Making an epic music video for Pathways
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Hi all and happy quarantine! I wanted to cover the process of an upcoming HUGE video.
We just did day 1 of filming the music video for PATHWAYS, from Tacoma, WA. They moved here from Florida about a year ago and rebuilt their band and are prepping their new album.
It all started when I got an e-mail through my website:
"Hi, we're a 4 piece band based out of Tacoma, WA. We're looking for a videographer for a new single we've recently finished. The song length clocks in at about 4:10
We have a budget of $XXXX.
The themes in the music are HP Lovecraftian and mysterious/james bond esk.
In a nutshell: Dark and haunting, but seductive.
We don't have a concrete idea in mind for the video and are open to the videographers artistic interpretation.
We're available for filming as soon as 11/6/2020."
Sounded awesome to me and they included all the details I normally have to ask for. So I asked for the song and said I'd send over some high level concepts. They sent the song over and I did a quick call with them.
They had a process - the peeps in Pathways talked to 15 videographers in the area and narrowed it down to 3, and then they were going to decide who they were going to pick. Awesome. I like a challenge.
I got the song and I had their initial scope of dark and haunting, seductive, HP lovecraftian, mysterious, James Bond esq. I immediately had ideas but I sent an e-mail out to frequent collaborators, I gave them the thoughts from the band and the song, and asked for ideas. That e-mail went out to Freddy Heath, James Sweet (director of Jason Rising), Riley Nix (Vintersea guitarist), and Sean Whinnery.
I started to put together a pitch deck that went over HotKarlProductions as a company and the ideas we were all working on. The initial version sucked. Freddy and I spent like 4 hours on a Zoom call refining everything to make it presentable. You can see it here:
One of the first ideas I got back was from James and it was the Blade Runner idea. I LOVED IT!!! I wanted to lead with that idea and I thought it fit the song and vibe so well and I could picture how incredible it would look.
I also got really cool ideas from all the others as well. Freddy and I put the rest of the high level ideas together in the pitch deck. That Friday I did a Zoom call with the Wil, the drummer of Pathways and went over everything.
Oh, and my wife helped me shape the presentation too. Between Freddy and Steph we really stripped it down to the essentials and grouped everything properly. It was fun to go over the company and some of the things we've done. Most people know us so we never get to tout the fact we've done over 100 videos or whatever.
I went over the 6 ideas with Wil and it seemed like a great conversation, Wil seemed fun to work with. At this point Pathways was still looking at 3 different companies in town so they had decide on company and then pick a video idea. I sent Wil a link to the google slide deck so he could share it with the band. He said he loved the fact that we had so many ideas.
Considering that I'm in a band and basically all we do is music videos I felt pretty good - we get what they're after compared to a more commercial film company. But you never know who you're up against.
Friday I presented, Sunday they got back to me and said we got it! Woohoo. The band liked the Eyes Wide Shut idea. Cool, we have a direction.
The Eyes Wide Shut video was just a high level idea without much of an actual plot. So yeah, plot time. Freddy and I had another Zoom meeting and started developing the idea further.
Freddy took those ideas and went to his weekly screenplay group and put it through the grinder. That process went back and forth. Between Freddy and I, and Jon Rose, the guitarist of Pathways. He had some great suggestions that helped everything feel like a really good collaboration. To give you an idea of how many drafts we went through - on 12/1 we were shooting on V6 of the screen play.
Around V3 of the screen play we and the band were happy enough with the idea to start moving forward and securing people, props and locations.
Props, people, and locations
The screenplay was in good shape and we had to start moving forward. I started looking at cloaks, we wanted cloaks that looked good but didn't want to break the budget. Freddy and I both found the same cloaks and I snagged a few. I also found a really special blind mask from Hysteria Machine and snagged that.
We were trying to do the shoot in two days - two days gets you time to do both the story footage and band footage justice without killing yourself. In theory.
So we had this grand idea - now how do we deliver it on budget? And on a reasonable shooting schedule? Up until draft 5 the screen play had a dance in it - the broken tango. It looks good and wouldn't have been too hard for people to learn. BUT shooting it would probably have taken at least 5 hours. Every place we were looking at that could live up to the Eyes Wide Shut idea was super limited on time or crazy expensive - and we would need like 3/4 locations - the dance area, the band space for band footage, a dark room, and some hallways.
So right as we were developing this my friend Lance (https://www.instagram.com/kickassdesigns/) posted an amazing location - Del Mar Villa and even better - they were having a contest! Cool. So of course I entered and thankfully ended up winning. We got 2 hours there for free. Del Mar Villa. (Thank you Lance and Emily so much!)
Lance helped again and between his recommendation and Emily's accommodation we were lucky enough to get 8 hours of filming time at Del Mar Villa. WOW.
Even with 8 hours at Del Mar Villa we had problems - we had about 15.5 hours of shoot time needed to capture the vision and scheduling / locations meant we'd need some actors/actresses for 3 days. Ouch. Long story short we cut the dance sequence and decided to film the band footage at Del Mar because holy crap - how could we NOT film some band footage there?!
Case in point:
So yeah 8 hours at Del Mar Villa. The next locations are still yet to be filmed but we're going to film those sections at Wildevision Studios and Cobalt. Can't spoil the plans there yet but now things were coming into focus.
Also, at a certain point Jon Rose from Pathways was asking if we could make sure that Kyle and the Val role could get more screen time - they kinda disappeared at a certain point in the story. And while talking we snagged some ideas from one of the other pitch ideas and wove that into the story. It's so fun to work with bands that take an active role in the video and really help partner - you end up getting tons of great ideas.
Around this time Oregon started locking down even more. Covid was top of mind. We had to cut and reshape the story with that in mind.
Covid meant reducing the cast as well. Ack. And you have to think about everything differently - like: Food prep. My wife and I put food into individual bags and I bought snacks that were individually wrapped when possible.
We're also following the COVID guidelines we put in place on Jason Rising (temp checks, sanitizer everywhere, masks when not on camera).
Even cutting the dance scenes and have 8 hours at Del Mar Villa the timing would be rough. The first hour of every shoot is setup and getting started - and at the end it's typically 30 minutes to clean up. So yeah really we have 6.5 hours of filming out of that 8.
Looking at everything we needed to do I quickly came to the realization that we needed 3 cameras to maximize our time. Freddy, Josh, and I all needed to be able to shoot and double up in lots of cases. So I rented a 3rd Blackmagic Pocket 4k from lensrentals.com.
We also needed a hand(s) to help with everything - lighting, art setup, shot listing, ideas, etc. Thankfully Daniel Smith from Jason Rising had expressed interest in helping so I took him up on that.
I talked to James about the idea, and asked him for any additional thoughts - he had quite a few - so I basically begged him to come out and help as well and thankfully he said yes! What was he gonna do? I dunno, be awesome. James is magic and just makes things better.
So we scheduled out the day and shots and then broke up the list in teams - Josh and I would take the band footage + the car pulling up to the house. Freddy and Daniel would take the story stuff and Josh and I would assist when we weren't shooting other stuff.
We tried to stack the schedule so the band members could get freed up and change for more band footage.
Here's our scheduling:
I've been on numerous film sets where I'm on a supporting and twice I've seen some amazing team work and wondered how much prep/planning went into making everything go that smooth. I now know that's only half the equation - the other half is the people.
Our crew on the first day of Pathways have all worked together over the last year on Jason Rising and we've come to really get to know each other's working styles.
Well, this was our biggest crewed shoot and things went so smoothly and flawlessly that I was actually kinda shocked for a few days. It was amazing to break away and get my stuff with Josh and James while Freddy and Daniel were crushing their stuff. I'd occasionally float depending what we were doing and Josh would also go film with Freddy and Daniel while James and I worked on stuff. Josh and James also worked independently and just did some jaw dropping work.
I got home and realized I hadn't even been in the room for like half of the footage. When I opened the footage up and I was giggling because it was so damn good and it was so nice to discover it for the first time! Here's a bunch of stills and I'm more than happy to explain particulars or go into more details on any topics.
Thanks so much for reading this! Keep an eye out for this epic video.