FEATURE: Georgia Mooney – War Romance (Dir. Tobias Willis)
The tumult of our contemporary world can at times feel all consuming. Caught in a cycle of global tragedy, from Covid, to climate change, to a bedlam of political unrest, it seems as though little sits within our control. Naturally we seek out love and stability to ease our uncertainty. Eora/Sydney based singer/songwriter Georgia Mooney articulates this battle between global crisis and human nature with pose, delicacy, and vulnerability in her debut single War Romance. Formerly of ARIA Award-winning folk band All Our Exes Live in Texas, Georgia’s lyrics craft a tale of love and heartbreak complemented by cinematic soundscapes and idiosyncratic melodies. The song’s accompanying music video, directed by Tobias Willis, poses as a modern-day tragedy dressed up in the glamour of Old Hollywood. It pulses with melodrama and romance, an ode to the escapism of the Golden Age cinema. As the clip’s co-producer, Georgia elaborates on her ambitions for the video:
“I have always loved wartime films and novels for the way they portray relationships. When life is fragile and we are faced with our mortality on a daily basis, we cling to one another for comfort. Superficial problems fall away, and the bonds of love feel extraordinarily strong and vital. I wanted the video to feel like a beautiful moment of escapism, all contained in a dream. It needed to be romantic and lush, evoking the colour and richness of the music, and seem to occur in a place and time that is hard to define. It is a love story, but there is a sense that the characters are imagined.”
Dancing the line between campness, melodrama, and naked vulnerability, War Romance tells the story of two people yearning for love in a timeless place. The video marks internationally renowned comedian Rhys Nicholoson’s drag debut, lip syncing to the song as a drag version of Georgia. Georgia acts as the counterpart to this version of herself, dressed as Rhys, transforming her solo debut into a powerful duet. Rhys was styled by Melbourne-based drag performer Ruby Slippers, while Georgia worked with stylist Joanne Gambale and hair and makeup artist Nadine Muller to create her version of Rhys. The styling enhances the already performative qualities of the video and its characters, with Georgia and Rhys delivering a heartfelt rendition of the song under layers and layers of makeup. As the video draws to a close, there is a harsh cut, finally exposing Georgia and Rhys as themselves, dancing together and no longer in drag. It’s like we have walked in on a couple caught deep in the thralls of love, unaware of our presence, and all we can do is take in the beauty of it. It’s a powerful decision, which affirms the sense of intimacy that had been waiting below the surface.
“It was really special to perform in drag. Having been a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under for two seasons now, obviously Rhys has a very meaningful connection to the artform, and as a long-time fan, I love it for the freedom of expression and experimentation it allows performers. It being the first time for both of us, I think we were struck with how transformative and liberating it felt becoming those characters. In terms of performance, it was tricky to find the balance between silly and serious. In the end we lent towards heartfelt performances and let the costumes bring the lightness.”
The video was shot at the Hotel Windsor, a long-standing Victorian age building in the heart of Melbourne. The ornate jewel tones and vintage detailing perfectly complements the drama of Rhys and Georgia’s drag makeup. It’s whimsical, like we have stepped into a dream rendering of a bygone era. It’s not clear exactly when or where the video is set, allowing the characters to fully express their love within the Hotel’s empty rooms and hallways, unrestricted by time. Georgia explains:
“Some of our early references were beautiful 1940s & 1950s films and photography. Mood was everything for this video and lighting plays such a big role in that. The hotel had a lot of lovely lights – gorgeous warm yellow sconces and mirrors that reflected and sparkled. We wanted it to be striking yet soft, and I think Tobias Willis and Jonathan Haynes achieved that really beautifully. They managed to create a look that has a classic cinema feel and made us feel like movie stars!”
Director Tobias Willis and DOP Jonathan Haynes opted for an ARRI Alexa Mini cinema camera paired with Cooke Panchro lenses to enhance the clip’s old Hollywood aesthetic. Panchros are a common choice when trying to emulate the glow of 1950s cinema, providing a warmth and smoothness to the overall tone of the image. This choice served the team well, enriching the hotel’s pre-existing lighting fixtures and deep colours in a way that lends itself to the clip’s aesthetic appeal. Tobias elaborates on the intention behind this decision:
“Those particular lenses are made new but Cooke have designed them to have a vintage look like their original Cooke Panchros from the 60’s. They have a really nice fall off wide open and look great married up with the alexa. We felt these lenses were perfect to achieve the classic cinema look of the video. They also lent themselves really well to the moody Windsor hotel.”
War Romance is the first release from Georgia’s to-be-announced debut album, set to release later this year. The song and clip’s meditation on love in the face of uncertainty seems only fitting considering the last few years. It’s an enduring message, and one which the team has delivered with timeless elegance.
Here is the official video for “War Romance“
Music Video Credits
Production Co: A KEWL Studio Production. Director/Producer: Tobias Willis. Producer : Georgia Mooney. DOP: Jonathan Haynes. Camera Assistant: Indigo Tait-Atkin. 1st Assistant Director: Zachary Bradtke. Gaffer: Nick Clarke. Gaffer: Clancy Walker. 2nd Camera Assistant: Kathleen Lee. Production Assistant: Sam Rogers. Production Assistant: Stephania Windholz. Stills Photographer: Nick McKinlay. Hair & Make Up for Rhys: Ruby Slippers. Hair & Make Up for Georgia: Nadine Muller. Costume Design: Ruby Slippers, Joanne Gambale & Georgia Mooney. Editor: Tobias Willis. Assistant Editor: Zachary Bradtke. Title Design: Greedy Hen. Online Edit: PostLab. IO Post Production Supervisor: Jazmin Padarath. Colourist: Niklas Malkin. Special thanks: The Hotel Windsor. Starring: Rhys Nicholson & Georgia Mooney.