CAUSE4DRAMA: The Making Of A Music Video

It’s 2:15 in the morning and the band is cold and getting tired.  “Okay guys, take a break!” The band collectively put down their instruments and head for the warmth of the studio. I turn and grab lead singer Rocky Jr. “Not you!  We need to shoot some guitar solo pick ups.”  He looks at me and grins with delight.  It’s obvious he’s enjoying the experience.  As am I…..

Two weeks earlier, Rocky and I sat in the Zophia Creative studio discussing his band CAUSE4DRAMA‘s latest EP, Burn Burn Burn.  “Okay, what are you doing next Saturday night?” I impulsively asked.  Before Rocky can answer I cut him off, “Nothing? Good, lets shoot a video!”  With out missing a beat, Rocky enthusiastically replied; “Let’s do it!”

Okay, what song?  We both agreed on the EP’s second track, Too Strong. It has some meaty guitar riffs, an infectious chorus and a good old fashion guitar solo.  After throwing around different ideas and concepts for a brief while, we finally decided to shoot a straight up performance video.

The band puts on an incredible live show, so I thought capturing that live energy through the camera lens would be the best way to go.  Rocky agreed.  CAUSE4DRAMA is a down and dirty, working class rock band.  We didn’t want any trashy girls or manufactured phony lifestyles portrayed in the video.  We wanted to stay away from all those clichés, and just shoot the band doing what they do best.  And we’ll shoot it on the loading dock right outside the studio’s back door.  Perfect!  Lets get started….

My first task was to assemble the crew!  First up, The Director of Photography, my most important collaborator.  As luck would have it, cinematographer Byron Kopman was available and signed on right away.  Byron is an incredibly resourceful and creative talent. He’s a force of nature who brings his own visual concepts to the project which are always brilliant and inventive.  His determination, focus and ingenuity always inspires me to elevate my own game.

Byron quickly assembled his team of technicians consisting of 1st assistant cameraman, Brian Hulme and Gaffer/Key Grip Andrew Shirley.  Byron explains the set up:

“We shot on the HVX-200 with a brevis flip, 35mm adapter with 35mm prime lenses. The camera with adapter was metering at 160ASA.  A little challenging for night work so we had to use some serious fire power to get the desired exposure.  Jason was adamant about having lots of lens flares, so I back-lit the set with seven 1k Parcans pointing towards the camera axis.  The Parcans also doubled as a hard rim light for the band members, killing two birds with one stone.  For the bands key light, we employed a 9 light mini brute with diffusion, set off to one side to create some highlights and shadows. We also bounced 750 lekos off the ceiling to help subtly fill in those shadows and bring up the overall exposure.  It all looked great.  Jason wanted the camera to always be moving and had already mapped out a series of hand-held and dolly shots.  I knew the camera was going to be flying all over the place so I had to light the band and set with that in mind.  In the end, I was very pleased with the results.”

From the inception of the video, I wanted the lights to constantly be flaring the camera. I’ve always loved lens flares in cinema and love the idea of light blinding the camera.  I knew the exact look I wanted and after some research and calling just about everyone in town, I got my hands on a Parashoot Blue Streak Lens Filter.  It was perfect.  I thought I’d shoot a lot of safety takes without it, but it never got tiring.  We shot with it the whole night.

As for the band (made up of Rocky Jr. on vocals and lead guitar, Nate Cavalli on guitar and back up vocals, Chris Nagle on bass, and Brian Tansley on drums), well, that was the easy part.  I’ve known the guys for quite a while and have shot and photographed them many times before.  I knew they would bring it!  They always do!  So, on the night, after some greasing of hair (not to mention a white tank top) the band was ready to rock.

So, with the kicking open of the studio doors, the camera started rolling.  Seven hours later, after some fifty plus takes, thirty-six power bars, two large pizzas, one sushi platter, two cases of beer, twelve energy drinks and one bottle of vodka, I called it “A Wrap!”

Post production went fast and swiftly.  I had my first rough edit within three days.  After some sound foleying and edit refining, I had a final cut by weeks end.  At this point I brought in post production guru, and technical genius George Faulkner to handle the color timing and mastering.  George is an accomplished filmmaker in his own right, and always brings a fresh perspective to the project.  With his keen eye and magic touch, the video was locked and polished, and ready for world release.

All in all, it was an incredibly rewarding experience working with the band and crew on this project.  I’m already looking forward to the next collaboration.  I hope you all enjoy the video.

Jason Manahan

Zophia Creative | 604 868 1553 | info@zophiacreative.comwww.zophiacreative.com

Photography by Angelhood

Zophia Creative, Jason Manahan, CAUSE4DRAMA, Vancouver Video Production

 

 

 

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James Cameron’s ALIENS, 25 years later.

” I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit!   It’s the only way to be sure.”
– Ellen Ripley

25 years ago, a little known filmmaker named James Cameron created a science fiction masterpiece that changed the genre forever and became a landmark film with long reaching infuence. As a pure action movie, Aliens is as well constructed and paced as any in Hollywood history. Lets take looks back at James Cameron’s Aliens, one of the greatest films of our generation.

Given the task of following up Ridley Scott’s Alien, a lesser director would have simply provided more of the same. Another ship, and another crew to impregnate, stalk and terrorise by an apparently indestructible alien creature. It’s to James Cameron’s credit that, when he wrote and directed the sequel to Ridley Scott’s original, he chose to strike out on a different path, creating a film with its own tone, pace and themes while still adhering to various visual and narrative laws set up in the first film.

Where Alien was a comparatively slow horror thriller that prowled like a lion in undergrowth, Aliens was a war film that sped from one set piece to the next, slowly building up to a roller coaster of bombastic action. That Aliens is bigger and louder has led some to suggest that Cameron’s sequel is superior to Scott’s original, while others prefer the latter’s reliance on atmosphere and quiet suspense.

I’d suggest that, rather than either being superior, the two films complement one another in a way seldom seen in cinema.

Alien was metaphor for sex and encountering something traumatic that could barely be comprehended, a monster that violated as well as killed, that rendered its victims chillingly powerless. Aliens is about facing trauma head on, and gaining closure in the process.

In Aliens, Cameron quickly establishes that the events of the first film had caused Ripley to lose everything. By returning to LV-426, the now terraformed planet of Alien, Ripley is able to confront the trauma of her past, and in the final battle with the alien queen, ultimately overcome it.

It’s also worth noting that, where Alien was cut off from any sense of society,  Aliens gives a greater sense of social order. We even see the ant-like hierarchy of the aliens themselves, with soldier aliens protecting the egg-laying queen. We even learn that the aliens can, in a basic way, be bargained with, as Ripley threatens the queen’s eggs with a flamethrower. With a quiet nod from the queen, the soldier aliens back away.

As a pure action movie, Aliens is one of the best constructed and paced in Hollywood history. Its first hour methodically reintroduces Ripley and the outfit of cocksure Colonial Marines who will accompany her to LV-426. Once the action starts however, the film turns into a tour de force of action and suspense.  Then there’s Cameron’s endlessly quotable script and broad, memorable characters. Wisecracking space marines have since become a cliché of cinema and videogames. Cameron’s, headed up by Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez, are the original and still the best.  And lets not forget about that creepy android (or Artificial Person) Bishop.  Can we trust him?  At least we can trust the corporation, represented by Carter Burke. Or can we?

Cameron’s biggest achievement in Aliens was in creating a film that dovetails so perfectly with the original Alien. Watched back to back, Alien becomes the first act to Cameron’s lengthier story. Ripley encounters the xenomorph and all the horror that comes with it in the first film, and through a mixture of circumstance and bravery, is able to put those horrors to rest in the second.

This gratifying sense of closure is one reason why the attempt to create a second sequel was always doomed to failure. With Aliens, Cameron had already created an arc for Ripley’s character that was both satisfying and logical, and demonstrated that the aliens themselves, apparently indestructible in Scott’s movie, could be killed after all.

Aliens is one of those films that stands the test of time.  Sci-fi action films have come and gone since, but none have achieved the level of perfection and intensity that Aliens does. Many the imitations and rip offs have come, but it still remains unchallenged in it’s genre for 25 years now.  For fans of science fiction films, Aliens can do no wrong!

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