Director Mark Romanek details the making of JT’s new video
Justin Timberlake dropped the new music video for “Can’t Stop The Feeling” Sunday, featuring dancing civilians, everyday settings, and one giant inflatable. Attempting to elicit sheer joy, the video’s director Mark Romanek, who’s worked with heavyweights like Taylor Swift and Madonna, calls the clip “unironic” in an email to EW. “It’s just fun.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How’d you come up with the concept for the video?
MARK ROMANEK: In LA, I drive by those huge strip malls all the time and always thought, what if you just went down the strip and shot one scene in each of the businesses; a Chinese restaurant and a shoe store and a nail salon and a pizza place and a tax place? In reality, those places tend to be a bit too un-photogenic for a song like this, so I just sort stylized it to be more pop-friendly.
What kind of input did Justin have?
He was pretty trusting. He liked the idea and just let me get on with putting it together. Obviously he was influential with the dancing and choreography component. He also suggested that the dancers sing the refrain at the end.
This was your first time working with Justin. What was that like?
We’ve known each other for a pretty long time. He’s a very genuine guy. Very easy. He was still at the tail end of a very bad cold/flu, so he was quite the trooper.
How’d you find all these people in the video?
My wonderful casting director Dan Bell and his crew found them. It was easy to cast. We looked at hundreds of people and the ones that just made you smile immediately when you watched them dance were in. Then it was just a matter of having a balance of types of people.
How’d you get them to let loose in front of the camera?
I said “action.”
How’d the decision to have the red inflatable guy joining in on the fun come up?
I don’t know. They’re amusing urban artifacts. We thought of it a bit like a more casual version of Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry the mouse in Anchors Aweigh.
Justin dances a lot, of course — are those all his moves or did he have a choreographer?
We had a great choreographer named Marty Kudelka who works with JT a lot. He helped these mainly untrained dancers to learn their synchronized choreography in a very brief amount of time. Everything else was just improv by JT, which was pretty amazing to see. He’s very smart and inventive and the best dancer I’ve worked with since Michael Jackson.
What part of this video are you most proud of?
Just the overall feeling of unironic and sincere humanism. It’s not trying to be cool or slick or ironic. It’s just fun. Most of the time, people are excellent. It’s just a big sugar cookie. It makes people smile for four minutes. That’s nice.
Did you take any inspiration from other videos? Some people have been comparing it to Pharrell’s “Happy” video, like when Justin is singing in the aisles of the store.
You know, I clicked on that link when “Happy” came out and saw that very inventive, experimental video of a live, uninterrupted 24-hour take. I watched about 15 minutes of it. It was all Pharrell dancing at night with no cuts. But that’s the only version I ever saw. Now that people have mentioned it, I’ve seen that they made a single video of all the best bits, and I do see the similarity, but I hadn’t seen it before we shot ours. I wasn’t trying to make it like “Happy,” but it would be fine with us if it does as well.