Danielle Calodney Directs Seratones’ “Power” Music Video
And makes a powerful statement for young women in America.
If you haven’t heard of the band Seratones, you’ll soon be happy you did. The Louisiana soul-rock group is a force of musical talent with frontwoman, AJ Haynes, leading the charge.
The band recently released their sophomore album, a highlight of which is their title track, “Power.” The song is also the focus of their latest music video, which follows a young girl through the city of Shreveport as she visits emotionally charged locations.
The video elicits a powerful emotional journey, featuring a gospel choir and troupe of fierce young dancers as it delivers the song’s important message for younger generations – “We take two steps forward / They take one step backward / We take each step to lift us up higher.”
We met up with music video director, Danielle Calodney, to get a behind the scenes account of the production and to learn more about her collaboration with the band.
Read the full interview below.
Danielle, how did you link up with Seratones for this video? Did you know their music before working together?
A friend who is a director had been recommended for the job, but couldn’t take it and recommended me for it. I had not heard of the band but when I looked them up, I saw they were from Shreveport, Louisiana, which was the closest big city for where I’m from. I grew up in a town called Longview, Texas which is an hour from Shreveport. And so I felt like I had an instant connection with them just based on being from a part of the country not many people are from. A place with a pretty specific culture.
AJ, the lead singer, and I got on the phone and quickly connected over our shared experiences, and the South in general. AJ had a lot of illuminating things to say about it. She has a very nuanced perspective on growing up in Shreveport. And she also has the perspective that it’s good for artists and people, liberal minded thinkers and activists to stay in their communities and not necessarily leave and go to cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, because you can really influence the community you’re in. We bonded and we laughed a lot. She laughs really easily and has like, an amazing laugh. So it was instant friendship.
And their music is pretty amazing too. Did it draw you in to want to work with them?
Yes. As soon as I got the email about the project, I put their first album on and had an immediate feeling in my stomach of excitement. The music, it has a fury to it, but it’s also really fun. And then AJ’s vocals are insane. She’s a gospel trained singer, so she can belt out. She also has a great sense of style and has a lot of punk influence, and she blends all of those genres into the music. I knew it’d be a good collaboration.
When approaching the video for “Power”, take me through some of the process. How did the concept come together?
So AJ is a true artist and respects the artistic process, and so she didn’t say what she was thinking at first, she wanted to see what I came to her with. I listened to “Power” probably a hundred times and read and reread the lyrics, and the song has so much depth and importance and meaning. I knew what needed to be told was a story that was multigenerational. And what I imagined were scenes happening within abandoned spaces that are historical and important in Shreveport.
I started Googling all these places and reading articles about different churches and sites. I found this place called The Calanthean Temple, and I didn’t really know anything about it, but I was like, “This is perfect. This is a gorgeous space!” I texted AJ what I was thinking, and she was like, “Girl, I was thinking the exact same thing.” Without me knowing, she had already done a photo shoot there and knew the people who ran it. So I knew we were on the right path.
I then started thinking about things I loved about the South, and in that area, there are dancers called Marquettes, and it’s a very specific style of drill team there. A lot of artists have started using them, like Beyonce in her Homecoming live performance. So at first, I was a little hesitant to use Marquettes in their full uniform, but in the end, it’s a major memory for me growing up in that area and it resonated with AJ as well. I also knew I wanted a gospel choir because that’s where AJ learned to sing.
The final element was that AJ has worked at the women’s health clinic in Shreveport for 10 years and I wanted it to be featured somehow, along with the Confederate statue that still stands in the center of town. AJ felt that the Confederate monument has always been a chilling reminder of the lengths that people will go in order to control someone else’s body. We wanted to compare this to the threats women’s access to reproductive healthcare is undergoing right now. We thought, who better to witness these things than a young girl, because she is the future of our country, and her generation is the one being influenced by what’s happening in our country right now. You know, what does it feel like for them? And how are they seeing and absorbing these things?
We were lucky too, with our lead actress, Chai. She really could carry those emotions in her face. She was just phenomenal. She conveyed so much and seemed like such an old soul.
You’re right. Her performance was great, and she did have a soulful presence. Where did you find her? And where did you find the Marquette dancers?
That was something that AJ did. She should be credited as a producer because she found them all. She’s so well known in her community, so she quickly found a theater troupe in Shreveport called Lumpy Grits, and Chai was an actress in the children’s theater group that her mother runs. And then her mom’s sister owns the dance company, Style of Life. So it was a family affair.
I remember when AJ sent me the Instagram account for the Style of Life dancers. I lost my mind. They had so much talent and attitude and style and you could just tell how much they all loved each other. That’s the exact kind of girl that I want to put on screen. Someone who’s passionate about what she does. They were so cool on set as well. I had them in this abandoned building, and it was 105 degrees. It was July in Shreveport, and we had no air conditioning. So we went and got box fans at Walmart and I had three people holding them. And every time we’d cut, they’d hold up the fans and run around the girls to make sure they weren’t covered in sweat. Hot is an understatement to what it was when we were there, it was a heat wave in Louisiana. Oh my gosh.
“That’s the exact kind of girl that I want to put on screen. Someone who’s passionate about what she does.”
How many days did you film? And tell me a little bit about like your camera, lighting gear, and crew.
We filmed for two days and we kept everything very nimble because we knew we’d be running around and The Calanthean is six stories high. So we couldn’t really use heavy lights. We filmed on an Alexa mini with Canon CNE primes and filtered that with soft FX. We had one light panel and a bead board. And then the other lighting set up was the twinkle lights in the final scene. We ordered a hundred strands of twinkle lights that we hung from the rafters. We wanted it to seem a little bit magical and other worldly up there. I was inspired by a Pipilotti Rist installation at the New Museum.
Yeah, the ending on the roof is an incredible moment in the video. There’s just this elation and celebration that is hopeful after being so deep and heavy. It’s my favorite part. Tell me a little bit about the roof scene and how that came to be.
Originally, I had wanted to do something that was more magical realism, but we felt that it was too similar to Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was one of the inspirations going into this. I knew I wanted everyone to be together, and I wanted it to be glorious. And while doing some research on the Calanthean, we found out that during the Jim Crow era, when Shreveport was segregated, if an artist would come to perform, they would perform for the white audience one night, and the next night they performed on the roof at The Calanthean for the black audience. We wanted to pay homage to that history, so we thought, let’s throw a party!
Something that’s really special is that all of the nurses from the Hope Clinic, the women’s health clinic, were all there at the party, which is really powerful. There wasn’t a way to reveal that within the video, but that was a special thing for AJ and I. And another great story was that I had emailed AJ a color palette, hoping everyone could be in warm jewel tones. And when everyone showed up, they looked fabulous and everyone was exactly in emerald greens, and gold, and magenta. And one woman was like, “Well, I didn’t have anything nice in the color scheme, so I made this dress.” I said, “What!?” And she was like, “Yeah, I hand-made this for the party.” It was so cool. We had a lot of fun up there and we all ended up hanging out for a while after and continued the party.
Paper Magazine reviewed the video and said, “The intimate, rich cinematography feels indebted to Lemonade, with the camera caressing its subjects, subtly juxtaposing pain and resilience in each shot.” Since I know you are a director who is also a Director of Photography, I’m curious what you thought of their take on the cinematography, because I thought it was pretty spot on.
Yeah, that line was amazing to read because definitely Lemonade was another reference for us. And really, my D.P. was incredible. His name is Alex H. Payne and he lives in New Orleans but is actually from Shreveport. So it was amazing to have a local D.P. because he really understood the light there and he understood the people there, and he could connect to the story in a deep way because it was his story too. He was tireless, had amazing energy, and made everyone feel excited. And you know, the person who’s standing so close to you holding a camera in your face needs to be someone you connect with, and he definitely went out of his way to connect. I owe him a lot for how much of himself he brought to the piece, and I hope there’s something I can do with him in the South again soon.
It’s really important to me when I’m directing a set, to make sure everyone feels heard, everyone feels taken care of, and everyone’s in good spirits. I was happy that everybody connected in such an amazing way for this production, and I was happy to see how much it showed up in the final cut.
Danielle Calodney is based in Brooklyn, NY and has directed award-winning campaigns for Philips, American Airlines, MoMA, PwC, and many more. Danielle’s commercial work features diverse faces and stories, and blurs the line between narrative and documentary, as she finds the power of memory the best place to start a story.
Her ad campaign for Philips, There’s Always a Way, won 2 Global Bronze Awards at New York Festivals. As well, she has received two Silver Telly Awards for her work with the Child Mind Institute and MoMA. Danielle’s other work includes music videos for Seratones, Khruangbin, The Downtown Boys, and Durand Jones & The Indications that have garnered millions of YouTube views.
You can see Danielle’s work [HERE]
Music Video Credits
Produced by: Danielle Calodney, Joseph Purfield, AJ Haynes
Directed and edited by: Danielle Calodney
Director of Photography: Alex H. Payne
Production Design: Maximilian Bode
Assistant Director: Joseph Purfield
Production Manager: Eric Gibson
Steadicam Operator: Anthony W. Gutierrez
Wardrobe: Emmy Briggs
Makeup: Sarah Johns Hair: Victoria Tillis
Starring: Chai Grey, Style of Life Dance Company, and Pastor Donzell Hughes & The Voices of Deliverance