Feb 2010

All Is One

Finally, the reason why the long silence from this page - I’ve been shut up like a hermit in my home office for the past month to bring life the most important project of my life.
Last summer, I was contacted by
Martin Kennedy about doing a music video for a song from an album he collaborated with my favorite singer/songwriter/idol... Steve Kilbey after reading my comment on SK’s blog. Some of you may know him as the frontman of the Australian group The Church, who had a top 20 hit in US back in 1988 with “Under the Milky Way” which was featured in the film Donnie Darko and most recently has been remade by Sia for Lincoln commercial.

I was so excited but could not get the project going after SK, MK and I agreed on “All Is One”. I seeked some advice from my literary genius
Notre Dame graduate friend, Bryan Giemza, whom I met way back during my first bachelor’s program when we were both studying in Rome, Italy. I was not smart enough for Notre Dame so went to St. Mary’s across the street, the college my mother went to and expected me to follow her suit. Bryan was quick to point out that the lyrics are direct reference from Isaiah 11. Being a Godless person, I was imagining all these fantasy creatures in a fantasy world - a pagan allegory. Anyhow, Bryan suggested that I look to William Blake’s work for some inspiration. And I did but the dead poet/painter didn’t ignite any fire.
Then I recalled this local surrealist painter,
Chuck Bloom, whom I met during the production of Whisky Marine. I really like his work but am in no financial position to be an art patron. So I thought it might cool to feature a relatively unknown artist for the music video. Chuck seemed to be into it for a while but his email’s took weeks to return and he never sent me the photos of his artwork. Unfortunately, I realized that after 3 months had passed by. And I promised Martin that I’d make sure the video will be done before the US album release for Unseen Music Unheard Words on January 26, 2010.

I couldn’t come up with alternative concept to the one I conjured up in a stream of consciousness, based on Chuck’s paintings. So went forward with pre-production, feeling dejected with my storyline that seemed to be another apocalyptic tale in a year the subject was fast becoming a cliche.

The most difficult of any production in my experience when you have very limited budget is the location. We needed a place where we could accommodate set building as well as the actual shooting. No one wanted to work with my timeline and budget and finally Jack Anderson from
Albina Skarp agreed to work with my conditions. The downside was that the building was an old warehouse with no insulation nor heat. It was basically a giant tin shed. And we were shooting in middle of November and there wasn’t enough power for heat and production lighting.

For cinematography, there’s only one person I feel comfortable working with. My friend and former college mate from
The Art Institute of Portland, Chris Covel. Without him, Whisky Marine wouldn’t be half as decent nor happen at all. He’s worked on every one of my videos except “Hideway”. Chris got a job with Laika after college, working on the set of Coraline which led to a gig working on Adult Swim. He had agreed to be my DP but it proved to be very difficult for him to consult on the project from L.A.

From the beginning, there were two definite conditions for the music video. The band gave me total freedom but Martin requested that there’d be no sad/negative ending. Martin’s a big fan of animation and he’s a talented cartoonist and painter himself. I really liked the look we achieved with “Hideaway” by combining drawings and live footage so wanted to further experiment with that style.

We started to build the set 2 weeks before our shoot on the weekends when my construction guru, Mike Skelton was available. My super PA, Arc Mission, was also on the team to endure the frigid conditions and saw, hammer and paint away. We goofed off quite a bit and tried to make the best of the old tin shed. Soon, the old canvas walls from Whisky Marine, old door from my house and window transformed into the living room and bedroom for the music video.

The other big challenge of the production was finding talents. It was especially difficult since I couldn’t offer any monetary compensation but did get several responses. Unfortunately, most people were far from the required physical description in my ad. Likely at the last minute, was able to get a very talented young girl, Carly Norton and her mother, Terese to fill in the mother and child roles. But I still needed my leading man. When it all looked hopeless, my friend, Dee Madden, volunteered. He’s not an actor but he has starred in his own video for his music and he fit the physical description pretty nicely. The angel is played by Alexandra Richardson who’s had the leading role in “Hideaway” and “
Monkey” music video.

Shooting a video takes more than just 3 people and likely, my friends in the biz was able to come and help out as well as people who have never been on a set before. Chris and I quickly realized the shoot wasn’t going as we would have liked. We had to sacrifice a very cool shot he came up with and the contraception built for it. We just didn’t have the time. Chris had to fly out the day after and everyone had to go back doing their usual gig. Though I felt things were not going too well, we had a blast wrapping on the second and final date. The available crew and few of our friends came to do some green screen shoots to make a cameo appearance on the video.Then the really hard part laid ahead.

Ever since I could recall, I was drawing all over as a child. I followed my passion for art all through my first college, where I majored in fine arts. After graduation, I realized that my degree could not help me pay my bills. So I neglected being a studio artist and eventually went all digital. I thought I could afford to pay for some help on post production. Then I got laid off from my regular gig in late September. I had couple of friends who did some drawings for the video. But I realized that using two different artists and my incoherent communication skill was not a good combination. I had to do it all by myself.

When I put an assembly edit together of the live footage, it was not a happy sight. So many continuity errors, missing shots, improper framing... due to the fact that I was my own AD and had no script supervisor. I was scared to tackle it. So I let it kind of sit for a while until I knew I couldn’t procrastinate any longer. It took awhile to find the momentum but slowly things were looking better and better. But I still thought it was going all terribly wrong. How could I turn in something that wasn’t worthy of the band’s music? I had few crew members look at my rough cut and I guess I was overtly critical of myself. Then I gained some confidence and determination to make the video into something that was worth our time.

So here I am, after 400+ hours and few months with a video that has received rave reviews from
the band.
Martin wrote, “
holy shit... its beautiful! the work gone into it is incredible.... Love the blending of animation & live action...its magnificent.”

Steve wrote, “i'm flabbergasted
it made me fucking cry!
unbelievable stuff
youre a genius, my girl
I LOVE IT!!!!!”

You can read more about what Steve had to say on his daily blog,
The Time Being

So like the story in
“All Is One” music video, this story has a happy ending too. And I definitely couldn’t have done it without everyone who contributed the project.
Production Photos