The Queen Marilyn music video for Japanese Fighting Fish might be the most ambitious project I have ever undertaken as a director. The journey from initial concept through to finished video was a tough one and I learnt a lot along the way. With this blog post I aim to outline the major highs and lows of the creative process.
The band initially wanted a video for another track from the album, Egyptian Sunrise. Chris and I started the process by developing a story driven music video that would tie in with the Egyptian Sunrise’s lyrics. After some serious late night brainstorming sessions we were patting ourselves on the back for a job well done. We were happy, the band were happy so I started work on the next step, a detailed breakdown for each shot of the video. Two weeks in and we were looking good and getting ready to travel down to London to start filming. However, things were about to change. The band got in touch and dropped bomb shell, they wanted a video for a different song, Queen Marilyn. The reasons being it was getting a lot more plays and positive feedback from the press so made a lot more sense to promote it further with a video. Frustrating but understandable.
As our planning and prep up to this point had been aimed specifically at creating a visual story for Egyptian Sunrise a lot of our work had to scrapped. With a little under two weeks until we were due to start filming Chris and I got to work brainstorming a whole new story for Queen Marilyn. To save time we took the core story elements from Egyptian Sunrise and worked them into the new track. Not ideal but we were now pushed for time. We also decided to scrap filming in London and concentrate on filming within Leeds. With an updated story now in place for Queen Marilyn we moved onto solving the technical issues of the video.
One of the major elements of the video was the use a SnorriCam. This is a device that is rigged to the body of the actor, facing the actor directly, so when they walk, they do not appear to move, but everything around them does. A SnorriCam presents a dynamic point of view from the actor’s perspective, providing an unusual sense of vertigo for the viewer. Through online research and various tutorial videos we figured out all the different parts we needed, ordered them and got building. It came out looking super professional and our tests shots looked great. We were really happy and it was definitely a high point of the project getting our hands dirty and building something from scratch.
Initially we were going to use a GoPro on the SnorriCam as it is a lightweight camera but Scott convinced us we should use the Sony A7 as it performs really well in low light and the picture quality is amazing. I am really glad he did as it was definitely the right decision. Other elements we needed for the shoot were a van to film some of the story elements as well as the band performance. In the end this was provided by the band which saved us a bit of time. Dean from Raptor Sound sorted us out with an amazing deal on lighting and a smoke machine. A massive shout out to him for being such a generous guy. The final major hurdle to overcome was finding an actor to play the lead singer’s girlfriend. Ant suggest we get in touch with Olesja, an aspiring actress who was really keen to get involved. A last minute rush to sort props including a bucket and spade, fireworks, sand for the grave and additional locations kept us busy right up until the day of the shoot.
Finally after much stress and a lot of hard work the day of the shoot had arrived. To add to the stress we had to get everything filmed for the video in one day, yikes. We were up nice and early to start filming all the outside elements at the first location but the weather was not behaving. With rain throwing a massive spanner in the works we put everything on hold and drove back to Scott’s to film the house scenes. Luckily, once we were done the rain had cleared so we headed back out to our first outdoor location. Seriously behind schedule things only got worse as it took way longer than planned to get the outside shots filmed but we got there in the end. We then raced back to Scott’s to film the SnorriCam shots in and around Woodhouse. A big thank you to Jakta from Tiger Wines for letting us film in his shop.
Next up, we jumped in the van and filmed the story elements driving down to The Fenton pub, our next major location. Filming at the pub went pretty smoothly and we made up some time but people were beginning to feel the burn so we headed back to Scott’s for a food break and quick power nap. Once everybody had eaten it was getting late and it was time to start prepping for the band performance in the van. We parked up in a back alley outside Scott’s, set the lighting up and we were ready to film the final sequence for the video. As it was about 11pm on Sunday night by this time we did not want to make loads of noise so the band had to play their instruments as quietly as possible so we did not wake up the neighbours. Not an easy task. We were finally finished around 1am just as the rain started falling again, it felt really good to call it a wrap and a real relief to have got everything done. It had been a long day, around 15 hours of filming. Everybody was wiped out but we had unbelievably done it and got everything filmed. It might have been rushed and panicked at times but everybody was really happy with what we had achieved.
The next couple of weeks were committed to post production which luckily went pretty smoothly. I showed various work in progress versions of the video to people for feedback and discovered that the story was not clear. A bit of a mini nightmare as the story was a key element to the video. The story was so straight forward in mind as I had been working on it for about a month but to first time viewers it was clear what was going on. This was probably the biggest lesson I learnt from the project, if you are telling a story you cannot be too obvious. Really hammer home each plot point so anyone can follow along. A mistake I will never make again. We organised a couple additional shots to be filmed with Gareth from the band as well as a few more shots with Olesja with the hopes of making a couple of the plot points a little more obvious. These additional shots really helped and ended up making the video way better. With the story now making sense I got to work on final polish, colour grading and then the final render of the video.
The band were super happy with the final outcome as was I but the project has left me with mixed emotions. I was happy with the final video but there were elements, the story in particular that I was not happy with. In hindsight we probably attempted too much considering the limited amount of time we had for planning but if you do not aim big you might as well go home. As I am writing this blog we are half way through filming the third and final music video for Japanese Fighting Fish from their album Swimming with Piranhas. Needless to say it does not have a story and is much more of a visual treat for the eyes. Check us out on Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates.