Sunday, January 26, 2014

Confessions from an Angry Artist #1: My Journey Making a Music Video for Funeral Dust

It was an early morning back in the fall of 2006 where I sat in my parent's basement and put on Jaws.  After I watched the movie, I started to watch the special features on the making of Jaws.  This suddenly inspired me so much that I knew I had to film something that day.  I had been up the entire night, and when the birds began to chirp, I knew I wasn't going back to sleep. I was visiting PA, and had my little Samsung camera on me.  I gave my friend Wulv a call.

Wulv and I go back many years.  His parents lived across the street from my Grandmother.  As we got older we separated; he went to one school and I to another.  Years later, in an art class, his sister Jill told me about a metal band that Wulv started along with his best friend, Mictian.  This band was Permanent Midnight - PA's only Black/Death metal band (there would be others, but mainly consisting of myself and other friends).  Wulv and I reacquainted and we hit it off instantly.  Shortly there after I joined Permanent Midnight and the rest is history, or a story for an entirely different blog. 

Wulv, Mictian, and myself were always very creative people.  And during the bands initial four or five year run, we were like a fucking locomotive.  The three of us wrote songs constantly, and ended up writing a dozen or so more that would be thrown to the side until further inspirations stirred.  There may be a good 30 songs that we did; all in different stages of completion, including covers.

In 2005 Wulv started his side project, Funeral Dust.  Wulv's favorite movie of all time is Jaws, so after watching that and the special features, I decided to call him and asked if we could shoot a music video.  Wulv, always the opportunist and never shying away from being creative, immediately agreed and about two hours later we were shooting.  I had no idea what the fuck I was doing.  This was two years before I'd take film courses.  We were basically winging it.  The little knowledge I did have came from a DVD I bought at a record store.  The DVD was basically a how-to on making music videos with just a camera, a band and a computer.  So, with our meager knowledge we went to the trenches and started shooting the video.

Wulv was ready for war armed with his spikes, axes, inverted crucifixes, and corpse paint splattered on his face.  We headed out to an old friend's house to shoot on his land.  He had many acres of land, and was very selfless in letting us use his land for whatever we needed to do, although we did hear a gun shot echo throughout the woods after calling "cut" on one of the takes.  We were all over the place shooting.  I had Wulv stand 100 or so yards from me as I basically walked with the camera; bobbing and weaving it up and down.  This shot was inspired from a few scenes in Evil Dead when the camera flies through the air.   Later on in post I just sped up the video to give it a frenetic look.  The camera disappears into Wulv's mouth and exits in an entirely different location (PM's original practice room), when the music kicks in. The song we did the music video for was "Awakening the Ancient Evil", which was a homage to Evil Dead anyway.

All the stuff we shot in that practice room was basically me pointing the camera at Wulv and letting him work his magic.  Wulv is a hunter so there is no surprise that you see deer carcasses, and bones throughout.  Of course he loves fire too and there's a shot with him singing behind flames.  To get this shot we actually used fire and almost torched the practice room to the ground.  But you do what is needed to get the shot.  The music video process is tedious to say the least.  In this case, Funeral Dust is a one man band.  So we had shots with just Wulv singing and others where he's playing his Viper guitar.  We did numerous takes, with numerous angles, in three or four different locations in less than two days.  There was absolutely no bickering or fighting when we did this video.  I'm saying that because I feel like we've always worked rather well together.  Even though I directed it, it was a joint project and he was very vital in the behind the scenes stuff.  I wish we could've used one source light, but we had to use Wulv's rig, in which the lights constantly blinked on and off as though you're in a concert.  But at the end of the day we needed a light source and that's what we got.

The only difference creatively that I ever felt Wulv and I had was our pacing in projects.  I'm a perfectionist, whereas Wulv is kind of a one take guy.  On this project we did a few more takes than necessary, but when you're editing you need some room to breath with extra coverage.  Even though I had no clue what I was doing, I had edited a few things prior and knew this much as true. 

I'll give credit to Wulv for the locations.  The cemetery scenes were his ideas.  We just went there and walked around with the camera, giving it that feel of a lifeless, demonic force floating over the tombstones.  Even in the raw footage you can hear us catching up and shooting the shit as the camera rolls.  By this time I'd been in New York for almost two years.

It took a full day and half of another to complete this shoot.  This would be the last time Wulv and I worked and created something together.  The only fucking downfall was during a shot when I was on the ground filming Wulv walking through the woods.  Later, I would be brushing five or six ticks out of my head.  Luckily none of them embedded into my skull. 

This was the very first thing I'd done with filmmaking.  And I really appreciate it.  It's not perfect, but it's very black metal: bare bones, raw and intense.  No color correction or any other video altering tools were used in post.  What we filmed is what you see.  It was two friends, acting on the impulse to just create something cool.  And I think we succeeded.

Here it is, the official music video for Awakening the Ancient Evil by Funeral Dust.  Directed, shot and edited by R.K. Hook


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