2 in a Million (Director’s Cut) is J.A. Moreno’s personal take on the official music video he directed for twice Grammy-nominated DJ/Producer Steve Aoki, multi-award winning musician Sting, and platinum-selling trio SHAED.
The video follows two dancers in one long shot, as they relay the feeling of falling in love and being soulmates. Filmed in just thirty minutes at the end of the official shoot, Moreno’s cut focuses on the dancers, seen only as silhouettes in the official version, and highlights their outstanding technical skills and chemistry. Using the original choreography as a basis, Moreno’s direction delivers a spontaneous, raw and emotionally engaging performance. 2 in a Million is the third collaboration with Steve Aoki. Commenting on it, Moreno states: “Working on this project was a dream. I had already worked on several projects with Steve Aoki, so I knew that we got on well. With 2 in a Million he gave me the chance to do what I love for a music legend like Sting”.
Though just 26 years old, the Spanish LA-based director has worked with some of the top names in the entertainment industry, including Paris Hilton, Andrés Calamaro and will.i.am. with his work being selected internationally at events such as MTV Dance Australia, Soundie Music Video Awards, Berlin Commercial and Aesthetica Short Film Festival.
“I was so inspired both by the energy of the dancers as well as the location – the United Palace theatre in New York. It was challenging, as we had to do everything in just thirty minutes (hence why the long shot), but it’s rare to have time to spare at the end of a shoot. I just had to do it.”
Video commissioner: Eddie Sears, Jori Teplitzky
Executive producer: Maria B. Fernández (@eclecticbete)
Label Creative Manager: Margaryta Bushkin
DP: Isaac Berner (@jewtangclan)
Steadicam: Calvin Falk (@steadical)
Gaffer: Seth Margolies (@sethmargolies)
Key grip: Matt Fondoulis
G&E: Marine Brion (@marinebri0n)
G&E: Konstantin Lyubimov (@konstantin7410)
1AC: Philey Sanneh (@phileysanneh)
PA: Jean Fernandez (@lordjuansnow)
PA: Vinny the Pinto
Still Photography: RAMSES (@ramsquiat)
Edit: J. A. Moreno (@jamorenotv)
Color: Maria Nualart (@maria.nualart) at Moonlight Barcelona (@moonlightbarcelona) Filmed at United Palace (@unitedpalacenyc)
For Ultra Music (@ultramusicofficial)
J. A. Moreno is an award-winning music video director from Barcelona based in Los Angeles (USA). He has worked with artists such as Sting, Steve Aoki, Paris Hilton, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Andrés Calamaro (3x Latin Grammy Award-Winning), Afrojack, SHAED, Cheat Codes, Showtek, Blasterjaxx, Juicy M, Bassjackers, MATTN, MAKJ, Tritonal, Crooked Colours, Klaas, D’Angello & Francis, Luka Caro, Fernanda Martins, Joe Stone and Marsal Ventura, as well as collaborated with labels such as Warner Music, Sony Music, Universal Music, Spinnin’ Records, Smash the House, Enhanced Music, 300 Entertainment and Audiocode Records.
A TALK WITH J.A. MORENO
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’m a young director from Barcelona with a long way to go. Two years ago, I decided to move to L.A. Since then I have directed music videos for artists such as Sting, will.i.am, Paris Hilton, Steve Aoki, Andrés Calamaro, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Lay Zhang. Before moving to the States I had already directed tons of music videos in my native Barcelona, so it just was about moving to the right place to keep on growing.
Let’s talk about the creative process behind the last video ‘2 in a Million’. What was your interaction with the performers to define the story?
Well, with the official cut I did have a lot of creative freedom. They were looking for an elegant and extremely visual music video and they felt that I was the right match for it. All the artists were extremely polite on the day of the shoot. After meeting Sting, the first thing that he said to me with a smile was : “What do you want to do with me?” It was at that moment that I realised that I was onto something big.
The director’s cut was different. We had thirty minutes at the end of the shoot, so I simply told the dancers to let themselves go. In the official video you can only see them in the background, so I wanted to turn the whole thing round in the director’s cut and focus on them. They used the main choreography as a base and then let their chemistry do the rest. I wasn’t looking for perfection, rather I wanted to highlight their emotional connection.
Were the creatives that you worked with open to your ideas and trusted your direction? Or sometimes you faced challenges?
Sometimes they would be open. Other times I needed to fit in the brief or the creative direction. What I have noticed is that after working with the same artist a few times (for example with Steve Aoki or Paris Hilton), they start to trust you and to give you more freedom. They become familiar with you and your style.
How big is a typical production in terms of your crew?
It depends on the project. Sometimes I film with a crew of around thirty people plus clients, label and agency. Other times I just go out with the DP to film some inserts. A few days ago I shot a music video in Spain and it was literally the DP, two producers, one gaffer and me. I’m not one of those directors needing big crews to move forward with their projects.
And how long is the post-production stage?
I pay a lot of attention to the post-production of every project. Hence why I own my own post production studio – Tuesdays. Almost all my projects have different kinds of post work to be done – mainly cleaning up but sometimes also matte painting. I’m also really picky with the coloring, so I work closely with the color graders to achieve the best results.
Tell us more about how you created in less than an thirty minutes the scenes for the ‘2 in a Million’.
With just thirty minutes to spare there wasn’t much room to prepare something from scratch. We had to go with what had already been done for the official version. I told the dancers to focus on the feeling of the piece rather than the choreography, to feel one another and not worry about being completely in sync.
In terms of camera work, we decided to keep it simple to avoid potential issues. We went for circular movements around the dancers, giving our amazing steadicam Calvin the chance to get as close as he needed to as a way to add an additional layer of intimacy.
There’s a lot of attention to details in the video especially the feelings between the two dancers. Does this go back to capturing the viewer’s interest and have them go back to watching the video again and again?
”The chemistry between the two dancers is one of the main reasons why I decided to shoot the director’s cut. I simply didn’t want that energy to go to waste. If this is what makes the viewer go back and watch the piece over and over again, that means that they feel the same as I did and I was able to successfully portray the dancers’ chemistry.”J.A. MORENO
There’s an almost cinematic quality in ‘2 in a Million’, with so much attention to focus, framing and lighting. It feels like I’m watching a small movie. Is this something that you insist on doing when you’re negotiating with the artist and the label?
This is an absolute must in my projects. I always film with the same cinematic aspect ratio, the same camera and normally the same set of lenses. I can say that 90% of my projects had the same director of photography. And if they weren’t available, I would go for a DP with a similar cinematic style. But I’m comfortable saying that this is something that potential clients already know when they reach out to me – so far no one has tried to change that yet.
Does it happen that you watch a music video done by somebody else and think to yourself that you would’ve done it in a completely different way?
Often! But this isn’t bad, on the contrary it’s something beautiful – directors can approach the same subject in such different ways.
Do you see yourself branching off into longer formats, documentaries, short movies or full-length features?
I do. I love movies and I’m inspired by them as you can see from my cinematic style. Making features has been my goal since a very young age. I wrote my first one a few months ago and I’m now working with a production company to develop the script.
What do you think will happen after this lockdown period? Do you see challenges and if yes, how do you think the creatives will overcome it?
I stopped working a few weeks after all of this started. Everyone had to go through this. But I was already working on the post-production for a few projects, so I could focus on those. In the meantime, I’ve worked on setting up new and safe ways to shoot. We are at a stage now where there will always be demand for new content. We are just having to get a bit more creative. The way content is produced is constantly changing, so we are just having to adapt to new ways of working.