Jackie McLean of the indie band Roan Yellowthorn grants us an inside look at the making of an album from start to finish in her ‘Breaking The Record’ column.
:: stream “I’m Enough“ here ::
Watch: ‘I’m Enough’ – Roan Yellowthorn
Happy New Year, everyone! So happy that 2020 has come to an end and a new year is before us. I have faith that, to quote a great Counting Crows song, this year will be better than the last.
On the new album front, things are definitely heating up. I went into my local food co-op recently and my friend who works behind the counter told me she had been hearing about a lot of people performing bonfire rituals to ring in the new year and leave the old one behind. That struck me as a funny thing. Because I was going to make a cleansing bonfire on the first night of the new year. But for a music video. Let me back up and tell you a little bit more about that.
Just jumping into the Breaking The Record series documenting the making of our album from start to finish? Read part 1
As you know, we have a new album coming out this year. And new music means new music videos. Music videos are a beast in and of themselves. While they are meant to be a companion to the music, they are their own form of artistic expression. An extension of the emotion and motivation behind the music. I really enjoy making music videos. Most of the ones we’ve made have been some degree of DIY. For our previous album, we made three music videos. One was made on our own – filmed and edited by us (mostly Shawn). And two were made in collaboration with our friend Dee, the film guru at Blue Elan Records. She flew to our house in NY and filmed our videos with us in our backyard. Then she edited them. And they were beautiful.
For this album cycle, we were planning on maybe coming to California to work with a director. But then the pandemic happened. And all travel was out. So our team at the label devised a solution. A few weeks ago, we met with Jake Bradbury, a director in LA – virtually. And we planned to work together – virtually. Remotely. Lockdown-style. With us filming here in New York and him directing and editing from California.
It was an untested approach. But we approached it with faith. And enthusiasm.
We had a few production meetings to start, in order to come up with a plan. Soon, Jake had a storyline for the video that we loved. All I can tell you is that it involves a huge fire.
After that was set, it came time to plan the actual filming. Luckily, Shawn has some experience with video work. So I knew that we had a base level of familiarity between the two of us.
In order to film the video, we needed equipment. This was always the part that we were lacking when making films on our own – the equipment. We talked with Jake and he told us about a place online where we could rent equipment – professional cameras and everything. He put together a spreadsheet of the things we needed and we worked together to find links for everything on the list.
While this was happening, Jake had a colleague create storyboards for the video. When we got them back, I was in awe.
I love them so much that I want to get them framed. And, aside from their artistic value, they ended up being so useful when it came to doing the actual filming.
It was a lot of work to plan everything. Weeks of planning. And coordinating everything required faith in timing and availability. Over the holiday break, we ordered the equipment. All of it. it was a lot of stuff. And then we waited for it to arrive. It came practically the next day.
That meant it was time! We coordinated with our friend, Matt, who has worked with us on lots of things and who came with us to film our tour a few years ago. He was free and willing to operate the camera. We only had the gear for one week so we made a plan to meet for a prep day and then do the filming that weekend. We had two days budgeted for shooting but Shawn and I both thought maybe we could do it all in one day.
Finally, suddenly, it was time. Matt came over (socially distanced and masked) to get familiar with the equipment and we had a prep meeting with Jake via zoom. We went over the plan, reviewed the storyboards, and talked about specifics. The next day was the day of the shoot. We were ready.
The next day, Shawn and I dropped our kids off with their grandparents (thank you!) and met with Matt a little bit before noon.
We worked on setting up equipment
And then we drove to our shoot location. The location was a friend’s farm – a beautiful expanse of field and sky. There is a tiny house on the edge of the field and our friend had made a fire in the wood stove to make it nice and warm so that we’d have a place to regroup. The temperature outside was below freezing. The tiny house was cozy and comfortable.
That day, we went shot by shot, matching each one to the illustration on the storyboard.
The storyboards made it feel like our director was right there with us. And we called him many times throughout the day to check in. I sent video and photo updates as we went.
We shot for 11 hours straight. From noon until 11pm. We used what we had on hand at times, setting up Aputure lights on a baking pan
And put Matt in a brush pile in order to get the right angle for the shot
It was a lot of work – physically and mentally. And, when we got home at the end of the day, I felt like I had accomplished something. The day before, we had no footage at all. And now we had everything we needed for a music video. Just like that.
Soon, we’ll get a rough cut back. I can’t wait to see it. And I can’t wait for you to see it, too.
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📸 © Jackie McLean
:: Breaking the Record ::