How the Intimate ‘Charli XCX: Alone Together’ Doc Came Together

2022-01-28T18:11:58+00:00January 28th, 2022|News|

In the early months of pandemic isolation, Charli XCX handled her restlessness with a self-imposed challenge: record an album on her own in just six weeks while filming the process in real time on Zoom and Instagram. By May 2020, her fifth studio album, how i’m feeling now, was complete. As Charli XCX started sharing her journey online, directors Bradley Bell and Pablo Jones-Soler (both of whom previously collaborated with the singer on music videos and photography) stumbled across the project.

They sent her a text suggesting they expand her documentation to a constant stream of recording. She was in, under one condition: She could pull the plug at any time. Soon, three high-definition Sony camcorders arrived, on which she and her quarantine housemates — boyfriend Huck Kwong and co-managers Sam Pringle and Twiggy Rowley — documented the process for what would become Bell and Jones-Soler’s debut long-form feature, Charli XCX: Alone Together, available to stream and in select theaters today (Jan. 28).

“It was quite a psychological challenge to get inside Charli’s head,” says Bell. “Why did she feel like it was important to make the album in this way?” The answer didn’t begin to reveal itself until Bell and Jones-Soler were sifting through over 4,000 clips of footage from Charli XCX and her fans — who appear almost as co-stars — to build a narrative they hadn’t been physically present to shape. “There ended up being three narrative threads running through it,” Jones-Soler explains, “each one about connection at a different level.”

While working on the album, Charli XCX was unpacking feelings of defeat and unworthiness in therapy and navigating a changing seven-year relationship with Kwong. Footage of the singer reeling emotionally at home is spliced together with news clippings depicting rising coronavirus numbers, spotlighting the psychological toll of the ongoing pandemic. “To be taken back to those first few weeks of craziness and anxiety,” says Bell, “[it’s a reminder] of how insane this situation is that we’re living through right now.”

Bell and Jones-Soler weren’t satisfied with only offering a look into the lives of a single pop star, though — and Charli XCX’s intimate connection with her fans, known as the Angels, has long been a two-way street. “As soon as we decided we were gonna do [this documentary], we started talking to as many fans as we could,” Jones-Soler remembers. “We were just like, ‘Start filming everything you do related to this project.’”

Serving as co-stars in Alone Together, fans shared footage of how they kept spirits high, particularly through quarantine dance parties on Zoom. But they also shared the less polished elements of life in lockdown, as many grappled with loss of employment or were homebound in living environments in which their sexuality and gender were invalidated. As the Angels leaned on the community they’ve built around Charli XCX, she, too, took solace in connecting online, even welcoming fans to participate in the songwriting process when she felt stuck. One fan’s advice made it into the hook of the pulsating “anthem,” which describes a yearning for togetherness.

“We were all separated and seeing, through all these really innovative forms of music and art, everything was an attempt to come together,” says Bell. That proved to be true when fans joined Charli XCX for a virtual how i’m feeling now release party, for which they were all dressed up to dance alone in their bedrooms. They were together once again.

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