On Making a Music Video
Today marks the release of our very first music video. We worked really hard on it, and we hope it’s as much fun to watch as it was to make.
“Let’s get our friends and some random people off the street to dance to the song.” The idea was to do something that would be inexpensive to make, but still entertaining. Almost nobody shown in the video had heard the song before, so what you’re seeing are people’s genuine reactions to the music. Well, as genuine as you can be when someone tells you to dance and shoves a camera in your face.
We started off shooting with Jonathan Mann of Song a Day fame in Central Park on a Friday. He was an amazingly good sport, and brought his trademark enthusiasm to the video, hopping and flailing and, well, humping a giant rock. Joe had the idea to get Mann to air-bass the solo, and I thought it would be funny to have them sitting together on a park bench while he did it. I didn’t want staged shots, but it was too good to pass up. On the last take, Jonathan just got up and walked away, so Joe’s reaction is entirely authentic.
Everything was shot on an iPhone 6 Plus. Jonathan suggested we use Hyperlapse to help make sure things were nice and stable. He meant well, and for the most part it was a good suggestion, but it means that the first two days worth of footage is in 720p. Oops. The built-in stabilization on the 6 Plus is good enough that I can’t tell the difference in shakiness, so we ended up switching back to the stock camera app.
It’s hard to overstate how important Jonathan was to making this all work. We kept showing his raw footage to people before getting their shots, in hopes that his energy would carry over. It absolutely did. He's the spiritual center of the video.
We showed up to the Fox News building at 9am on a Saturday. Clayton Morris was on set hosting Fox and Friends, so he sent a PA out to the lobby to meet us. Her name was Lauren, and she was strikingly well put-together for someone who wasn’t supposed to be on-air. She took us to the green room, where we found a few magazines and a small pile of Bass Pro Shops camouflage jackets. Was someone trolling us?
Clayton came in looking impossibly well-polished. The perfect hair, the suit, and the thousand-watt smile. You’d never know from looking that he’s a tech guy at heart (he’d later tell us he had recently gotten his shirts re-tailored to fit his Apple Watch). His look was exactly what we wanted—stuffy, successful businessman.
We did a take in the break room during a commercial, but the lighting was terrible. It made him look slightly less perfect, which ruined the joke. We decided we’d get a second take outside on the next commercial. In the meantime, he invited us to hang out behind the camera while he was on the air.
As we walk onto the set of Fox and Friends, Tucker Carlson looked at us, dead-eyed. “Oh fuck them!”
The outburst was abrupt, but more than anything we were amused that we might have done something to upset him. It turns out he was just talking to whoever was in his earpiece. Bummer.
Joe and I took our seats at a little table behind the camera crew and watched him do a via-satellite segment with some baseball star who had been hit in the face with a ball. I think he was there to talk about the dangers of baseball, but his audio was fed into everyone’s ears, so we couldn’t hear him.
When they went to break, we all filed outside to prep for an outdoor segment with the Bass Pro Shops people (ah, that explains the jackets). This lined up perfectly with our needs, so we lingered until Clayton got another break. Fans and onlookers lined up along a metal barricade behind the anchors. Some looked at us with envy, and I’ll admit it made me feel connected for a minute, but not being Fox News fans ourselves, the experience was mostly interesting from a technical perspective. It was genuinely fascinating to watch a live broadcast happen, and to be surrounded by a whole TV crew like that. Not to mention the bizarre collection of interchangeable beautiful blonde women Fox is known for. Plus Tucker Carlson.
We ducked around the corner to get Clayton’s stuff so there wouldn’t be any Fox logos behind him. We didn’t need the connection for the bit to be funny, and we didn’t want to get him in trouble by creating an unnecessary connection and implying any Fox involvement. The way the outdoor set was laid out, we were still behind metal barricades with security people to shoot our stuff. So our thanks to Fox News for providing security for our music video.
The only direction we had given Clayton was: “The song is slowly winning you over.” He got it. He knew what we wanted, and the only reason we needed a second take was because the light sucked. The guy should have been an actor. We’re looking for an excuse to cast him in something again.
There’s real coffee in the cup when he throws it, by the way. But he cleaned it up before he went back to work. Such a pro.
I met up with Julian Velard at his place out in Brooklyn. It was in a neighborhood I’d never been to before, south of Prospect Park. But that’s not saying much; I’m never in Brooklyn.
His wife Rachel answered the door and gave me a puzzled look before recognition kicked in. Ever scattered, Julian forgot to tell her I was coming over. She greeted me with a hug and invited me in to wait for Julian who, of course, wasn’t quite ready yet.
Julian is a funny cat. He’s got this sort of old-school New York showman vibe to him, like he’s always on, at least a little. Every move is a performance. It means you never get bored when you’re with him.
He apologized from the next room for running behind (after asking me to swing by early), then came out to shake my hand and give me a tour of the apartment. I’d been to his old place in Red Hook a few times, and I’d even stayed there for a week when I was first planning to move to New York. The new apartment was much, much nicer, and had this weirdly massive kitchen that I assume is a remnant of the days when the entire house was a single home.
But the key point of interest for me (and, let’s be honest, Julian) was his music studio. He’s a keys guy, so the room was mostly full of keyboards and synthesizers and song books, with posters of his old shows on the walls. It’s a really cool thing to get to enter another musician’s workspace like that. Julian is a seriously talented guy, and I caught myself hoping to soak up some of the creative energy before I left the room.
We walked toward the subway through a part of Brooklyn that seemed out of place for New York City, full of massive houses including one, Julian tells me, recently purchased by actress Michelle Williams. We tried getting a shot there, but the light was behind him, and not in a good way. But the take was just long enough to learn that Julian’s idea of dancing is a sort of bizarre staccato robot move, dramatically enhanced by his shorts, flip-flops, and Synth Cat t-shirt. Reviewing the footage, we both thought it was hilarious and decided to run with it.
Julian and I took the subway over to Barclays Center, getting shots of him along the way. It got funnier with every take, and it became difficult to decide which one was best. So I made the call to allow myself one more staged shot for the video, to give his idiot man-child character a story.
We had the idea to close out his thread in the video by having him arrive at his destination. As if we’d just been following this guy as he’s listening to the song on a commute of some sort. But where should he end up?
There were two options: Chuck E Cheese, and Buffalo Wild Wings, and even now I’m still torn on which is funnier.
We only needed one take for the Buffalo Wild Wings, but it took several to get Chuck E Cheese just right. I tried getting it as a static shot, which looked nicer but gave away the gag too early in the shot, and a staged joke shot like this needed to be worth it. The tracking shots were better, but had us following Julian along a boring brown wall for several seconds.
Through the window I could see the Chuck E Cheese staff talking and pointing. They weren’t amused, and I’m absolutely certain that our next take would have resulted in Julian ending up on some kind of offenders list.
And that was all the hint we needed. Ultimately we ended up going with the Wild Wings shot. Not because it’s funnier, per se, but because a grown man dancing into a Chuck E Cheese by himself may have been a little darker than we wanted for our bouncy indie pop song.
It’s still funny, though.
Every single shot in the video has a story to go with it—far too many stories to list here—and every single shot was an absolute blast to get (with a special nod to Ophira Eisenberg who manages to be the hottest dancing pregnant woman I’ve ever seen). This whole project has been a massive learning experience for a couple of dudes who have never so much as made a short film before. But thanks to our trusty iPhone 6 Plus and a lot of very kind people who let us film them dancing around, the project came together so much better than we ever could have hoped.
We thought making a video like this would be easy because we thought everyone wants to be in a music video. Turns out, no. In fact, on the streets of New York City, people aren’t especially trusting of a dude carrying a tub of Purell wipes asking them to dance on camera.
Consistently, our best bet was to get a friend to do a shoot, then chat up onlookers who were curious about what was going on. On the Staten Island Ferry, a guy named Cameron thought we were hilarious and asked to join in. Along the East River near the Pepsi-Cola sign, a woman named Angelina saw us dancing around with a Beats Pill and was willing to play along.
Fun fact: We approached seven different hot dog vendors before we got someone to say yes.
Getting strangers was tricky, and getting friends to schedule time to dance around for us was difficult at times. But in the end, watching the final product, I’m so glad for everyone’s participation. The generosity of time, but more importantly, the generosity of spirit. This is an amazing city full of amazing people.
I Said So! is about doing things your own way, despite convention, expectation, or even good judgement. We wanted to capture that in the video by giving everyone we shot license to be themselves. The direction we gave to people was to dance around in whatever way the song made them feel. The big surprise for me is that everyone—every single person—brought something unique to the video. We figured that asking people to dance would result in some hilariously awkward footage, but the truth is that everyone ended up looking cool. Unique, interesting, sexy, and cool. I’m so glad we got to capture that.
We had so much fun making this video, and we can’t wait to make another one.