Music Video: The Carters — <I>Apes--t</I>; N.E.R.D./Rihanna — <I>Lemon</I>
Issue: August 1, 2018

Music Video: The Carters — Apes--t; N.E.R.D./Rihanna — Lemon

Freelance editor Taylor Alexander Ward ( is lucky enough to have two videos nominated for “Best Editing” at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, set to take place on August 20th in New York City. Ward collaborated with Sam Ostrove on The Carters’ Apes**t video (also nominated for “Best Collaboration” and “Video of the Year”), and also cut N.E.R.D. & Rihanna’s Lemon (Best Collaboration) video. The videos mark his first — and second — VMA nominations.

The Carters — Beyonce and Jay-Z — shot Apes**t  in one night at The Louvre in Paris. The video runs six minutes and features the couple posing in front of some of the world’s most famous works of art, including the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, the Great Sphinx of Tanis and the Coronation of Napoleon. The project marks the first time a music video has been shot at the museum, and Ward says the tone of the video was meant to be respectful of its stature and collection.

“Everything is 100 percent all real,” says Ward of the art featured in the video. “It was done at night, in one evening, with limited with lighting. I think the larger political implications of shooting in that location were paramount. It was very special having them in that location.”

Ward was on tour with the couple, working on video content for their live show, when this job came about. He has worked with Beyonce’s Parkwood Entertainment in the past, cutting in-house projects for the entertainment management firm. 

The Apes**t video was shot using Arri’s Alexa camera, and according to Ward, there wasn’t an enormous amount of footage for him to sift through in creating the edit — unlike other projects he’s worked on in the past.

“Because it’s Jay-Z and Beyonce, they don’t do too many takes,” he explains. “Plus, because of the restrictions, there were only a few hours of footage.”

While Ward was putting together his cut, Sam Ostrove was working with director Ricky Saiz — who is nominated for a VMA for  “Best Direction” — on another cut. The final edit is a merger of the two.

“It was very much an overlap,” says Ward of the final piece. “It came together pretty naturally. Their edited was (focused) more on art and mine was more on performance. It was the epitome of a co-edit.”

Ward edits using Adobe Premiere Pro. This video, he says, was “shot stunningly” by Beniot Debie. Tom Poole at Company 3 handled color correction.

The team had approximately two weeks to complete post production on the video in order for it to premiere during a live show with Beyonce and Jay-Z in London. 

“I believe we delivered 1080,” recalls Ward. “A lot was shot at 2K, but I was working with transcodes.”

Ward served as the sole editor on No One Ever Really Dies’ collaboration with Rihanna on Lemon. N.E.R.D is Pharrell Williams’ original group. The Lemon video centers around one of Williams’ backup dancers, Mette Towley, who is given an opportunity to step into the limelight herself. Three different settings are featured — the first being an apartment/hotel location, where the dancer has her head shaved by Rihanna, symbolically setting her free to perform on her own. 

The second setting is a dark, indoor flea market, where the dancer performs long, uninterrupted sequences as the camera sweeps around her. While there is almost no lip sync taking place, Ward says the choreography and its timing was very specific. 

The third location is a stage where Towley performs in front of a curtain backdrop, covered in glitter and stylistically lit. Todd Tourso + Scott Cudmore directed the video, with Malik Sayeed serving as director of photography.

”I’m very proud of that video,” says Ward of its pacing. “As an audience member, I like things that are a bit slower, [but] as an editor, I have to make things ‘cutty.’ I really got to do what I want to do.”

While the majority of the video was shot using an Arri Alexa camera, there is also some Super 8 and VHS material integrated into it too. Like the Apesh**t video, Lemon was also edited using Adobe Premiere Pro.