T|nes Video: A beautiful, creative mess

Three years ago, I created this video as my final project for the "Leadership Through Story and Communities" course in UW's MCDM program. Below is an essay delivered as part of the project, written while the video production was still in progress.

For the Leadership Through Story and Communities final project, I directed a music video for the song “Becoming” by T|nes. At our final class of the quarter, I presented a rough cut of the video. This project is a work in progress, and an exercise in trial and error. Through production, I gained new experience in leadership, storytelling, and collaboration. This video is a team effort, and is only possible thanks to the talent and generosity of my peers, especially my friends and fellow CommLeaders Scott Wilson and Cynthia Andrews.

Director and producer Lara Schwartz describes music videos as being at the nexus of art and commerce, with creative and business pressures. They’re designed to grab the attention of viewers, to market the music and build the artist’s image. T|nes no longer produces music as a group, but each member individually pursues artistic endeavors. This negates the commercial value of this music video, but frees us to take greater risks with production. There’s no downside to failure, so we embraced experimentation and the weird.

I drew from Twyla Tharp’s scratching exercise, ingesting copious amounts of artwork, and filtering pieces that fit the palette of the song. Pre-production explored creativity and storytelling, storyboarding shots, and envisioning how the juxtaposition of different scenes would create an over-arching theme, mood, and story. I decided on a style that would experiment with production and post-production effects to create surreal, attention-grabbing visuals. Pre-production equally explored team building. I reached out to Scott Wilson to be the director of photography, and Cynthia Andrews to produce. Scott and I bounced ideas off of each other, while Cynthia used social media to assemble the talent and crew for our primary shoot day, drawing from Cohort 13 as a resource.

The first shot of production: testing the green slime chroma key method on myself.

The first shot of production: testing the green slime chroma key method on myself.

Production began with an afternoon test shoot at Carkeek Park. I used myself as a test subject to experiment with a compositing technique using green slime. We filmed Matt McWilliams dumped a bucket of green slime (flour, water, and food coloring) on me. Immediately after, we filmed the background without me in it. That night, Scott and I played with the footage to see if the technique worked. It did, mostly.

We learned valuable lessons on best practices in slime pouring. This prepared us for a marathon shoot on a Sunday. We shot at six different locations from 7AM to 7:30PM. The cold, rainy weather didn’t do us any favors. The day was brutal. It makes me all the more grateful for everyone who volunteered their time and put in such great work.

 

We shot hours of footage, more than enough for the four-minute song. However, upon editing I realized the slime effect, as interesting as it looks, does not match the tone of the song. Chelsey Scheffe, the lyricist and singer, and I plan to study the rough cut, remove scenes that don’t work, and write and film more scenes that build off of scenes that work well. We’ll iterate on this video, and I’ll repurpose the slime and other cut footage for their own video. The ability to cut scenes, rewrite, and reshoot is a luxury, a luxury that commercial videos with strict budgets and deadlines are rarely afforded. However, this embraces one of our key values in class: iteration. 

Creating this piece is a fun challenge. While the final product will largely be art for art’s sake, I’ve taken valuable lessons in creativity and leadership that I will apply to future projects. This is vastly different than the interview-driven marketing videos I produce for work, but one experience informs the other. I expand my abilities as a leader and a creative with each project I undertake. It’s important to try new things, and explore different styles as mediums, as I learn the most through expanding my comfort zone.

**2017 post-script: As it often happens, I got busy with life, and never got around to filming new footage. In hindsight, I moved through production too quickly, and failed to include creative input from Chelsey Scheffe, the artist behind the music. Rather than titling it "T|nes: Becoming music video," I published it as "This is not a video." The title is both a nod to Magritte (the surrealist who inspired the chroma key treatment), and an acknowledgement that it's too sloppy to be labeled as a music video. I'm grateful to everyone who helped make this video happen, and creating it was a fantastic learning experience. However, though the video is a fun experiment, it's not the polished music video I had in mind when starting the project.