Director Tommy Wiseau is best known for his oddball cult classic film The Room, but another piece of his work went viral earlier this month: A music video he directed for little-known band Corsica Arts Club’s first single, “California I Follow,” from their debut EP.
It seemed like a random career move for Wiseau, but in interviews with EW, the famed director and members of the band explain why he signed on and how the project came about.
“California I Follow” does a good job of living up to its name with soft and melodic guitar riffs, and the relaxed yet mournful singing, sit comfortably in a grand tradition of California rock. But as Corsica Arts Club set about filming a video for the single, they kept running into cliché proposals: beaches, palm tress, girls in bikinis. They were unimpressed, songwriter and guitarist Arash Parsee tells EW. Luckily, a different idea arrived when the band passed a theater marquee advertisement for a screening of The Room, featuring an in-person appearance from the enigmatic director. Corsica Arts Club went to the screening, and approached Wiseau about directing their video. Though Wiseau was busy shooting his sitcom The Neighbors and traveling the country for screenings of The Room, he was game to try something new. The band got him a copy of their self-titled debut EP, and he was impressed.
“I like the music because it’s just 100 percent correct,” Wiseau says. “The guys are dead serious. I see their professional approach from the beginning. That’s what I like.”
The band quickly set up phone calls and meetings to discuss ideas, and it didn’t take long for Wiseau to put forward a vision for the video. He wanted to do a semi-adaptation of Romeo and Juliet (or “Juliette,” as it’s spelled in the title card of the video), set in the modern day.
“I had some vision about Romeo and Juliet,” Wiseau says. “I always thought I would do a similar movie about it. They didn’t know about it but I was thinking of this a long time ago. Sometimes when you work with people, certain things click. Maybe it’s just destiny.”
Because of Wiseau’s tight schedule, the whole thing was done in a 12-hour shoot. Luckily, producer Jason Klein, a longtime friend of the band, was on hand to assist Wiseau with the technical aspects of shooting. Klein hired the crew, assisted with camera work on set, and performed a lot of post-production editing, though everyone involved insisted on preserving Wiseau’s creative control.
“My job that day was to push through everything Tommy wanted,” Klein says.
Wiseau insisted that the cast and crew be present on set for every take (even individual close-ups) and wanted “California I Follow” playing throughout the entire shoot. “When you listen to something, you react,” Wiseau says. “We don’t want it like we just shoot you, and all the other actors or talent don’t do anything. It’s a supporting process.”
You don’t hire Wiseau to direct your music video without making some reference to his other work, and the “California I Follow” video has several. A spiral staircase resembles the one from The Room (though Wiseau said he didn’t even notice the similarity until after they finished shooting the video), and a cameo from Wiseau, dressed as his character from The Neighbors and quoting his character from The Room (“Love is blind”).
Wiseau says he was hesitant about making the appearance, for fear of overshadowing the band, but went with the role anyway. “I said no, that’s not what it’s supposed to be. This video is four minutes long. If I am talking or dancing for two minutes it would not come out the way it is now,” Wiseau says. “I don’t want to see people talk about me, I want people to talk about Romeo and Juliet.”
Everyone else insisted on Wiseau stepping in, however, and they eventually convinced him. “Tommy’s a really gracious director, he wanted [the characters] and the band to be front and center, but we all encouraged him to make the cameo,” Parsee says. “We think that cameo is the icing on the cake that is the video.”
Although all the participants have their own projects in the works — Wiseau and Phoenix are still working on their Hulu sitcom The Neighbors, and Corsica Arts Club will be heading back to the studio soon for more recording — they’ve left the door open to more collaboration.
“Tommy is to Corsica Arts Club as Martin Scorsese was to The Band,” Parsee says. “I saw a comment somewhere that we should do a concert documentary, The Last Waltz-style, so maybe that’s something we’ll do in the future as well.”