It’s funny… or maybe it’s not… I guess it depends on who you are… I just can’t really seem to get over how insane a process The Art of Tactful Procrastination has been from start to finish. I could get into all of the weird life and career experiences I’ve had since the start of this project (and I will, eventually), but what I really want to talk about right now is the making of this stuff.
More specifically, the making of the first music video “The Art of Tactful Procrastination”.
I can’t tell you how many ideas and concepts floated around for this one – contributions not only from myself but from my usual partners in crime: my wife Emily Steele; my longtime video collaborator Kenny Garner (just to name a couple)… and me of course.
I think someone pitched a concept of all-air instruments being played around a bed. That might have been me. (I still want to do something with that idea, btw).
Somewhere in the initial conceptualization phases I wanted to do a full “live performance” video. We deemed that pretty much out of the question very early on. And we decided that because we more or less already used the idea for “Still No Closer To Tomorrow” in spring of 2019 – we ended up having to make our own little rinky-dink stage in the backyard of Kenny’s house because we couldn’t find a live stage setup or venue of any kind that would let us film.
More on that later.
But that does bring us to summer 2019. Kenny and I had had a really successful weekend shoot for “Still No Closer…”, and I had resigned myself to the idea that I wanted to do some singing in front of a green screen so that I could throw in some backgrounds on the video edit and call it a day. I remember it being hot in my garage, even though we were shaded “inside”. I remember getting a lot of clips with multiple cameras and multiple angles… But I also remember completely not feeling it as we were doing it. That’s not on Kenny – that’s on me. For whatever reason, I could feel my performance was just completely flat. I pretty much knew before it was over that I probably wasn’t going to use any of it.
Not for the video, at least.
Why was it flat? Honestly, it was my first time performing in this proto-Façade getup (we didn’t have a name for it yet, and I didn’t have a character for it) without a guitar on me. I had used a guitar in this costume for “Still No Closer…” but in doing so I had something to do. Without the guitar, I was just… stuck. I didn’t know what to do with this whole thing yet. Kenny gave me plenty of guidance – I just couldn’t get something magical to happen.
I did end up using a lot of these shots for posters, album images, and so on, however. I was able to pull out the best screen grabs and cut and manipulate them to my heart’s content. So it wasn’t a waste.
But… what to do then?
Let’s cut to Spring 2020. My family was in Florida. COVID concerns were heating up – to the point that my wife wanted to bring the family home early as there were concerns they may not all get to come back in from out of state. These concerns weren’t unfounded – nearly all sports had at this point canceled everything they were doing, stocks were plummeting, and the country was in a growing state of panic.
Who knew we’d still be here dealing with it a year and a half on?
Maybe that’s what’s funny to me – I’m talking about COVID, but I could easily be talking about this video. Who knew I’d literally be rendering it as I’m writing this right now, the night before it’s set to go live to my mail list subscribers?
Sorry… where was I? Ah! Spring!
Since the fam was still gone I decided I was going to try and film some music video pieces for this single, or die trying. (That wasn’t the last time I told myself I’d die trying on this video, either).
I settled on coming back to the semi-performance idea that we had dropped early on in conceptualization. The problem was I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do or how I wanted to do it. Additionally – as I learned – when filming alone it’s hard to give your video “life” because you can’t both perform and move the camera. As a result, you have to go the extra mile with the performance, but you also have to have something else happening around you.
So I pulled out my trusty fog machine, strung up some LEDs around the couch, and programmed my Phillips Hue lights to dance with the music. I also split the filming between playing the guitar (which got me comfortable in this look) and then going without it.
Three hours and four smoke detector alarms later and I had some usable stuff.
At the same time, I knew it wasn’t going to be enough to fill a 6+ minute video.
What I wanted to do was film these pieces that happened “at night”, and then film additional pieces, with the same setup, during the day. No makeup. No lights. Give a contrast between the day and night aspects of what the song is about. Unfortunately, with COVID kicking up, the family heading home, and an actual job to go to, I ran out of time.
But I was able to pull the best clips into an app on my iPhone (which is what I used to film by the way) called “Visionn”. Using this app I applied a multitude of filters that made the video look animated, painted, scribbled or drawn – aesthetics that I used on pieces of “Still No Closer…” that I knew would help tie the visual themes together and continue to play up the “art” aspect of The Art of Tactful Procrastination.
Cut to the following summer.
Ha! No, cut to the one after that. I’m talking July 2021, baby!
The fam was – for the first time since the start of the pandemic – up north to visit family. So I had a week to myself.
Since the fam was still gone I decided I was going to try and film some more music video pieces for this single, or die trying. (See?)
But, what to film?
Once again I decided to go back to the performance idea. Wouldn’t it look cool if I had two entirely different setups and looks that I cut could around each other? What could I do, though, to make the second “performance” set different?
I thought back to something I said to David Brewington from Blame Your Brother when he interviewed me for the single release podcast. I had made a point that while I didn’t have a lot of followers, and “The Art of Tactful Procrastination” didn’t have a traditional “single” feel to it, I wanted to release it as the first single because it essentially let the listener know “this is where I am and this is what I’m doing.” In fact, I specifically mentioned how U2 did this with their video for “The Fly” back in 1991.
Why not use some of that imagery as an influence? I mean, shoot, I’m playing with some of those looks and mocking them a bit anyway… why not just go for it?
In the “den” or “play area” of our house downstairs my wife and I, roughly a year ago, set up an area with a back drop, backlights, and markings for fill and key lights, in front of the fireplace. We primarily use this setup for Emily’s taped film and television auditions. But I’ve also used it for some of my Facebook Advertising performance videos (you may have even seen one or two). Since it was ready to go and I was filming alone, I opted to make use of it.
This time though, I went without the fog machine or the colored lights. I went for something that felt a bit darker – like the night. And three different strobe lights set to completely different flash rates.
…Hold on a sec… The render is done. Reviewing… not bad! I think I’ll upload that.
Okay back to the regularly scheduled… post…?
The first major hurdle was getting the lighting right – the lighting was very gritty and dark, so I had to get the exposure sensor on the iPhone to do what I wanted it to do. That took a little bit of time.
The second major hurdle – and I didn’t notice this until I was watching the playback a day later on the computer – was that with the strobe lights going all different speeds, and the frame rate not set to match (it really couldn’t anyway if there were three different flashing speeds), I ended up with obvious shutter and frame lines going through nearly all the shots.
My initial feeling upon seeing this was that the takes were all useless.
So I said to myself, “okay… why not put them through that Visionn” app again? After some time and tweaking I found… not much had changed.
But I didn’t give up (I never do) – I recalled that I had another app called 8mm. I had used this for some of the shots I’d done for the “A Work In Progress” video for the album back in 2017. And it’s something I intend to use for the “Addie” video next year (start taking bets now on whether or not I follow through on that). Why not use this app’s filters not only to take advantage of the frame rate issues (turning them into a “feature”, as we like to say) but also – much like in the consistent use of Visionn – to tie visual cues together thematically?
Sure! That sounds like a fun excuse!
So off I went!
And hey – it (kind of) worked!
There was just still one more thing I was missing. I wanted to have some kind of conceptual element in it – much like I’d wanted to do with the “daytime” couch stuff that I never got to film back in 2020. I thought about going back to the couch idea, but the living room had been rearranged entirely since those initial performance clips, and I didn’t feel I’d be able to tie the look together to make it feel like it was all part of the same thing.
Instead, I opted to focus on the idea of the “alarm bells” – the synth “siren” line that kicks in once the initial intro dies down. That was always meant to imply an alarm clock – like you’re being woken out of a dream and thrust into the real world of responsibility and obligation. In order to contrast this “regular person” from the “rock star” persona version of me, I got dressed up with a full sport jacket and neck tie and everything, and filmed several shots of me waking up – mainly from my bed and my kids’ beds. I then did wide shots of me sitting up in each bed and being confused by where I was or what I was doing.
Those shots in the can I… hmm… well… I didn’t like them.
What didn’t I like about them? I felt the settings were too cluttered and I was reacting too much. I really felt the character should almost feel like a robot or a zombie – lifeless (since that’s how the singer appears to perceive the “day”) compared to the vibrantly-alive “rock star” version that comes out at night.
By the time I came to that conclusion, my family was back in town. I pow-wowed with Emily and we decided the initial idea of waking up wasn’t a bad one, we just had to refine it. We took my conclusions above and then added that we wanted to place me in weird areas to wake up. We’d put me in the amphitheater at the Bicentennial Mall down town. We’d put me in the neighborhood street. We’d find a random, wide open field and put me there. And we’d do all the same kinds of shots that I’d initially done from the bedrooms. Heck, we’d bring the kids, put them in the shots, picnic, make a day of it!
We had it all ready to go.
Then family came down (which we knew was happening… we just didn’t time things well). So we scrapped the idea.
Today – and I mean literally TODAY – I decided I was going to try and film the last music video pieces for this single, or die trying.
Emily was home. So after I got done with a few work meetings and we filmed a couple auditions for her, we went outside (in the blazing sun) and filmed decidedly less-elaborate versions of the ideas we’d come up with previously. We did our driveway, the front yard, the street (I held a coffee mug and brought it to my face like I was drinking it… but never did anything… kind of like a robot), my car, and the back deck. We’d toyed with doing the bathtub but ultimately passed on it.
I also did some takes where I simply opened and closed my mouth a lot – as if I was kind of mouthing the words, but like a mindless robot would do. This not only worked conceptually but allowed us to essentially film me mouthing the words to the entire song in one ten-second long take.
That’s called “efficiency”, folks!
So there you go – I actually filmed the last bits of this video the day before it was due to go live. Crazy. But consistent with the “procrastination” idea… even if not intentional and not really procrastination.
Kids and work and responsibilities and obligations… makes doing this stuff hard.
But I’ve come to learn I’m good in the clutch.
And being up til 2AM editing a video when I have to go to work the next morning…? Who doesn’t love that?
I don’t know what to make of this video. In a perfect world, I’d have a team of people working with me to make this happen. But right now I don’t. The thing is, I don’t accept that as an excuse to not do it. I haven’t accepted that as an excuse right from the very beginning when I did all of my music and recording myself two decades ago. And today, actually. I refuse to “learn helplessness”.
I hope you like the video. But if you don’t, that’s okay. I hope this story nonetheless serves as a testament to not giving up, to not making any excuses, to getting the work done no matter what, and believing in yourself. What you end up with won’t be perfect – but truth be told, it wouldn’t be if you had people helping you either – but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless.
Go. Accomplish. Do.
Because you can!