"We need something to keep our spirits high right now! We need some jams! We need Robert Motherfuckin Kelly!"
Back in August, an old friend from high school that I had some quality throwback band moments with (LOLZ, fun fact I used sing and play bass) came to me and asked if my friends over at Field Technique would ever be interested in doing a music video for his band, The Millenium. Fast forward a few weeks, to the last night of September, and I'm driving over an hour south into a part of Minnesota I've never truly had a reason to visit before. I'm looking for West Concord, a "town" that's located off of the pathway between Minneapolis and Rochester, the kinda place where your GPS stops working and you have to move to traditional means to find where you are going. On the lookout for the Shelton Family Farm, I'm thinking about how I've clocked a lot of windshield time between my vacation weekend in Chicago which was less than 24 hours before this and how I'm on my way to Grand Forks for a week after the one day on this shoot.
I show up to Pat's family getaway and it's far more gorgeous than I could've imagined. With a pretty general idea of the concept for the video I was about to help out with, I knew almost instantly that Pat couldn't have found a better location. The best part was that it was he didn't have to go much further than his home away from home to find it. As I walked into his main bunk house, I was greeted by a table surrounded by a mix of both new and familiar faces. Chaddix and Pat were first to greet me, followed by my old high school friend Kyle Featherstone a.k.a. "Feather", a nickname which steamed from having two Kyle's in the band and no shortage of confusion between which one was being requested. After that, I was introduced to the other members of The Millenium. There was Kyle Culver; the other guitarist, and Matt Hasenmueller; the band's lead vocalist and frontman. With them was a girl by the name of Shelby, who would play the lead role in the video, and her sister Alanis.
Next to arrive to the Pre-Production Eve was the Production Assistant for the shoot, Steve. After warming up to Chad and Pat, and introducing himself to the rest of us, I felt that Steve had worked with FT before and was reminiscing over projects they both knew about and other individuals in the local film industry. It was probably a solid half hour before I learned that Steve had never actually met anyone here before, and had been recommended to Pat by another grip in town. Steve was a real laid back dude, and obviously got along with everyone instantly. With a background in grip and light work, he confessed that he took on the two day shoot as a 'PA' because Pat had called while he was out drinking at a bar and figured that making a little bit of extra cash beat "sitting on his ass playing Xbox for the weekend." Steve was a great addition to the group, I could tell right away.
After a long night of bullshitting and laughing over quite a few drinks, it was time to rest up for the first day of filming. Chad, Steve and myself spent the night in the bunk house which was located slightly through the woods from the main house. This bunk house would also be used as the location for the flashback sequences of the video. In the morning, we were informed that the old bunk house had not only been the former city hall of Concord back in the day, we were also informed that it now had a centralized heating system. As this news came a little bit too late after our Civil War-esque sleep in the 40 degree temperatures, we were up and running by sunrise with cameras and crew rolling before 8 am. Day one had a jam packed shot list, and with less than 10 hour of usable light to work with, every minute mattered.
Our final addition to the weekend in the woods was our lovely Art Director named Alisun, who arrived shortly after sunrise as things were just starting to get in motion. Much like Steve, Alisun showed up having never met anyone of us before and came highly recommended to Pat. Within an hour, she was well introduced and getting along with everyone like we were all old pals. The primary art theme for this video revolved around black balloons and gold glitter, a combination that we soon learned complimented Alisun to a T. The makings for a fun, upbeat an productive day of shooting were all in line and we were all only two cups of coffee deep.
The first day of shooting revolved solely around the hyper lapse element of the video. For those that are unfamiliar, as I was before this shoot, a hyper lapse is a series of still images taken all in a row and combined in the end to make a moving image. The task of achieving a smooth and ascetically pleasing look to this proved to be much more of a time consuming task than any of us may have imaged. Day one was almost exclusively devoted to the first and longest scene of hyper lapse, the footage from 0:22-0:46. Although the end result was 24 seconds in length, it took close to 8 hours to film. Battling elements like constant sun movement, and the fluctuation in height between each member of the band per shot, this made for a very long, tiring, tedious and eventually frustrating first day. Teamwork was crucial and a great success to the energy of the day. Both Steve and myself were on grip duty, handling the movement of light modifiers and eventually helping with the blocking for each band member for them to quickly swap in and out of each shot. Alisun was on a constant loop of filling balloons and attaching them to twigs and fishing line to be placed in the shot. Every few frames, she would have to ever so slightly give the balloons slack to create a smooth look of them rising through the whole hyper lapse.
As the day progressed, the vibe on set stayed surprisingly calm and collected, especially considering the pain staking task at hand. Moments of tension and frustration were met with a few well timed beers and several hours of jamming out to some sweet, sweet R. Kelly slow jams. As the sunlight began to fall, things did begin to quickly snowball into a cluster of pick up shot mayhem. Much of the slow motion B-Roll of Shelby walking through the woods ended up being captured on day one as well. While Team Pat and The Millenium, Co. stayed grinding on the hyper lapse, myself and Chaddix set up the main camera, the Sony FS700 on a Defy rig. This combination is the ultimate solution for capturing both sexy, 240fps super slow motion 4k footage while also stabilizing your handheld shots. Nothing really comes close to the dream like aesthetic that this camera/stabilization combo delivers.
Once the golden hour struck, things on set went from calm and organized to an all out mad dash, run-and-gun type operation. While Pat and Chad were off capturing gorgeous shots of Shelby majestically wondering through the forest with ax in hand, Steve and I were left to set up some pick of shots of Matt in the field of balloons as the exit piece of the hyper lapse sequence. It all still feels like a rushed blur, but in that 45 minutes I feel like a majority of the final shots featured in the video were all captured. With dusk settling in, we took this as an opportunity to add in a scene of firing a pellet gun at some of the glitter filled balloons as B-Roll. After quickly throwing up some 1x1 LED panels to try and pump some much needed light into the balloons and glitter with our daylight virtually gone, it was time to experiment and shoot with what little time we had left. This also served as a great tool for some of us to have a good ol' fashinoned 'Merican shoot guns moment and let of some steam from the long and tiring day. Plus, the shots came out pretty damn cool.
Sadly, my time on this shoot had came to an end as everyone was sitting down for some of Pat's mom's homemade lasagna and mid beer run to the local grocery story. I was needed back at home for a quick night sleep and then back on the road again, although the only thing I really wanted to do was finish out the next two days with this wonderful cast and crew. The video for 'Stay' came out just as great as I envisioned it would, and I surprisingly didn't get an opportunity to see the final product until the release date just like the general public. With this only being my second music video shoot, it still really is a trip to see something you helped put hours and hours of painstaking time and energy into be summed up into 3 minutes of footage set to an awesome soundtrack. When a cabin full of creatives get together, anything seems to be possible and I think that the visuals set to The Millenium's latest hit is a prime example of that coming to life. I made a lot of great new friends and fun memories in my 24 hours in West Concord, and just like we said on set and we will continue to say again to one another so long as we stay in our respective fields, "We need to get together again and do something special!"
Check out the full video for 'Stay' right below, as well as the full collection of my shots from the Day 1 of filming.