Critiques and relatability

So, the other evening I was over at my friend Julie’s house.

Producer Julie.

She was having a We’re Moving Out Soon party, and I was surrounded by her and her roommate’s friends. I ended up coercing a few of them to watch some of the footage we’d shot for the music video. One of the people said something very interesting about the following clip that I’ve uploaded to show you:

She said “No one would ever climb over a railing like that.”

I looked at her for a moment and said “What?”

“Yeah, you were at Coney Island, right? The railing by the beach? It looks so awkward. No one would do that. They’d put their feet on the first railing and then hop over, not just climb over by swinging their leg like that.”

“Well,” I said, “maybe if they weren’t over six feet. I did it. I’m 6’4″. My actor is 6’2″. So.”

“But it looks awkward. No one would do that.”

I said ok, and then fantasized about traveling to the moon so I’d never have to be around people ever again.

The thing is, she was right, in a very strange way. She wasn’t right that it’s awkward. That makes no sense, because if I don’t have to go on to a first rail or what have you to go over a railing, I’m not going to do that. That’s silly. I’m tall, and I’ll take advantage of that, just like all you short people take advantage of me at the grocery store to get shit down from the top shelf. I don’t begrudge you. I pity you.

But what could I do with that video to make it relatable to viewers? You don’t know the height of the railing, ok. You don’t see the leg swing over, ok. The general motion of the actor is understood, so there is a relatable movement. The clip lasts about 4 seconds, so in that time I believe I’ve been able to show what would happen to anyone in that situation. Reasonably.

But could I have shown it in a more constructed, and perfect movement, so that it would have struck a feeling of familiarity with the .01% of… well, everyone else?


When making a film, or a commercial, or some other video, what you capture should be as close to generic as possible. What makes the shot special is the style in which it’s filmed.

Of course… this is strictly about commerciality. I personally don’t care about getting everything so perfect, and spoon feeding an audience, so that they can relate to every single thing a character does. That would make things boring.

But there are certain things that we can do for our audience that allow them to sit back and absorb scenarios happening so that they aren’t left scratching their heads, or something that takes them out of the film for even a moment. No one wants to lose a viewer, but it happens. If we can present them with a well crafted scenario that allows them to either empathize with a character, or transport them to a memory (true or fake) where they were in a similar situation… it’s a connection with viewers that only helps with storytelling.

I thought, in the end, that this person was nitpicking. She, in fact, didn’t say another thing about the footage, good or bad. But, it was an interesting lesson to learn.

The music video is sliced up into a number of 4-second stories. Like, 80 of them. In those 4 seconds, I needed to craft the story so succinctly, so I don’t lose the viewer. I won’t know if we did that until we cut it together, but you’d be surprised how difficult it is to get 4 seconds of relatable content, over and over, so that your viewer is able to think ‘I believe what they’re showing me, when it comes to the lives of these characters.’

I hope, in the end, that we got it right. This music video, which is NOT done… sigh, has been an enormous learning experience. I also hope it leads to something.



Creating a music video, part II – Sunscreen

Yeah. So, I’m fair skinned. I burn easy and I never think about the sun because it’s supposed to be our friend, but it’s slowly and silently killing us all. Except for George Hamilton.


This past weekend, I had a nice full shoot schedule. We lucked out completely because the camera, film, and weather gods decided to look down on our lowly production with some glorious sunny weather.

Brennan Lowry, Julie (producer Julie) and I took a trip out to Coney Island for a couple of hours, and had a lot of fun.

Bringing camera equipment anywhere you’re not used to is always a hit and miss. At least, it is in my experience. You never know if you’re going to run into opposition, or what have you.

9 times out of 10, I get weird looks when people see the fig rig. It’s either a steering wheel or a bike wheel or some shit… and I spend 5 minutes explaining what it is, and I get an “Ahhh!” and then we’re on our way.

Coney Island was no different.

Sand, water, cotton candy, lots of different things to trip us up and make changing lenses a fun life or death type situation. But, the camera, and it’s moving parts, survived.

And boy, was it sunny. I came home red faced… Julie expressed concern that I may have gotten too much sun. Me, I was oblivious, until I got home and didn’t recognize myself. Sigh.

But, we got great footage. We started the day off with a Nathan’s hotdog and cheese fries (damn you Julie!) Went on the Wonder Wheel and adhered to their strict policy of two in the front, one in the back. BASTARDS. But, thinking on ones feet during production time, especially when you shouldn’t be shooting video, is half of filmmaking. So, we made it work.

Had some beers and a funnel cake the size of goddamn pancake, and thicker than deep crust pizza. I haven’t had one of those in a decade, at least. It was heavenly.

Ended the day with a walk on the beach, and had an all around pleasant shooting experience. Here are some stills:

Nice, right? That last shot was one of the last things we shot, and it was my favorite of the day. Walking through the hallway of the Rector Street R Train station, we got six different light sources that gave us a phenomenal look.

I went home that day, Julie and I shot some additional music video footage, and then I witnessed my face, chest, and neck. It was almost as if I’d gotten an allergic reaction to something… and the skin from the top of my head to just below my clavicle had been affected.

The next day, we shot early in Central Park with Julie’s roommate, Daniel Something Something… not sure his last name. Cool guy, helped us out a ton.

We met at 63rd Street to film at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema at 9:15 in the morning. I biked up and used a GoPro Hero HD 2 camera for the first time, and it was AWESOME. I made that trip in 35 minutes… I guess I was scared I was going to be late, and/or that the footage was going to suck. It didn’t.

That early in the morning, I lucked out on 10th Avenue, and was able to get some fantastic shots of me biking in the center lane. Admittedly, out of breath, but still. Nice shots.

After our shoot, we went to the Lowes Cinema down the block and saw Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Loved Bottle Rocket, loved Rushmore, LOVED The Royal Tennanbaums… haven’t really given his other films more than a cursory glance, because I simply wasn’t that interested… this film was way too heavy handed for my taste. It was really nothing I hadn’t seen before in a Wes Anderson film, so I was disappointed. Julie loved it. So, she’s fired.

One of the things that I think most people who are not in the film industry don’t understand… I have to go back and see if that was a real sentence. One sec. Yeah, ok… is that when you see shots that look dark, they’re actually really well lit. Movie theater scenes, specifically, are REALLY well lit.

I was trying to get footage of Dan in the theater with a 1.4f lens… and even ramping up the ISO to 4000, I couldn’t see shit. Even when there was pure white coming from the screen.

So I improvised, again. I shot him from behind, with the screen in front of him, and his head in perfect black. At first, it was just half his head, showing one ear. But then I centered myself, and man… the footage looks AWESOME. Truly. You can see a screen shot below.

From there, we went to Strawberry Fields, which was just a quick walk to Central Park. Crowded as all get out… I was concerned we’d never get the shots I wanted, but one of the things you have to do in filmmaking is just do it. There were fifty people by the IMAGINE tile work on the ground of Strawberry Fields. We just had to wait our turn, shoot it, and get the hell out of there. And it worked great.

So, first, here are some screenshots:

Nice, right? I got Julie to eat ice cream on camera. She’s a vegan.

Ok, ok, we all got some ice cream, did some fig rig walking shots that came out really nice, and I biked home, exhausted, with the GoPro on my helmet, and got some more nice footage, at a much slower pace. Julie took some of the equipment and met me at home.

By Sunday night, I was exhausted… but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.

Suffice it to say, if you know you’re working outside, and it’s a nice day, remember sunblock. Monday, I passed out for four hours during the day. Whether it was my skin angry at me, or what, I don’t know… but my face is kind of back to normal, but I know if it happens again, my epidermis might just walk off without another word.

Here’s a final shot of Julie and I at Coney Island, with the fig rig. Such a great day. Thanks for reading!

Dealing with the weather


I had two days of shooting planned this weekend, and the weather did not cooperate one bit. This was a continuation shoot for the music video.

Our first day of shooting simple had so much sunlight… we set out Saturday morning to Broadway and Lafayette Streets, to take the D train to Coney Island… and it was so overcast, we decided to grab some coffee, see if some of it would burn off.

No chance. Found out that today was supposed to have some thunderstorms, so we didn’t shoot.


Being at the behest of the weather can really suck. And, yeah, I could have shot footage at Coney Island, but it simply wouldn’t have been the same.

So, we’ve scheduled what will be 3 separate shoots next weekend. We’ll see if we can do it. I’m pretty certain we can. Unless the weather is messed up. July is almost over… August is fairly booked up, at least on the weekends.

Gonna have to do some real problem solving to get this video done if we lose next weekend.

I’ll keep you posted!


Directing a music video

Hey all.

Not sure if I mentioned this at all, but I had the opportunity to direct a music video because of a post on Reddit.

The guy’s name is Jack Roscoe, and he goes by the band name Northern Introvert.

Holy crap, that thread was 5 months ago.

Well, that’s kind of embarrassing. I answered that call, for a filmmaker to create a video based on his music. My initial idea was to have a person sitting in front of an old typewriter and start to create scenes for his latest novel, and have those scenes being acted out in front of him, in his mind.

It was a decent idea, but required way too much preparation, actors, a solid location, prop guns, make-up, and a bunch of other things. In the end, it just wasn’t feasible.

So, my producer, Julie, and I started coming up with alternative ideas. We came up with a great one.

Not going to spoil it… the video should be done around the beginning of August, but I thought I would share some of the process.

First, conceptualization. We have ZERO money. When I say zero, I mean it’s coming out of my pocket and we had to figure out an idea that would be cheap to create.

About two weeks before the call to make a video, I ran across this video, which really was SO much fun, I wanted to jump into making videos ASAP.

Love it.

So, the song I ended up choosing is around 6 minutes long, which is LONG. I’d say most songs come in around the 3:30 to 4:00 minute mark. Luckily, it’s a nice electronica song with some great repetitive moments, some high points, low points… all which helped me to create a story that worked with the pace of the song.

Concepts, for all different kinds of storytelling (in video/film) are limited by ones assets, both physical and monetary. Luckily, I live in NYC. So much to use, shoot, capture.

Once the initial concept was completed, we started fleshing out the characters. Using the different modes of transporation in NYC, we came up with a biker, a jogger, a subway rider, and a taxi rider. We were going to use a person on a skateboard, but the fact is that I felt very nervous about filming someone on the streets of NYC on a skateboard, when this is a micro-budget video, with no insurance, ect. The biker… well, I’m an avid biker, so I’ll be doing all of that footage with a gopro. I’m looking forward to that shoot!

From there, I listened to the track about thirty times. I broke down the beat into segments for storytelling, and then wrote out the scenes, which ended up being 4 second increments.

4 seconds doesn’t sound like a lot, but you’d be surprised what you can convey in 4 seconds. Hell, take 5 Second Films… they do amazing work in such a small amount of time. This one is my favorite:

So, with a broken down script, we started casting. One of our actresses, Johanny Mota, I have worked with before. She’s beautiful, fun to work with, and after I showed Julie her picture, knew she’d be great for this part.

I worked with her, shooting her own web series Internet Affairs, recently, and had a blast. I’m in the process of editing her series… it should be released some time in August.

We picked some easy to access locations, and on Sunday we went out and shot footage. It was in the 90s, unfortunately, and the girls (both Julie and Johanny) were champs about it. Here are some screenshots of the shoot.

It’s truly unreal how easy these shoots are when you’re working with someone as fun as Johanny and Julie. I consider myself quite lucky.

We have three more days of shooting. This Saturday and Sunday, and then next Sunday. Then I have some b-roll stuff to shoot, gopro footage, hanging outside of a taxi with my 7D… fun stuff.

All in all, it’s been very rewarding. The great thing about music videos these days is there are no rules. You’re either shooting the band in some crazy fashion, or you’re telling a story. Or both.

This track doesn’t have any lyrics. None of the tracks on the album do. It’s really fantastic music, I’ve been listening to it steadily for the past five months. Jack’s very talented. I showed him the footage, and he’s happy with it. That makes it all the more exciting to keep going.

Thanks for reading.

We start 8 for Vegas in about 2-3 weeks. I’m excited. Should be a lot of fun!

John Painz