Something that I had hoped to do all year round was join a group for the competition ‘2Weeks2MakeIt’. This was a music video competition, where media groups were paired up with random musicians, and the pairings then had just two weeks to make a music video. The best ones won cash prizes.
I was keen to get a group together, but lo and behold, I was unable to dedicate nearly enough time to this event, particularly considering the competition was being held within days of our final degree hand-in date! Being part of Call The Shots, however, I was lucky enough to ‘sneak’ into another group at the end of their formation. Team ‘Adagio Media’ was formed out of several Call The Shots members and university students. At one meeting of the film-making collective, I was told that they may need another pair of hands. I jumped at the chance.
We had no idea what was in store for us – the only given thing was that our chosen director was experienced in making music videos. We had a few meetings before the actual competition started (most of which I missed due to what is commonly referred to as ‘assignment overload’), at which I opted for the duties of behind-the-scenes photographer. Granted, I knew absolutely nothing about music videos. I have creative flare, and good communication and leadership skills, but having just tagged onto the end of a group just days before a competition, the last thing I was going to do was turn up and start rocking the boat.
On the day the competition started, we were introduced to our artist – local Coventry musician Matt Lakey. Matt is an acoustic indie-rock style artist (though he considers his music genre a hybrid of many other styles), and I knew from the moment we first met that we had a really good musician, and a competent crew. Nobody wanted to say we had it in the bag from the word go, but we were optimistic of our chances, and we had high hopes.
Matt Lakey – Our musician!
The second meeting was when we had was to choose a song. This led to what was an opening error that I think caused a bit of a set-back – we chose a song called ‘The Navigator’, because the director told us he had an idea for the video, he knew exactly how to film it, and it would be something that could be achieved in a single day shoot up in Liverpool at a place called Crosby Beach. The problem was that ‘The Navigator’ was the longest song of the set, meaning we would have the most to film, and we’d have to keep our audiences entertained for longer. The song was also slow, like a power-ballad – I had warned at our first meeting (having attended the ‘2Weeks’ event last year) that we needed something lively, foot-tapping and simple to win the event. Even Matt himself had half-jokingly cringed when the group decided to go with the power ballad. This had possibly been another error – Matt had given us eight songs by which to choose from, out of which ‘The Navigator’ was chosen by democratic vote. However, if Matt himself thought it was not a great choice for the competition, it may have been better to narrow his songs down a little more.
Word on the street was that some artists entered into the competition knowing exactly how they wanted their video to be. They pay for everything and book everything beforehand, and the moment they meet the media team on day 1 of the competition, they tell the team that they paid £50 for a kick-ass video, and that they’ve sorted it, and now the media team are going to do exactly what they’re told to do, and film everything the way the musician wants (a slight exaggeration, but I’m sure there’s truth in the rumor).
That sort of approach can indeed be restricting – depending on characters within the media team, it can create bad blood between the musicians and the film makers from the word go. It also limits creativity – usually musicians are best at music, whereas the media team can be better at visuals. Of course, musicians have done music videos before (presumably, if they’re taking that sort of approach), but they better be darn sure their idea is going to work.
We had the polar opposite – we were given a choice of songs, and basically free rein over the entire project. As mentioned, the crew was quite competent, so there shouldn’t have been any problems. I was really confused by the end of the meeting before the shoot however – we needed an actress, but we didn’t have one. The idea the director had was based around a compass, and we didn’t have one of those either. So we were going to Crosby Beach, but we basically had no story. We did, however, now have five minutes of filming to get done. In a crucial motivational error, thoughts turned towards making a really kick-ass video after the event, with the shoot on Crosby Beach turning more towards the ‘we’ll wing it’ approach. Usually this is where I’d step in and inject some life into the project – unfortunately though we’d got the power ballad, so there wasn’t really any input I could make other than to change the song (and yes, I did put an idea forward for one of Matt’s other songs, but the song didn’t get enough votes out of the choices for my idea to be considered!). As it turned out though, the song I wanted to use for the competition I got permission to use in my Final Major Project!
Crosby Beach – Arrive. Film. Go home.
The day of the shoot went more or less exactly as I’d expected. First off, the quintessential students of the group unable to attend at all, due to said ‘assignment overloads’ (though fair play to them, as mentioned this was rather bad timing for a film competition for us students!). Myself and a few members of the team managed to make it to Crosby Beach with our kit successfully, but when we got there we didn’t really know what we were going to film. We picked a monument, and filmed in front of it. We got Matt to walk up and down the beach a bit, and sit on some steps. Normally I’m not this blunt about things, but in this case that was pretty much the whole shoot.
What I was most interested in was how the music video was actually synchronized to the song. I forget that music video visuals lack any form of audio, so obviously you just play the song out in the open and the singer mimes the track (should have figured that one out myself really!). But to add to our problems, we had no such device to play music, so Matt had to sing the five minute song several times over, simply using his own memory of what the studio version sounded like.
It was a windy day at Crosby Beach, and it was a very surreal place. It’s littered with statues all facing out towards the sea, that get completely submerged in less than an hour by one of the quickest incoming tides I’ve ever seen. The tide kicked us off the beach as the evening crawled in, forcing us to the pub, after meeting who was seemingly Matt’s new ‘biggest fan’ as we came off the beach (we couldn’t shut him up!). I had a tower burger – one of my last as it was way too greasy – and then Matt kindly gave myself and my friend a lift back to Coventry. I’d done my job pretty well, and amassed some nice behind the scenes photos. As usual, none were graded or tampered with – they were just the raw forms, to be edited if any of them needed to be (for a singles cover, for example, such as the one I considered below):
Statues – These weird artistic monuments certainly gave the beach character.
We had some great conversations in the car on the way back. It was clear that the group could work with Matt, and Matt could work with us. I was sure that later on, if we did do another music video without the constraints, we could make it really awesome (no doubt of it in fact). My thoughts of the current project though were still a little uneasy – luckily, our ‘ace in the hole’ was our editor. He was the same guy who had edited the ‘One Mic’ shows, which had eventually been screened on Sky TV!
We gave the editor the footage, and found that some of the ad-libbed lip-synching had gone awry (inevitably). Not only that, but there were some continuity errors as to where Matt had put his guitar, over his shoulder or down by his side. Unfortunately, for reasons still unknown, the file exported to the competition actually had a ‘Media Offline’ segment about three minutes in. That, in essence, was the final nail in the coffin.
It was a project done in good humour, and I’m not out to bad-mouth anything that happened. I think we chose the wrong song for the competition, but that was down to democratic vote, so it was fair and square. I don’t think we should have gone to the beach without a plan. If the director has a plan, he should have a plan (namely, he should have everything ready to go by the day of the shoot). In this instance, the director was very busy as well, which made us up as a team of busy students and busy industry professionals. We were all pre-occupied – there was nobody there to bring everything together (heck, we even had a producer at one point who disappeared before the project – no idea what happened to that guy… ‘assignment overload’?).
The project ended on a very comedic and ironic note – as far as I’m aware not a single member of the team turned up on the evening of the award ceremony (we were all too busy – including Matt himself!). Make of that what you will, but as it stands our video has one of the highest view counts from all the videos that were made – nearly six thousand!
Aside from what I’ve described, there’s little else to add. It was not a particularly educational experience, but it reinforced what I already knew about music videos and student film makers (not a dig – I’m one as well!). The most I learned was in the philosophical conversations with Matt as we returned to Coventry – nothing like some pre-graduation ‘real world’ prep talk!
To confirm, Team Adagio still plan to make Matt another music video. Without the constraints, I’m sure we will be able to make a much better video based around our work schedules. Moral of the story to be learned – if you’re this busy as we are, don’t even attempt a two-week competition. You don’t have the time to commit. Common sense really, but we all like to give things a go from time to time (‘Only those who go too far… find out how far one can go-however-that-quote-went’). If anything, another golden rule:
Never. Go for the power ballad.
Even. If you have a plan.