Lou and I just finished a video for Canberra’s favourite band.
Fun Machine approached me about making a clip to accompany their upcoming tour. The catch was they needed it in three weeks time, and only one of the four members (uber-drummer Nick Peddle) would be available to be in it. The song they sent through – Shave – was tremendous; catchy, joyous, and riddled with tempo changes. It needed a visual concept equally punchy.
After wracking my brains for two days coming up with as many ideas as possible (most of which involved dressing Nick P in ridiculous outfits), I hit on making our limitations work for us. If the band couldn’t be in the clip, why not get everybody except the band to sing the song?
There’s an innocence and whimsy to Fun Machine (I imagine they all live together Monkees-style and eat fairy bread for dinner) that I strove to capture in the bright colours and kid’s party vibe of the video. All our videos have had a strong palette, but this is our most aggressively colourful yet (the test shots I filmed featured an Andy Warhol doll, an omitted but obvious reference) – next, I’d like to try something muted but equally focused.
Making a video with this many people, set-ups and edits, in the couple of weeks we had, was fairly ambitious. We shot the clip over a weekend – Lou and I spent eight hours the first day filming all the cutaway shots. Coming up with these shots and then realizing them was heaps of fun – no idea was too outré. It was great to be able to try so many things (e.g. stop-motion) under the auspices of making a music video. Look out for some of my favourites, including:
A gorilla crying candy banana tears.
The world’s dorkiest Raiders Of The Lost Ark reference.
A hand with green nail polish strumming a carrot.
A stop-motion Hulk mug scaring away a group of espresso cups.
A sock puppet smoking a cigarette.
There was nothing hugely complicated in any of these, but set-up and lighting chewed up most of our time (throwing a balloon into frame so that it faces the right way and your arm doesn’t cast shadows is surprisingly hard. See also: sliding a fish from underneath a table while someone else blows bubbles). I love that some of these shots are only in the clip for a couple of seconds (or less) – my hope is they add value to repeated viewings.
The next day, 19 people descended on our house for their close-ups. We’d provided the lyrics and song a few days earlier, but I had no clue if anyone would be able to lip-sync to it all. Some people were so focused on singing it word-perfect they barely moved. Others threw caution (and the words) to the wind and just made love to the camera for three minutes. Most fell somewhere in the middle. All of it was great and different and special, and every take told you something about the person – the wide angle lens was inches from each face, so there was nowhere to hide.
Nearly everyone got thrown by the same line – “I’ve been inside my love and ah ven chaver”. That’s verbatim from the lyrics provided by the song’s writer Ramsay. I googled it to no avail, thinking it was a snippet of some foreign language (many others did the same). I could have made a whole video out of everyone’s confused scrunched-up faces when they came to that part. It wasn’t until Nick P arrived and texted Ramsay that the mystery was solved – it was just gibberish, a random burst of scatting. The truth was, to be honest, a letdown – I prefer Jesh Brand’s interpretation (which coincidentally perfectly lip-syncs), “I’ve been inside my love and haven’t showered”. Brilliant.
We also pinned a list to the wall with all the other crazy stuff we wanted filmed. Scrawled on it were things like “comedy moustache”, “shaving”, and “slapped by fish”. Unsurprisingly, no one was taking us up on “slapped by fish”, so I added the enticement, “with free tequila shot!”. The plucky Kat Beecroft accepted the challenge (but graciously declined the tequila).
The day after we wrapped filming, I went to Melbourne for a week. But I packed my laptop and began the edit that night. The split-in-four screen was in the back of my mind when filming (because I knew we would have a lot of footage to fit into three minutes), but it didn’t really take shape until the edit. It essentially quadrupled my editing workload, but it makes the clip for me.
Yet again, Lou was indispensable, working as prop gatherer, set builder, camera operator, people wrangler, test audience and all round voice of reason. She’s all through the clip too – her eyes, her dancing feet, her painted fingernails – she doesn’t get the credit she deserves (we need to find the appropriate poly-title), but it would not have been possible without her.
Fun Machine were amazing to work with – they gave me complete freedom and trusted in everything I did. 16 hours of filming, 20 hours of editing, 19 faces, one killer song = three minutes of beautiful pop-art. Enjoy.