The collaboration between Editor Nicholas Wayman-Harris of bicoastal Union and director James Frost spans fifteen years, including the groundbreaking videos for OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass (Rube Goldberg Machine)” and Radiohead’s “House of Cards.” Their latest collaboration is a first, however: “Alive” for Grammy-nominated, double-platinum-selling Australian trio RÜFÜS DU SOL, was shot entirely on the Epic Games’ Unreal Engine. Also breaking new ground, with the Unreal Engine virtual set, is “Aria,” cut by Union editor/partner Marco Perez. The longform piece, created for Gucci’s centennial celebration (featuring more than 90 looks), marks the editor’s first outing with filmmaker Floria Sigismondi and brand Creative Director Alessandro Michele.  

Fully Alive, Completely Unreal
“I worked with Nicholas very closely, as, with a project of this nature, the relationship between the director and editor is crucial,” said director Frost. “Nicholas and I have worked together for a long time. Hence, a shorthand and trust immediately allowed us to quickly and essentially build out the entire video using reference stills and written descriptions, which helped us translate the vision to everyone involved. This acted as our blueprint for the Unreal artists, and Nicholas was a huge part of the process from day one.”

“Alive” takes the viewer on a first-person flight over snow-capped mountains, rivers, tundra, ravines, high in the sky, skimming the waters, all driven by the song’s own peaks and valleys. The song’s refrain “I’m alive” is apt. More resonant still are the comments on YT, asserting that the music video “makes me feel at peace, at home,” “gives us all strength to hold on one more night,” and, on the technical front, “Went in the description to check who was the FPV pilot, but ‘No physical cameras were used in the production of this film,’ that's mind-blowing.”

Of the video’s photorealism, Frost offered, “I wanted to create something where we sensed we were utterly free from restraint. In light of what the World has just gone through the last 18 months, it almost felt like the need to create a visceral piece of work. Obviously, it would not have been possible to travel the World shooting remote landscapes, and I really wanted to find a way to explore the digital side. That’s where Unreal Engine came in.”

Wayman-Harris noted that “Alive” marks the first time Unreal has been used as a foreground and not a background. He and Frost worked closely with band members Tyrone Lindqvist, Jon George and James Hunt, as well as RÜFÜS’s Creative Director, Katzki, each step of the way, getting band approvals about speed, height of the shot, position, backing left and right. “James always had in mind that once we dropped down into the main end of the song, it would all be used as wireframes,” said the editor. “No one’s ever really seen an Unreal wire frame before. Editors usually get the Unreal shots and drop them in.”

Of his latest collaboration with Frost, Wayman-Harris summed it up as follows: “Typically, I like what James shoots and he likes what I edit. While we took on new challenges, it all worked out quite nicely.” 

Wayman-Harris also edited Frost’s new short film, the psychological thriller Almond Wood, which is currently on the festival circuit.

Realizing a Dream, Seamlessly
Isn’t it always the way? No sooner do you complete a feature film about romance blooming in isolation than you are thrust into a fashion film about reemergence into society, for one of the most iconic brands in history.   

Currently garnering praise for his work on the Martin Garde Abildgaard feature fairy tale, “A Beautiful Curse” (including Best Editing at RiverRun 2021 and the Grand Jury Prize for Best Genre Film at Cinequest 2021), Perez keeps the magic coming with “Aria,” an homage to origins of the Gucci brand and a leap into the future, using the Unreal Engine virtual set.  

The task at hand was clear enough: to present the new Gucci collection, comprising more than 90 looks (plus accessories!), while celebrating the 100th anniversary of Gucci, and working with the estimable team of brand CD Alessandro Michele and filmmaker Floria Sigismondi. 

“Alessandro and Floria wanted to celebrate emergence from the confinement of the previous year,” Perez recalled. “Going into ‘nature’ in this case is a magical place in which all the characters move amidst a larger community of albino peacocks and the like. That led us to the Unreal Engine. We created a ‘natural world’ comprising the stuff that dreams are made of.”

Perez became involved very early on, in pre-production, something “that will happen more and more as artists work in Unreal,” he said. Throughout the shoot at Cinecittà Studios in Rome, Perez edited on set. He credits the entire team for helping to create an environment of “constant wonderment” for the viewer, at the same time telling a story of liberation. “The team, including post house EDI Milano, worked together to achieve the right look for our project. We really pushed the use of virtual set and the Unreal Engine to its limits. Floria shot at very high speed in front of the Unreal, for example. Shooting that way against screens is not usual.” 

“Aria” from the Italian for “air,” Perez observed, “is a metaphor for breathing again, being free to breathe again, to enjoy nature in the company of our fellow humans. We were able to create a video that people have really enjoyed, that was really effective, and of which Gucci is really proud.”

Perez described his first collaboration with Sigismondi, and Gucci, as “a beautiful, wonderful experience. We had to discover how best to make our sensibilities work together in the fulfillment of Alessandro and Floria’s grand vision. Doing so with a new technology made our relationship even stronger.” 

He has since edited a sequence from Sigismondi’s new film, “The Silence of Mercy,” and Michele brought him on to cut a new campaign for Gucci, directed by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott. 

About Union
Union Editorial has offices located in Los Angeles, New York, Austin, and London, where it maintains an alliance with Marshall Street Editors. The company also develops and produces original content through its Union Entertainment Group banner. Other Union companies include Hunter, which provides finishing services, vfx, graphics and mix for commercials, features and gaming. Union is presided over by Partner/Managing Director Michael Raimondi alongside Executive Producer Joe Ross and Head of Production Dani DuHadway in LA, Partner/Managing Director Caryn Maclean alongside Executive Producer Melissa Lubin in NY, Executive Producer Vicki Russell in Austin, and Logan Aries, Executive Producer of Hunter. The Union roster is comprised of Partner/Editors Jim Haygood, Einar Thorsteinsson, Jay Friedkin, Sloane Klevin, Marco Perez, Merritt Duff, Graham Turner, and Chris Huth, editors Daniel Luna, Laura Milstein, Jason Lucas, Karen Kourtessis, Kevin Ray, Nicholas Wayman-Harris, Rachael Waxler, Zach Kashkett, Andrea MacArthur, Amanda Perry, Justin “Q” Quagliata, and Rick Lawley, as well as select projects with Teddy Gersten, Tim Thornton-Allan, Matt Chesse, John Mayes, Spencer Ferszt, Paul Plew and the Marshall Street roster.