Cutting an Emotionally Rich Music Video with Director Tom Kuntz

The new music video for MGMT’s “Congratulations” is striking and unusual. Framed in widescreen as it chronicles the slow decay of a strange (pet?) animal against a desert landscape, the carefully assembled story ends on a note that may be depressing, baffling or uplifting, depending on your point of view. Most importantly, it strikes a chord with fans, who have made the video an online hit. Film & Video caught up with Cut + Run founder Steve Gandolfi, who edited the clip, for a quick interview by email.

Film & Video: Do you have a long history with director Tom Kuntz?
We’ve worked together on many projects including an Altoids campaign, X Box “Lips,” Cadbury “Eyebrows,” and recently on a series of spots for Geico. He’s an absolute genius.

Steve Gandolfi: What was your collaborative process like on this project specifically?
Whenever you work with Tom you know it is going to be amazing and a true challenge because he has exacting standards and a clear creative vision. I love working with him for all of these reasons. He inspires me to push to the absolute limit. This film is like looking at an Andres Serrano or Jackson Pollock: polarizing, ambiguous, haunting and beautiful. It shows Tom’s painterly approach to film and has sparked a myriad of interpretations on the part of the fans. Check out the comments on YouTube ‘ amazing.

How would you describe the mood you were looking for? And how does that affect your editorial choices?
I love the track and probably listened to it 1,000 times and it never got old. Tom wanted the mood to be moving and thoughtful, with time for the narrative to unfold. The edit followed suit.

Any unique challenges on this one, from either a creative or technical standpoint?
Everything ‘ each shot, frame, movement, is all choreographed in time with the music. Every edit made worked within this very strict visual orchestration. Tom also carefully considered every way in which the clip might be viewed ‘ including on the iPhone ‘ so we experimented with framing and tech specs so that it would be received well in any situation.

How do you deal with the pressure when you’re facing tight deadlines?
The band and the label were very enthusiastic about the project and in recognizing it was something special they provided a longer timeline than usual. As far as working under a tight deadline, having worked largely in short form it’s all I’ve really ever known, so the stress isn’t a real issue. But it was a welcome change to have more than the usual three-day turnaround on this one.


Production Company: MJZ
Director: Tom Kuntz
Executive Producer: Jeff Scruton
Executive Producer: David Zander
Producer: Scott Kaplan
Director of Photography: Wyatt Troll

Creature Effects: Legacy Effects
Creature Design: Sonny Gerasimowicz

Editorial Company: Cut + Run
EP: Michelle Burke
Editor: Steve Gandolfi

Telecine: Stefan Sonnenfeld @ Co. 3

VFX: Method
VFX Supervisor: Janelle Croshaw
Senior Executive Producer: Gabby Gourrier
Executive Producer: Helen Hughes
Digital Production Manager: Jennie Burnett
Digital Production Manager: Tram Le
Flame Lead: Noah Caddis
Nuke Lead: Chris Bankoff
Technical Director: Jesse Vander Does
CG: Todd Herman
VFX Producers: Sascha Flick & Graham Dunglinson
Temple Design: Josh Slater