Just past the two-minute mark in Shawn Mendes‘s intimate music video for “In My Blood,” it begins to rain. The water falls hard, not letting up for 30 seconds and visibly drenching the star’s green sweater. You’d be forgiven for mistaking the precipitation for a visual effect added in post-production, especially given the video’s other digitized elements (crumbling rocks, snow, blooming flowers). But it’s real. Mendes actually got soaked.
“The rain literally dumped on us,” director Jay Martin told MTV News about filming the single-shot video. “I was worried he was gonna be squinting or panicked as it began. But he was good. He’s a pro.”
In addition to being the lead single and video from Mendes’s self-titled album released in May, “In My Blood” racked up three VMA nominations this year, including Best Pop, Best Cinematography (for director of photography Jonathan Sela), and Best Direction (for Martin himself). Martin and Mendes have long been a proven pair of collaborators, too.
Since 2015, Martin has helmed the visuals for the one-man battle of “Stitches,” the dramatic car flooding of “Mercy,” and the dizzying, romantic globetrotting of “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back.” But he knew the video for “In My Blood,” a song of howling resilience Mendes penned about his ongoing struggles with anxiety, presented an opportunity to scale it back.
“I was like, let’s do the one-take video for this because this song is so personal, so emotional, and so internal,” he said. “It seemed like this was the time to go for that.”
While filming “Stitches,” Martin told Mendes to try a take where he’d sing the song straight through while looking in a mirror. The results were better than expected. “It was the most electrifying thing. I was blown away. Like, holy cow, this guy has so much talent. He would be the perfect artist to do a one-take video because he’s so on and he could crush it.”
Any major-label music video requires a big crew, plenty of setup and planning before it’s actually shot. But the premise of “In My Blood,” as Martin saw it, was as simple as it needed to be: Mendes lies down on the floor, referencing his lyrics: “Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing / I’m overwhelmed and insecure, give me something.” The floor’s angled to maximize the crane camera shooting from above, and then Mendes just sings the song, adding subtle gestures to maximize its emotionality.
“He just kinda had fun with it, like, ‘Can I put my hand out and can a little snowflake fall in there?'” Martin said. “He’s such a natural with the performing. That’s what he’s amazing at, creating those rising moments and knowing when to go really big and when to play it cool.”
One of the most dramatic bits is, naturally, when the storm kicks up as the lighting changes, and Mendes passionately delivers the song’s hopeful, powerful refrain, “Sometimes I feel like giving up / But I just can’t, it isn’t in my blood.” The two worked out these flourishes well in advance; Martin consulted Mendes for overall ideas and general feel in the planning process. “He’s commenting constantly on what’s happening leading up to it,” Martin said.
When Mendes arrived for the actual filming — “the fastest shoot day I’ve ever had,” Martin said — he nailed it after only six takes. “He’s one of those people who’s just laser-focused on what they’re doing: his music, making the video,” Martin said. “He’s totally in it.”
By the end of the clip’s three-and-a-half-minute runtime, Mendes is still on the ground, having survived perilous tempests both internal and external. He’s damp and exhausted, but he’s still proclaiming that he won’t give up. And people are listening.
“People I haven’t spoken to in years were texting and emailing me,” Mendes said earlier this year about the song, “being like, ‘Dude, this is so important that you did this.'”
At the 2018 VMAs on August 20, Mendes is set to perform a dynamic performance of “In My Blood” — no word yet on the rain machine. His latest collaboration with Martin, though, proves he can be just as effective singing his heart out on the cold hard ground as he is belting onstage.