"I do my best to evesdrop on converstations. That's why I spend so much time at coffee shops." - me, not really (the evesdropping part)
Actually that's somewhat true on this one. Short of leaving a tooth brush in their bathroom I've pretty much claimed Brooklyn Habit as my go to coffee shop since moving to NYC. Most weekday mornings you'll find me there in front of my laptop, notebook, and a black coffee. A few weeks ago I'd overheard one of the baristas talking about a music video she'd just put out. She'd mentioned wanted to another one for an upcoming release and had a few ideas.
Elena Goddard's day job is helping keep Brooklynites caffeinated, but this Canadian singer/songwriter has been doing her own music since she was little. We ended up talking about doing a music video after a few of her other options had flamed out. I showed her some of my work, she sent me a few references, and we went from there.
Now to be straight about all this, Elena's is the first music video I've done with an artist from beginning to end. I'd cam op'd a music video for another DP waaay back in the day, shot a ton of live performances, and cut together footage I'd shot to music I like. For sure I approached this with those experiences in mind but also worked through the concept to help direct Elena through the process. Here's a link to the treatment if you're up to check it out. Another thing I'd done was put together a proof of concept edit using some of the reference images. The concept morphed a bit once we got to post but the exercise was still helpful in thinking through the project ahead of time as well as pitching the idea to Elena.
By no means was what I'd wanted to do a ground breaking concept. The song is about being in a dark place in life and not knowing how to communicate that with others or if they'd even know if you were gone. I've been in crazy dark places in my own life and thankfully come out healthier on the other side. I saw the verses being what she presented to the public; choruses were how she actually felt but would never share; the bridge visually represented how out of control she felt emotionally.
Each section had a specific look lighting-wise. Elena had originally sent me Jessie J's "Not My Ex" and we both liked the idea of a simple shot in front of a solid background. For the chorus I was absolutely set on a single reference image shot by Daniel Routh for a short by Matthew P. Rojas. I thought the tight framing and short sided look represented our character being at end of her rope and ready to accept a dark fate. For the more abstract inner struggle stuff the thought was to make it feel like the world in front of our character was dark but not realize there's still light somewhere.
Thank goodness for making connections here in NYC. I met Christiana Lopez at a Christmas party through a friend of David Bizzaro. She'd seen the Slam Dunk video we'd done with his Bayr character and was down to make stuff if anything came up. She basically wore all the hats on this shoot short of what all Elena and I were doing. Absolutely look forward to getting a chance to work with her again soon.
Elena looked around for a few afforadable studio spaces in Brooklyn and found gem of a space in Clinton Hill. At $40/hour the space ticked all our "must haves" and she booked us six hours; totally worth it. We got there early and hustled through the shoot using every bit of that time. There was a booking immediately after us and I made them leave the room when they showed up early.
"We've got the room for another 13 minutes so I'm gonna need you to wait outside." - me
Everything was shot on my RED Weapon Helium and Zeiss CP.2 lens set. The direct to camera stuff was shot in 8k at 23.98fps while the slow motion stuff was in 5k at 96.39fps. The plan was to deliver a 4k final and I'd planned to do some digital zooms with the slow motion footage. We initially had a flicker using my tungsten light and the higher frame rate shots so out came the Flicker Free app to get us to a 298.2° shutter.
Part of making stuff is always knowing there were things I'd have done better or differently once a project is wrapped up. Once I started in on the edit I wish I'd have shot with more light and cooled my jets a bit with the haze.
The verse sections were lit with an ARRI 650 through a Matthews Road Rags 24"x36" silk. The chorus had us pushing an ARRI 150 through a silk and raising the ambient by shooting an ARRI 300 into the white ceiling way camera left. The abstract stuff had us putting a snoot made of black wrap on the 300 and hazing the crap out of the room to get a shaft of light; wish I'd have let the haze chill the F out a bit more before each take so it would've looked more uniform. We blew through a can of Atmosphere Aerosol I had left over from a feature shoot a couple years ago.
By far the verse section was my least favorite shot in the whole thing. I dug the lighting on Elena, but the brightness of the white background was no question too high. That was the first setup and in the rush to get going I didn't realize we also had gray paper available. We ended up shooting on gray through the rest of the day and didn't have time to go through the verse section again. I tried fixing it in post with a secondary HSL adjustment but no dice. Surely a colorist who knew what they were doing could've saved that shot.
One of the "happy accidents" from the shoot was how the light reflected off Elena's backless body suit. The idea was to have her in silhouette and the light reflecting off her back and additional haze helped to separate her even more from the backdrop. I absolutely dig the warmer color tones we got in camera but ended up cooling off the shot in post to reinforce our concept.