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Throughout the 1990s Mark Romanek had become one of the most sought-after videos working in the music industry. His impressive résumé had included collaborations with Nine Inch Nails, Madonna, Lenny Kravitz and Beck and, due to his popularity, he had become very selective on which artists he wished to work with. Following their breakthrough in the mid-1990s with the hit singles Just a Girl and Don’t Speak, Californians No Doubt had become a best-selling act, whilst singer Gwen Stefani had been hailed as a sex symbol. Although Stefani and Romanek had been close friends for some time they had yet to find the opportunity to work together, but when it came time to develop video concepts for their second single from the 2001 album Rock Steady, the two were finally able to collaborate.
Inspired by an article he had seen in the Italian edition of Vogue a few years earlier, Romanek emailed Stefani with some notes on his intentions for a video, in which the band would be cyberpunk squatters residing in a harbour where the ‘oceans are the streets and the ships were the buildings.’ His concept would include the band riding on jet skis and scavenging their way through an aquatic world. While Stefani and her bandmates were impressed with Romanek’s ideas their label, Interscope, would take some convincing, as the thought of shooting a black-and-white music video on water seemed a little too ‘arty’ for the company, who were hoping for something more commercial to fit the upbeat vive of the track, Hella Good. Eventually they were convinced after Stefani had listed countless black-and-white music videos and Romanek was given the go-ahead to shoot the promo.
The elaborate sets required for the concept would be designed and created by Laura Fox, who would work with Romanek once again the following year on the video for the Linkin Park song Faint. The director chose to shoot on 16mm to give the film a grainy look that would lend to the punk aesthetic, while in contrast Stefani would be dolled up in glamorous make-up and outfits. To add to the gritty look green dye was added to the water to give it a dirty appearance, as well as squatter-like objects left around inside the freighters at the harbour. Filming commenced on March 3rd 2002 at Pier D in Long Beach, California and would last for three days, each consisting of around fifteen hours of shooting. Although the experience would be gruelling for all involved, particularly the band, spirits remained surprisingly high.Despite this, the very first take almost ended in disaster when a camera mounted on a crane was filming Stefani as she was hanging from a buoy. As it moved close it became tangled on a rope and as the cameraman attempted to pull back the camera almost fell into the water, although thankfully a quick-thinking Stefani managed to help balance it before it toppled. The first day would consist of the stunt sequences, specifically those involving the jet skis, in which the band themselves would perform their own stunts as they were dragged along by another jet ski containing the cameraman. By the end of the first day the band were freezing cold and unable to speak, although Stefani was forced to remain for one final sequence in which she was placed on top of a pile of ropes that had been rolled into a spiral and was to perform – both lying down and standing – as the camera filmed from above.
The second and third days saw the crew relocate to Stage 3 at South Bay Studios in Long Beach for the performance sequences, in which each band member would have their own location. Romanek was especially impressed with Stefani, whom he felt had both the beauty and charisma of an old movie star. In return Stefani felt confident that, despite the unpleasant filming conditions, that the director was creating something memorable. Hella Good was released approximately six weeks after filming came to an end, making its debut on 13 April 2002. The song became a huge success and was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the Grammy Awards, while the video received heavy airplay on MTV.