The end of the year approaches. A decade comes to a close. It is hard to believe that ten years ago I was still in high school and the biggest accomplishment of my life was getting my drivers license. Oh to be young again.
It’s been a rough winter for many reasons. Those that know me know I am not a huge fan of winter. During this time I tend to crawl into a hole and never come out until the sun and warmth return. But it is a season of introspection and reflection, of hibernation, where I plunge into the depths of my soul and see what is still lying around. It is usually an emotional and somewhat maddening journey, a journey that I never look forward to taking but always glad to have taken.
I’m looking forward to ushering in the new decade and hopeful for what it’ll bring. I thought I would take the time to reflect on this past year and the video work I’ve done to help inspire me for the future. Lord knows I need it.
THE NATURAL ORDER OF THINGS – SHORT FILM (JANUARY)
I started off the new year by flying to Beijing to work on my next short film, The Natural Order of Things. I had always wanted to shoot a film in China, and after meeting producer Yan Gao at the Beijing Olympics just six months prior, it seemed like the opportune time to put this plan into action.
Looking back, I really don’t know how it all came together. It was an incredible experience to say the least. It all seems like a dream now, that if I hadn’t finished the film I’d have no way of proving that I actually went to China and made this movie. I was there for the whole month of January and working on this film was a true joy.
I held a couple of prescreenings so far, but it won’t be officially released into film festivals until sometime in 2010. It’s perhaps one of my proudest works, the production actually went according to plan and the final result is starkly close to what I imagined in my mind. I hope this film is just the beginning of something greater. I would love to go back and shoot a feature film.
AMERICAN FANGS – MUSIC VIDEO (JANUARY)
I actually shot this music video at the end of December but it wasn’t released until January so I thought I’d include it. I had a lot of fun shooting this party-themed music video. We ended up using an empty loft space in David Adickes Sculptureworx Studio in Houston. It proved to be a great location, there was tons of stuff lying around the warehouse we used as props (pool table, couches, etc.) and brought in a bunch of other things to make the place more hospitable. Production Designer Zach Hankin did a great job designing the mini-sets and we had a great turnout.
Things did get a little crazy towards the end of the video, where the lines of party and music video shoot began blurring too closely. We tried to have all the food and beer in a separate area of the warehouse, but it wasn’t long before extras began to bring the alcohol and their inebriation to the set. The extras were good sports though and I was proud of myself for getting some of them to makeout and appear nude on camera. I’m guessing the alcohol helped in this regard.
OTENKI – MUSIC VIDEO (APRIL)
This video was directed by a friend of mine, Mark Armes, who helps me out a lot with my own music video work. I just DP’d (camera-work) the video and it was the first video I shot with the newly upgraded Redrock Micro m2 Encore adapter. This new adapter only loses about a 1/2 stop of light, as opposed to the previous model which lost 2 1/2. It was fun working on a video in which I wasn’t in charge so I thoroughly enjoyed it. I sent the performance footage over to Brian Valente at Redrock to use in their booth during NAB 2009. Performance scenes were shot against a makeshift cyc wall. It was really just a white sheet that was blown out with HMI’s. A little bleed-through, but overall effective.
FM STATIC – MUSIC VIDEO TRILOGY (MAY – JULY)
When I got back from Beijing, I got the exciting offer to work on some animated music videos for Tooth & Nail. The videos were for a new concept album from Thousand Foot Kutch’s alter-ego band, FM Static, entitled Dear Diary. I had some lofty goals for these videos, wanting to make a music video trilogy that continued a story and each video to be drawn and animated in a different visual style. I worked on the first video with Shelby Hohl who helped me with the Copeland and Presidents of the U.S.A. videos the previous year. The visual style was to be quite cartoonish and roughly-sketched. It was then colored by hand with watercolors by Tim Dorsey.
The second video I worked with illustrator Andrew Cherry. This was our first project together and I was really pleased with how the video turned out. We wanted the video to be told primarily in black-and-white and have more of a clean graphic style. Andrew really went all out and drew some beautiful renders and it shows in the final product.
I also got to use a couple of After Effects plug-ins effectively for the video – Trapcode Particular for the rain effects and Video Co-Pilot’s Twitch plug-in for simulating lightening. This is probably my favorite video of the trilogy because I really feel we were able to capture the essence of the song visually. It was also my favorite song of the three because it allowed for me to go a little darker which I think helped with the emotional resonance. This was our Empire Strikes Back, so to speak.
I worked with Andrew Cherry again for the final video and visually we had a couple of different ideas but eventually settled with taking a more realistic approach to the drawing of the characters. It was difficult to come up with a good concept that could complement the lyrics considering the lyrics were really introspective yet extremely powerful. But it was obvious we had to bring a conclusion to the story on this video, which I felt we achieved.
Looking back at the trilogy as a whole, it would’ve been wiser to prep all of them together and execute certain stages at the same time instead of staggering them. Not sure if that would have been as realistic with the deadlines, but I think it would have saved us from getting fatigued by streamlining a lot of the work. But it was definitely a learning experience and I feel all the wiser now. Overall a really fun project to work on.
MAYLENE AND THE SONS OF DISASTER – MUSIC VIDEO (JUNE)
During the summer I headed out to Tennessee to shoot this Deliverance homage for this kick-ass metal group. This was probably the craziest video I’ve shot, but my god was it fun. We ended up renting some cabins at the Crazy Horse Canoe Rental in Waynesboro, Tennessee. The owners were glad to have us and everyone was really excited to see us in action.
We got there several days in advance to scout locations. We found a giant rock platform right on the water that fit the band perfectly and decided to shoot there for the performance. All of the story elements consisted of taking a canoe trip downstream, camera in tow. The band tipped over their canoes on the way down, we were constantly escaping from water moccasins and cottonmouths, and some shady guy wanted to share his shady deer jerky with us. It was yummy.
I really had a blast with this one, it created some fond memories for everyone involved. I got to use underwater housing for the first time (EpicPro HD) which has some issues but we were able to work with it. The music video had a Rolling Stone premiere which was awesome, and Brian Valente was gracious to post it on the Redrock Micro site as well.
FURY – SHORT FILM (JUNE)
I got word from Alfred Cervantes of the Houston Film Commission that FURY was selected as part of the Texas Filmmakers Showcase, which was really exciting. I had shot the film back in 2008 and was just releasing it to film festivals in 2009. The showcase premiered at the L.A. Film Festival where I got to meet and develop friendships with a bunch of the other filmmakers included in the showcase. The film also played at Houston’s Worldfest, the L.A. Shorts Fest, the Austin Film Festival, the Dallas Video Fest, and a few more. It was great seeing the short film up on the big screen and it was a good experience in learning more about the festival experience and how to go about networking and promoting your film.
TAMAR DAVIS – MUSIC VIDEO (JULY)
I had worked with Tamar Davis previously on a music video that was never released because of some “political” reasons. This time she was with a different producer and we decided to work together again to finish what we started. We shot this video on location in Houston, TX at SouthCoast Studios, Hotel Icon, and Canvas Records recording studio. This was also the first video I got to work with DP-extraordinaire Matt Workman, who is wrecking all kinds of shop in New York. He really is the consummate professional and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him on this video and hopefully many more to come.
BETTER THAN EZRA – MUSIC VIDEO (SEPTEMBER)
Better Than Ezra was one of my favorite bands growing up, so it was like a dream come true to work with them. I think probably one of the things I learned doing this video is that I really need to stop self-producing and get someone else to produce. I found myself overwhelmed most of the time with everything that needed to get done. I’m able to do it, I’d just rather find someone else who I can trust to share the load and burden. But we had a good time shooting the video. I flew in Rick Darge from Los Angeles to DP and got to stage an accident scene on a street in downtown Houston. The band was great and shooting against the Houston skyline during magic hour turned out as awesome as I hoped it would. The video enjoyed a nice MySpace premiere too.
And that brings 2009 to a close. Several music videos fell through towards the end of the year, unfortunately, so I just concentrated on but I’m looking to start fresh again beginning in 2010. I’m going to be working for NBC again during the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, so that’ll be a great opportunity to jump start the year. Will attempt to blog more, but then again, I always say that.
Here’s to the new year.