Utilizing Familiar Settings For Effective VisualStyle
Right now, hardly anyone is hotter than Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino. Showing his talents as an actor, a stand-up comedian, and a musician, he seemingly can do it all. Because of the current political climate, Gambino’s This Is America song and video has certainly struck a chord with people of all ages. While Glover has mostly left the video to the rest of us to interpret, the internet has analyzed it to great extent. This is just the latest in a series of brilliant collaborations between Glover and director Hiro Murai. In two of their previous music videos, they use a familiar restaurant setting that really lets Gambino’s character shine: the American diner.
Before This Is America, Gambino’s 2015 video for Sober featured just two characters, a young woman and himself. The restaurant is used as a common backdrop in which he attempts to woo her, later revealing that he is extremely high. It is both comical and fun. Because we have all been in restaurants resembling it, we don’t have to think about everything that could be happening. Instead, we get to enjoy the awesome choreography and charming weirdness of Donald Glover.
For 2014’s Sweatpants, Mirai and Glover used a visual effects-assisted oner (aka long shot) to great effect. They famously use this technique in This Is America as well. For this one, Gambino walks through a diner three times, with each traversal getting weirder than the last. Again, the familiarity of the diner is used here to allow the viewer to see what they want you to see. Instead of the just two characters in an empty space, this one features many characters that eventually all turn into Gambino. Brilliant, strange, and wonderful.
Filmmaking is visual storytelling. All the elements, every frame, every pixel can be used to mean something. In some instances, the environments used in a film can be unique characters themselves. In others, it can be utilized for expository reasons to push a story along. In these videos, the American diner is used as a setting we know so intimately, we don’t need to think about it to understand it, regardless of what part of the country we’re from or what race we are. This really allows them to accentuate what makes Donald Glover one of the greatest multi-threat talents in America.