Beyonce's "Formation" video dropped on Saturday afternoon, when most of New Orleans was at Endymion, distracted and dealing with spotty cell phone service.
This timing would not normally be remarkable—after all, most of the world wasn't celebrating Carnival, and the Super Bowl, whose halftime show Beyonce would perform in, was the next day. But in this case, Beyonce's surprise video uses New Orleans as a central theme, through footage of neighborhoods, Mardi Gras Indians, high school marching bands and other cultural touchstones, plus the striking image of Beyoncé atop a NOPD car sinking in Hurricane Katrina's floods.
It might not matter to some, but it turns out none of the New Orleans-themed video was actually shot in New Orleans, which has surprised a lot of people here in the city. But after all, many music videos are set in places they are not actually filmed.
As most people know due to a controversy, the video's New Orleans footage is from the short documentary That B.E.A.T. But even the scene where Beyonce and Co. take over a plantation, which looks like a Louisiana plantation or an historic New Orleans home, was shot in a Beaux Arts mansion in Pasadena, California.
Logistics and a one-week shoot schedule necessitated filming in Los Angeles, between the Fenyes Mansion and what Ethan Tobman, the video's production designer, says was "a water tank inside a soundstage." (A tipster on the Curbed National story comments that the police car scene was actually shot "in Falls Lake on the Universal backlot with a blue screen background".) The production team also swapped out the home's art with portraits of black aristocrats—something that doesn't tend to exist in IRL historic house museums.
Beyonce was spotted in New Orleans recently filming something in the Superdome, so it's possible a locally produced sequel to "Formation" is on the way. Beyonce is full of surprises.
It will be interesting to see if Beyonce incorporates New Orleans imagery on her upcoming Formation World Tour, announced after her show-stealing appearance on the Super Bowl. However, many people from New Orleans won't be able to see it for themselves—in the initial tour dates, New Orleans wasn't included.