When Rihanna released her latest video, “We Found Love” featuring Calvin Harris, (from Talk That Talk, in stores now), fans witnessed a new side to the Barbados-born songstress that’s never been seen before–a raw, stripped-down, and gritty persona, complemented by her ’80s inspired get up. The woman behind the video is Melina Matsoukas, a longtime collaborator with Miss R. Here, Life+Times catches with the powerful creative force and found out how an extraterrestrial invasion inspired the scenic landscape of “We Found Love.”
Life+Times: Do you feel that in some ways, you set the tone for her latest album, Talk That Talk?
Melina Matsoukas: Yeah. I mean kind of. With her, she’s always at the head of the trends and reinventing herself. Me, as a director, it’s always a challenge to bring her something new and developing her image to places that we’ve never explored. And, it’s hard to do that when she’s at the pulse of reinvention.
L+T: What was the initial concept?
MM: [Rihanna] always has some sort of direction. And with this one, since she was so busy, she left it in my hands to come up with something. She said, “Just go with it.” When you first hear the song, I just felt like I wanted to be running naked and skinny-dipping in the ocean. I didn’t want to put her in a club–because I refuse doing those videos. I’ve done them and I always feel like they’re my worst. It was just about trying to visually capture that sense of freedom. And then my head went to love. I think what she’s singing about is much deeper than the sound of the song. And I wanted to capture the essence of one’s first love. It’s such a beautiful thing, but when you think about it, it’s probably one of the hardest things ever. I really just wanted to do something real. Eliminate the theatrics and do something very natural and gritty. And, she was really feeling it.
L+T: What movies did you draw upon for the concept of the video?
MM: Definitely Kids, Trainspotting, Requiem for a Dream. But, have you seen Attack the Block?
L+T: I haven’t. What is it?
MM: Well, it really has nothing to do with the video. It’s about an extraterrestrial invasion of the ‘hood in London. And it creates this environment that I’ve never really seen before. It’s all these kids coming together and fighting for something. It was a really great environment that I fell in love with. So, that also inspired the environment. But, we actually shot in Belfast.
L+T: How was the vibe on set?
MM: It was awesome. The second day we got totally mobbed by fans. So much so that we really couldn’t shoot and were totally behind our schedule. It was totally nuts. But, because of that, we got an extra day of shooting. Which we needed anyways.
L+T: How important was her style to the tone and theme to the video?
MM: Well, Mel Ottenberg styled it. I wanted her to feel real and cool. And I think we really captured that. We stripped back all the costumes as well. It speaks to the story as well.
L+T: When you were putting together the initial concept for the video, did you feel like you had to pull back on what you really wanted to do?
MM: Not at all. Actually with her, that’s never the case. I wrote three concepts to start. And she really liked this one. So then I developed it further and she really wanted me to take it to the next level. She’s really not scared to push the limits.