Making my first professional video. Is there ever enough cat hair?

setting up one of my scenes

When I decided to record my first album I thought I’d go into a studio and crank out enough songs in an afternoon. Years later, after ten albums, I know that it takes much more than that. So, when I thought I’d do my first-ever professional music video, you’d think I would know better. There I was, on a long boring interstate drive while on tour and I thought, hey, my song “Run” would make a funny video. (Hear it here.) I’d invite some friends over to my house, ask them to act out some scenes and have someone follow us around with a camera. I mapped out the script in my head.

Yeah, it would be that easy.

I needed to know how much this puppy would cost. I emailed a few video companies and like recording an album, I found out that I could get anything from “my neighbor has an iphone” to “we did <insert big name>’s last video. Since I already had many of the former kinds of video on YouTube, I opted for someone with experience and found Graham Lindsey, of Wavelength Media. He’d only done one music video but it was gorgeous and he had lots of experience in the corporate world. Bonus that he’s a musician and thought “Run” was funny. Hey, you like my song, I’m yours, babe.

Ryan and Graham

Assistant Ryan Lindsey with video guy Graham Lindsey.

Graham quoted me a reasonable fee. However, it’s not something I had laying around the house. So, I turned to my generous fans and did some crowd sourcing. (My Indiegogo site is here.) I raised almost all of the money I needed, figuring I could supplement the rest with my teaching and performing income. I only needed to rent a space and I was good to go, right?

Well, no.

me and Mary

Me with Mary Harvey. She not only directed, but she fixed my hair between shooting.

I excitedly contacted my friend Mary Harvey. She’s directed and written videos and plays. She thoughtfully pointed out, “You’ll need a director.”

I would? Then she said I’d need storyboards, a prop list, a better script and did I know any professional actors?

Um, no again.

Mary cheerfully replied, “I can direct.” I fell on my knees to thank her. Not long after that we had a meeting with Graham. Together we worked on the script and a myriad of other details.

In the coming weeks, both of them were very gracious with this beginner. I think in audio. I wouldn’t know a good visual if it bit me. They knew all about staging, pacing and sets. They helped me find two lead actors. Candice Lidstone was recommended by an actor friend of Graham’s. She had lots of indie film experience, including comedy. Loretta DiEugenio was in a play that Mary wrote. I saw that play and thought she was terrific.

final scene

Loretta and Candice.

Voila! We had our two professionals. I would be the singer-songwriter who pops in now and again with a guitar. The rest of the cast would be friends, family, and actors Mary knew – all people we knew would be fun and relaxed in front of a camera and because, well, they worked cheap.

cast and crew

I rented a large room in a nearby community center. Each of the three scenes we needed could be set up in various corners. Graham and Mary warned me that we had a lot to get done in that one day. It was just like recording an album. A three minute song can take hours to record. A video of similar length could take even longer.

The day before, the emails flew fast and furious. “Do we have enough cat hair?” “Who is bringing the beer cans?” You know, important stuff like that.

I practiced with the song so when I lip synced, it would look like I was really singing. It was hard to match my weird phrasing in a couple of places, even though it’s my damn song.

My partner loaded up the car for me. I was bringing a lot of the props – some that I made – as well as food for the cast. Hey, if I’m not paying them a decent wage, I’m going to stuff them with great food. Yes, there was chocolate.

A small group of us brought in equipment and furniture. Candice and Loretta arrived early. We filmed some of their shots. As the day went on, more actors arrived until we had enough for the crowd scenes, some that took place in a restaurant. A few of the actors got so far into their characters, they started story lines that weren’t even in the song:

At this point, I need to tell you that this is an advice song. You know when a friend is dating someone you know is a bad idea, but they’re in la-la land? This is the song to send them. The same crowd from the restaurant showed up in a living room, to warn the main character once again:

Here’s Mary, offering direction to the masses:

After a laundry list of reasons, our main character flees. Smart woman.

Here’s time lapse photography of the whole day, captured by Ryan Lindsey:

Enough of the suspense — here’s the video!

So, if you have a friend who’s dating someone with 38 cats, tell her you have a video for her to watch.


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About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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4 Responses to Making my first professional video. Is there ever enough cat hair?

  1. Mary Harvey says:

    Hey Jamie, thanks for the kind words. Fun day, fun video, fun blog! I’m looking forward to the party. I’m bringing friends along. I have to correct one thing – it was Janne Cleveland who directed Loretta in my play, not me. She did a fabulous job and deserves that accolade. See you on the 28th! Mary

  2. Tom Farr says:

    This was a very insightful look at the process of making a music video. Thanks for sharing.

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