When this crossed my desk the other day, not only did I have a good chuckle at the clever way Gregory Nelson has treated the subject of breastfeeding out in public, but I admired the skill he showed creating something that has very good production value with a very small budget. We’ve gotten quite a bit of behind-the-scenes info from Gregory even tho they didn’t produce a BTS video. Enjoy the depth on this one.
“Ruin Your Day” Music Video by Sparrow Folk
“Ruin Your Day” Behind the Scenes
This clip was my fourth collaboration with the group Sparrow Folk performed by Juliet Moody and Catherine Crowley. We first crossed paths at a multi camera TV coverage I directed, of a talent quest called ABC Exhumed. I was immediately impressed by their musical talent and humour and set about producing a profile for a local TV current affairs program.
After winning the contest, they began crowd-funding an EP recording on Pozible. Within a week they had surpassed their target and had enough to produce a full length album.
The debut single was to be Ruin Your Day, a song about the scorn Mothers often attract for breast feeding in public. They approached me about helping to find someone who could produce a music video for the single. After hearing their ideas, it was clear that they didn’t have the budget for their vision, or any budget for that matter, so I offered to produce it for them at no charge. I was a fan of their work and admired their drive and talent and I figured on it being something fun and good experience. It was NOT a good idea to attempt to do it as a one man crew though.
After working out a rough script and shooting plan, we set about securing suitable locations and talent for the clip. Early drafts of the script spread the shooting across several locations and days, which was more manageable for one operator, however the group felt that it would be easier to coordinate talent and timing if it was all concentrated in the one location, a cafe, on the same day. They also had a busy month of travel and performing to factor in around the shoot. We reworked the script to keep the same concept and set about finding the right venue.
I decided early on to use the Canon EOS 5D Mark III for its film look and versatility, especially in low light. I needed a camera that would be small, fast to rig and offer the ability to move between setups quickly.
Operating alone, and now on a very tight schedule, the choice of venue was all important. We wanted a cafe that was contemporary, but generic enough to be in any city. It had to be well lit, preferably with natural light to complement the overexposed, pro-mist look I had in mind and there wasn’t time for complex lighting set ups either. This limited our options, but I was able to secure a suitable cafe and set about planning the shoot to fit into the narrow filming window we had in the venue.
Both performers had a background in local theatre and drama and an extensive group of actor friends who offered to appear for free.The breast feeding mothers were sourced from a local support group and the rest of the cast comprised family members and supporters from the Pozible campaign.
After receiving the first recording of the song, I produced a rough illustrated storyboard of the clip that I cut on a timeline and this became the first version of the clip. Each shot duration and music playback cue was precisely recorded and added to the script.
From this we had a reference to plan the shoot in blocks according to who was available at different times during the day and match and group shots and scenes that were similar.
We also had to be mindful of the mums and babies and not keep them waiting around too long. Co-ordinating the scenes were Juliet appears to disrobe and play topless also took a lot of forward planning with costume and positioning.
The day was broken down into five groups, the script was done, the shots were blocked and the talent was organised.
Then the venue pulled out less than a week before the shoot. That meant a last minute rush to find a suitable alternative. There was no budget to hire a location but we would have to find the funds somewhere.
With three days to go, I thought I had found a new venue. It fit all the criteria, had large windows on three sides and was closed on the day of the shoot. If available, we would have the place to ourselves. I approached the manager to hire the venue and without hesitation he offered it to us for six hours at no cost. He even offered to keep us supplied with coffee. Such amazing generosity and support.
Shooting “Ruin Your Day”
The filming day was mostly a blur, spent running between camera set ups, directing talent, cueing playback, keeping track of shots and continuity and re-writing scenes for some of the talent that couldn’t make it. I also made sure to get some additional generic B-roll throughout the day which came in very handy as a backup during the edit.
I used the Canon 24-105mm f/4L lens, Glidecam HD4000 and Kessler Pocket Dolly. Lighting consisted of an F&V panel, 2 Z-96 LEDs and a Westcott Gold reflector. Switching setups between the tripod, Glidecam and dolly was fast and smooth and to great effect.
In hindsight a camera assistant would have been ideal to look after the camera cards, logging and backup and also to help move equipment and set up scenes.
That said, I had an extraordinary amount of help with talent coordination and direction from one of the stars Caroline O’Brien, who was no stranger to a film set. Her support was invaluable on the day, ensuring everything was in place and we ran to time. In fact we finished with only a few minutes to spare and daylight fading fast outside.
Then it was on to the edit using Final Cut Pro 7. The cut was fairly straightforward, given the pre production, and consisted almost entirely of replacing the storyboard illustrations on the timeline with the actual shots. Some edits were trimmed and tightened as needed, and a couple of extra shots had to be added due to sync issues with the performers. After that it was on to the colour grading using Magic Bullet Looks. The 5D3 footage held up remarkably well. I was very impressed with the way the footage held up in the grade. The Camera profile was set to Neutral using the Prolost Flat settings to give the most latitude with the final grading. I used Denoiser II, Looks and then sharpening in FCP7.
It was all finished in time for the premiere and album launch a few weeks later.
There are a certainly few things I would do differently next time in terms of crewing, but overall, solid preparation and planning and the enthusiasm and energy of the performers and cast made for a wonderful experience. The Canon EOS 5D Mark III was the perfect camera for the job and allowed us to work and move quickly and efficiently.
It’s been fantastic to see the response from so many mothers who identify with the film clip. Overall, it was a very rewarding experience to help out a talented pair of performers, who are just starting out and have the drive and the talent to succeed. I was lucky to be able to help them on their way and have a lot of fun at the same time. Thank you Sparrow Folk.
(cover photo credit: snap from the video)