Making a Music Video

So last week I got the urge to create a music video.  It's been ages since I've made one but this seemed like a perfect time as my ex-bandmate Paul McGranaghan had just digitally released 'Carry the Torch' an excellent album based on the life and writings of Hunter S Thompson.  I had spent over a year recording and producing this and I think it's brilliant.  Great song-writing, great playing from a fantastic band that Paul assembled and I reckon it's the best 'sounding' record I've made, there's certainly more attention to detail in there than anything I've done in the past. Here's one of my favourite songs (about Hunter watching the Chicago riots):

So, onto music videos.  Creatively the music video is an odd one.  It can all hinge on one idea and one idea alone.  Think of Coldplay doing The Scientist: the one real concept is that it moves backwards, but Chris Martin is singing forwards. Within that basic concept there is something like a storyline (he crashes his car etc) but really the overarching concept is simple.

Or take Just by Radiohead.  The concept here is even simpler.  'A guy lies on the ground and we don't know why'.  That's pretty much it.  From that concept you can then develop various other ideas, someone falls over him, a larger crowd is drawn and they all want to know what he's doing. The dialogue is subtitled, the band are randomly in a flat and, every now and again, Thom has a wee look down to try and connect the concept to the band.  Simple, but it keeps our interest as we, just like the characters in the video, want to know why he's lying down.  I won't give the game away if you haven't seen it before, definitely worth a watch:

So onto my own idea.  Well the obvious place to start is to listen to the song again and again.  I first heard this song in June last year and have been working on it since then, so I've probably heard it over 100 times, that can be helpful.  I also knew that it was about Thompson's suicide and was a reflection on his suicide note:

"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun – for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax – This won’t hurt."

I thought Paul had brilliantly taken this little note and turned it into something that was his own but still clearly about the original subject.  This led me on to thinking about what Hunter wanted done with his ashes.  He wanted them to be blown into space. This dream was realised by his good friend Johnny Depp.  Here he is talking about it  (before he died obviously) and then the actual event:

Sooooo, this then led me to thinking about space, and escaping, coupled with suicide.  Now who knows how the brain works, how connections are made, but somewhere in my head I remembered a sketch from one of my favourite tv shows Limmy's Show. It's here:

So the concept became, 'girl makes spaceship out of cardboard to escape life'.  From there ideas can blossom.  Paul had some interesting videos to input into this, he suggested a Yellow Submarine-esque style mixed in with something like this:

I found the joy and ease of Alice in this clip brilliant!  So our character couldn't be too scared of space and aliens etc, she had to embrace them and enjoy them.  Sooooo, after thinking about all this for at least ten minutes (I'm a great believer in going with your first thought, it gets watered down too much if you ponder over it too much) I scribbled down a basic plan and Lucy and I got to work.

The first few scenes were simple.  Just needed to give the impression of someone who's down.  I found some old bills, gave them to Lucy, made her sit at my kitchen table which was covered in booze and that was it. Later we also shot some scenes of her bored in bed, unable to get up.  A tiny wee idea was to have her makeup represent her mood, so in these first shots her eye-liner is running.  She finally decides to change her life, we show that by her tidying up and then she changes her makeup from black eyeliner, to bright white. I can't say exactly why I thought this worked.  It just does to me.  There's no rational reason for it, and I guess that's what makes it interesting.

The rest of the video is then her using various found objects from around the flat and creating a space ship.  That was all very easy to film.  Things then got a little more complicated as we had to send her into space.  Time to bring out the green screen.  I knew that it didn't have to look 'real' - in fact the less real it looked then the better it would be.

Lucy during filming with the green screen
We did many many shots of Lucy in various positions, floating around space. We had a few points to hit, she had to see the sun and some aliens would fly by her, so we made sure these were filmed.  After that I got to creating the various aliens, this involved a very technical process of using coloured pencils and paper!

Once I had these drawn I could cut them out in photoshop and, using Apple's Motion software, I could then animate them and place Lucy in the scene with them.

After that it was down to editing.  Some story points didn't work out, we were going to have Paul waiting for Lucy, as there wasn't the time to tell too many stories.  We kept it very simple and tried to make it extremely clear.  I ended up starting her main story in black and white and slowly fading in colour as she began to free herself from whatever was holding her back.  I also had a few more abstract shots that were used throughout that showed the burning of a bill and the cutting of a credit card, pretty simple metaphors really but hopefully they work.

The whole thing was made on a budget of £40, so of course there are scenes that aren't lit great or the camera is a little too shaky on some scenes - and of course it's nowhere near the previous videos I've talked about, but on the whole I'm very happy with the end results and I think it does the most important job which is to accompany the music and hopefully introduce Paul's song to a wider audience. Here's the finished thing:


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