The first music video I ever saw was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It was 1983 and I was eight. I was over at a friend’s house watching the hour-or-so long documentary that played prior to Thriller’s premiere. In fact, I remember more about the “behind-the-scenes” feature than the actual 13-minute long version of the now classic video.
Ever since, I’ve been fascinated with the music video craft – their style, history, evolution, and place amongst culture. And there is no doubt, the industry has completed shifted from the 80s MTV scene. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to even find a music video on one of the MTV networks. And honestly, this is a good thing. It has ushered a whole new era of video production, creativity, delivery, and collaboration amongst artists and film-makers.
So, needless to say, when the opportunity came to partner with my friend Ryan O’Neil of Sleeping at Last on a music video as part of his recent “Yearbook” project, we were all in. Here’s a little background on the video.
The first step in the process was actually song selection. We wanted to find a song that not only could be visually depicted in a creative fashion, but one that had a depth about it that can lead the visuals. It did not take long for me to volley for “Emphasis” – my favorite song in the collection.
While Ryan prefers to not be featured in his videos, for a variety of reasons we wanted to include a performance piece in the mix and loved the idea of shooting this aspect of the video at the famous Electrical Audio studio in Chicago. Actually, we shot two videos here – the performance piece of this video and a live performance of Sleeping at Last’s “Turning Page” – one of the featured songs in the latest Twilight movie (“Breaking Dawn: Part I”).
It’s a long story (most of which you can read here), but we ended up building the remaining narrative around a little boy (who happens to be my son) and his exploration of a seemingly large and broken world. We chose to shoot the video almost entirely in a macro format – subtly suggesting that we are often limited by our small perspective and much too close for our own good to appreciate the world in all its beauty and mystery. As Ryan has stated, “This is a little song about big questions.”
We wanted to combine this technique (macro) with the use of small hints of natural light as a subtle nod to the lyrics.
I think at one point there were more than four concepts driving the video – much of which were abandoned after the first cut. In fact, in the end, the majority of the shots with the kid (Phin) in the video were shot within the last 20 minutes of sunlight we had on our last day of filming. Thanks to beautiful imagery captured by Wonderkind Studios, we were able to pull off the video in time for it’s Paste Magazine premiere, which we were excited to be a part of.
If you haven’t listened to Sleeping at Last yet, get on it now. Check out the recent “Yearbook” project here.
Sleeping at Last’s “Emphasis” Music Video
Production photos courtesy of Jose Rivera Jr. and Brian MacDonald.