Tuesday, May 6, 2008

20 Violins. Issue #48

Thanks to everyone who sent feedback on the new video for "Sparkle And Fall". It seems the "Lil Devil" stole the show from what I've been hearing and that has me asking myself, "What does it mean to be upstaged in YOUR OWN video?". Hmmmm...

Someone even asked us how we digitally inserted the train in the beginning. Sorry, my editing crew is good but this wasn't done at Lucasfilm yo. That baby is real.
Moving on...

Last week I said I'd give some behind the scenes stories from the making of so let's jump right in!

If you read the short filming synopsis a few months ago, you know that the opening and end scenes were filmed at Carkeek Park in Seattle. I packed up part of my living room, and met the filming crew at 4:45 AM. The park opened at 5:00 and since it was still dark, we quickly took all filming gear and furniture down to the beach with nothing but flashlights to guide our way. The challenge was setting everything up in time to catch the sunrise (which we did), and have enough time to get a few practice runs in as well. Did I mention it was freaking freezing? Oh, believe it when I say it took everything I had not to look like I was shaking during the takes. The train passing by was a lucky mistake, and one of my favorite parts of the sequence. As you saw, the idea was for me to be "living" on the beach and a sort of a day-in-the-life surrealism about the whole thing. I'm sure you were throughly convinced I lived there due to my 2 quarters of community-college acting classes.
Some shots from this scene include me dancing arms outstretched with
OPTIMUS PRIME and frantically sweeping my living room area (we had extra time).
Too much sand...just to much....

I talk about THE COMIC STOP frequently in this blog, and that's where the 2nd scene of the video was filmed. My boys work there, and I help fund their kid's college fun with my patronage so it only seemed right. In carrying on with "day of surrealism" theme. I thought it was appropriate to include a few "characters" that one may find going about the day. My wife Mandi came up with the Catwoman mask idea (there's nothing to read into there freaks), and I called in a favor from my friend Shawn after I saw his Halloween costume from last year. Sombrero and Jewish Maracas? Genius. The hardest part of this shot was not laughing long enough to get the words out and make everything look like it was "normal". The shoulder rub from Catwoman I could handle, but you try having the Star Of David shaken in your face from a sombrero wearing Nacho Libre. Needless to say, I found my happy place.

Moving on to the park "chess scene", we meet the unassuming star of the
video, Kai "Lil Devil" Malek. This kid is so cute that I think I'm gonna kidnap him when he and his parents move to California in a few months. I keep joking about it, but I think I really might. He and I are buddies, no Amber Alert needed.
Director Heather Canik and I liked the idea of a little park hustler who challenges me to an action figure fight. You know, the kind that just sometimes happens?
Having never acted before, we were amazed by his awareness and ability to take ideas and make them happen quickly. You know that part when he points at me with crazy eyes? That's what we called "Mean Face", and upon cue he would contort what was once cuteness into uncontrollable rage. The goal was to make him look "roided out", and I think he did a great job. A tip I found when working with child actors in your video: Success comes with a snack break every 15 minutes, accompanied by a promise that at the end they can punch you in the stomach and walk away shaking their butt at you.
This Ain't Webster.

Finally we reach the end scene, and the one that took the most work to film and prepare for. As I stated before, the violin section was made up of good friends who I wanted to include in the video but had only one actual player among them. How would we do this? Keeping with the "What the ?!?" theme, I thought I would make 20 HUGE violins out of cardboard and detail them with paint and marker. After cursing though 3 hours of making one and having it turn out worse than something Kai would make at preschool, I realized that wouldn't be an option. Not only that, but I had 5 days to do it. You do the math...

A little panic set in as I began making calls to see if anyone would rent me
20 violins for the weekend, and eventually the kind folks at Kenelly Keys made it happen once I convinced them it wasn't as weird as it sounded (it was weird).

"I'm going to be giving these to people for many of whom have never played an instrument, and we're going to be handling them outside in a very sandy area standing on slippery huge boulders. Oh no, no insurance needed thank you."

Suffice it to say what was even weirder was that a company that will not be named wanted to charge me TRIPLE what I paid for for violins that had "holes in them, no neck, no strings, and broken". Yeah...

Shaun Hubbard (an accomplished local violinist) agreed to meet us all on the last day of filming to give a lesson to our string section. She showed everyone how to hold their bow, elbow, and body to give it as realistic a feel as we could. What you see on camera is a result of a quick violin class, and Shawn standing behind the camera waving a bow frantically for all to see and directing 20 violinists to look like they knew what they're doing. What you don't see is everyone cursing me for dragging them away from Sunday afternoon Netflix to stand in bone-chilling February wind. But hey, at least it made their hair look cool.

There you have it! A few stories that I thought you might find fun and I truly hope you enjoyed the video. It was fun, challenging, nerve wracking, and a chance to let go of some of the reigns all-in-one. I learned a lot from making it not only from what I found I am capable of pulling together, but also that I had a lot of people who also wanted to help make it good. That is a good place to be in.

Please share it with your friends, and if nothing else comes from this video at least I know the annals of YouTube will forever have footage of a 4 year-old kicking my ass.



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