August 2, 2012 —
Over the years, I’ve edited a dozen or so music videos. I’ve always enjoyed working on them. Fitting the shots together to an already existing song is great fun. The song acts as a guide and a base to start from and the images almost always add something unexpected and exciting. You start to hear the song in a different and new way. It works a different side of my brain than editing a narrative film or documentary.
When my high school sweetheart Rose (now married to an amazing fellow) played me some tracks from her new local Scranton-based band, The Great Party, I jumped at the opportunity to make a video for them. I had not directed anything since junior year at NYU and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to help an old friend, a talented band and myself. The constant knots in my stomach were the reminder of my nervousness to be directing something again.
There are five members of The Great Party: Rose, her husband Mike and three other really talented local Scranton musicians. (Seriously, check them out.) The song is called “Teresa,” and after bouncing around ideas with Rose for a few months we settled on a ’90s homage. The video would be bright, fun and weird.
I asked good friend and very talented shooter David Jacobson to film it for me. He brought his amazing girlfriend Erika to do art direction/costumes and I convinced Alex, a production assistant from the documentary I’m working on, to come help.
We arrived in Scranton, PA late Friday night with a large 15-passenger van packed full of equipment. After arriving, we loaded all the equipment into the basement of the house we’d be shooting at and we had some beers on the porch and caught up. There’s a funny mix of high school and film school. Rose, Mike and I stay up late, catch up and talk anxious excitement.
The next morning at 7 a.m. I grumble awake, instantly lamenting why we stayed up so late. After a two cups of coffee and a few hours of setting up for the first performance, the adrenaline kicks in and I am feeling great. The first hitch comes when the drummer (who was actually already a replacement) cancels and I have to teach Derek Williams, an old friend from Honesdale, how to fake it.
We shoot the first performance off a dolly in the front lawn, very green with a wide angle lens. It’s great to see the band play together—they have fantastic chemistry and the energy is very high. Derek is killing it on the drums. If I didn’t know he couldn’t play, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. I start to ease up a little bit.
The second performance is much more complicated, and I am going into it with less of a plan. I don’t want to give too much away, but it involves a performance in a living room shot in slow mo; which means the band has to play the song twice as fast, with hundreds of feathers flying around the room.
As you can probably imagine, it looks great but is a logistical nightmare. Have you ever been in a room with feathers flying everywhere? I had not before last weekend. It’s kind of a disaster, but when all was said and done, and the last puff of the last feather had fallen, it was well worth it.
With the performance out of the way on Saturday, Sunday is spent on the story elements of the video. I had originally thought we would shoot a few more locations close by but, in the end, I decided to cut them because I didn’t want to waste too much of the day running around the city with such a small crew. There’s an interesting simplification that happens when you are actually there on set. Many of the shots turn out better than expected and things start to shift around.
After wrapping on Sunday evening, we spent some time hanging with the band. We had all gotten extremely close over the past two days and it was a little sad to say goodbye.
It takes me a few days to decompress. But looking back I am so very proud of the footage we all shot and can’t wait to see how it all comes together. I am usually in the position of making someone else’s idea happen. It was amazing to have it be mine and quite touching to have help from friends; I could not have done it without them.