A’ight here’s the back story for the ‘Rotten Apples’ video. Tony from Retone Records emailed me and said he had a new band that he wanted to make a video for. I heard their music and was pretty stoked. The band sent me an email about a little idea they had
“david on a toy horse you pay a quarter to ride on at the grocery store, but in front of a green screen and put him in different places”
I like this idea, it reminded me of a thought I’d had recently…I’d been checking out a bunch of commercial production companies’ websites and found this Rimmel ad that I really liked. It had Kate Moss “riding” a motorcycle in front of bad rear projection of old Paris.
I thought how cool would it be to use this technique in a music video…something that obviously didn’t look “real” but had it’s own kitschy aesthetic.
So I suggested to the band that we put Dave in front of old black and white western movies. We could make a sort of chase and mix elements we’d shoot in front of a green screen and from old movies. They dug this idea, but they wanted to make sure that they didn’t seem like a “country” band…I assured them it would be way too weird for anyone to think that. Think ‘Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid’ meets ‘Knights of Cedonia’ meets ‘Alice in Wonderland.’
Here’s the shot that I showed them to illustrate what I meant by the Western Footage.
They next step was to find all the old western footage…and figure out what the story was going to be. Where was I going to find all this old B&W footage? I could find movies that were in the public domain and then telecine all the material…but this could be really really expensive. Luckily, my producer Tony (a different Tony) found a site called www.archive.org. This site had literally thousands of pieces of media in the public domain. That meant the copy right had lapsed and people could do what ever they wanted with them.
“This collection is free and open for everyone to use.”
I searched for Western before 1950…and their were hundreds of hits…so much it was almost overwhelming and many of them weren’t even the sorts of films I was looking for, just things that had been tagged “western.” So I had my intern, Jessinah go thru the list and make a database of each one that was a real, old western movie. Then I began to download…for the next 3 weeks my computer was constantly downloading…hundreds of gigabytes of media.
Now I had another problem…I work 40 hours a week…I had over 60 movies…even if they were each only 1 hour long, that was 60 hours of viewing. How was I going to be able to review all this material? It could take months? So I enlisted a small army of assistant editors, interns, and friends to help me go thru the footage. Some I paid, some I traded FCP lessons for their time, some of them I just pleaded with…
First I had them look for “riding shots” and “anything interesting or weird.” Then I’d go thru and check their markers…I knew I needed the riding shots, but I wasn’t really sure what other footage I was going to use. As I looked at the movies I saw some real gems of old western filmmaking. heh. It got to be that I’d know WHERE in the film the riding shots would be…there was riding at the beginning where something happened, then a bunch of talking, courtrooms, town, cabin stuff, then the film would end with a big chase & shoot out. Even at double speed and no sound it was pretty easy to follow the plots of these movies.
As I found these shots I began to construct the narrative of the video…there was actually a lot of shots I really wanted to use, including this monkey. *sigh* maybe on another project. I just really loved the idea that there would be a monkey in the old west.
Next I broke up the song and begin to time things out. Using FCP and title cards I start to fill in the moments of the song where I want things to change. It helps me start to visualize the video and figure out the timing. Like “hey, wow. I was waaay to much time for that moment of the song. booooring.” heh. But it really helps me visualize things. I keep expanding on this, getting more and more specific. This time, since I was dealing with green screen, backgrounds, and props, I had to visualize even more.
For each section of the video I made what I’m calling “shot cards.” Then I filled in the props and backgrounds I wanted, what sort of costume, which band members and so one. We used these to: schedule, storyboard, make sure we had all props & wardrobe, and finally keep track of things on set. I really dug them.
Due to our budget restrictions, we decided to shoot at Phil’s (the bassist) loft. It was in downtown LA and it had just enough space for us to throw up a greenscreen. And outside there was a nice white wall which could hopefully pass for outside of a grocery store.
The morning of the shoot started out awesome. With torrential rains. Seriously it hadn’t rained at all this year…then on the morning of the shoot it poured like never before. Walking to the Uhaul, there was literally a river of water going down the stairs outside my apartment. I put on my gortex jacket and my gortex hiking boots. Even still, I ended up with mud on my pants halfway up to my knees. There was a brief let up in the rain when we got downtown.
The band was still asleep.
I started to pound on the large rollup metal door that connect their apartment to the alley. I looked down and there right in the middle of where we’d be walking and moving gear was a big pile of…
Welcome to downtown LA.
I knew that this was for me to take care of. I wasn’t paying anyone enough…and the people that were working for free were all friends. This was my video, so it was my duty.
I grabbed a couple pieces of “clean” trash from the alley and scooped. Now I’m cleaned up a lot of poo in my day. I’ve worked as a janitor at a couple ski areas, and cleaned up a bunch when I was working at Safeway in highschool…but this was the nastiest shit I’ve ever had to deal with.
Oh, just a little note, when washing the reminders of poo from outside your loft…use cold water. Hot water kind of um…cooks it. Yeah. Not pleasant.
With the poo out of the way we started to set up…originally we were going to shoot outside first. Since we didn’t have permits, I wanted to get that stuff taken care of before many people were out and about. But it started raining again. So we moved inside and began to shoot Dave on the horse. It was actually a really big horse…full on adult size. Shooting went smooth and soon we were ready to move outside.
But in view of where we wanted to shoot there was a cop. Clovis and I walked down the alley looking at other walls, trying to figure out if one of them would work. Nothing was really standing out to me. We settled on one and moved the horse out. We got a take…then it started to rain. This happened a couple times. Each time we’d come back outside it was a little later in the day…we had a little less light and the chance that’d we’d be able to come back out again diminished. I cut down the number of shots I wanted and we moved quick. We got what we needed just as it started to rain again. Back inside…
Normally in this sort of situation I’d shoot as late as I could…we had the location locked down, we had food, everyone was in good spirits. One slight problem…the band had booked a show that night. In Glendale. So we had to be done by 9pm.
But my crew was up to the challenge. Everyone knew what they needed to do and got it down. I already knew what shots I could cut and I chopped them without mercy. heh.
We got everything we needed and it looked like the band was going to make their show without having to break any land speed records.
Then something happened with the roll up door. It rolled up…but it wouldn’t roll down. It was super jammed. I tried not to freak out about the possibility of having to pay for the door. Luckily I was too tired to really think about such things and it was easy to focus on other things…like signing checks. Kurt the drummer started helping Phil and my friend Troy with the door. He got it to move and BAM! there was a loud sound like a cross between the breaking of metal and an aluminum can popping. The door was free, but Kurt’s hand was in the way. He came down the ladder cursing and holding it. Great. I wasn’t going to have to pay for fixing a door, just the drummer’s hand.
Production insurance was looking better and better by the minute. Of course, I didn’t have any.
We took a look at his hand…all the fingers were still there, he could move it, it wasn’t gushing blood. I think we got pretty lucky.
I got home and promptly went out to a party. The next day I was pretty annihilated, but right now I was still riding a production high.
All in all it was a really fun project I got to shoot my first green screen project, play around with all sorts of post work flows, work with a fun band, and make a cool video.
Here it is: