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Not long after seeing the music video of ‘She’ we made for Perth band MSCL (My So Called Life) Nat Pearson got in touch with us and we set up a meeting. What initially started as one music video soon became two as Nat would be releasing two tracks – ‘Senseless’ and ‘Impressive Lies’ at the same time. After an initial meet and greet with myself and Shane, Nat and I threw ideas back and forth over email for both Impressive Lies and Senseless. I’ll just talk about Senseless and save Impressive Lies (a more ambitious shoot) for another blog.
Nat came up with the whole idea for Senseless. She 100% owns the concept, can’t take much credit there. In a way it was my job to realise what she wanted to do, and let her know the things that might not work as well on camera and provide alternatives.
After maybe a dozen emails back and forth Nat emailed through a couple of ideas or pitches, the first of the two was the core idea for the clip which I found interesting. A sort of out of body experience where we see two sides to Nat’s “character” splitting apart only to later find their way back to one another and find absolution. It’s pretty open and could be interpreted in different ways.
Location was our first port of call. Originally the ending was going to be on a campfire on a beach so we were looking for a cottage in the forest near a beach, a tough find. I’d visited Donnelly River not too long ago with my wife and over a decade earlier as a thirteen year old. Nat liked the location, she organised props, booking, make-up and costume.
The stage was set for a minimalist handheld shoot. One person crew, one talent cast.
A couple of days before heading down south for filming our new Zacuto Recoil rig came in. This rig proved to be rock solid. I would have struggled without it.
Nat and I decided the clip should be shot in slow motion. On the Red Scarlet that meant shooting at 3k resolution and 48 fps for a 24 fps finish. I hired a canon 16 – 35mm for wides and a Brightcast LED (with switchable white balance between 3200 and 5500) to provide more illumination for the bathroom and bonfire. I love working with Prime lenses but working on my own without crew support a 16-35mm (rather than a 14 or 15mm) meant I could change the focal length without having to change lenses. It did end up being a time saver. Alongside the Canon 16-35mm I had our trusty Zeiss primes, 50 and 100mm.
We arrived at Donnelly River in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day scouting around the place for locations to shoot, checking out the local wildlife and planning for the very long shoot the next day.
We were up at around 4am and finished somewhere after 1am. The biggest challenge was that we had multiple locations to film in with both ‘Nat’s’. Nat 1 with the red scarf and shirt and the second (strong Nat) without. So we mapped out our schedule for the day and basically didn’t let up minus a few food breaks. We made use of the morning light and filmed outside the cottage first, then went inside during the middle hours of the day and shot the interiors. We then hit the forest in the afternoon and caught the transition to nightfall. I have to give huge credit to Nat for walking around the freezing forest in bare feet. That evening the temperature would drop to -2.5 degrees Celsius. Then came a snag. We had to start a bon-fire but all the wood was too wet. CRAP.
Some much more organised people a few cottages down had a nice looking bon-fire though and were happy to let us film around it when they were finished. Saved.
It was quite a satisfying feeling finishing the shoot. It’s not a big clip in terms of effects, locations or fancy camera moves. But for a shoot with a cast of one and a one person crew it was a lot of work.
I returned to Perth happy with much of the footage but also very much aware that I had quite a massive edit ahead of me. The main reason this was quite a task to edit was that there’s hardly ever just a random beauty shot of Nat singing. They all take place as part of the action almost like a musical, there’s a story and her characters are moving from location to location singing different parts of the song that have to interconnect.
When Nat is singing in the forest if she sung a certain line one metre from where she snags her scarf on the tree, we needed to get her singing the same line at the same point in the next shot. In practice that sounds easy but when the song is playing at double speed and Nat is trying not to fall over on the wet uneven ground, it’s actually quite difficult.
We’d mapped out in pre-production what lines/versus and choruses would be sung where. But it didn’t become apparent until we were shooting how exact we needed to be and how difficult it was with the double speed music. Needing to cut between both Nat’s just made getting the timing right even more pivotal for the edit to work.
Anyway, I guess I just wanted people to know it was hard.
On that note the trickiest work was in the bathroom with the separation of the two Nat’s. This sequence involved multiple layers, Photoshop and a lot of masking. Someone who works in after effects all the time could have probably achieved the same thing (or better) in a shorter space of time. In any case, I eventually got the result I was after having both Nat’s go opaque when they first separate and then each becoming more ‘solid’ as they get further apart.
I made adjustments to exposure and contrast to the REDCODE meta data to even out my shots but never strayed too far from the filmconvert setting as I used it for grading. I felt that the natural filmic look suited this music video.
In closing, Nat is an incredibly hard worker. Very talented and humble and fantastic to work with/for. So big thanks to her for inviting me to create this with her.