Video shoot for A Carol

December 15, 2010 at 3:35 am (Art and Photography, Music) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Busy!!

In addition to finishing my run (such as it was) of Virginia this weekend, I had another big project, too.

We shot a music video!!!

Yeah OK I know we already did that before:

Yeah OK but anyways we made another one!!!!!

Well, it’s not done yet, but we made OUR part of it, and now it’s up to the charming and talented Keith Jenson and his Team to do the hard stuff.

Keith works professionally (full-time professionally, not “professionally” with 50 day jobs like us) in film and television, and since he has a background in music, he wanted to try channeling his talents into making music videos.  We liked each other’s work, so we said GO!

Well, you rock musicians out there know what REALLY happened.  We said “OK what is everyone’s conflicts for these dates… dude don’t forget to tell me your availability… DUDE WE ARE WAITING ON YOU WHAT’S YOUR SCHEDULE… ok so we can all do Tuesday… oh no we can’t, somebody changed something… ok so Friday’s clear… oh no I forgot to write down somebody’s conflict… well he can do Thursday but only until 4:30, but the other guy can do Thursday but only after 6… we can all do this date if two of us take off our day jobs… OK WE’LL DO FRIDAY BUT THIS GUY HAS TO LEAVE AT THIS TIME AND THAT GUY IS COMING LATE. OK? OK. OK? OK.”  I seriously wish I still had an assistant in India, ’cause this is the most needlessly annoying part of my job.

But I’m wasting time talking about What It’s Really Like To Be A Musician instead of showing you PICTURES!!!!!!!!

Makin’ a music video!! ^^

I look so sweet when you can’t see my eyes…

Keith at work…

This is what Luigi wore to the shoot ’til we made him change…

(he does a lot of swing music…)

That’s Luigi: The Rock Version.  Well, the Christmas Rock Version.

That’s the only pic we got of Joe, cuz he had to leave early cuz his daughter was singing Yellow Submarine in the school talent show. (all together now) AWWWWWW

Danny, the studio owner… hitting on me again….. oy

That’s me in my redhead look… I didn’t dye my hair, it just changes how the light hits it… no one believes me, but since you can see three distinct hair colors from me in the above shots, which are obvs from the same shoot, there’s your evidence.

So about Luigi: Shelly couldn’t make it, so I emailed all the bass players I could think of to see if anyone could fill in, and Luigi Babe came through.  He’s actually a guitar player, not a bass player.  Back before we made our album, and before I met Shelly, Luigi heard me play an acoustic set and liked it so much he offered to try playing bass with me, since I really really needed a bass player.  So he jammed with us (me and Ross) once and decided he preferred my acoustic music, but since then has changed his tune and he says now he prefers my full rock band stuff.  But anyways, I knew he was good from having played with him that once- actually, that’s not true, we played together twice.  Once I played a set at the TenEleven Bar and brought charts and he sat in and played electric to my acoustic.  So we’ve always worked well together.  Anyways so he was really cool about jumping in and learning the song and waking up early and being in our music video.

So, the video.  I let Keith choose which song from our album he wanted to direct.  He was interested in Monica of course, but I insisted that it was going to involve a trip to Boston, which wasn’t in the schedule for anyone (especially with weather being what it is this time of year, especially in Boston).  So he decided on A Carol, convinced that we could finish it just in time for the Christmas season.

The great thing is that he had a whole team of friends and colleagues willing to help out with his plan, which involved some crazy stop-motion stuff.  I guess the plot was to have the band playing, interspersed with stop motion of a Frankenstein toy building other Frankenstein toys into a manger scene.  (When we first talked about it they were building a source of light, but then he said it was a manger scene now.  He didn’t tell me that til the shoot, but then I think it was my idea to make the nativity theme more prominent so I can’t be all like “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME BEFORE YOU CHANGED IT”)  This was all his plan, I didn’t really add much to the discussion because I didn’t have any real ideas about a Carol video, or if I did they would have been in a completely different direction (I totally would have had a processing church choir during the Gregorian chant parts, but then I have a procession church choir backround).

So apparently the stop-motion stuff is coming along well.  I have no idea.  I HAVE NOT SEEN A DROP OF IT.  But Keith says it’s looking good.

Sounds like I’m not gonna have as active a role in this one as I did in Toyshop.  For Toyshop, I came to Ross’s house multiple times and watched over his shoulder and made a list of things for him to change.  For this, Keith wasn’t even gonna ask my opinion ’til I was like “So uhh are you gonna run this by me before it’s finished” and he said he could send me a low-res file before he finalizes things.  So, I don’t get too much of a vote, but I at least want say for parts where I might look unattractive.

The shoot was actually pretty painless.  A lot easier than the Toyshop shoot.  Of course for Toyshop we had to shoot EVERYTHING- all the toy destruction on top of filming the band.  For this one we JUST had to film the band, which is pretty much the easy part (from the band’s perspective- we already know the song!!).  And Keith got us bagels.  And when we had a break we were close enough to go to Schnipper’s. Oh how I love their veggie & goat cheese sandwich and sweet potato fries with maple dipping sauce. mmmm I wonder if I watch the footage if I get fatter as the day goes on…?

The release show is Thursday, December 23 at Otto’s Shrunken Head.  We didn’t do a release show for our last music video, so we thought we’d try it.  NEITHER Luigi nor Shelly can play bass, so I gotta see if somebody is available or if it’ll just be a trio.  And if the trio involves me playing guitar or not.

I hope a few of you can make it.  It’ll be my first music video release show.  And I have no idea how the video will look.  I hope good?

See ya there!!

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Indie Art Holiday Catalogue

November 29, 2010 at 11:49 pm (Art and Photography, Music) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Happy Cyber Monday!  If you’re going online shopping, I’d like to encourage you to stray from buying just from faceless corporations, and support an artist. I’ve compiled a “Catalogue” of items that MY FRIENDS have created, that you can buy.  Mostly CD’s, as most of my friends are musicians, and my artist friends are mostly not organized enough to sell their art online.  Get with it people, trying to pimp your art here!

Anyways it’s not a comprehensive indie art shopping list, but it’s a great place to start for people wanting to support independent artists as you shop for your loved ones.  I hope you find something that tickles your fancy- tell them I sent you! :)

-My friend Edrie is a famous Steampunk band. If you don’t know what that is, now’s the perfect time to find out! Army of Toys CD

-My very good friend and the photographer of my album artwork, Philine aka The Valkyrie, sells all kinds of prints of her work, including dramatic photos of celebrities, artistic shots, and even some pics of me if you’re into that kinda thing. :) Not only can you buy her art, but you can book a photo session for your loved one (maybe a gift to your own band!).  Contact her for details. Valkyrie NYC Photography

-My long-time guitar player, Ross Byron, has an EP out with his own project.  Great way to support my band and not just me! Ross Byron on iTunes

-My friends Jonesy and Jessica have a band called the Bloody Muffs. Explicit everything! Bloody Muffs CD on iTunes

-One of my musician buddies from NY, Sxip Shirey, makes some amazing music.  Here’s his latest: Sxip Shirey CD

-My friend Jordann runs an aerial training space and theater.  If you know anyone who’s considered joining the circus, get them some lessons! The Sky Box

-Two of my old friends from Boston, Chris and Bo, are in a band together and have a great album out: Mascara CD

-My pianist colleague and fellow Boston Conservatory alumn has a piano album! Markus Hauck album

-My friend Cynthia is an artist, one of her jobs is writing and illustrating children’s books.  Here’s a list of where to buy her latest: But who will bell the Cats?

-One of my favorite pastimes in Berlin is going to hear my friend Elyas play crazy awesome music.  Maybe you’re not in Berlin, but you can still enjoy it at home.. Nervous Cabaret

-A fellow fitness instructor, my friend Andi teaches pole dance and striptease-based workouts.  Could be a lovely gift for that sexy someone… Power Strip

-My friend Jenny is in a crazy theatrical band called The Renaldo The Ensemble. Something about rubber chickens. The Renaldo The Ensemble

-My friend Lani epitomizes the modern punk rocker chick.  This link has her band’s albums and merch. Stark

-My own album was produced by the world-renowned Martin Bisi, who’s not only produced lots of famous people, but has his own project. Martin Bisi

-My Twitter friend Blake is an artist and you can order his paintings online! Blake Brasher’s art

-My friend Michelle runs a circus school in Queens.  Probably the best place to start training. Circus Warehouse

-My friend Lissa from back in my Boston days- she plays folk fiddle, and amazingly. Here’s a list of her albums for sale- you won’t regret checking her out. Lissa Schneckenberger

-Opera singers seem to be underrepresented here- make some CD’s guys! Luckily my fellow Amanda comes through to be the token. Handel arias!!!

-Last for reasons of modesty only, my album.

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Me flying through the air

April 23, 2010 at 3:10 am (Art and Photography) (, , , , , )

A little distraction for us all as I get ready for my big trip to Germany–

As many people know I do/did aerial silks; I trained for a couple years, stopped because I needed shoulder surgery (partially related to silks, partially to other extreme sports), started again, stopped because I was plum broke and couldn’t afford classes, and then started again, this time just training with a friend.  I’m trying to re-learn everything I had learned over the last several years, and eventually get back into a class I can afford without having fallen too far behind.

Anyways my training partner Sonja has been bringing a few photographer friends by, and one of them put the pics up on his website.  There are only a few of me, but they are really fabulous!  I thought I’d share them with you so you can see what I do for fun.

Here’s me setting up for a drop! ^^^

Here’s me flying through the air! ^^^

FWOOM! This is all the same drop ^^^

It’s not technically supposed to go like this ^^^ I realized my fabric was getting in my face so I caught it mid-drop and threw it. ;)

Landing ^^^ That was about 2 seconds worth of movement- fast camera, huh?

A few more pics of me and many of my training buddy are here on Igor’s website. Check out his other work- you won’t be disappointed!!

Hope you like!

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How we made a music video for FREE.

March 2, 2010 at 2:39 am (Art and Photography, Music) (, , , , , )

I already posted in-depth about my experience shooting our first-ever music video as a band.  (My first ever music video on my own music.  My first ever music video at all was acting in the Baghdaddios’ video, Gutwrench.  They have their own interesting story about filming a low-budget music video- ask them about it!)  It is a very long post.  But I thought I’d write about it again with a little more of a how-to flavor, skipping over the details about how cold it was and how much my feet hurt, and concentrating more on what we did right and wrong to make this happen.

Music videos cost thousands of dollars.  Even a low-budget music video can run you 5 grand.  They aren’t money makers- more like infomercials.  Of course, if they get play on MTV (not likely without a label, which I am decisively without), or better yet go viral, you can get crazy attention.  OK Go! was wayyy off most people’s radar before the treadmill thing- although they had my heart when I saw their first choreographed dance, to Cinnamon Lips, when they opened for The Donnas on Pier 54.

Anyway, I am doing the rockstar thing, and to truly be a rockstar I need a music video, and I knew somehow this would happen, even though I have no money.  And it did.

To be just, I didn’t spend NOTHING on the video.  I spent about $20.  $15 buying coffee and pastries for my bandmates, and $5 on tolls.  Still, this is a lot better than $5000.

So here’s how it happened:

1. I knew a guy who used to be my driver for some work I did in NJ, who was a film student at Montclair State University. When he told me that’s what he did I asked him if he could send me some clips of his work, ’cause I was going to be looking for people to do music videos for my album.  He said he was definitely interested.  I made a mental note.

2. My guitar player, Ross, is a video editor as his day job.  One day after the album and release were all done he said somewhat out of the blue, “If you want to do a music video, if you can get somebody else to film it, I’ll do the ‘post’” which I learned meant like the editing and stuff.

3. Except he didn’t really say that right out of the blue, because I had been saying for months that I was intending to make some music videos, somehow.

4. So I got the two of them together and we had a production meeting.  I decided to do the song “Toyshop” because:

a. It’s one of the shorter songs

b. it has no swearing

c. it has colorful imagery

d. it’s not a narrative- it doesn’t tell a specific story from beginning to end, which I knew would be a lot more complicated to film.  None of my songs are really strict narratives but some (like Monica’s Getting her Tits Done or ‘Kay) have more plot and precise imagery than vague ideas, thus calling for varied scenes and locations, extended lip-synching, and having to match different visual ideas to different lyrical ideas.

So Toyshop would be the most practical song to do on no budget.

5. I laid down an extremely simple concept: Get a lot of old toys and destroy them with power tools.

6. Steve, the film guy, could use free equipment at school, including the a film studio.

7. I freaked out about finding power tools- I wanted very large pieces, table saws and the like- until Steve said he could get us what we needed from his dad’s house.

8. I freaked out about finding toys that we could destroy.  I thought I could get enough by asking friends, as I have a lot of friends with kids, but people were not coming through for me.

9. Then I had a stroke of genius and called Toys for Tots.  They have restrictions on what they can give away and what they can’t, so I asked if I could have their rejects.

10. I made my request by calling the number of my local branch that was on their website, and announcing to the answerer that I had “a really random question.”  That’s the best and most honest way to handle this kind of situation.  It’s sort of pre-apologizing for not knowing which extension you should be calling, and it piques their interest, as well as prepares them for you having something complicated to say that will take more than 5 seconds of their time- if they don’t have time for a conversation then they can put you on hold.

11. I told them up front that it was for a music video.  I didn’t lie and say it was for poor children in Ghana.  People understand that starving artists need help too.  Plus people who are outside the music realm think this kinda stuff is kickass.  (I think they were disappointed that I wasn’t somebody famous though!)

12. I rounded up a few other toy donations from other sources.  There was a lot of running around the city going to as many thrift stores as possible and asking if they had anything.  Some places were very nice (one high-end place gave me a bag full of off-brand beanie babies), some were lame.  Overall it was a lot of work for little payoff.

13. I also kept on tweeting for help, until finally a friend came through with a box of old dolls that were a wonderful help.  Though interestingly, she was actually responding to a different tweet for help, but we realized the other thing wasn’t going to work, and then this came up in conversation, and voila.

14. We also decided to film an opening scene in a toy store, since Steve mentioned that he had connections at a mom-and-pop toy store.  Things got complicated when our appointment there fell through, but we kept it very simple with just me in the scene, not the whole band, so it was easy to reschedule.

15. The main shoot itself took hours and hours and hours and hours.  Wear comfortable shoes.

16. Almost everything was improvised, which saved a ton of prep time.  We just worked with what we had, and no lip-synching except at specific, pre-determined moments.  That way any shot could fit anywhere.

17. Of course we filmed the band playing.  This took a lot of time because we had to do it over and over in different ways- group shots, close-ups, focus on each of the band members for one or two runs.  But it’s good because it’s easy, and since there was very little other lip-synching it gave us a chance to do that.

18. There was a lot of me going to Ross’s place to go over the editing with him and make suggestions.

19. The files he was sending me at home were too big to get by email, RapidShare, or YouSendIt (unless you paid), but he pointed out that he could send them to me over iChat for free.  Smart!

So that’s how we made a music video in I guess 19 steps.  But a lot of mistakes were made, as well.  Here’s what they were, so you can avoid them:

1. I wasn’t always on the same page with the film crew (who were basically acting as directors), although we thought we were by conversation.  But when I got to the film site a lot of things were not as I’d wanted.  They brought small tools instead of large ones, they gave us a small area to work in with one table instead of a huge room with lots of tables.  We should have communicated more visually- even though I don’t think we needed story boards, I should have drawn sketches of what I wanted, and had them take pictures of what they had arranged.

2. During the main shoot I didn’t look once at what was filmed.  I dunno if that’s cause no one invited me to or if I didn’t want to spoil the surprise, but that was stupid of me.  I was shocked when I saw the results to see how shadowy everything was, and how unflattering the lighting was on me for my close-ups.  If I had just looked one time, right at the beginning, I could have said “Wow that’s way too dark,” but I didn’t see it until it was too late.  I actually should have been checking the whole time because there’s a lot of stuff that I would have done differently if I’d seen how it was coming out.

3. Even though I was wearing relatively comfortable shoes, my feet were KILLING ME by the end of the night.  I should have sat down more.

4. I wasn’t careful with my make-up bag and didn’t bring all the pieces I needed for the second shoot (the beginning) which happened a few weeks later.  In fact, I didn’t remember exactly how I had done my make-up the first time.  I thought I would remember, but I really should have made notes somewhere.

5.  Despite all our planning around it, there was lots, and lots, and lots of traffic, severely delaying the starts of both shoots.  NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF TRAFFIC IN NY AND NJ.

So this is a How-I-Did article, not a How-To Article.  But of course people read How-I-Dids to get extract the How-To inside.  So let’s see what kind of ideas of lessons we can extrapolate from our experience.

1. Network.  You might be saying “Sure, it was easy for her, she knew people.”  We all know people!!  But you have to talk to the people in your life (like your driver, or your old pianist), and you have to want not to use people, but to involve them.  It’s a subtly huge difference.

2. Make the cold call.  It takes so much guts to pick up the phone and make a completely cold call about an extremely random situation- especially when you’re asking for a big favor from people who have no reason at all to help you out.  But you gotta do it.  If you have a good phone personality you will face a lot less rejection.  And remember- be honest about who you are and your situation, and don’t be afraid to start off “Hi, um, sorry, but I don’t know which department to ask for, I have a really random question.”

3. Some people communicate verbally, others visually.  If you don’t already totally know who you’re dealing with, err on the side of BOTH.

4. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t been determined from day 1 to do a video, and talking it up (while admitting I had no budget).  Ross wouldn’t have offered to edit, I wouldn’t have asked Steve if he was interested.  A dream becomes a plan when you start talking about it.

5. I’m not saying you have to start off having a plan B, but if plan A isn’t working you gotta turn to something else.  If I had just kept tweeting over and over that I needed toys and power tools, I wouldn’t have gotten far and would have pretty much had to abort the whole thing.

6. A props checklist is a good thing to have.  Somehow it didn’t occur to anyone to bring a microphone.  Fortunately I had a Barbie Hair Dryer.

7.  If you are going to wear a “fuck the pigs” t-shirt, cover it up when the cop pulls you over.  (That one’s for Steve!)

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