Monday, October 3, 2011

The Music Video Shoot

I recently gripped on a music video for a local recording artist. We shot at a small studio tucked away in an unassuming industrial park. We used the Red One. Two years ago maybe this would have been something to write home about, but now frankly, it's become quite an ubiquitous camera and a full package comes relatively cheap from the local rental houses. Still, this is a first for me, and as I get to be around more and more high-end equipment, I can't help but feel I'm moving up in the world.

It was a run-of-the-mill music video in every sense of the word. Not knocking the music - it was upbeat and addictive and I was still humming it long after we wrapped - or the performers - all friendly and wonderful people - but I think music videos are rarely used to their full potential. I mean, we shot on a white cyc, dancers shook it to the pounding beats, the star mimed the vocals in a variety of costumes, the camera operator swayed the camera gently back and forth on a dolly track. All very methodical and by-the-book.

Music videos like this that just consist of some choreographed dancing, band members playing their instruments in various environments, and flashy lights are formulaic and unimaginative. People can see that crap at the freaking concert. A music video is something special; a chance to bring a new dimension to the music - it can showcase stunning cinematography, staggering simplicity, elaborate mise-en-scène, or even just balls-out trippyness... and yet it's so rarely done.

Our Director/Producer/DP had real assembly-line formula of his own. We shot the beauty shots of the singer and back up dancers first: so many takes per each of the 3 lenses per each of the various costume changes/lighting set ups/set pieces. Then towards the end of the day we polished off the "story" elements - handheld shots of the star being resurrected by a sexy nurse, entering new environments where he procures a new item to help him on his quest, and eventually dropping dead (which set it up to start all over again). Bing bang boom. Throw some obligatory lens flares on in post, and it's good to go. It was still impressive to see it done. Even with the lack of imagination, the speed and efficiency was admirable.

Even though we were called grips, in reality we were just glorified PAs, since we did pretty much all the grunt work regardless of department. But it was a paid gig so I didn't complain. I'll take the grip-in-name-only title if only so I can slap it on my resume.


However, when I got home, I looked up the studio where we had filmed at and found that they provide in-house grips and other crew for projects shot on the premises. At a significantly higher day rate. Which means I was the cheap outsourced labor in this.