Although the music video primarily features music from the Broken Bells’ "Holding on for Life," Gentry said that he approached the song as if it was the score to a movie, rather than trying to synchronize imagery to its rhythm or lyrics. "I listened to the record about a million times, but then I ended up writing it out just like a script," he said. "When we were shooting, I just wanted to shoot the movie, and then I would revisit the music in the editing room."
The end result wasn't entirely planned: "I had ideas for certain scenes, and the way that certain scenes came out -- the colors and the styles and the performances and everything came out of certain pieces of music -- but that didn’t necessarily end up being the piece of music for that scene."
"It wasn't necessarily choreographed to the music – we weren't playing the music on the set and trying to hit certain beats," Gentry admitted. "We basically wanted to make the movie and then score it with the album. Broken Bells is kind of like soundtrack music anyway, so I just tried to make the album accompany us as a soundtrack, but then when I was editing, I kind of went back the other direction and tried to figure out which pieces went with which movements the best."
Burton said that he offered Gentry what is no doubt a unique opportunity for a music video director: He gave the filmmaker the individual components of the song so that he could arrange them in order to best suit the narrative. "I gave the album to Jacob, and I gave him stems so he could take any part from any song he wanted to, to score the piece," Burton said. "So Jacob was the one who scored it – he took the pieces that he wanted and placed them and everything."
Actress Kate Mara said that despite the specificity of their ideas, she found plenty of opportunities to improvise, and that even in carefully mapping the emotional trajectory of her character's relationship with Yelchin, there was much spontaneity. "I loved the look of it, and they told me it was a love story that was sort of sad, and a lot of it was going to take place sort of in space," Mara explained. "There was definitely a very strong story there, but when we actually shot it, it was very free floating, and Jacob would give us the scenario and he would just sort of say, 'Go for it, just make sure you do the following few things.'"
"Holding on for Life" was the first music video that Mara ever appeared in, but she welcomed the new challenge. "I don't know that every actor would respond to the director calling out emotions, but I sort of love that, I crave that," she said. "I think it's challenging in that you really have to stay in the moment, but also be aware of what’s going on outside of you.”
The video mirrors the dreamlike themes of the album as a whole, which for Burton offers a meditation on the process of growing up. "You can spend this whole time when you're younger dreaming what it will be like when you're older and you fall in love or get married and have kids," he said. "And then you get to a place and you're there and it's not disappointment, but it's just that things are different, and that's all fine – but now what are you supposed to dream about?"