Rodrigo Prieto: The Cinematographer Behind the Lens of Taylor Swift’s “Cardigan” Video

Everything’s o-Tay for Rodrigo Prieto

The 54-year-old three-time Oscar-nominated Mexican cinematographer is earning rave reviews for his work on Taylor Swift’s music video for the pop star’s latest single “Cardigan.”

Rodrigo Prieto

The top-secret music video, written, directed and styled by Swift, was filmed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The dreamy video, released on Friday, July 24 alongside Swift’s new album Folklore, presents a cottagecore aesthetic and features Swift in three different settings.

The “homespun” and “dreamlike” video starts out with Swift sitting in a candlelit cottage in the woods, wearing a nightgown and playing a vintage upright piano. When the soundboard starts glowing, she climbs into it and is magically transported to a moss-covered forest, where she plays the song on a grand piano producing a waterfall. The piano bench starts to glow and she climbs into it. She gets transported to a dark stormy sea, where she holds on to a floating piano. The piano soundboard glows and she climbs in, and she returns to the cottage, where she dons a cardigan.

Taylor Swift Cardigan Video

“She had the whole storyline – the whole notion of going into the piano and coming out into the forest, the water, going back into the piano,” Prieto tells Rolling Stoneof hisfirst phone call with Swift.

Their last collaboration, on the music video for “The Man,” saw Swift adopting a male alter ego to satirize gender inequality.

From the beginning, though, Prieto says “Cardigan” was always going to be more ambiguous, and more personal: “When she called me and told me that this was more of a fantasy, I found that really appealing.”

This was in early July, when Prieto had simultaneously begun serving on a committee for the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) to conceive solutions for safely resuming film production during the ongoing pandemic.

Prieto had just finished filming a PSA for a healthcare company when Swift asked him to work on “Cardigan,” and he was well aware of the many, many layers of risks involved in the project.

“We needed to be safe, for her sake and for our sake as a crew during the shoot, but also for the future of filmmaking,” he says. “Because we want to keep working and doing what we do, and if, God forbid, someone got sick on one of the first jobs that was filmed, it would probably close down [the industry].”

The extensive safety protocols for the shoot ranged from standard – everybody had to get tested, and every member of the crew wore a mask – to outlandish: Because Swift would need to spend a large part of the shoot not wearing a face covering, the crew used a colored wristband system, determining which members of the team were permitted to stand closest to her. (Prieto, assistant director Joe Osborne, and set designer Ethan Tobman all wore one color, lighting designers and gaffers wore another, and so on.)

Prieto actually wore two face coverings – a mask and an acrylic shield – for most of the day-and-a-half-long shoot. And just to ensure that crew members crossed within a six-foot range of Swift as little as possible, the entire “Cardigan” video was shot by mounting the camera to a robotic arm, which was then controlled by a remote operator.

The “techno arm,” as Prieto calls it, is typically only used in the industry for crane shots and other establishing visuals.

“We were going to use the crane for the ocean scene,” Prieto explains, referencing the shot where the image zooms out on the wide expanse of the water before honing back in on Swift. “So then I said, let’s have it both days.”

Hooking the camera up to a giant robot was the safest way to get close-ups on Swift’s face, Prieto explains. And as unwieldy as that sounds, you’d never know from watching the video that a human being wasn’t behind the lens at all times.

There was, of course, the added tangle of secrecy – the filmmaking had to be done indoors to avoid crowds, and Swift wore an earpiece throughout the shoot to lip-sync to the song without any of the crew hearing it.

The crew built three sets on two stages across one large studio, and in order to create the illusion of natural light for the outdoor scenes, Prieto and his crew draped giant stretches of white bouncing fabric on the walls and ceiling. The process took longer than usual due to COVID, with the lighting crew working in small groups and frequently taking breaks so they could remove masks and catch their breath.

“Filmmaking is a gregarious endeavor by nature,” Prieto says. “People are close to each other, so it’s really hard to remember to keep to yourselves.” Given the distancing on set, it was sometimes tricky for crew members to communicate over reference points and documents – “we had to kind of point at each other” – but Prieto attributes Swift’s clear vision for the project as a guiding light.

Ahead of the shoot, she sent him and Tobman numerous visual references for each scene – a mix of photographs for the dark ocean water and drawings for the fantastical forest sequence. One illustration, of a sword lodged into a rock formation overlooking a creek, was particularly inspiring: “That became our focal interest – we didn’t imitate it, but the feeling of it was what we went with.”

On top of that, Swift came up with a detailed shot list for the video ahead of time, with each visual accompanied by a time sequence within the song.

“The ocean water, the fingers on the piano, whatever it may be, she knew what she wanted for each section,” Prieto says. Unlike with “The Man,” Swift couldn’t be as hands-on with her direction on set – she viewed each take through a video monitor after it was shot – but Prieto was impressed by her ability to “talk with the camera” and utilize cinematic language without formal training, like with the unorthodox, zoom-out-and-in shot over the ocean. “I was blown away, because it’s all metaphorical,” he says. “This video is not just pretty images of things; she’s telling a personal story through her lyrics, her music, and now through the video.”

The video has already been viewed more than 40 million times on YouTube since its release.

Prieto previously earned Academy Awards for his lensing work on Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2006), Martin Scorsese’s Silence (2017) and Scorsese’s The Irishman (2020).

His other film credits include Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel (2006) and Biutiful (2010), Francis Lawrence’s Water for Elephants and Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo.

Blacc to Serve as a Judge for the 2015 CLIO Music Awards

It looks like Aloe Blacc is ready to be the judge and jury

The 35-year-old Panamanian American singer-songwriter will form part of the voting panel of this year’s CLIO Music Awards, a prestigious international awards competition for marketing and advertising in the music industry. Now in its second year, the competition is accepting entries through April 3.

Aloe Blacc

Blacc is quite familiar with the CLIOs; his single “The Man” earned a Clio Award last year, and he performed at the ceremony last year. He joins 22 other music insiders in the voting panel, including Tom Corson, president and COO of RCA Records; Sylvia Rhone, president of Epic Records; and Daniel Glass, founder and President of Glassnote Entertainment Group.

“CLIO Music is about honoring the incredible work of the people who propel the music business through creative efforts, from artist promotion to the expert ways in which music is integrated in advertising,” CLIO president Nicole Purcell said in a statement. “It’s the talent of these creative leaders that connects people to brands, motivates them to join causes and inspires them to expand their horizons through music.”

The new CLIO roles add onto an already-busy spring for Blacc; he’s set to perform at the Playboy Jazz Festival in early June.

Blacc Receives Two NAACP Image Award Nominations

Aloe Blacc may be the man to beat…

The 35-year-old Panamanian American singer-songwriter has landed two NAACP Image Award nods, making him this year’s most nominated Latino entertainer.

Aloe Blacc

Presented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the awards honor outstanding people of color in film, television, music and literature.

Blacc, earning his first-ever Image Award nominations, received a nod for Outstanding New Artist, where he’s up against
Erica Campbell, Jhene Aiko, Liv Warfield and the 
3 Winans Brothers.

Additionally, he scored a nomination in the Outstanding Song category for his smash hit single “The Man.”

Meanwhile, Sofia Vergara has earned fourth NAACP Image Award nomination the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series category for her star-making role as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on ABC’s Modern Family. The 42-year-old Colombian actress, ranked as one of the most powerful women in the world by Forbes, won the award in 2011.

Zoe Saldaña picked up a nomination in the Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance for her voice work on Guillermo del Toro’s animated film The Book of Life. The 35-year-old half-Dominican/half-Puerto Rican American actress voices the character of Maria in the CGI romantic comedy, which is set during the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead.

Other Latinos nominated for a 2015 NAACP Image Award include Scandal’s Guillermo Diaz, Dora and Friends: Into the City’s Fatima Ptacek, Soledad O’Brien and Rosie Perez.

The 46th annual NAACP Image Awards will be handed out on February 6 in a ceremony telecast live by TV One.

Here’s the full list of categories with Latino nominees:

Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance
Jamie Foxx – “Rio 2″ (20th Century Fox)
Loretta Devine – “Doc McStuffins” (Disney Junior)
Morgan Freeman – “The Lego Movie” (Warner Bros. Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures/Ratpac-Dune Entertainment/Lego System A/S/Vertigo Entertainment/Lin Pictures)
Tracy Morgan – “The Boxtrolls” (Focus Features)
Zoe Saldana – “The Book of Life” (20th Century Fox)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Adrienne C. Moore – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
Laverne Cox – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
Lorraine Toussaint – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
Sofia Vergara – “Modern Family” (ABC)
Yara Shahidi – “black-ish” (ABC)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Alfred Enoch – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
Courtney B. Vance – “Masters of Sex” (Showtime)
Guillermo Diaz – “Scandal” (ABC)
Jeffrey Wright – “Boardwalk Empire” (HBO)
Joe Morton – “Scandal” (ABC)

Outstanding Performance by a Youth in a Youth/Children’s Program (Series or Special)
Amber Montana – “Haunted Hathaways” (Nickelodeon)
China Anne McClain – “How to Build a Better Boy” (Disney Channel)
Curtis Harris – “Haunted Hathaways” (Nickelodeon)
Fatima Ptacek – “Dora and Friends: Into The City!” (Nickelodeon)
Taliyah Whitaker – “Wallykazam!” (Nickelodeon)

Outstanding Documentary (Television)
“American Experience: Freedom Summer” (PBS)
“Bad Boys” (ESPN)
“Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown” (HBO)
“Rand University” (ESPN)

“The War Comes Home: Soledad O’Brien Reports” (CNN)

Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series
Brigette Munoz-Liebowitz – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” – Road Trip (FOX)
Aisha Muharrar – “Parks and Recreation” – Ann & Chris (NBC)
Regina Hicks – “Instant Mom” – A Kids’s Choice (Nickelodeon and Nick@Nite)
Sara Hess – “Orange is the New Black” – It Was the Change (Netflix)
Mindy Kaling – “The Mindy Project” – Danny and Mindy (FOX)

Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series
Ken Whittingham – “Parks and Recreation” – Prom (NBC)
Ken Whittingham – “The Mindy Project” – Think Like a Peter (FOX)
Reginald Hudlin – “Bad Judge” – Knife to a Gunfight (NBC)
Linda Mendoza – “Bad Judge” – One Brave Waitress (NBC)
Stan Lathan – “Real Husbands of Hollywood” – No New Friends (BET)

Outstanding New Artist
Aloe Blacc (XIX Recordings/Interscope Records)
Erica Campbell (My Block Inc./eOne Music)
Jhene Aiko (Def Jam Recordings)
Liv Warfield (Kobalt Label Services)
3 Winans Brothers (BMG)

Outstanding Song
“We Are Here” Alicia Keys (RCA Records)
“The Man” – Aloe Blacc
(Interscope Records)
“Pretty Hurts” – Beyoncé (Columbia Records)
“i” – Kendrick Lamar (TDE/Interscope)
“Good Kisser” – Usher (RCA Records)

Outstanding Literary Work – Biography/ Auto Biography

“Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine” – Louis Sullivan with David Chanoff (University of Georgia Press)
“Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (with Great Hair)” – Rosie Perez (Crown Archetype)
“Life In Motion” – Misty Copeland (Touchstone)
“Mayor for Life” – Marion Barry, Omar Tyree (Strebor Books)
“Stand Up Straight and Sing!” – Jessye Norman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Outstanding Literary Work – Children
“Beautiful Moon” – Tonya Bolden (Author), Eric Velasquez (Illustrator) (Abrams/Abrams Books for Young Readers)
“Little Melba and Her Big Trombone” – Katheryn Russell-Brown (Author), Frank Morrison (Illustrator) (Lee & Low Books)
“Malcolm Little” – Ilyasah Shabazz (Author), AG Ford (Illustrator) (Simon & Schuster)
“Searching for Sarah Rector” – Tonya Bolden (Abrams/Abrams Books for Young Readers)
“Dork Diaries 8: Tales From A Note-So-Happily Ever After” – Rachel Renee Russell with Nikki Russell and Erin Russell (Simon & Schuster)

Blacc to Perform at This Year’s Soul Train Awards

Aloe Blacc is ready to bring soul to the Soul Train Awards

The 35-year-old Panamanian American singer-songwriter is scheduled to perform at this year’s awards show, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Aloe Blacc

Blacc, a two-time nominee this year, will take the Orleans Arena stage in Las Vegas on November 7. 

He joins a roster of Soul Train Award performers that includes Chris BrownNico & Vinz, Lisa Stansfield, Kem, Alyson Cambridge, BeBe Winans of 3WB, Jeremih and Liv Warfield.

Wendy Williams will host the event, airing November 30 at 8:00 pm ET on Centric and BET networks.

“Each year, we have the honor of hosting an incredibly special night that brings together the industry’s hottest acts, while paying homage to soul music icons,” said Paxton Baker, general manager and executive vp, Centric, in a statement. “We are thrilled to offer a platform where music superstars like Chris Brown and Trey Songz can share the stage with an industry veteran like Wendy Williams and a gospel legend like BeBe Winans.”

Blacc is nominated in the Songwriter’s Award and Video of the Year categories for his hit single “The Man.”

The 2014 Soul Train Awards is directed by Tony McCuin and produced by BET Event Productions and Sunseeker Media.

Blacc to Release Repackaged and Enhanced Edition of “Lift Your Spirit”

It appears Aloe Blacc is ready to lift your spirits even further…

The 35-year-old Panamanian-American singer, riding high this year on the success of his third album Lift Your Spirit and the singles “The Man” and “Wake Me Up,” tells Billboard that he and his record label, Interscope, “are going to repackage the album” this summer for a uniform collection comprised of all the songs he released globally during the campaign.

Aloe Blacc

“I recorded about 40 songs, and you can only release 10 or 12 of them at a time,” Blacc explains. “The European version of the album had a different set of songs than the (American) version, a couple of songs that were different, so we’re going to get them all together and release all of the songs from across the world so that everybody gets every song and no territory is complaining about not having any particular song.”

Blacc adds that, “It was never my intention to release so many songs. I wanted to just have 10, but we had way more material than we expected that we considered worthy. But I think that’s OK. I think it’s OK to give people more than they expected.”

Blacc hopes to have the set ready “by the end of the summer or, probably, the beginning of the fall.”

Meanwhile, he says he’d like to release a follow-up to Lift Your Spirit “hopefully early next year” but acknowledges “maybe that’s too soon. It depends on what the label says. I’m definitely ready to release more music, because I’ve just got so much stuff recorded and so many other songs that I’m eager to record.”

Blacc has had no trouble staying busy outside of the study, with heavy touring — including dates opening for Bruno Mars — and a spot as a guest coach on Adam Levine‘s team during the latest season of The Voice.

He’s also featured on the track “The World is Ours” from the One Love, One Rhythm FIFA World Cup album, and he’s getting ready for his film debut in Get On Up, the James Brown biopic in which he plays Famous Flames guitarist Nafloyd Scott.

“That was a different challenge, it really was,” Blacc says. “Acting is something that requires a lot of patience, a lot of skill, a lot of internal reflection. It’s a whole new muscle I’m going to continue to develop, either writing screenplays and my own scripts or finding the best roles out there to challenge this new skill.” A dearth of information about his character, meanwhile, actually proved to be a blessing for Blacc.

“I had to learn it all,” he explains. “there isn’t much information about that time in (Brown’s) career available, no photos I could find of Nafloyd Scott on Wikipedia or anything. He wasn’t really part of the meteoric rise of James Brown — he quit the band because of personality conflicts, before it really took off. So it was all about having to learn from the script and some of the archival footage that was available. But it did make it a little bit easier to create my own character, which was nice for the first time doing this.”

Blacc Lends His Voice to Coca-Cola’s World Cup Anthem “The World is Ours”

The world is Aloe Blacc’s… At least when it comes to the upcoming 2014 World Cup.

The 35-year-old Panamanian American singer-songwriter is adding a little soul to a new version of Coca-Cola’s World Cup anthem, a mash-up between the Coke campaign theme “The World is Ours” featuring David Correy and an original song by Blacc.

Aloe Blacc

Following his second appearance at Coachella this Friday (April 18), Blacc will join Correy in a performance of the song at L.A. Live on Saturday when the FIFA World Cup trophy tour makes its final stop in Los Angeles.

“A World Cup song in any capacity is a fantastic opportunity to share music with the entire world,” Blacc tells Billboard. “It’s a blessing for me, especially because it’s the kind of music I want to make, uplifting and inspirational. It just fit right, it made sense to get involved.”

Blacc, who appears on Avicii‘s “Wake Me Up” and has earned a  current Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 single “The Man,” brings his vocal muscle, melody and some new lyrics to Coke’s Brazilian-rooted, club-friendly soccer song.

More than twenty versions of the anthem have already been recorded by Correy, Brazilian percussionists Monoblanco and a team of international artists.

The World is Ours by David Correy X Aloe Blacc,” available on Spotify and iTunes as a single, will be included on the official World Cup album, On Rhythm, One Love, due out May 12.

“The way I wanted to do it was to write my own song,” Blacc says of his contribution to the Coke anthem. “Something that felt a little bit more like me, that wasn’t too much of a dance song.”

Blacc’s album Lift Your Spirit, debuted and peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart, and rose to No. 1 on the R&B Albums chart.  One track on Blacc’s album was produced by Rock Mafia, who produced “The World is Ours,” and provided Coke’s connection to Blacc.

“It was great to do a mash up between my song [“Hello World“] and David Correy’s song,” Blacc adds. “The message that I wanted to convey was oneness. I’ve been lucky enough to have my music accepted in countries all over the world. And everywhere I go I recognize music, sports entertainment being something that brings us all together. Football, soccer is something that makes us all one; its like a religion in a lot of places.”

Growing up in Orange County, where he was raised by his Panamanian parents, Blacc played soccer, in addition to learning the trumpet, and later, getting involved with hip hop.

“Almost all of the guys I went to school with played soccer in some form or fashion so it doesn’t escape anybody,” he says, adding that in his case, playing the sport was inevitable. “My Dad was the coach, I had to.”

Blacc to Perform at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards

Aloe Blacc is set to make his first appearance at the 2014 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards.

The 35-year-old Panamanian-American singer will perform at the March 29 fan-voted awards ceremony, which will be hosted by Mark Wahlberg.

Aloe Blacc

Blacc, best known for his single “I Need a Dollar,” will perform a medley of his recent hit songs “Wake Me Up,” which he co-wrote with Avicii, and “The Man.”

“Wake Me Up” has charted at No. 1 in 22 countries.

“Looking forward to my very first Kids Choice Awards performance. Can’t wait to sing ‘Wake Me Up’ and ‘The Man’ with all my fans,” said Blacc.

Blacc’s most recent television appearances include The Voice, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Dancing with the Stars.