Almuerzo Creativo – The Art of Producing

Posted by Malia on April 9, 2014

During the most recent addition of Almuerzo Creativo, Alysse had us put on our producer hats and discuss the pre-production involved in different types of Take Away Shows.

Take Away Shows can take many different forms, but they always provide an intimate experience with a band. They are not typically held on a stage or in a large music venue. Rather, they’re more low-key, and have a smaller audience. Alysse, who loves take away shows, showed us several different styles. Then, we discussed what kind of planning was involved for each.

Example One: Bon Iver

Some take away shows don’t even focus on the band. In this example, the focus of the video is on the audience: Their reactions to the music, their connection to the musicians. This style of video offers a different kind of emotional experience for viewers.

Vincent Moon of La Blogotheque, the videographer behind this show, typically gets to know the band on a very personal level before the shoot. Not a lot of planning goes into the shoot itself, but time with the band beforehand allows him to determine the best style of shooting and the right level of production to bring to the video.

Example Two: Dark Water Rising

The Dilemma: Alysse produced this video with Sound Situations a few years ago. She needed to shoot a 7-piece band that lived 3 hours away. The original plan was to shoot at a bar in downtown Raleigh, but it ended up being way too loud inside. They couldn’t shoot in the bar, and were limited on other locations because it was a Saturday night downtown. The shoot had already been rescheduled once, so they had to find another location that night. The time they had with the band was limited, so they had to act fast.

What do you do?

The Solution: Alysse and the crew darted from venue to venue, searching for a new location. They finally went into Mecca, a nearby restaurant, and the owners agreed to let them shoot upstairs in the dining room while they were closing. They had 20 minutes. They frantically set up their gear, got the band situated, and made it happen. Take a look below to see what they came up with.

Example Three: The Staves

The Dilemma: Nokia sponsored a show for the Staves on the beach in Mexico. Hundreds of people show up. Then it starts pouring! The band’s gear can’t get wet.

Now What?

The Solution: Find a makeshift shelter. In this case… a food truck!

Example Four: Pharell – Happy 

Pharell’s 24-Hour Video that went viral a few months ago is obviously not a take away show. But, it is an example of a video that focuses on the emotion of the audience and the performer, without do-overs or fancy setups. As such, it took quite a bit of planning to pull off.  Alysse did a lot of research about how the production team managed to shoot and edit all of the short videos, and below are some of the things we learned:

  • Pharrell worked with the Paris-based directing team, We Are From L.A. WAFLA wanted to do a 24-hour video, and were just waiting for the right project to come up.
  • Filming took twelve 15-hour days, with two separate days dedicated to Pharrell. There were 400 dancers and 42 unique locations.
  • Almost all of the 400 dancers were filmed in one take. There are blemishes, but they’re what gives “Happy” its character. There were approximately 10 resets or 2nd takes, total.
  • The crew fluctuated between 15 and 20 folks at a time. A band of cheerleaders made up most of the crew, and danced behind the camera the whole time.
  • WAFLA shot guerrilla style, using just one Steadicam and one main camera operator.
  • Though most of the people auditioned for roles, a few were cast on the spot. WAFLA said, “If we saw someone who looked cool on the street, we’d ask if they wanted to be in a Pharrell video and they jumped at the chance.”

According to one of the producers, “Sometimes when we where shooting, we would have to make a u-turn to head back the other way. So all of a sudden, this mob of people would have to stand behind the camera, and do a 180 in sync. It was madness. There would also be times when we had to make a quick decision on which way to go. We would scout ahead and find out that the street was blocked, so at the last second, we changed the route.”

  • Once the shooting was done, the directors had a little over two weeks to edit the footage.

Thank you, Alysse, for such an awesome discussion! When you are on set, unexpected issues arise all the time. Solid pre-production is key to making shoots go as seamlessly as possible. But, it is also important to have the ability to react and respond to the unexpected. Plan for the expected, but when the unexpected happens, have the confidence to make strong, snap decisions.