winter in thick fog and there was a mystical feel to the whole shoot. We were shooting on 35mm on old lenses that kind of conked out on us, messing up some of the footage. The weather was frigid and Taylor had chosen to be barefoot in a thin dress the entire time. By the end, her feet were blue, but she never complained once. I’d never worked with anyone so focused and dedicated to the end result. We were both really happy with the end result, so when we did ‘Begin Again,’ there was already a level of trust built in that allowed for us to move at a good clip.

Taylor said in the behind-the-scenes video for ‘Safe & Sound’ that one of the things that stood out to her about working with you is how quick and focused you are on set. Is there anything special you do before a shoot to really get into that zone?
I plan to death!  Shotlists, storyboards, detailed lists of needs from each department (hair/wardrobe, camera, lighting, production design) so there is no guesswork on set. Of course, surprises can and do arise, but at least you have something to rest on.

Out of all the music videos you’ve worked on with Taylor, which is your favorite?Tough one!  It’d be like asking a parent if you have a favorite child (though I suspect many do).

When did you know you wanted to be a music video director? Was there a certain moment where it really clicked that you made it?
Nope. It was all a great accident really. I’d planned on directing films out of college and wound up fetching coffee on the set of a music video directed by Joseph Kahn (fellow Swift alum), who kindly offered me a job shooting 2nd camera for him. It took me in a completely other direction than I’d ever imagined!

You’ve worked with stars like Gwen Stefani, Meghan Trainor, and Rihanna over the years, which is amazing! Do you have any favorite memories from working with a music superstar?
Oh man, soooooooooooo many memories!  Definitely not going to bore you with them all here!

See Also

You’ve notably filmed with artists at all different stages of their career – including Demi Lovato’s debut with ‘Get Back’ and Selena Gomez’s iconic ‘Slow Down.’ Do you approach your videos with a newer artist differently than you do for more established artists, especially since the first few videos they put out can really set the tone for their career?
Not really.  Perhaps this isn’t the best philosophy, but I try not to overthink it. There are directors that have incredibly strong styles that they impart on all their videos which are unbelievable, but I’ve always chosen a different tact. Since the song at its core is not mine, I try to extract myself from the process from the onset and be as objective as possible when coming up with an idea, trying to do what is best for the song. This holds true if it’s for a first-time artist or 30th-time artist. And because that’s always the focus, nothing really changes in how I treat the artist themselves. It’s always about doing justice to the music (and making the artist look great!).

When you’re working with someone new, where do you typically start? Do you research their music, get to know them personally, etc.?
It’s all about that one song. Not the ones before, not the other ones on the album, just that one song and the effect it has on me, in the moment, as I listen to it.

What inspires you the most when you’re planning a music video?

You’ve made so many incredible music videos and we’re sure there are plenty more masterpieces to come. Is there anyone you’re hoping to work with soon?
There’s a new band, Hermanos Gutierrez, that I’m really loving right now and hope to work with at some point.

Tell us what you’ve been up to more recently!
Always bad luck to talk about things in the future!

We don’t know about you, but we had a ton of fun getting to ask Philip Andelman about his work! Thank you so much to Philip for sharing your time with us and giving us so much cool info about some of our all-time favorite videos.

Now we wanna hear from you! What’s your favorite video Philip has directed? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! And for more exclusive interviews, click here.


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