Making Euphoria (the Video)
As I sat leaning on the nose of an airplane, sipping away on my steamy cup of Dunkin' Donuts tea, I watched as a small crew worked their asses off to build a set that would turn my song, Euphoria, into the visual, ethereal, magical dance party that I had created in the deepest levels of my subconscious mind and I thought, How did I get here?
::::Schwerpentfitalghijbvwpl::: (That is an onomatopoeia for a rewinding tape, not the lyrics to Missy Elliott's "Work It.")
After my Dad forced me to do a music video for Euphoria (ugh, thanks for that, Dad. It was only one of the coolest things I've ever done, you big jerk), I had to imagine what my version of Euphoria would look like. The challenge in doing so was showing that the meaning was hidden inside the music, not so much the lyrics. How does one capture the emotion in the notes? This was a job for Super Cory (Paza) and the Speak EZ Studios crew.
You probably remember Cory rocking the bass and singing backup at my Hard Rock Boston show last year. This guy does it all - he's one hell of a musician (because, let's face it, I only hang with those kind), director, editor, videographer and visionary genius. Seriously.
Being the over-thinker that I am (I can almost feel the breeze of my sister's violently nodding head at this fact), I wrote an elaborate story to tell in the video, totally tackling that Plot Pyramid thing we learned about in the fourth grade (or whenever). I'm talkin' intros and conclusions, building and falling elements, twists and climaxes; I had a cast of characters. Really, I did. I sent a "summary" of my story to Cory along with the moral/point/bottom line, letting him know that I was very much aware that a major simplification was necessary--but how? Well, Cory knew. He understood exactly where I was coming from and knew exactly how to get there in 4 mins and 42 seconds. I was quickly learning not only the meaning behind the word "director" but also that it is absolutely necessary to get a good one. Done.
Next up - I had to confirm my first (and really, my only) choice to star in this video. Darcie Lozeau (the voice of Euphoria) had a lot of her own music projects going on, not to mention she didn't live close, but, per usual, my heart set itself on doing this video exactly the way I had so carefully crafted it in my mind and Darcie was the major part of it. Other than being the vocalist, Darcie knew the emotion that built this song, she was already a seasoned music video co-star and was used to being photographed, and, I think you can all agree with me here, she has the camera presence of a true starlet. I knew that if Darcie was unable to do this, I would be so disappointed. However, before I even had the chance to picture life inside that sad little cloud, Darcie was a go. Onwards and upwards!
I had been wracking my brain from the beginning of all of this, trying to figure out where in the world we could make this video. What, or should I say where, would be the perfect backdrop for Euphoria? I pictured industrial space and tons of it. I didn't want to create an atmosphere in any old room, it had to be authentic. As I described this to my Dad one day, he had another idea of astonishingly great proportions. "What about an airplane hangar?" #MindBlown
When I contacted Peter Oakley, owner of local Cranland Airport, I crossed my fingers until I received his response. Luckily, I didn't wait long - he said to come on over and take a look around, make sure it's what I had in mind. Off to the airport my Dad and I went. Peter showed us a couple of hangars, was more than willing to let us use either and said he'd have it ready for us whenever we needed it, for as long as we needed it. So far, everything was going brilliantly, just brilliantly.
Cory, Domitila Bonato (Director of Photography and Videographer for Speak EZ) and I met in early January to discuss details, choose possible shoot dates and answer any questions I had (a few...). Although I'd never done a music video and therefore had nothing to compare this meeting to, I knew it was a good one right away. I could tell that Cory and Domitila were truly invested in my project already. Hearing their positive feedback for the song itself was more than appreciated and their genuine excitement for this shoot was infectious. I left feeling confident that my (Dad's) idea to do a music video for Euphoria could quite possibly have been one of the best decisions I (my Dad) had ever made. Okay, give me a LITTLE credit. My Dad may have had the idea but I ran with it, people. We scheduled the shoot for February 15th. We also agreed that making Euphoria a video release (rather than song first, video later), would make the biggest splash.
Over the next month, Cory, Darcie and I traded emails to firm up our plans for the shoot. Cory sent an in-depth outline of the video, pairing up each song section with a list of shots he wanted, the gear necessary, the lighting he wanted for each scene, so on and so forth. I didn't speak "camera" but it sounded and looked pret-ty impressive. Darcie and I discussed wardrobe, although that part was easy - Darcie's style was pretty much dead-on with what I wanted anyway. I was looking to begin with feminine/casual which would then morph into feminine/edgy. She asked me for some style examples (what would we do without Pinterest?) and she pretty much nailed it.
The shoot was getting close and I was getting very nervous and a bit depressed. Why? Because I couldn't see outside the windows of my house. Why? Because it hadn't stopped snowing for weeks. Apparently we now lived in New Iceland, not New England. The airport was buried under what seemed like fifty feet of snow; the snow drifts looked like small mountains. If we attempted to shoot on the day we planned to, I would've needed to invest in a snowmobile, some skates and a bunch of snowsuits. Instead of an EDM dance party we would have been shooting "Euphoria: On Ice," for goodness sakes. Okay, okay, I'll stop with the winter jokes. It's just that I'm still bitter about our horrific winter and I haven't defrosted yet. (Last one, promise.) As much as I hated to do it, we rescheduled for March 8th. Surely by then we'd be blessed with an abundance of spring flowers and warm sunshine.
Well, March 8th arrived and I got the "abundance" and "sunshine" parts correct. Yay me! But warm? Spring flowers? Not so much. Did I mention that the hangar wasn't heated? No? Oh. The hangar wasn't heated. We tried to rent some industrial-sized heaters but that was a no-go for a lot of reasons. We ended up bringing a few small space heaters instead. *FYI* Space heaters really only go as far as heating the tips of your toes, and only when you actually smoosh your toes up against it. They should really think about putting that on the box. I began seriously questioning the shoot as the clock inched closer to start time. I had come down with a cold the day before to top it all off so of course I had thoughts of pneumonia setting in when all was said and done. As we pulled into the airport, Speak EZ crew and lighting techs not far behind, the hangar came into view. The bright afternoon sun glinted off of the open door, the planes inside looked as if they were greeting me hello with open arms, "Welcome to your first video shoot, Arlanna," they seemed to be saying. And, even though the snow remained as stubborn as ever, all of MY worries melted away. I was ready for anything.
Now, where were we back when I first started this post? It seems so long ago. Oh yes. So there I was, leaning on the nose of an airplane, in total awe of what was happening around me. Could I really be sitting on the set of my very own music video? It's not a crazy question, I have had dreams that aren't this good. During the entire process, Speak EZ crew member and videographer Benny Goodman would pop out of nowhere with a video camera, capturing all of the best behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes, asking all of the best questions for the BTS video that would later be put together by Cory. Benny was everywhere at once - setting up, shooting scenes, making jokes, keeping us laughing despite the frigid temperatures. Frank Lewis and Jason Thomas, lighting techs, were masters at creating the dance floor in my imagination - perfect for Darcie to let loose and let the music take her over. Thank goodness for Speak EZ's Joshua Scott who was able to keep the entire day going smoothly. If not for him, we may have been there for a week! His help with shooting scenes, body-doubling for Darcie for setup purposes, providing nourishment and phone chargers, assisting with videography and so much more wasn't just helpful, it was a necessity.
Once everything was ready to go, Darcie arrived. She left the warmth of her car to spend the next four-plus hours in the airplane freezer with the rest of us. The difference was that she couldn't wear a jacket and had to dance around in sleeveless shirts and shorts all while singing Euphoria in fast-forward, slow-mo and everything in between, like, 200 times (or more). Regardless of the fact that her face was numb, her feet were frozen and she seemed to be shivering all over, she never complained and she made every moment look natural. I watched her singing the words that came from my heart and I believed everything she said as if she were telling ME a story. Despite feeling like a human popsicle, Darcie's purest emotions were poured into every note and every facial expression. And Cory and Domitila were right there to capture it.
I looked around at one point during shot #4,567 and noticed every one of us dancing to the music that I created. Maybe part of it was to keep warm, maybe, but still I couldn't stop smiling. The energy in that ice box could've fueled every plane in there. After the final take, when Cory called out "That's a wrap!" I'm sure every single person in that hangar felt a huge sense of relief. I can't deny I was looking forward to thawing out, either, but I may have been the only person that felt a little sad. That's just the way I've always been - never wanting the fun to end. It was a day that I could relive over and over again. Luckily, thanks to Speak EZ Studios, I can! Not only is there the "Official Video" for Euphoria, but there's a "Behind-the-Scenes" look, too. Every time I watch, I feel the energy and excitement that I felt that day all over again.
I know this blog post was a long one, so I thank all of you who made it this far. I know attention spans these days aren't --
From the bottom of my heart, thank you Speak EZ Studios, Cranland Airport/Peter Oakley, and Darcie Lozeau for your time, talent, hard work, dedication and, most of all, for providing me with one of the most amazing and memorable experiences so far in my musical journey. Let's do it again, okay?