The music video for Troller’s “Nothing” is more extensive than a typical music video. It’s not three and a half minutes of the band performing the song mixed with dancers all with a highly styled flair. Instead, it’s nearly ten minutes of an occult/sci-fi narrative featuring morally ambivalent characters. It’s a short film in its own right.
The film is dense with intriguing characters, otherworldly settings, and crazy lighting cues. The literal plot is obvious, but there’s never any indication of what the characters are thinking or what their motivations are. Rather than being frustrating, it adds to the mystery and unreality. The combination of occult and science fiction is endlessly interesting.
“We knew we wanted the protagonist to be a willing participant in a ritual that involves her getting cleansed and then impregnated by alien objects,” director Melissa Cha says. “For me, it was always supposed to be really disturbing– this women relinquishing her own body and agency for the benefit of an authority outside herself. And everyone moves through their roles though there’s some sort of internal logic, but you never find out why any of it is happening. They all have blind faith in the king and queen, but who knows if they’re benevolent or not?”
Director Melissa Cha is a conduit for collaboration. She shows that art is more social than what most people realize. Art isn’t a tortured artist alone in their studio churning out auteur-level works in a bubble. Art is being involved in a scene. It’s working with other great artists and creating something that’s more than the sum of its parts.
Troller and Cha have been collaborating since 2015, with their video for “Not Here”. Ever since then, they have been working on music videos together. For “Nothing”, Troller approached Cha with a few visual elements and a loose concept, and Cha wrote the narrative around those. The members of Troller also had people that they wanted to be in the video, and Cha cast them all in fitting parts.
“Since all of the people Troller wanted to include had very distinct looks, our imaginations took off right away,” Cha says.
The tall and eyebrowless guard, three techno girls turned sci-fi doulas, a gothic royal couple, a handful of shadowy figures, and of course, our sacrificial protagonist… the interesting and varied cast is what makes the video stand out.
Cha’s personal favorite shot reflects both the collaborative nature of the video and highlights the dramatic use of lighting. This tracking shot is when the protagonist goes into labor and the lighting changes to silhouette.
“This shot triggers good memories because it took the whole team to pull it off and we all felt so great when we nailed it,” Cha says. “This was also one of those times where we had to be creative on the spot and figure out a way to transition from one sort of ‘vibe’ to a very different one with one shot, so we did it with lighting.”
The video was, if you’ll pardon the pun, a labor of love. The crew was in the studio for 72 hours; building sets, shooting, tearing down sets, and doing it all over again. The cast (all friends of Troller) is extensive and varied. The video clocks in at just under 10 minutes. It’s a monster of a project, but the results speak for themselves.
As for what she’s working on now, Cha just finished an art installation in Brooklyn with a couple people she’s forming an art collective with. And, of course, working on more music videos. She has several dream projects brewing as well, spanning everything from documentary to audio/visual spectacle. If they’re as cool as the video for “Nothing”, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled.