“The Darkest of Seasons” by Tomo Nakayama

Terrifying, Liberating: A Transformative Creative Experience Caught on Film

City Arts is thrilled to present the premiere of the latest music video from Tomo Nakayama called “The Darkest of Seasons.” Be advised: The video contains nudity.

Words by Tomo Nakayama:

The video was a collaboration between me and director Deep Dasgupta, who I’ve worked with before, and a painter named Emelie Richardson. We took inspiration from an artist named Alex Kanevsky whose work we saw through Synecdoche, New York, a Charlie Kaufman movie that came out a few years ago. Kanevsky did these portraits for the movie and there was something about his aesthetic, his use of color and dramatic poses that spoke to us. We started with his stuff as a jumping-off point and went off on our own thing.

We got 20 volunteers to pose for us and it needed to convey a sense of vulnerability. And exposure. Or openness. Figuratively and literally. That’s why the models are all naked, basically. That’s kind of what the whole song and the album is about: finding strength in vulnerability and allowing yourself to become naked

So we found these volunteers through friends and people from the art world and we shot it over three days in January. We had each person staged in front of the camera and we placed an eight-foot-long window that we put wheels on placed between the subjects and the camera. And Emelie painted these accents and scenes on top of the subject on the window. We spent about 30-40 hours just going through 20 people. Each person took their own approach to the direction and we let them get into their state. And we had them holding the pose for upwards of 30, 40 minutes. It was a real endurance test. Which seems to be a running theme with this album [Fog on the Lens]; when I released it I did 14 shows in a day. The process was similar: You get into a groove, this mental state where you’re kind of outside your body and focused on the task at hand. It was a similar feeling I got from creating this video. It became this really meditative exercise. I’d never worked with nude actors before. And a lot of them, it was the first time they were in front of the camera like that. And we found that almost everyone said it became a natural state for them and it felt weird to put clothes on afterwards.

It’s also a tribute to my friend George Romansic, who was a longtime musician and  distributor and supporter of local music. He passed away from brain cancer the same weekend that we shot the video. I found out he went into hospice the day we started shooting. He was on my mind the entire time we were shooting. And it felt like there were these threads in the video that felt like he was present. And it tells the story of a life and where we’re headed afterwards and how it circles back.

I’m still having trouble putting it into words. It was terrifying and it was liberating. It was one of those transformative experiences as an artist—I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences I’ve had creating something