Earlier this year, I had the privilege of DP'ing The Lone Bellow's first official music video. The band asked one of my favorite directors, Eric Anderson, to helm the video. Eric and I have had the opportunity to work on a handful of projects and the combination of Eric and TLB was one that I couldn't have been more excited to be a part of. These guys are not only incredibly talented, but they've truly become friends. What could possibly be better than working on projects with people you believe in?
Eric's vision for the video was to really plant the band squarely in their Brooklyn community, because in so many ways, to love the music, the story, the spirit of The Lone Bellow is to love the community that they have all built in Brooklyn. Music isn't created in a vacuum and the very fabric of these songs is woven together in the street corners and bodegas and trains of their neighborhood.
What's more, this is a band that makes music that truly brings people together. These are songs that are meant to be sung out loud, with not only the people you're closest to, but as a common hope among strangers. It's an anthem for living a life of purpose, substance, and beauty. So what better way to approximate that visually than building up a rag tag street corner choir belting, "breathing in, breathing out the salt in my mouth gives me hope that I'll bleed something worth bleeding out." Marching bands, dancers, shop owners, the shapes and colors of a life made in Brooklyn. These are the things the band takes with them when they travel the country playing their music. Eric really wanted to capture that feeling with this video.
So technically speaking, the difference between a "Director of Photography" and a "Cinematographer" is that a Cinematographer is a DP who also operates the A camera. According to that definition, I'm definitely a Cinematographer through and through. Now, if/when I shoot a gig with a Technocrane or a proper Steadicam op, I'll gladly step aside, but until then, you'll find me operating camera whenever possible. I absolutely love being the closest thing to the performers, up in the mix, responding and reacting to what's happening in front of the lens. I operated camera every day on This is Where We Live and this project was no different. I can't stand being stuck in video village.
Andrew Shepherd was the B camera operator for the EXT / INT performances and did an amazing job capturing some great moments.
One of my very favorite photographers is a guy named Josh Goleman. His images have an intensity, a vibe, that beyond making them instantly recognizable, conveys a deep sense of place and feeling. His cinematography reel is equally impressive. He has an incredible method of shooting Bolex (16mm) film and Eric brought him out to shoot the "Brooklyn flavor" elements to the video. He did an incredible job and they're some of my favorite elements of the video.
One of the elements I'm the most happy with is the interior performance sequences. Eric and I talked about the interior performances as being the visual bridge between the 8mm BK stuff and the more polished / poppy large group EXT. This should feel like a portrait of sorts, with deep tones that hinted at Eric's portraits from the album artwork.
We originally were set up in an adjacent room. The gaffers worked for an hour and a half getting the lights / canvas up while we wrapped the final EXT sequences. We came inside for lunch and I got camera / monitor up and started tweaking lights, sandwich in hand. It wasn't bad, but it just wasn't quite feeling right. No one thing in particular. Light quality was fine, ratios were getting there. But it just felt so artificial for some reason. Felt like maybe we were trying too hard. If there is anything about The Lone Bellow's music, it is that it feels effortless. This set up did not.
I stepped into the room where everyone was eating lunch and the light quality on everyone's faces was stunning. I mean, very expensive looking light. It was mid afternoon and sunlight was bouncing off of a marble facade across the street and through frosted glass in the courtyard and finally into the room we were in. It was directional, but very soft. I turned to my gaffer and said, "change of plans." We let everyone finish their meals and then struck all the tables and even had to move the craft services to put up the backdrops. We threw up a Diva on a C-stand into a bounce card for fill and that's it. Light was perfect.
We shot the three piece together in front of the canvas for a group look, then Andrew and I wedged behind the canvas to shoot each band member individually for another look. The light was flagged off the bg and a 4x4 silk just out of frame was put up to soften the light even further. It was just Andrew, the band member, and I back there. Everyone else watched on monitor, so it ended up that those performances from the band were really intimate and personal. It was a special moment for sure. I probably could have watched an entire video from those looks.
Lighting those sequences was a great lesson in having a plan and then throwing that plan out the window and heading in a different direction when the unexpected reveals itself on the day. That has been the most consisten advice I've heard over and over from the guys ahead of me. "Make a plan, internalize it, then go with the flow on the day."
Eric brought on Greg Beauchamp to produce this video. His production company, The Bindery, was an absolute pleasure to work with. It was a thing of beauty to watch someone organize a project of this scale in New York. Everything is more difficult in NYC. From gear and transportation to logistics and permitting. We took over a street corner off of Flatbush for this shoot for crying out loud. No small feat, and Greg and his team made it seem effortless. I'd work with him again in a heartbeat. Producing is a dark art for sure and the best producers seem to magically keep the creative team in the eye of the swirling hurricane of details required to keep the operation running smoothly, blissfully unaware of the sheer number of times the whole thing inevitably comes close to crashing down. Incredible.
After we wrapped all the INT / EXT performances, we jumped on the train and rode around grabbing b-roll of BK and of Zach working his way through the city. Josh shot Bolex, I shot with the C300.
The beautiful thing about this video, in my opinion, is that the process was true to the product. Eric directed a video about community and believing in each other and working towards things that are only accomplished together...by doing these very things in the team that he assembled. It was an honor to work along side my Brooklyn family on a street corner in the snow one day in February. I'm proud to be a part of projects with people who, beyond being incredibly talented, are people who I fundamentally believe in and want to see succeed. I love helping bring a director's vision to life, to tell a story about a band who makes substantive music.
The Lone Bellow are on a wild ride and I couldn't be happier to play a tiny, tiny part in it.
Director: Eric Ryan Anderson
Producer: Greg Beauchamp / The Bindery
DP: Ryan Booth
Camera Operator: Andrew Shepherd
2nd Unit: Josh Goleman
2nd Unit AC: Phil Anema