Teaching a class here at KelbyOne is always an awesome experience. And my most recent project – DSLR Filmmaking: shooting a music video for the band Jule Vera – was certainly nothing short of just that.
There were a lot of differences with this project versus my past music videos –specifically the budget. For the first time I was able to buy sets, props, wardrobe, special lighting, and a smoke machine.
If you find yourself getting into a project like this, you must pay people. Pay them something, even if it’s $100. Paid people work better for you and it shows in the end. When hiring talent… DO NOT USE YOUR GIRLFRIEND! The lead singer always wants to put his favorite groupie as the lead. A month later, they break up, she’s now dating a lawyer, and your video never gets finished cause you get served papers. If you spend money on anything, spend money on a model or actor. You are going to spend so many hours editing this thing, that spending some money, even if it’s out of your own pocket to help out, will give you fuel for your portfolio and lead to bigger opportunities.
I knew the The Van’s Warped Tour of about 70 bands was coming into town, and there I could find the perfect up and coming band, looking for a free music video. I came across Jule Vera from Alabama, who had members that grew up here in Tampa. I was sent their not yet released album, and was told to pick any song I wanted. Die Trying! Holy cow, what a cinematic and epic piece! I think the word epic is highly overused and I’m never one to say it about bike rides or desserts, but this song was freaking epic.
A basic formula for a concept story telling video is twofold. You shoot the band telling the story, and then you shoot the actual story. The band is the storyteller, and the short film depicts the story the song is telling. You edit them together – and voila!
My concept was simple: A man is stuck in a leveled, unrecognizably burnt down town. A girl trapped in an altered reality full of peace and sunshine, but alone. Man finds girl. Girl is ripped from her reality. And the two go off into the future and have like 10 babies. The band, meanwhile, is telling the story while floating above the wreckage of rooftops, tops of trees and fog.
To take my inspiration further, I studied the portfolio of my favorite artist who is a master of creating altered realities – Brooke Shaden. I pinned all her work that matched my theme to my desk wall, along with other ideas for pieces of the set, and lighting ideas. I listened to the song, over and over, as ideas came to me.
My friend Lindsay Adler came to the rescue, renting me two dresses for the price of one, from her online rental store www.dreamshootrentals.com. My singer would have a dress made out of a parachute with a bullet holster and all! My model would don an octopus-like dress. Both women flowing beautifully above this town burnt to hell. It was perfect. The story was all coming together.
My producer, Jen Coffin, strolls up to my desk says “building a set with demolished rooftops and charred trees is just a tad way over budget.” I had no choice but to rethink my approach, but still keep within my theme. The dresses were on the way and the band now had serious expectations.
With a little bit of creativity, resourceful budgeting, and a team of talented people, we came up with the idea of a burnt down house. Incorporate some key props and materials – creepy teddy bears, grand pianos, busted pallets, mulch – and now it was finally coming together.
A fun idea the guys came up with was to set up 3 drum kits, and pile ashes on top of the heads. They played the song at twice the speed, so that when I would slow it back down in post to normal speed, the ashes would be in slow motion and rise from the drum heads. We had time at the end of the day so we gave it a shot, and it ended up being one of the most powerful parts of the video.
Making this video was such an amazing experience and the lessons learned along the way are invaluable. Having talented people working for you like Daniel Bryant, who did all the compositing and effects, really took this video to the next level and I can’t thank him enough for all his hard work. I had a fun supportive crew, and it was a blast.
The rewarding part for me was being able to go see them play live at 2 different cites. They got me a photo pass and I was able to shoot one of my other favorite artists, Bebe Rexha! What a fun experience overall.
I hope you’ll enjoy my vision unfold and maybe take away a thing or two that can help you in your next project.
You can see more of Adam’s work at AdamShotIt.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Plus, see his class DSLR Filmmaking: Shooting a Music Video when it’s added to the KelbyOne library tomorrow!