D-Day. I’m kind of a WWII buff so June 6th is kind of a big deal to me. Zac wanted me to meet him at his place at Noon as we were to go to ADAMS, TN and shoot a music video for the Artist Bailey Morgan.
I got there and He and Mike (the cinematographer and co-director) were getting ready to go. I loaded up a speaker in my car as I indicated I would rather drive myself (as Zac kinda drives like an old lady) and would meet them there. I googled the address and pulled in behind them at the rally point, a School in the middle of town. Which wasn’t saying anything as there’s not a lot in Adams, except gorgeous scenery of course. At the school we met Bailey and her parents and she had a couple of her girlfriends there with there as well. I met some of Zac’s Nossi students as well as he had elicited their help as well. There was a guy named Bernie and there was Derrick who drove a replica GENERAL LEE. It was awesome. He was in charge of the drone. Yeah, there was a drone. There was also REED, who would be helpful later and some chic whose name I didn’t quite get… she seemed nice though. There was also Zac’s contact Tim. An older fellow he was a local in Adams and showed us where we could shoot. Basically I was there to help and take pictures (play with my camera).
Once everyone had assembled we all loaded up and drove out of town, meaning we were immediately in the middle of nowhere. We actually stopped, five cars, all just pulled to the side of the road in open country. There were wild flowers and wheat on either side as well as pasture land. It was quite pretty. Mike had just brought a bag w/ a couple lenses and the wide angle lens he had on his camera (Canon 60D). Bailey and her folks had rented a Jeep Rubicon for the day/shoot and she and her girlfriends rode in that. Zac and Mike started by getting a “performance” piece. Basically this is the performer performing the piece. It was actually fairly self-explanatory. The song was called FIRE. Seemed accurate as it was 90 plus degrees. The tar on the road was actually melting and oozing and sticking to our shoes. Lovely.
The awkwardest part of the day was meeting the artist’s parents. Not that they weren’t nice (they totally were) but they were, well…. Sooners. As in from Oklahoma, they actually re-located to TN from Norman. This wouldn’t be an issue except that I was rocking my Texas Longhorns hat (per usual). This was not the first time Zac had taken me on a shoot and I encountered Sooners. It was becoming an annoying habit.
Anyway, back to business, performance piece. So the speak I had brought from Zac’s house had a cord and we plugged Zac’s phone up to it so it could play her song loud and she could sing along with it. Lip syncing is really redundant it seems and as we weren’t recording sound (the music would play over the images/ Music Video!) then we just played the song (playback) and the artist performed it right along. The first shot of the day was Mike in the back of Bernie’s trunk (trunk open) with Zac doing the playback. Bailey walked behind the car performing while Bernie put the car in neutral and let it glide. Basically it was a homemade dolly (independent filmmaking!). But as we were literally in the middle of the road we had to stop a few times to let cars pass by, I felt like I was 10 years old again! I followed between Bailey and Mike holding a reflective Umbrella to shield the artist from the glaring sun (and to make sure her face wasn’t too bright or reflective on camera). It took a couple takes but we got the performance (it’s a 3 ½ minute long song). I had to walk backward the whole time, yay. As we had to start and stop a bit I got to talk to Bailey some. Nice girl. She’s like 19 so she didn’t get any of my jokes about cornfields (I referenced Field of Dreams more than once, apparently that was a few years before she was even born, doh!). After the performance piece we split up. Derrick and Reed and Mr. Tim went off to shoot aerial stuff with the Drone. Mike put the camera on the Jeep with the girls and had them drive around a bit then Mike and Bernie got into the Jeep with Bailey and her girlfriends and shot some stuff w/ her singing out of the top of the Jeep. They wanted to get that stuff shot first as they had to take the Jeep back by like 4:00.
There was a bit of downtime while they were driving around in the Jeep. Bailey’s mom had snacks, like a lot of snacks. I had some granola bars, a banana and some apple slices. She also kept offering water and Gatorade to everybody to make sure we didn’t dehydrate. She was pretty awesome. Zac and I played Frisbee while we waited for everyone to come back (I have several in my car). I actually got bored after that though and pulled out my sticks (tri-pod) and camera and started shooting the landscape and foliage. Zac said I should get some shots and “rack focus” (or pull focus) basically the shot is a blur but becomes clearer. I pulled focus on some wildflowers to the surrounding country side and told Zac about some shot ideas I had. He liked them. When Mike et. al. returned he confiscated my sticks and shot Bailey walking through the wildflowers. Mike borrowed my 35mm lens for these shots. We then shot her walking toward the camera on the road to set up the previously shot performance (this shot was also my idea).
After that we all crashed at Mr. Tim’s house which was actually only another mile down the road. We sat in chairs in the shade grateful to cool down for a bit. It was already 2:30. The drone folks had returned and we figured out shots that we needed them for next. As the Jeep had to be returned to the dealership soon we shot the drone following the Jeep first. The drone battery died after the first or second take and they couldn’t get it too charge again, so the drone was done for the day. It was decided they would return on another day to get more drone footage. As the Jeep was rented for the day an agreement they had w/ Bailey’s parents was to get a shot of the back of the Jeep in the video (as the wheel cover had the dealer name on it. I had reminded Zac of that and suggested a drone shot coming behind and then over the Jeep. But since the drone was out of the picture (film pun) we obviously improvised. I reminded Zac we needed the shot and Mike just shot it hand held as they went down the driveway.
The rest of the afternoon was spent just shooting B-roll and waiting for the sun to get low enough for the “magic hour” or dusk before sunset. Mr. Tim had an old gramophone that he pulled out to keep us entertained. Mike borrowed my 300mm lens. We then spent the afternoon shooting Bailey (who changed into multiple outfits) around Mr. Tim’s farm. There was a cool abandoned house out back that kinda condemned. I went it and climbed to the second floor. It was cool. I had suggested several shots to Zac some of which they shot, like pulling focus from farm equipment to Bailey in the garden. We also shot her against a fence with corn rows in the background. I held a light reflector for some shots but the Sun kept hiding behind clouds and we’d have to wait. It made the afternoon even longer. The afternoon was mainly just sitting around and playing Frisbee though. It was awful hot. Derrick and the chic left when they realized the drone wasn’t working. Bailey’s dad went off to return the Jeep and her mom and Mr. Tim went off to get some dinner for everyone.
The main shots we had left were: performance by the bonfire (after dark), and Bailey had brought some hanging lights and wanted to do a performance under them; and a shot in the rain (as those were reflected in the lyrics). Due to the nature of her hair it was decided the rain shot would come last.
Mike thought they should shoot some stuff in the cornfield next to the house and so they went off and did that. I felt I had contributed somewhat by suggesting shots, not to mention the fact that Mike was using my tri-pod and my lenses for half the stuff he was shooting! I had been taking pictures of the production w/ my camera but decided to see about hanging the lights they had brought. So while they were in the cornfield I unboxed and strung out the lights. This was not as easy as I thought it would be. Despite being ridiculously hot outside I had to pull back tree limbs and improvise ties. In the end I used the bungee cords I had my car to tie back a branch and hood the lights from the trees. All they had to do was plug into some extension cords.
I went to check on Zac and Mike and them and found all in the Wheat field across the street. There was another chic that had shown up. Kamber. She seemed cool. She was Mike’s friend and had come to help (and apparently hand out CD’s, not uncommon in Nashville). Bernie had to leave soon after but Bailey’s Mom and Mr. Tim came back w/ some KFC, like, a lot of KFC. All I’d had to eat all day was a corndog and the snacks, thus it was a really good meal. They even brought Sweet Tea. One cannot underestimate the importance of Sweet Iced Tea during the summer in the South. I downed some Gatorade and then filled the bottle with Sweet Tea.
After dinner we chilled a bit. Bailey made yet another wardrobe change. We cleaned up some. Reed had 3 extension cords in the back of his truck and we took them out back. So the cords (all end to end) were only long enough to reach just to the tree thus we could only plug in one set of lights. Reed suggested we plug one set into the other (this worked) but only after we had to re-hang them. It took some doing but we finally got everything hung right and plugged in. They actually looked really good. During all this Mike was taking a slow Time-Lapse of the setting sun (using my long lens btw). Mr. Tim was setting up the bonfire.
Once it was dark Mike got his LED lights out. Zac did playback (using my phone, as I was the only one who bothered to keep the email where he’d sent the rough version of the song). I held lights. I backlight Bailey while her dad actually held lights to light the tractor while Kamber and Reed held the main light and reflector on the performer. Mike really needs to get some light stands because we always end up holding the lights for the duration of the shots. Of course he changes his mind all the time and moves the lights around a lot so it would kinda defeat the purpose somewhat. Anyway we got a performance under the lights (with her holding her guitar). She liked the lights. I was proud. That was the main thing I contributed to the shoot was hanging lights. It really took me back to my college theatre days.
After the light shoot we shot the bonfire. Bailey’s mom and Dad took turns holding lights. It was really a family affair. Reed held lights again while Kamber sat w/ a long stick and poked the fire. Bailey’s dad had bought Sparklers which we were going to use in front of the camera to simulate “fire” but the actual embers from the bonfire worked much better. Zac really works better “behind the camera” so they put me in charge of playback (it’s pushing a button, c’mon Zac). While there was downtime I switched to my iTunes and played some Led Zeppelin, Metallica and even some Stanley Brothers (bluegrass) to entertain folks. During the actual shooting all I had to do was punch play when Zac called ‘playback’ to start the song so Bailey could sing along with it. While the song played I got my camera and took some pics. The more I play with my camera the better I get with it. I changed the ISO setting from 400 (for daylight shots) to 3600. This really helped get clear(er) shots after the Sun went down and some downright fantastic shots around the bonfire. I showed Baily’s mom some of the shots and she was blown away. The Auto Focus feature helped a lot, not gonna lie, but I still had to give it time to focus before clicking the shutter. Again I got better the more I did it. So while she performed I took pictures. Her friends were also taking pics/video with their phones and tablet. Bailey performed around the bonfire with her Guitar and a Drumset. Mike also got some slow-mo of her just reacting (to the music). As good as some of my pictures looked everything that Mike shot looked better. Just amazing stuff. He really knows how to use the lighting to his advantage.
The last thing we shot was the “rain shot” basically her dad brought a water hose and shot it in the air to simulate rain. It was very high tech. Bailey did one more wardrobe change and we shot the rain under the lights I had set up. Zac had initially wanted just a quick shot but then changed his mind and we got her “performing” again. This means I once again did playback. She did the performance a couple times and got very wet. I got pictures. Her dad liked spraying her. I was jealous that she got too cool down. Even though it was dark it was still really warm and we were all tired and sweaty. Mike got a couple close-ups of and then we were done. It was just after 10:00pm. Basically a ten-hour day. We still had to take down lights and clean up. That didn’t take too long though. Bailey’s mom let me take some snacks home (and the sweet teaJ). Bailey herself even gave me a thank you note. It was a long day but an awesome experience. I very much look forward to seeing the whole thing put together.
Even though Mike has a somewhat better camera he basically used the same tools I have (especially for the daylight shooting). My sticks and lenses were used extensively on the shoot so I feel with a bit more practice I could make something that really looks cool. Zac did explain over the course of the day what we were doing and why we did certain things: like having the artist actually sing instead of lip-sync and why the camera moved so much and at different angles (to give the editor more to work with) but a lot of it was also fairly self-explanatory. Zac mentioned the video would be edited by the same guy who cut together AUTISM IN AMERICA (Ben) so I look forward to working with him again. I’ve done enough stuff w/ Zac and his guys that they know me somewhat and trust any suggestions I have and are very gracias listening to them and taking me seriously.
Anyhoo it was a long day but a productive day. At the end I was very tired, but a good sort of tired. A tired that comes from a place of satisfaction for a job done well and a day well spent. I’ll post pics and video of the shoot as I can….