Making the WHITE video

Jimmy Urine and I met, ironically enough, while fighting each other in the future wars despite the true enemy being the machines which had overthrown humanity as the rulers of the Earth, but that’s a story for another day.

What I think more people would be interested in is how and why I made another video for him, this time for the Left Rights’ song ‘WHITE’.  Well, there’s not a whole lot to tell about the why once you get past ‘he asked me to’.  Anyone that’s been through hell and back, quite literally, having dragged the fucker into the time machine with me, having appeared here in the pre-war time with only our lives and our wills to make sure that living nightmare never happens and…fuck, there I go again with that boring stuff.

As it usually happens when Jimmy gets it in his head to dare to ask me to do ANYTHING for him, he just sort of shows up with the idea.  This last time it was him showing up and asking if I’d do one of the videos for his latest album.  I finished the tea I was drinking, for I am a fancy man, and leveled my eyes upon the flabby thing Jimmy had become since running from death machines was no longer tops on his list of activities, and asked how much money there was in it, my opium addiction, and the tending to and sustaining thereof never far from my mind.  Jimmy and I both laughed at that, as there is never any real money in these projects.  He held out a can of soda, Squirt I believe it was, and I accepted it, knowing it was probably all he could save up over the past years and I knew the bastard only had a few years of life left in him thanks to what that fucking time displacement machine does to Jimmy Urines but not to mes.  I figured one more favor before he got to that inevitable point where he’s shitting out his insides and screaming at god for what he’d certainly see as some unholy curse when, in reality, it’d be nothing more than the side effects of a software bug.

The war with the machines started innocently enough, with mankind sick of having to wait those few minutes between bread going from bread to toast, so they stepped up their…oh, look at me getting off the subject again!  Agh!

So before I even heard any tracks off the new album I threw a couple of ideas out there, one of which was to do something all in one shot that would essentially be mostly no different from those lip-syncing/dancing videos that seem to make up the majority of what’s on Youtube, with people making asses of themselves to their favorite songs.  The one difference would be that the girls I imagined would be dancing and mouthing the words would be visited and murdered by some kind of shadowy intruder who then began a dance of his own.  Simple, stupid, and cheap.

“I LOVE IT!” screamed Jimmy, who lost his ability to speak below a deafening shriek after falling ill as a child.

The rule was to make a video for super cheap, so the Youtube-style lip-syncing approach seemed perfect for keeping things manageable. Depending on good planning and everyone being on the same page was really where the first mistake was, as you already know, what with everything being such a shambles on the day of shooting, but we didn’t see any of that coming oh those heady heady two weeks before. Back then we hoped the big sell would be the acting and the choreography, the unexpectedly fine tuned choreography popping up in the middle of such a seemingly ragged and silly production. Fun!

We auditioned some actresses and dancers, I picked the ones that made me laugh the most ( I audition people while reclining on a chaise lounge, being fed grapes that I eat while laughing decadently at those who dance before me). The basic idea of the audition for the girls coming in to audition for the victims was that they dance and lip sync to whatever happy, poppy song they wanted, as that’s how they’d end up dancing to WHITE, like it was that sort of thing. Almost every girl picked Miley Cyrus’ ’7 Things’, which meant hearing that song on a loop, with girls dancing like lunatics to it, and me screaming things like “DANCE LIKE YOU HATE MILEY CYRUS! LIKE YOU CAN’T STAND HER!” hoping to get them to dance even more annoyingly.

I settled on Raven and Johnna, the two girls that ended up in the video. Raven was just so naturally goofy, and Johnny made the best, dorkiest faces and probably helped sell the video in the end, making for some pretty sweet pretend-neck snaps and all. The fact that they didn’t really know the lyrics all that well in the end didn’t kill the thing as you see that sort of thing all the time in the actual videos we were making fun of. Still, when the two weeks of lead-up time were done, the girls had not really familiarized themselves with the song, and if they knew the song they didn’t know the action of the video. I had put a wee animatic together just to give everyone a sense of the timing, when so and so would die, when the dancing would start or end and so on, and nobody had even watched it, victims or murderers! An OK go video this would not be.

Our murderers/dancers were in a constant state of flux from the get go, with people dropping out, dropping back in, then dropping out again. The fact that, when the day came we didn’t really have a tight dance routine down, meant the video would end up the way it ultimately did, patched together and a just not what was planned. Two weeks of prep still resulted in the dancers really only having one real day to work anything out, and that included the very day of shooting. Atilio, our main dancer, the one in the middle, whose headshot is visible in the center of the room, did a pretty great job wrangling the mess together, but it was still not enough to avoid stitching the thing together instead of being able to use a single take.

Just the physical act of getting the actors to fit into the room was interesting, what with the room not being a set but an actual person’s bedroom and a tiny one at that. Originally the idea called for the killer to sneak in from behind through an open window. The room we used had a tiny closet in the corner where we had originally hoped for a window, but it was close enough that we decided to go with it. The problem was that there was really no way for the camera to fit in the room with all of the action, so we had to set up outside of the window to be able to capture as much of the figures as possible. When you see a girl get killed and fall below frame in the video, you’re NOT seeing that girl immediately crawl out of the room on her belly to avoid entering the frame. That’s how small that room was. As awful as that was, that was part of what made shooting the thing so fun, figuring out this choreography that was happening off-frame.

Here’s some footage JR Goldberg took of one of the run-throughs from just outside the room. You can get a sense of how small the place is and what those poor people had to do to get OUT of it to avoid being trampled or covered in blood.

Speaking of blood, our blood-master, Blake Bolger had to be in the corner of the room the entire time, off camera for when she wasn’t needed, and then under the frame for jetting blood up and pretending to be Raven’s struggling arm. Bless her bloody soul.

You can see the fake head she made there in that picture, a crude looking thing in person but perfect and actually really cool to use.  It’s just a foam head held together with magnets.  Throw it against anything and the magnets come apart and the chunks of head just go flying everywhere.  The fact that we were shooting in someone’s actual bedroom meant it would have been far too troublesome to throw an actual exploding bloody head at the wall, cleanup time being just one of the worries if we had to do more than one take.  I’m usually against digital blood, but considering the end product was going to be so garbled and compressed looking it seemed like super realistic blood wasn’t as important as a convincing moment of impact.

The thing was supposed to be all fast, precise timing, but when nobody really knows the song or when they’re supposed to snap a neck or do a spin, things get a bit mushy.  What was supposed to be all done in one shot, complete with throwing a fake head at the wall, clearly had to become something else in order to get anywhere, so we ended up cobbling the scene together from maybe five run throughs.

With adjustments in the framing, and constantly shifting light coming through the windows of the very real room we covered in cat posters and shot in, our one shot take turned frankenstein’s monster of a video was a bit of of a pain in the ass to swallow for me.  Editing at all suddenly distracted from the idea that this was just a mounted webcam in a room.  Suddenly, it wasn’t just a youtube-style video anymore and more of a production, but now it’d be a production that looked hideously cheap instead of naturally cheap.

Jonathan Sims, producer on the video (that means he also got paid a stick of gum) and co-editor, and I sent that fucking video back and forth between us in various forms for way longer than what the original plan was.  Nothing to edit really when it’s all one shot, but now we were having to pick best takes and cringe at how terribly they matched other shots.  Jonathan at one point actually killed himself he was so sick of the editing, but I brought him back with some of that necromancy you read about in the papers, and we eventually got it to the point where it only made us wince painfully instead of cry.  I think Jonathan was actually pretty resentful of how much work I got out of him for this thing, as a quick look into the final exported files he sent me before actually fleeing the state tells a tale in file names that speaks volumes of his state of mine up to the last minute.

The files of madness.

Haha!  I’m sure it’s just a joke.  He’s not really that upset, right?  Let’s just open it up and see what’s-

Not a good sign.

Oh…oh,  eh.  Well, he’s in a better place now, probably.

After that there was a time when I actually struggled to make the thing look purposefully attractive, like something attractive and deliberately stylish, so I dragged all that footage through After Effects, Motion, and Color, experimenting with ways of making it look nice, but the nicer it looked, the worse the overall effect was.  It was becoming apparent that we were just trying to mask something in pretty colors and looks instead of celebrating just how shitty it was, which was to be the original intent.

Here’s my favorite bit of trying to make it look like something it wasn’t.  After a bit of flailing around in After Effects, punching knobs and pulling on wires (that’s how After Effects works), I managed to adjust colors for foreground and background separately and add some weird spooky film noise to just Raven there, one of the girls we had come in to be the victims (she was great, by the way).  The music and credits I threw in just to make it more satisfying for your watching enjoyment.  You’re welcome.

In the end, I stripped it back down to the mostly naked original, bloody warts and all, doing only minor color corrections but not enough to actually make the thing look good in a distracting way.

I just wish it was the horrible I hoped for instead of the Frankenstein’s monster the thing ended up having to be, but people seem to like it, and it makes me laugh, so there’s that.

One last little present for you guys before I go! Here’s the little animatic I made for everyone to memorize the general timing of things. In a lot of ways it’s more the actual video as it was supposed to be, although without much variation in poses and such. Still, it’s interesting in a way, if you’re into that sort of minutia!

JR Goldberg's masterpiece of set dressing. KITTY HELL.

THANKS TO:  Raven Assay, Johnna Grosso, Atilio Jamerson, Kris Rhodes, Ellis Jackson, Jonathan Sims, JR Goldberg, Nick Plotquin, Blake Bolger, Emily Schooner, Zoetica Ebb