It's hard to imagine a director better suited to direct a video for The Fray's "How To Save A Life" than Mark Pellington. Having endured the tragedy of losing his wife to a sudden illness, Pellington lays out the steps from an imaginary recovery primer over portraiture shots of the band and various children emoting for the camera. In terms of impact and pure artfulness, it's probably the director's best work since his breakthrough clip for Pearl Jam's "Jeremy."
Mark Pellington: "I've been thinking about the videos I've made since my wife passed and how they have been watersheds in my healing process. The Keane video I did was only eight months later, but this one was about two years and four months since she passed. There was quite a difference in energy, but the main difference was that when I heard this song I thought more about my daughter than myself.
All of these videos I've made in the past couple years have been partly about me and my interests. With this one I wanted to make something more directly for the band's audience and something that would reflect the world my daughter was growing up into. I wanted to make a video that was earnest and open. I don't want the band to hide. I wanted them to connect and I wanted to give the kids in the video a safe place to emote. Whatever emotions they had: Grief, rage, joy, despair.
For the casting process and the video we had kids come in and listen to the song and they would just relate to it. When I saw the casting tapes I thought I could have even used those in the video. They were all actors, but I wanted kids that were natural and open. The emotion they brought was all real. We'd start listening to the song and we'd let them go where they wanted to go. I just gave them some basic spatial arcs. This Asian American boy brought in a picture of his brother who is involved in gangs. He's still alive, but he had this anger, love and frustration that he couldn't reach him. One girl had a picture of her stepfather who passed away. The song just does something to people. It did the bulk of the work. Each person who listened to it went to their own place."