When it comes to being on set, I am usually there to record audio or do something audio-related, so when Ryan Nelson (of the Clydesdale Manhattan production group) asked me to step out of that role and help him with making a music video, I thought it sounded like fun. There’s no audio in music videos, but I still had a lot to do. My main duty for this shoot was more of an Assistant Director role. Ryan, Tom (another creator of Clydesdale Manhattan) and I talked through the story, and we came up with the best shots together. I also lended my eyes and took a stab at taking BTS photos.
I am not a photographer, but figured I would give it a shot. I put no thought into taking photos. I just find something that looks interesting in regards to subject or angles and hope I can get the camera to see what I see. I mostly wanted to show a good representation of how the day progressed, and spontaneously capture key moments. So I whipped out the Canon 5d and some various lenses and went to work.
The music video we were creating was commissioned through Fervor Records. The song was called “In the Deep” by the band Broken Bellows, and the video’s inspiration was to create a parody of the classic scene in the movie “Sandlot”. When I asked Ryan why he went with this storyline, he explained: “Right off the bat the record label told us that the band couldn’t be in the actual video due to logistics and scheduling. Therefore, we thought that the video needed to be story driven. We knew the song was about losing your mind over love and being in over your head. The lyrics also draw the metaphor of being so taken by someone that it feels like you’re drowning. Those aspects made us quickly think of the Wendy Peffercorn/Squints pool scene from one of our favorite movies, ‘The Sandlot’. We thought it would be funny to have two younger kids spying on their crush, the “girl next door”, who is older and wildly out of their league. It was also fun to parody such an iconic scene from ‘The Sandlot’. We’ve all had a crush on someone out of our league, especially when we were younger. We think the comedy in the situation is that some of us actually thought we had a shot. If we just devised some type of an awesome plan, we could make it happen. Though the kiss scene was super awkward, for obvious reasons, so all of us couldn’t stop laughing on every take.“
Anytime I work with Ryan and the crew of Clydesdale Manhattan it is a laid back kind of set. As Ryan always says, “We feel it’s more fun to improv and let the story come out naturally on set”. That is why when I work with Ryan and Tom, we are continuously spit-balling and throwing ideas around in between takes.
I do enjoy this way of working because it doesn’t really feel like work. And I have to say there was even more laughing than usual on this shoot. Obviously when you combine kids, water, and a “dream girl” playing guitar in a bikini, the result is a lively set. Everyone involved was great, both kids and adults. The boys we used in the video are aspiring filmmakers. One even has his own YouTube channel. Needless to say they were happy to be there. They were polite, quiet, and took direction very well. Even when we asked them to carry somewhat heavy ladders for a scene they had no problem with it. But that was the only time we asked them to do that. What with child labor laws and all.
There were many things I loved about being on this project, but not having to run audio was at the top of the list. Running audio on set is great, but a lot of the time you are strapped to heavy gear, so you lose the ability to roam. And since we shot this on one of the hotter, more humid days of the summer, I was especially glad to not be loaded down. That meant I was freed up to explore the area to take photos and look at everything from different angles, take it all in so to speak. I definitely experienced the shoot more that way.
Ryan shared my feelings about the heat that day, however he at least got to shoot some scenes from under the water with his GoPro 5 underwater rig. One thing about Arizona is that when you mix heat and water together, you get bugs. They were biting everyone on set. I guess they know I’m not very sweet because I don’t tend to get bit much out here, so luckily I just have to deal with sweating. Ryan was telling me he had a flying bogie in one of his opening (and favorite) drone shots, “The first drone take on Shay (our lead actress) had to be cut because one of the biggest cicadas I’ve ever scene flew right up into the camera lens and then proceeded to fire down like a kamikaze directly by Shay’s head and hit the pool water next to her!”
Poor Shay was on the receiving end of so many bug bites that I actually had to edit some of them out of the photos. We considered including the bugs in the credits but decided against it. I mean, it’s not like they have a union…yet.
The house we were shooting at was owned by Chrissy May from “Spotlight on Arizona”. Not only was she kind enough to let us use her house, but she made us great coffee too. (I guess that’s what inspired me to start my BTS shots with a closeup of coffee mugs).
She also had a couple of dogs that did not like us being there. As everyone knows, if a house has dogs, a yard has poop. Most adults have learned to keep this in mind and avoid any “land mines”, but kids (even aspiring filmmaker kids) have yet to learn this in school. So it was no surprise when one of the boys went sole deep into a pile and trekked it all around the pool. Fortunately for the rest of us, Tom was nice enough to get the hose and clean it off.
This is why I smirk when people say they think filmmaking is all glamour. But things like dog poop, sweat and bugs were more than made up for by the goofy good time we had creating this fun project.
Most of the day went by without any major issues. The shots were set up quickly, the actors did their jobs well, and everyone had a lot of fun. As a musician, I love music and would love to work on more music videos in the future, but unfortunately they don’t come across my desk very often.
Ryan and I find it easy to flow together on set since our work styles are very similar. If I taught a course in “how to make a music video”, this would be my class outline. After the project was done, he told me he’d film it again in a heartbeat. He’d just make sure to wear more sunblock next time. Then again, he is a redhead.