So, to make a long story short, I'm friends with a group of young guys who have an up and coming rap group called Tha Profound Sound. We had been talking back and forth for awhile about my shooting a music video for them. Finally, on January 1st of this year, it happened. As a means of taking you into my process, I'd like to show you my original treatment for the video, along with my comments regarding what stayed and what didn't.
First, the video.
Now, the treatment. With my comments in .
Artist: Tha Profound Sound
Director: Jason Gilmore
In the spirit of classic hip-hop videos like Souls of Mischief’s “’93 Till Infinity” and the Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By,” the visual set ups for “Missing You” will be simple, playful and help to highlight the group, both as individuals and as a unit, while taking advantage of Southern California’s beauty and the natural melancholy of the song.
We start with various close-up, medium and long shots of the group, walking in slow motion along the beach, intercut with rapid shots that sprint up to hand held signs that say “THA,” “PROFOUND” and “SOUND.”
[Well, yeah, except that the hand held signs are first. I wanted to start the video off with something eye catching and was up late the night before stenciling letters like I was back in arts & crafts at the Catholic Club in '87. The signs are held by my ever helpful cousin Jasmine, who was my assistant for the day.]
One set up is in a warehouse, where the group stands in a loose trapezoid, facing each other like in a cipher. Besides being a nod to their battling background, it also reminds the audience that even in a song about relationships they are still true MCs.
[Ok, not quite a warehouse. It was the side of some sort of apartment building in Santa Monica, off Olympic. It amazes me how much non-permit shooting I've done around Los Angeles. Tip to filmmakers: As long as you're not going to be there long or aren't holding up traffic or shooting a mock drug deal gone bad (and yes, I was once a part of that, as an actor on a friend's student film) the police don't care. At least not in LA.]
Another set up features all five members of the group lying on the ground, heads touching in a star formation, rapping their verses to the camera while it zooms in and pulls out simultaneously.
[This was one of the last things we shot, at a park owned by Yahoo in Santa Monica. The reason you don't see it in the video is because the group objected to it from the rough cut. There was always some weird shadow, no matter how I shot it and it really just didn't look good for them. So we took it out. I was aiming for the look at 2:06 in this video but didn't get there. The iphone4 has its limitations. Or maybe the guy who was using it.
Since this song is about missing a woman, I will fall back on my photography background and snap seven sets of photos of select “everyday” beauties of different races to intercut into the video, all in quick flashes of three on the “crashing” part of the beat.
[Now onto the "Things To Laugh About When I'm Famous" part of this shoot. So I put out a casting call on Actors Access, seeking beautiful young women of all ethnicities, ages 18-25, or something like that. I got 120+ headshots in a matter of days. I whittled them down to, like, 25. But I realized that I didn't have any kind of studio to shoot these girls in, nor did I have time to drive around LA, shooting these girls all willy-nilly. So I came up with a (I thought) brilliant idea: Have them shoot themselves and email me the pics. I gave them loose parameters like, "I just want to see YOU: laughing, playing, thinking, being yourself." Because, I reasoned, I wanted natural beauties, not airbrushed headshots, I wanted their casual, everyday best. Screw all these overdone, super perfect video girls in today's videos, let's take it back to classic hip-hop, when the cutest girl in your neighborhood was good enough to be in your video. I thought I was making it easy on them and liberating womankind simultaneously.
Two weeks passed.
One girl sent me pics.
Even after I sent three reminders.
Her name is Charlene and she's laying on a couch in the video, looking directly into the camera. As you can see, she's perfect.
But yeah, just one.
Fortunately, I have more than my fair share of photogenic friends. Some are actresses, like IEP alum Shamika Franklin. And some are just naturally purdy like Intrepid's own Maigen Thomas. I begged for their help and ended up shooting two of the young ladies; the others more or less invited me to pillage their Facebook albums. And I am thankful for their trust and openness.
The point is, directing is about problem solving.]
Later, all five members sit on a staircase in a seemingly random formation, while a handheld shot captures them in solo and group shots.
[I hadn't been to the location in almost two years (Point Dume State Beach in Malibu), ever since I shot Something Borrowed there. And I remembered the staircase that leads down to the beach being wider. Not only is not wide, it's a friggin' deathtrap. No worries, I just moved the fellas 50 yards to the left where they each had their own seat on the rocks. I shot the "Mount Rushmore" group shot, then moved in for close ups. Balancing on rocks myself to shoot was challenging and I nearly fell several times to a bloody death. Whatever. Anything for the shot.]
Then, the group walks down a street, still performing their verses. Here we can really see the rapport they have with one another and these may be the most lighthearted shots of the video. We want to promote that they are regular guys who just happen to be outstanding lyricists. Likewise, there will also be a more stylized shot where one member is in the foreground rapping their lines and another member is in the background.
[I shot so much footage of them walking on the beach rhyming that the street shots seemed a little pointless. The shots where one is behind another were the last thing we shot in Malibu before we broke for lunch. If you look closely, you can see some old guy hang gliding in the background on some of the shots. I thought it was funny, so I kept shooting. Gotta love Southern Cali in January.]
The group is dressed casually throughout; there will be four wardrobe changes. The group members can feel free to dress memorably, with their own personal stylistic flourishes.
This will be shot on the popular Canon 7D camera with a wide selection of lenses. The color will be corrected to a grayish tint, again accentuating the loneliness of the song. Overall, this will be a dope, fun video that will help to place faces to such a dynamic song.
[Had been considering shooting a video on my iphone4 for awhile. Didn't really have any "rent a Canon 7D and take out insurance on it" money either. So, with the group's blessing, I proceeded. Now, it's cool to hear so many people say, "You shot this on your WHAT?" Don't know what I was smoking with the grayish tint thing. That would've been stupid and I'm just now seeing that I even wrote it. Grayish tint tragedy averted, I'm a big fan of the video and I think it fits the song and group well. What do you think?]
NEXT MONTH (maybe): Jason Gilmore leaps into feature films.
Jason Gilmore is a film director, screenwriter, novelist and unrepentant Detroit Pistons fan. Track him down on Facebook.
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