Flying and Filming - GATEB and Heidi Sheperd's "Freak on a Leash"
On April fool's day I get a text from an old friend, Marc, saying "Karl! Are you interested in shooting a video in LA on the 12th?".
My response? "Awesome, I'll get back to you quick. Wait. Quick check - this serious? April fools joke or not?" It was NOT joke!
I checked with work, got the time off. Marc and I went over details - location, rough idea, time frame on filming, budget, filming, etc.
We chat logistics - I'm up in Portland, they're down in LA. They being Marc Jordan and Gina Katon. We've collaborated a few times in the past and they're amazing people and super fun to work with. I've also helped them out with some random things in the years since - blurring a side nipple, figuring out an error with an after effects file when they had a crazy deadline. Fun stuff.
A plan is brewing! Now we had to build out the idea and team.
Marc had mentioned he had reached out to a few other people to potentially film the video before we had agreed on ME doing it. In the course of that they managed to snag Jonathan Covert to direct and edit - Jonathan edits all the music videos Korn, Marilyn Manson, and more. He was wanting to get more into directing so they were able to get his time for much cheaper. I would DP the video. Cool.
The test - was Jonathan gonna be rad or was this gonna be awkward? We (Gina, Marc, Jonathan and I) hopped on a call. Gina and Marc started to outline their ideas, then Jonathan and I started to chat - gear, rough experience, etc. Right away I got a good feeling from Jonathan - he had some really good ideas and said he was open to stuff, and would love to lean on me as I've shot and directed a crap ton of stuff. Cool.
Jonathan and I exchanged contact info and then started chatting. He had mentioned a Lensbaby Sweet 50 a few times, which I didn't own. So I looked one up and snagged it for the shoot. I told him what cameras I was using - Blackmagic Pocket 4Ks and that I'd be bringing two down - we'd both shoot if he wanted to.
We chatted lighting strategy - while we had a photo studio for 10 hours we both knew the time would go quick. The room had a few different options for shooting - a wood wall, grey wall, a white wall, and lots of windows. We both agreed that opting for speed would be best.
Gina and Marc were getting the clothing, makeup, props, etc all dialed in. I was starting to plan to fly with camera gear and it had been a while.
Prepping to fly
Flying. With. Gear. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.
I've flown with gear to shoots before and it's not the easiest thing. TSA and Airline employees have mostly been nice but they don't know the rules, and the rules are confusing. There's horror stories of people having to ditch batteries, paying $800 for a bag, etc.
I needed a refresher on flying with gear so I went to the Filmmaker Academy group on Facebook and got help. I needed a media pass for checked bags. ( https://www.filmmakersacademy.com/ ) - Film Maker Academy was formerly Shane's Inner Circle - it's a paid group with awesome classes and a private Facebook group. One of the members pointed me to F Stopper's website: (https://fstoppers.com/business/how-print-media-pass-save-money-checked-bags-airport-149776)
I downloaded their media template, customized it for me, and printed it. I had some laminates and lanyards left over from the Jason Rising premier so I cut my cheap looking media pass and called it good enough for now.
So what to pack? I knew I was going to have to check at least one bag. I really really didn't want to over pack, but also didn't want to be down in LA while gear I needed was up in Portland. That wouldn't do. The trip was also going to be QUICK so I didn't want to have to rent things locally.
This shoot finally convinced me to buy a top pouch for one of my pelican cases. I extremely regretting not buying one of those sooner.
I was able to add my lens mounted ND, polarizers, and diffusion. Not to mention an Aperture MC, various hardware, and a 15mm mounting bracket.
I've been really loving the Laowa 17mm, 10mm, and 50mm lenses so I figured I'd bring those and the Lensbaby Sweet 50 per the Director's request. The Lensbaby required a metabones speed booster so I figured I'd bring my Sigma 18-35 lens just incase we needed it in a pinch.
That filled up my Pelican. I figured I'd carry that on. I also brought my Datsusara backpack - it would have my iPad, camera batteries (you have to carry these on, they can't be in checked bags), and clothes. That's my carry on bags covered.
I needed to bring lights - lights that could potentially fill in sunlight and also cover a wide area - we were having up to 6 people in a shot. I decided to bring my Godox lights - an SL 200w and both of my VL 150s. Packing them was a challenge - I needed to bring light stands as well. Thankfully I had a Datsusara rolling bag that was big enough. I also brought Duvetyne as we knew we'd have to black out windows.
I planned on using the Laowa lenses on a DJI Ronin S2 - but the 2nd camera would need something for stabilization. I decided on another carry on for my ProAim backpack.
Here's what I ended up with - two checked bags, two carry ons.
Here's my bigger bag - I would have been penalized for extra weight but my media pass got me out of extra charges. Thanks F Stoppers and Film Maker Academy!
Thankfully the TSA at Portland didn't give me any grief on batteries - the guy asked a question, I showed him my media pass and a print out of the rules. His quote was something like, "You know this better than I do, you're good." Cool, and yeah, I am good.
The flight to LA was fine. Marc picked me up at the Airport and dropped me off at the Wayfinder Hotel - I booked that hotel because it looked nice and it was technically within walking distance of the studio we were filming at.
I got settled and decided to grab a drink. I'm so used to awesome Portland beer I didn't know what to order - I tried to get something not too fruity but ended up with a drink with a flower in it. Doh. But it was great and it turned out that all the drinks had flowers in them.
I somehow arrived at the location first - probably because I was just 5 minutes away. The makeup area was to the left with a changing tent. I took a table on the right for gear and started to unpack.
I got some lights setup first, then started working on camera gear.
Once my gear was in decent shape I kinda poked around the room more.
The black sheetrock looking things - those things are awesome and the studio had plenty of them. They had white and black sections - the white side allows you to bounce lights / sunlight and the black ones allow you to get negative fill - like adding a shadow side to someone's face.
After scoping the place out I started building a wall with the black sections - that way we could control the light - the room was BRIGHT.
Everyone else started pilling in and we went over shot lists, rough plan, picked locations for certain scenes - we had a grey wood panel wall, a lighter grey textured wall, white walls, and windows.
Here's the crew suited up - from left to right - Me, Marc, and Jonathan.
Everyone made introductions, we went over a high level plan, and then got to filming.
We started with shots of Gina on the wood paneled wall. We used a Blue Tooth speaker for playback.
Lighting wise - I bounced light off the ceiling - it was painted white and would avoid nasty shadows. I set it up so there was a stop of contrast different from bright side/to dark. It wasn't much but it was enough to get going.
We grabbed a few quick test shots, showed Gina and Marc, and then started filming. The Lensbaby was rad. I had tried the Laowa 10mm but it was so wide I switched to the 17mm and then used that lens the rest of the shoot.
I shot wide and Jonathan shot tight - we both filmed at the same time for nearly everything. We'd occasionally trade off on who was the "main" camera - IE the camera people would sing at. That approach got us alot of footage and allowed Jonathan to get some risky and stylized shots. It worked out great.
We had quite the list of stuff to shoot. Lots of outfit changes, some slow mo shots, and even some body painting. Oh my.
I took this cell phone pic about half way through the day - right about lunchtime. Heidi looked awesome in that chair.
If you don't know who Heidi is - she's a star. She's one of the two iconic singers in BUTCHER BABIES. They've done quite a few awesome music videos so I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous lighting her. Sometimes people are very particular (and for good reason) and beauty lighting for ladies is important.
Heidi was cool as all hell. I dialed in the lighting for this - some bounced lights, and also a Dracast SILK LED light I forgot to mention I bought down earlier. It has built in diffusion.
I showed Heidi how it looked and she approved it. That was our process with everyone - I light, show Jonathan, we make any adjustments, show Gina and if Gina approves - we're good.
Here's a cell phone pic of Heidi in the chair.
And a REC 709 still of her.
And with the rest of the crew in on it:
Gina of Gina and the Eastern Block has an amazing Burlesque show called LITTLE MISS NASTY. All of the ladies are either in it, or have been in it. They're amazing dancers and performers. Plus super rad people from the time we spent working with them.
We just kept moving down the shot list. Here's more stills with a Rec 709 LUT applied. This was from the hip hop dance section in the breakdown.
Heidi's fantasy of being a human dog on a leash.
And the mask stuff - my favorite shots in the video. This was Gina's idea. It almost didn't happen too - as we were loading things in the original masks got stolen. Marc had to go out, get more, and the paint them.
Here's the masks drying, which we filmed, and some of those shots made it in the video. You never know what you may end up using in the edit.
Speaking of awesome Gina ideas - she was really into synchronized motion / kaleidoscope type of shots. This was her rad idea. I was on top of a tall ladder. I got some of these shots with the Laowa 10mm and some with the 17mm.
Jonathan also was asking everyone to scream - we got a few shots of everyone screaming.
And man, when he put the video together - SO PERFECT!!!
TEAMWORK IS IMPORTANT! Everyone had ideas, everyone delivered. This video was Gina's baby - she had the ideas, we implemented. It was so great working with Jonathan and I loved his edit so much.
Please enjoy the video here: https://youtu.be/hqdkM7CpeVw
PS - Here's what the Lensbaby Sweet 50 looks like. I love it.
Jonathan downloaded the footage to his laptop, we packed up. And then I slept really sound. The flight back was nice, no issues.
About two weeks later I got the first edit from Marc and Jonathan and it was AMAZING. They refined it some more and then it was off to take the internet by storm!