Alex Critchley

The Project

The project I embarked upon was ‘to make professional music videos for local (Bath) music artists using thematic approaches’. The reason for my settling upon this project was that, after steadily warming myself up with several video projects during my first and second years at university, I wanted to achieve creating a video/short film that I was absolutely happy with, with a dominant creative input. I’d been thinking about making some music videos for a while, and was now part of Pie TV, so to create some made perfect sense. Altogether, creating music videos would add a valuable asset to my creative portfolio – one that future employers will hopefully find impressive.

Planning

When it came to planning the project, I didn’t want to drown myself in over-complication. I thought about what music videos necessitate in terms of time and resources, and how much work I would reasonably be able to accomplish. Researching music videos, I found that they’re generally between three and five minutes long, around the same length as a short film. From my own prior experience with short films, filming a simple five minute video would have been possible in a day, with a few weeks of pre-production and post-production on either side.

However, assuming that, by a simple music video, we mean a basic shoot at one location with close-ups of individual band members and full band shots, or something within that area of creativity, my research also showed that a simple music video is almost never an impressive or particularly successful one. My music videos needed to be impressive, at least creatively, both for my benefit, and for the benefit of any stakeholders. That meant multiple locations and inventive shots. So, I theorised that a music video would take a few days to film.

I decided upon the creation of three music videos. In hindsight, this wasn’t a particularly big challenge for the amount of time I had left until the deadline for the project. However, I was unsuccessful in meeting the challenge. Looking back on why I was unable to film all three videos as I had intended, a combination of bad luck and time constraints were the main villains. The bad luck came in the form of the third video collapsing right as shooting was about to go ahead (I’ll elaborate later), and the time constraints grew from the timing of the third video’s collapse; my planned filming of the videos had already been delayed by around a month and a half, and I’d finally had to succumb to a part-time job, leaving me with only 5/7 of my prior free time just as work for other modules and responsibilities started to pile up.

Returning to the planning, I had to find the musicians to star in the music videos. I made preparations to scout for musicians traditionally (researching the local music scene and music sharing sites, such as SoundCloud), but with my involvement with Pie TV, I theorised that it would be a good promotion for Pie, and the music videos themselves, to find the musicians through a competition.

To plan the competition, I had meetings with Arthur Williams, the then-marketing manager for Pie. We settled upon a poster campaign throughout Bath to promote the competition, with an external group of judges to pick the winners. The competition would run during late December 2014/early January 2015, with the aim to pre-produce and film the music videos extremely quickly in January. I believed at the time that I might be able to organise the videos very quickly by overlapping their pre-production and filming. I never got to find out if I could have succeeded, but I don’t think I would have – working professionally with Bath’s Film Office and other organisations made pre-production slow going. It was nonetheless foolish of me to believe pre-production could be enacted intensely.

In Action: The Competition

The posters were spread throughout Bath during the first week of December 2014, with a focus on pubs and music-related locations, such as music shops and rehearsal studios. In theory, the Christmas period would bring many musicians to the pubs, where everyone would get away from the cold weather, and the music-related locations would catch any stragglers. This theory was disproved with all the gentle touch of a raging bull; the competition flopped. I’m still trying to think of why – the posters were well designed, and the competition was a good opportunity for local musicians in my opinion. A weakness was no doubt that the amount of posters distributed was nowhere near the amount intended, but there were still plenty. Possible reasons are many and various, and could be discussed for days, but only a professional marketing agent would be able to shed any light on the subject. This was one of the big lessons I learned with the project; do what you can, but leave what you can’t to others. In this regard, I should have tried to secure the help of a knowledgeable marketing agent to promote the competition (no offence intended to Arthur, who did what he could).

The poster design for the competition.

Pre-Production

After the competition flopped, I spent a few weeks scouting for and contacting worthy musicians. I found three varied artists, each with potential; Fabric, Idle Jon, and Trenchard. I believe that the selection of artists was one of the strongest points of the project; none were overly hipster-baiting, but each demonstrated a uniqueness and separation from pop music. One of the founding principles of the project was to help local artists, and in that regard the project was a brilliant success.

One of the issues that did come up during pre-production was the inevitable lack of a budget – something faced by all indie projects. This threw up blockades when dealing with Bath Film Office for securing filming locations; they needed payment for private properties, and as such could only help with streets and public parks. This forced myself and my creative partner (Alex King, recruited in January) to think incredibly creatively with our locations, and what we would do for the music videos. This actually became a strength of the project; by successfully achieving what we wanted in the end with the two music videos despite our constraints, we demonstrated an ability to overcome creative obstacles, which will hopefully show us in good favour in the future.

However, pre-production did see a huge problem occur for the project, and this is where I shall elaborate on the failure of the third music video. For Idle Jon’s video, we intended to use a derelict looking room for one scene, and various other locations with two actors (one male, one female) for another. Unfortunately, permission to use the derelict location we wanted was never secured – we had a backup location in mind, and made sure to keep Idle Jon informed of the situation. However, as the request for filming permission simply didn’t receive a response, we left it until the last day possible to call it and go for the backup location. Despite knowing of the situation, and having received regular updates, Jon saw this as a sign of disorganisation, and decided to pull out of the video. By this point, we were also still looking for one of the actors – no females had applied for the role.

Honestly, despite the lack of a female actor, I think that the video would have gone ahead successfully if Jon hadn’t pulled out. The scenes requiring actors could have been filmed at another time, and the backup location would have worked – even if it wouldn’t have been perfect. Jon cited ‘I also feel completely out of control’ when pulling out. This worried me, and I tried to address his concerns. However, in hindsight, I asked for his input with every creative and logistical decision, and he didn’t respond after pulling out, so I believe that he, in essence, got cold feet and ran. It feels a bit like pointing the finger to say so, but I’ve read through our correspondence several times, and thought about how the music videos went in comparison to other video projects, and I really do think that Jon didn’t allow the project a chance to push through its teething stage.

However, I am not entirely free from fault. Jon may well have gotten cold feet because he’d had no experience with filming before, or indeed, the problems that often occur before and during production of a video project. I should have made sure that he knew of the many problems that the project could face, and that he was prepared for delays to spring up. If he was prepared for logistical issues, such as the location problem we did face, he might not have been so worried by it. As such, when working with individuals unfamiliar with the territory of any creative project in the future, I shall endeavour to make sure that they are aware of every problem that the project may face, so that they are prepared for such problems and do not feel worried or uncomfortable when they arise.

Production

The production of the videos (for Fabric and Trenchard) went very well. The locations we secured worked well for our ideas, and everything fell into place as myself and Alex King intended. This was one of the strengths of the project; everything was planned well, and the creative vision was turned into reality with relative ease. In particular, both of the videos had defined themes, to give them a recognisable flavour and relation to their source material. Neither of the videos are just a band in a room – there are solid ideas surrounding the basic music video format.

The first day of shooting for Trenchard.

There were two relatively minor issues that developed during production. The drummer for Trenchard was resolute in leaving his drum kit in the band’s music studio, for understandable (though frustrating considering his desire for a music video) reasons. However, we had no budget to secure a drum kit of our own just for filming, which left Trenchard’s music video without a drum kit. We overcame this by turning his on-screen persona into one of not caring; he remained in the video with his arms folded, uncaring for the goings-on around him. The second minor issue was that, with an actual drum kit for Fabric, we found that our speakers were overpowered by the volume of the drum kit. This was overcome by using headphones for the drummer, but is a lesson for the future – bring powerful speakers!

Post-Production

Like the production stage, post-production went without any major issues. I did the majority of the editing myself, but I was regularly joined by Alex King, and displayed the work-in-progress to my tutor, so the editing was not done in a creative bubble. By the end of the editing process, I had learned not just basic editing (having been taught by Richard Wood earlier this year), but also how to use basic visual effects. The end result was two videos with a stylistic sheen.

This is undoubtedly the greatest strength of the project; after the editing was complete, both Trenchard and Fabric were presented with stylistically, creatively, and technically strong music videos. Both bands were happy with the end results, and all parties (myself, my ’employees’, and the bands) are able to use the music videos to show our talents.

Fabric’s ‘In Out’

There aren’t any interesting behind-the-scenes pictures or videos for Fabric’s shoot, and the rough cut transformed into the final version rather quickly, so the final product is all I have to show.

Trenchard’s ‘Commit to Thought’

The short version of ‘Commit to Thought’.

The rough cut for comparison.

The extended cut, in case you’re really fascinated.

In Conclusion

In the end, the project had many strengths and weaknesses. Of its weaknesses, it was constrained by a non-existent budget, the third video failed to materialise, and the competition failed. However, its strengths lie in successfully creating two music videos exactly as desired, satisfying stakeholders, overcoming obstacles, displaying creativity and technical finesse, and supporting two music artists.

I’ve learned a fair few things through the project. Most obviously, I know how to edit using Adobe Premiere Pro, and have improved my abilities as a director and camera operator. I also learned the intricacies of making music videos, and a few finer points for interacting with creative partners – in particular, making sure that they know what could go wrong. I have also learned to appreciate the need for a talented marketing agent.

Extras

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