As They Sleep “Oracle of the Dead” Music Video – Good Friends, Rooftop Pizza, Disappearing Laptop and a 20+hour day.
In the fall of 2010, I got a call from Director Drew Russ about doing a music video for Tooth & Nail / Solid State’s As They Sleep. The concept was different from anything I have done and I knew Drew from our musical paths crossing in the past so I didn’t hesitate to say yes. It was a fun idea for such an intense song which was a breath of fresh air compared to my history of shooting metal bands who always want something dark and creepy. How can you go wrong with amateur wrestling? Drew sent me the treatment and I started working on how to execute the look of the video.
The first challenge was finding a location without either Drew or I being there. Drew lives in Florida and I live in Ohio…the shoot was taking place in Detroit. Drew was relying on the band and some wrestlers to secure a good location. This is problematic for a director and cinematographer because we were basing our logistical decisions off of cell phone photos and word of mouth from people who don’t know what to look for. But it was the reality at hand and sometimes we need to be flexible with these kinds of things. Ask any DP if they always get a location scout and/or a tech scout and you’ll be hard up to find one that says yes.
Drew scheduled a tech scout the day before the shoot, so the assistant cameraman, Mike Thorn AC and I headed up to check things out. Imagine driving through the dirty slums of Detroit, turning a corner and all of a sudden…you are hit in the face with a rainbow of bright colors running down the side of a nine story building. The interior was just as interesting. Not sure what this place used to be but a bunch of artists have taken it over and use it for music shows, art galleries and raves.
The location we were using was on the 4th floor. Upon entering…we see long rows of columns and brooding, black metal doors lined all the way down the room on both walls. This place looked like a Fight Club location but perfect for the mood of the video. Some initial things I look for on a scout are usually electricity and how we’re going to get equipment in. For being a factory of some sort, this place had ONE outlet on each floor. BIG PROBLEM. I have lights…therefor I need electricity. This is why a tech scout needs to happen earlier than the day before so you can have a little time to remedy and prepare for any problems encountered. We had to run out and get a 6000W generator from Home Depot and pull power from the light sockets in the ceiling which seemed to have no ryhm or reason as to the way they were wired on the circuit.
Ok…electricity can be dealt with. Now…onto getting the equipment up to the 4th floor. Where’s the freight elevator? What’s that you say? Broken? Six flights of narrow stairs for a one ton grip truck and wrestling ring to come up? Yes folks. Mush forward and smile.
After hauling the equipment up the stairs, I approached my gaffer Derek Urey about the overhead lighting plan I had for the ring. I wanted to create a ring of flourescent lights above the wrestlers but due the the height of the wrestling ring floor, low ceilings and big action of the wrestlers, the fixtures had to be securely fitted to the ceiling for clearance. Time to bust out the cement drill! It was getting late by this point but like always…the guys stood and delivered with heart.
The shoot was fast paced and hectic but luckily, a lot of great people were involved. Props to the wrestlers for having such incredible attitudes and patience. They made the shoot fun while delivering performances above and beyond our expectations. I was impressed with what we did for the budget. Those Home Depot fluorescent work lights have more than paid for themselves.
The day was very long…dealing with a ton of set ups, power issues, a crowd of extras that were extremely tough to wrangle, Drew’s stolen laptop while we were shooting, a filthy environment with more dust than you can imagine (we were partially to blame for that…homemade haze!) and the most intense load out ever including carrying a 100+ pound generator down six flights of stairs. Overall, the video turned out awesome for all the challenges we faced. Great job to Drew Russ as well!
Most importantly, I want to emphasize the fact that I could not have done what I did as a cinematographer without the crew that I had. Mike Thorn AC (AC, Grip/Electric, DIT), Derek Urey (Gaffer, Camera B Op) and Kevin DeOliveira (Grip/Electric/Camera C Op) are some of the most talented people I know with hearts of lions. They executed with fire, fought for me and most importantly, had amazing attitudes in all that they did. They made me laugh and smile in hour 23 of the day…a time where I didn’t think I could muster a smurk. Sure…you can do great work as an individual and I’ll never take that away from those kinds of artists…but as for me…I believe the sky is the limit when you have a team like the people I am so fortunate to know and work with.
Shot on Canon 7D’s. Glass used: Zeiss ZF 25mm F2.8, 50mm F2 and 100mm F2.