What’s up with me: We shot a music video!
Ross, my guitar player, is a video editor by day, and he volunteered to do the “post,” which I guess means editing. And I knew this guy who’s a film major at Montclair State University, and I asked him if he wanted to shoot it and he said totally. So we had a meeting.
I suggested we make our first music video on the song Toyshop. Here are the reasons: it’s one of the shorter songs on the album, it has good imagery, but it’s not a linear narrative. I figured some songs seem like they would involve more of a “story”- for example, Monica’s Getting her Tits Done. This is the kind of song where you could have a scene for basically each line, it has a setting (Boston), characters (Monica, the narrator who is supposed to be her friend), and a sketch of a plot (Monica’s Getting her Tits Done, they are bar-hopping in Boston, etc). It would take a long time to put together, involve a certain number of actors and a trip to Boston, lots of scene changes, etc. Plus Monica has swearing in it so it couldn’t be on TV. Midnight Bride and ‘Kay also seem like they need more of a narrative structure, plus they are both long songs and therefore would take longer. Toyshop has no swearing, and no strict storyline, but it does have colorful imagery (toys, a workshop). So basically I was like, “Let’s just destroy a bunch of old toys with power tools” and everybody said “Awesome.”
Next step: getting power tools and toys. First I was kinda freaking out about getting the power tools. I wanted it to be like a big workshop, like the set shop for a theatre, or our shop class in high school. Big table saws, power sanders, all kinds of giant work stations. But Steve, the film student, was pretty intent on filming in the film studio at his school’s film studio, so that meant that instead of finding a location, we had to fill the location we had with enough tools to make it look like a workshop. I spent a few weeks begging people to lend me large power tools with absolutely no leads whatsoever, until Steve was like “Oh yeah my dad has power tools.” I was skeptical, but as I was getting nowhere on my own, I just told him OK, he was in charge of that, and I’d get the toys.
This part I thought would be easy. I know lots of people with kids, including older kids who have probably outgrown most of their toys. Doesn’t everyone have old stuffed animals, dolls, trucks, baseball bats lying around some room of their house? Apparently not. Almost no one could help me. Most people said outright they didn’t have anything and didn’t know anyone who would. A few people said they would bring me stuff, but kept forgetting. Luckily, I had a flash of genius. I looked up the contact information for Toys for Tots and cold called the NYC branch. I started, “I have a really random question…” which I find to be a good way to start weird cold calls because every single person will go, “OK, shoot,” and you’ve already prepped them for the fact that you have no idea who in their offices you should be talking to. Luckily, I had pretty much the right guy on the phone, and I explained what was up. See, Toys for Tots only takes new, unused toys. So I was thinking that maybe they had some used or damaged toys that they were just gonna throw out anyway. So he made a chirp to the warehouse and asked them to put their rejects in a box for me and asked when I wanted to pick them up. Wow! I told him I’d check when I could get a ride, because he said they were far from the subway.
Actually, they were really far. Toys for Tots is run by the Marines, and they have some like park in some part of Brooklyn that I didn’t know existed but if you see it on a map you’ll agree that it shouldn’t qualify as Brooklyn any more than Staten Island should qualify as part of NYC. So then it became this huge drama of me trying to get someone to drive me to the sticks. Like, way too far to take a cab. Beyond Coney Island. Yeah there’s something beyond Coney Island, believe it or not.
So anyways the day before the video shoot I was resigned to spending 4 hours getting there on the bus and back carrying a who-knows-how-big box full of toys. So I called the guy to let him know I was coming, and he’s like oh don’t do that, we’ll bring it to you. What? YAYYY!!!
So the next morning two marines freaking drove all the way to my apartment and brought an enormous box full of toys to my apartment. It was the best thing ever. Especially because I’d had no idea how much stuff they’d be bringing, and it ended up being a lot. Total jackpot.
I had been freaking out thinking I wouldn’t have enough stuff, so my friend Mary responded to one of my countless tweets for help that she had a box full of little dolls called Liddle Kiddles. I guess she had saved them thinking they’d be worth money, but they were in bad condition so they ended up not really being worth anything.
They’re interesting little dolls, with big heads and these little rubber bodies that will hold poses in any which way. As my friend had warned me, most of them were extremely played with, half-naked and jumbled up among a million pieces of dollhouse furniture- things like little toasters and little record covers of Bing Crosby’s greatest hits.
There was also a sack full of off-brand beanie babies that a resale shop on Columbus had given me, and a tin full of those little plastic cowboy and indian figures that the Salvation Army on 96th had given me. Goodwill, for the record, was not only unhelpful, but pretty rude, as was some random thrift shop on 107th st. Why are you gonna work for a charity and then be mean to people? There seems to be some kind of disconnect there, no? Does the karma just cancel each other out?
So between the dolls from Mary and the box of mostly action figures from the Marines (they also can’t give out “violent toys,” which include G.I. Joes and other military action figures, which I find pretty ironic since they’re the Marines…), plus the stuffed animals from the place on Columbus, we had all our bases covered.
Steve, our film guy, came to my place to pick up me and the toys, and then we went to Ross’s place to pick up him and Vinny. It was rush hour so we were stuck in traffic for like an hour. When we got to Montclair State, the crew was still setting things up.
The set was worse than I feared- not only did we not get the table saw, but they only set up one table to work at. Completely not what I’d had in mind at all. They had a toolbox full of C clamps (an inordinate number of C clamps), wrenches and crowbars, a mallet, plus an electric saw and drill. I was pretty disappointed that we didn’t get what I was looking for. But it was too late to do anything about it. They also set up a drum kit and this whole other area for the band to play at the opposite end of the room.
We had a lot of time while they messed with the lighting, so we opened all the toys. It was like Christmas!
Vinny playing keys… of course he sets it straight to the percussion track.
Displaying some of our take.
Shelly looks like he’s opening Christmas presents. Lucky kid!
After a loooottttttt of waiting around, we finally started filming the first scene (not counting the first verse which was to be filmed in the toy store). We all set up so we could be in one frame together, and the guys all went to work destroying things while I tried to lip synch and choreograph something with my puppet (the one toy I had brought from home- I decided it could be the link between the toy store scene and the workshop scenes). I kept dropping and missing things, like I was trying to use a doll and a tool and make eye contact with the camera and be all in rhythm and dancey, and like one time the puppet went flying, another time I reached for the pliers and missed, etc… We finally got a good take. The boys were being really funny, of course I was too busy doing my thing to watch, but after that first scene I got to see everything else.
Here’s some destruction…
Sweeping up broken toy parts.
After the first two shots we got to concentrate on creatively destroying things. Basically we took turns picking something to wreck and something to wreck it with. I pretty much left the fun stuff to the guys, and they came through with flying colors. I won’t spoil it any more than that.
After we more or less ran out of ideas, we filmed the band. Everyone brought their instruments (my camera guy’s friend brought a drum kit for Vinny), but no one brought a microphone, so we decided I’d use this Barbie hair dryer. So we did a whole ton of filming the band- a few times through all together, then a shot focusing on each individual band member, including like three or four of me.
By this time it was the wee hours and we’d been there all night. It was one of the coldest nights of the year and I didn’t know my way around campus, but I volunteered to make a run to the 24-hour cafe, where there was Starbucks coffee and peanut butter brownies. I was literally stumbling around in the dark and frost, wandering about in search of people to ask directions from, but the campus was deadly silent. I finally found a couple guys at the parking garage who pointing me in the right direction and I achieved coffee for the whole team.
After we were done filming the band, we did a few last mega-destructions, including taking a chainsaw to the red keyboard. It was brilliant seeing all those keys come flying off.
We tried to keep cleaning everything up as we went along (mostly me and Shelly sweeping away), and apparently we left the place cleaner than we found it. I put all the tiny little pieces from the Liddle Kiddles dollhouse furniture-type stuff into a big box in hopes that it could be used by an art class and Steve said he’d pass it on to the right person, but who knows if that got done or not.
Finally we stuffed all the remains into a few garbage cans (they barely fit).
Steve drove us back to the city. I just barely made it into my local late-night pizza place before it closed at 4am. We were all exhausted. My feet were killing me- I guess I hadn’t realized I’d been on my feet almost the entire night (in addition to running around earlier getting toys). Door-to-door the adventure lasted 9 hours.
A few weeks later we filmed the opening scene in the toy store. This was much faster and simpler, though still involved New Jersey and lots of traffic. But since it was just me and we were only filming one verse, it went pretty fast.
Now Ross is working on the editing, and I am swinging by his place to have my input. It’s looking really good! It’s really dark, not dark like twisted and goth, but dark like shadowy and not a lot of light. I guess when I told the guys I wanted it to be dark they took me literally. (They had been asking if I wanted it to look “blue” and I said no way!!!!) Which I guess is a nice contrast to the scene in toy store. The vinyl coat (the one I wore on the album cover) looks fabulous in the lights, all shiny and alive. All my guys look great. They sure know how to bring it for the small screen! Vinny in particular has a knack for violent destruction, and Shelly for pyromania.
It’s really, really close to being done. Just a matter of me and Ross having time to finish up, possibly with Steve’s input too. But we were really just tweaking it when I had to run to my appointment today.
OK this post has taken me forever to write. I’ll see ya later!