I was supposed to start this months ago – write a blog to coincide with each music video I direct. It’s supposed to be an exercise in keeping my journalling active on the making-of Cheer For Your Life (my upcoming film, which I’m desperately behind on journalling about so maybe this blog-per-music video will work like it’s supposed to). So here I am alone in a hotel room in the Nashville area at midnight finding myself completely bored.
Too tired to edit anymore but not tired enough to sleep. This is where my brain always finds itself this time of night. I want to keep working but get scattered and unfocused. Facebook has become a yawn-fest by this time as most regular type folk have tucked in for the night. Just boredom. There’s only so much Nip/Tuck I can watch in an evening (it’s midway through Season 4 for me right now. I never watched the show in it’s regular run though urged by an ex-girlfriend to give it a try.)
Anyhow on to what I’m here to talk about. A month or two ago I directed a music video for fellow Gavin, Gavin Slate.
The song is titled “Falling” and it’s the simple lyrical tale of a man coming to terms with the fact that the feelings he has have been love for a certain someone all along “and I knew what it was all along… I was falling for you…”. My take on the concept was the bittersweet realization of too little, too late. I’ve been there. I think many of us have. So the concept I pitched to Gavin was simple.
See the finished video here if you haven’t already:[youtube.com/watch?v=UVV1yHLC6eI]
Actually I should explain how I met Gavin Slate. It’s always a bizarro world for me how these projects come together.
I had written treatments for a wonderfully wicked singer/songwriter Lindi Ortega at the request of her label. I did my duties there and submitted them and not long after saw that she was having a CD Release party in Toronto. Turns out we have a mutual good friend who ended up inviting me to the same release party. I had planned on making the drive up from Windsor to be there. Never hurts if I’ve seen a performer live that I may potentially direct for. In fact I prefer it. On the poster for the event I caught on the facebook event page I saw the opening acts. I figured, I’ll check out their music on Myspace or iTunes before I see them open for Lindi. For me there is nothing worse than being at a concert and watching openers that I don’t know their music. I like to have lyrics to sing along with and know a little about a band/act first. Gavin Slate was one of these acts. His name was Gavin so he’s already a rare breed in my books. I’ve never worked with another Gavin. That was intriguing on it’s own for whatever silly reason.
I found Gavin’s music online and started listening. Powerful stuff. All of it. His voice in in the vein of Matt Kearney and his somber songs about love and live get trapped in your head and you find yourself humming them hours later. Naturally I found him on Facebook and sent him a cold message. “Hey it’s Gavin, blah blah, Lindi’s release, blah blah, like yer stuff, blah, talk to you that night at the event.”
Or something like that.
So within twenty-four hours I got chatting with Other Gavin (when I’m directing he’s Other Gavin and when he’s on stage or the main event I will be Other Gavin that night) about music videos and what track he’s like to do a video for. We settled on “Falling”. I had the idea almost instantly and wrote up a quasi-treatment and sent it over. He liked it right away and bingo – a video was born. I actually sent two over and for the life of me I can’t remember what the other concept was… hopefully I still have the message – maybe it will end up a video for another artist. From there we started discussing budget and timing to get the video shot. I pitched him, as I pitch everyone, the concept of doing the production in Windsor/Essex County. He was game. This made me happy because I love working with the rag-tag team of dedicated people Mimetic Entertainment has on set on a regular basis. The gang would ride again.
Around the same time, Sean Parker over at Parktown Productions put out an incredible offer. He would provide the Redcam and we’d collaborate for the first time ever so that I could get a taste for the Red having never shot with it and considering it for my next film Cheer. Not an offer I could turn down. Sean and I met through my How Many Days? video blogs relating to Kevin Smith and have been Facebook friends ever since. We’re going to write a screenplay together soon and I know in my gut have many collaborations ahead of us, but how he relates here and now to Gavin Slate was this offer of the camera and coming down for the weekend. As soon as I knew that date I had Gavin on the phone to get his arse to Windsor for the same time.
So we’re back to Gavin’s song and my concept for it. I took it as a guy who realized he truly was in love with his girlfriend all along- only he’s realized this after she’s finished kicking him out of the house. We don’t know what he did but it couldn’t have been good because his clothes, guitar, television, and even couch have been tossed out in her rage. Not wanting to give up on the relationship he’s realized (as most of us simple minded males do) he doesn’t want to lose even this late in the game, Gavin sets up all of his furniture on the lawn and refuses to leave until she breaks down and lets him back in to talk. The video essentially is a performance of Gavin on the front lawn as if it’s business as normal in his living room – he’d order a pizza, watch some tv, take a nap, do some light reading – all the comforts of home without the roof over his head. A test of will that if he stuck it out long enough, his girlfriend would come around and her anger would simmer.
We needed a front yard. I always go to Marie, who has produced with me pretty much every music video I’ve directed since The Afters “Light Up The Sky” video last October. Marie is great at brainstorming the needs of any video and an amazing sounding board for me to talk out load at and bounce ideas off of. We thought of the neighbourhood that had what we’d want in terms of exterior for the house. We talk about how to approach people who own’d the houses, how to deal with the noise we’d be making at night with a crew on a front lawn. Of course the simplest solution didn’t come about for a few days; a solution we ultimately went with.
My front lawn. The house that Brian and I live in was absolutely perfect for it but like most times when stressing to lock down elements for a music video or film, I can’t see the lawn for the city as they say. This was going to be such a simple shoot on the technical end. Load the gear out onto the lawn and once wrapped load it back in! No moving cast and crew to multiple locations, sometimes over multiple days. I was pretty stoked about this.
Of course we had Sean coming down from Ottawa and bringing two assistants, camera operator Ben Walker and Digital Imagine wizard Oscar Welsh. Two gentleman I had the pleasure of meeting that weekend but, like Sean, hope to work with again – even though Oscar’s going to a film school program next month when he’s already working with world class film people… shame on him! I won’t hold it against him forever. With Sean and the gang in town, my place, although the ideal location was not going to work to house our out of town guests. So I made a call.
My mother, “What do you need?”
She knows that I rarely call her because she calls me each and every day at least once. So when I am calling it’s because I have a request. This time – to house the crew, Marie and I for two nights since her and my stepfather George have three guest bedrooms. My mom is a super neat-freak so there was some grumbling but like the good mother she is she agreed. Who needs hotels when we can arrive at mum’s to pizza already ordered, George’s homemade wine, and hours of great conversation? Not I. We settled in, tried to get a good night’s sleep and then in the morning I had to go film a charity event before the set-up for the shoot could begin.
I took off for the morning and first part of the afternoon to film The Breast Ride Ever’s second annual charity motorcycle ride for Breast Cancer. While I did that the crew and Marie were treated to George’s homemade breakfast. Fuckers. I really missed out. Though I suppose I can rest comfortably knowing I was dedicating my time and camera skills to something bigger than all of us. Now I want pancakes. All I have are mini-bagels in this hotel. They shall have to do for the time being.
While I was filming for charity, Marie was calling around to find ANYWHERE in our cursed city that carried a 7200rpm firewire 800 external hard drive. We were only able to find one at Henry’s. An entire city of computer and electronic stores and truly only one that understands the needs of the digital filmmaker. Pathetic. It’s not even that uncommon of a drive but I didn’t have a free one and the Red Camera we were shooting the video on required it for storage of the footage.
While this was transpiring and I was still filming from the back of a truck trying to not get whipped in the eye by my shaggy head of hair
Moving on to the afternoon, charity filmed, everyone is gathering at my house. Marie and I had been taking donations and loan outs on vintage furniture and props to be the content’s of Gavin’s life that would appear on the lawn. Facebook friends and cast/crew from previous videos brought out some amazing items to use. That afternoon, setting up, I had a call from Cerah Steele. She is my hair dresser and an amazing singer/performer herself. Cerah was going to do hair for the video that evening and happened to be at an estate sale not more than a four minute drive from my house. She said there was all sorts of vintage stuff there that was going for dirt cheap. Sean and I hoped in the car and headed over. Sure enough I spent a bit more than planned in our tiny budget but managed to snag the record player you see at the beginning and end of the video as well as the clock which you see hung on the tree. Definitely worth the trip, many thank-yous to Cerah and her boyfriend Josh for those findings.
We waited til the sun was setting after scattering the furniture, clothes, etc around the lawn to design phase one of the set. We shot the first takes with Marie throwing books and final items out of the house while we dolly to the left from the record player Gavin is starting up to seeing the scattered items on the lawn. Marie’s goal in her career is to be a working actor full-time. She sorta fell into working behind the scenes with me on a short film I produced for Navin Ramaswaran a few years back. When looking for the leading lady for this video it became apparent quickly that she’d be perfect for it and given the fact that there isn’t a demanding amount of her time for the scenes necessary she could producer and act in the video without it compromising her producing responsibilities.
Sun sets. We’re into night which is the majority of our shoot. There’s no real funny stories to tell about the shoot from this point on. There’s a behind the scenes video that shows you far better than I can write it. Marie always shoots a behind the scenes for each music video she produces so we’re sure to add it to the Mimetic Entertainment Youtube Channel playlists for the artist to share with their fans.
It was wonderful to have Desiree and Victoria taking photos for us. Clinton and Sarah are just top-notch and work like dogs to make sure everything is done fast and efficient as they always do on each set. Logan dug right in as a first timer and really rocked it. Cerah’s hair stylings were perfection. Krista’s make-up top notch. Ben, Sean, Oscar from Ottawa where an absolute pleasure to work with. We even had film producer Mike Carriere out to lend a hand.
I did find the Red a bit bulky – I’m used to being able to move a smaller camera more often, change shots quicker, do handheld with a shoulder mount rig, just get coverage fast. With the Red it didn’t work that way so there was a learning curve and adjustment for me in that sense.
It was a contained set to the front lawn and not a lot of motion on Gavin’s part. His performance was consistant from take to take and that makes the editing a heck of a lot easier.
There was a cameo from Ted E. Bear – who’s been making the rounds in music videos and a previous feature film of mine. Great little bear actor he is! This video is one of the first times I kinda had everything planned out (not on paper of course) – A lot of one location indie band videos I go in with a basic concept but no real shot list… just knowing the basic story/idea and roll with it. For “Falling” I knew the majority of the events and knew we could think up more ways for Gavin to pass the time while he was on his front lawn if we had time left over. One of the cool things we got to do was provide a cameo for Bull’s Eye Pizza… err… more so blatant product placement!
Bull’s Eye Pizza has been so incredible with us donating pizza for the cast/crew of every single music video we’ve every requested of them. We always tweet and facebook our appreciation for it to help promote their business. This time however, we thought it would be a funny moment in the storyline for the video if Gavin gets hungry while camping out overnight for his girlfriend to give him the time of day. So we have him paying for a pizza he’s ordered. Bull’s Eye Pizza even sent over an extra pizza with some nice bright coloured hot peppers on it to use a the pizza in the video instead of making the crew wait to eat the meal pizzas. Jon, the owner, also sent Marie back with a small Bull’s Eye Pizza shirt. The only person in the crew it was going to fit was Oscar, so he went from DIT specialist to actor in the change of a tee.
So that’s about all she wrote. We filmed until five in the morning or so. Clean up wasn’t too painful having to just stuff everything back inside the house. The editing was done a day or so later and Ben over at Parktown turned around the colour correction soon after. Gavin did a great job – debut music videos can be tricky for an artist sometimes when performing in front of the camera. You really should all check out his EP. The songs are fantastic. We have another video coming your way really soon too.
For me, thanks for reading and you can catch me on the big, vast, ever growing world wide web through the links under my sign off.