Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Ronnie Day Project Production Blog - Episode 1

Two years ago, I directed and produced a music video series for Epic Records and mtvU called The Ronnie Day Project. Ronnie Day is a singer-songwriter who put out and album called The Album. On it, he told the story of his break-up with his cheating girlfriend Jamie. I was tapped to helm this narrative and put it into music video form, to be told over six chapters. And the result was The Ronnie Day Project.

It premiered on mtvU and in the spring of 2007. I had a lot of fun making this video. I had the largest budget I've ever worked with and I was largely left alone to do my own thing. What I set out to do was tell an epic story of love gained and lost among teenagers. Take that notion of being a teenager and how everything during that time seems to matter so much; contains such a magical quality about it, the first loves, the parties, the pools and backyards and dimly lit houses; the friends, the experiences, when every day is the end of the world. Take that and set it amongst this suburban landscape.

That's what I set out to do. Over the next six posts I've included a production blog I wrote while working on it that explains more of the process. I've also included, at the top of each post, the corresponding video. If you have any questions about the series, technical, story-wise, curious about my work on it, my thinking, feel free to email me at joshblog (at) meydent (dot) com.

Episode 1: November Storms

I just wrapped production on Episode 1 of the Ronnie Day Project. The first day of shooting is always tough for several reasons: ) everyone is just meeting for the first time, 2) nobody knows how somebody else works and 3) nobody knows how the equipment is organized. But eventually the machine that is production gets moving and from then on you’re moving pretty fast.

Though I’m describing what we shot for Episode 1 we actually shot all six episodes over the course of a five-day production schedule. And like any narrative film project, everything was shot out-of-order by way of location. So, for instance, if we were shooting in the location for Brendan’s bedroom, then we’re shooting six videos worth of material at the location. I want to bring this up because it’s a very unique thing to be shooting six, related, narrative videos, but also shoot all of them at the same time. To give you a comparison, traditional narrative music videos are shot over the course of 2 or 3 days depending on how much is required by the narrative.

We shot three locations for this video: our bluff overlooking the neighborhood, Jamie’s living room and the party house. The bluff was amazing and cold and windy. I scouted this location a week or two before and when I was up there it was beautiful. When we got up there for Episode 1 however, LA suffered a quick cold snap, and though it was sunny and beautiful the windy was freezing cold. Unfortunately, our actors, Tiffany and Marcello, were basically wearing t-shirts and jeans. You might be able to see a little wind in the final shots but you’d never guess from their performance that they’re freezing cold. The shots look amazing and I think it’s going to be a great open to this series. I won’t share my secret of how I found it but it definitely helps make Episode 1.

We then moved on to the living room. This was our intimate moment with the characters when they’re suppose to be wrapped in a blanket, “living life behind this glass” while a storm goes on outside. We couldn’t afford rain machines or anything like but I think the lyrics will help tell the story, which they should. The living room was a difficult location because we were using one side of the room for one part and the opposite side of the room for another. We ended up shooting this whole sequence last, at night, with it lit for a late evening look.

We also shot Ronnie’s first performance scene of the series. I wanted to connect him to the characters so we set him up performing at the party where they are. It’s a very private setting but we thought it was important to connect him to our leads before he becomes much more of a narrator in the later videos. These aren’t your traditional music videos. I always saw this as a narrative series being told by song, so it was really important that Ronnie was always connecting with the viewer by singing directly to him or her. I think it’s a great performance from Ronnie that also captures a certain degree of intimacy. Knowing Ronnie, he seems like the kind of guy who would pick up a guitar at a party and start playing for a bunch of friends.

The last thing we shot for Episode 1 was the party scene, which came at the end of a long day of production at our party house location. From 3 PM – 10PM we shot three different party scenes, one during the day, one at dusk, and one at night. The one at night was for this episode. Lighting a night scene aside, shooting this scene was relatively easy. There’s not a lot of narrative in it.

As you can tell from Episode 1, it’s mainly a setup video. We’re introduced to the characters and shown how great and fun their love is. So, it’s mainly having the actors and our extras hang out and have a good time as I grab the camera and grab shots. We wrapped around 11 or so. The crazy thing about producing videos in any capacity is that there’s never enough time. The day just flies by and before you know it you’ve already been up for 18 hours.

It’s quite a challenge to shoot six music videos in five days. But we got the first one in the can, everyone is doing a great job and the footage looks amazing. Only five more to go…

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