The Making of It’s Easy to Be Alone. By Andrew Quinn It’s Easy To Be Alone is the 6th track on Joel Levi’s debut EP The Little Places. Having known each other for some time Joel and I wanted to make a music video together. He had seen the video I made for Ferguson’s The Price I Pay and was excited to make a video for one of his songs. I was approaching my senior year at Ball State University and in the process of earning a degree in video production. The college offers independent studies in which students can earn credits for completing projects that they design. I approached Betsy Pike, an instructor from the Telecommunications department at BSU, to ask if she would advise an independent study in which I would complete a music video for Joel’s track.
Screen Shot from Ferguson’s The Price I pay Music Video 2008
One of the added challenges to the video came from trying to get it on a website called 99 Dollar Music Videos. In order to be featured on their site the music video had to be created for less than $100. I didn’t have $100 to spend on it so I thought we might as well try. I think we spent about $65 total. The budget bought bottled water, McDonalds, and gas to drive the equipment all over Muncie and the surrounding areas. Before the semester began I started working out concepts for the song. The first idea involved and elderly man traveling across the countryside to spread his wife’s ashes. Joel wasn’t fond of the idea; he said he always pictured the song being about a man leaving society to be alone with his thoughts. With this in mind, back to the drawing board I went. The previous year at BSU I took a class with Betsy were students made two seven minute narratives. For the first project several student groups separately produced the same script. I directed The Unknown Artist and so did Joe Vella. Having dealt with the same obstacles of the script in different ways, we earned each other’s
respect. I remember Joe asked me, “Why did you make your character (ironically named Joel) smoke?” I told him that I thought the script had so much dialogue that I had to do something to make it less boring. Later I put the characters in a coffee shop so they weren’t just standing on the sidewalk again. Joe’s response was something like, “You can tell the actor doesn’t smoke in real life”. Joe liked my version and I liked his. After the course was over we agreed to work together. At the beginning of this semester, fall 2009, Joe told me that he didn’t really like directing and he had just interned for a lighting and grip company. I remember that he achieved some really great depth of field in his Unknown Artist. It quickly became obvious that Joe should be the Director of Photography for the music video. Now I just had to decide what we would be pointing the camera at.
Preproduction I felt like I hade a pretty good understanding of what Joel wanted, it sounded very similar to what the lyrics were about. I came up with the idea of hitch hiking and that led me most of the way. Next I tried to think of ways to show the relationship without relying on a cliché. In the song it says, “I met my love by the bank of the river bed”. My first idea was to have him playing guitar by the river and she comes along to listen. Too cliché! The idea of skipping rocks came from that. I then came up with the main theme of the story, traveling. Joel’s journey to be alone would be what we would focus on. Thinking of the story in terms of traveling made things much easier. I formed the basic story and then I just had to think of how to best illustrate the ideas using motion pictures. I didn’t have the help of dialogue like most films do. Movement was the first obvious thing to look to when thinking of travel.
Movement was perhaps the most important aspect of the video. One basic principle of film theory is how we perceive movement. It is said that movement from the left side of the screen to the right is natural, and the opposite is unnatural. This is because when we read, at least in English, we read from left to right. Joel’s escape to the wilderness, to be alone, ultimately isn’t what is right. Because of this I made sure that when he was going away from home he went from right to left, against the grain.
These two screen shots are pretty heavy handed examples of the moment at work. He even has the sign to tell him which way is the right way. The drum rolls in the chorus really gave me the feeling of travel. I really get a strong since of marching from that sound. I came up with the idea of dolling away from the drummer in a field when Joel was going away, and towards the drummer when he comes back. When you watch a professional film you’ll notice how little the camera is stationary. This is one thing that we could easily do to make our video look more professional and less like it was made by students. This is an easy element to add but if a filmmaker isn’t careful her/she can go overboard. Zooming in and out or not using a tripod can be distracting and look very bad. I spoke early on to Joe about this idea and how I wanted all of our camera movement to be justifiable. The story had to motivate the camera movement. That is why when Joel is on the move the camera is also. If Joel passed thought the screen, the shot was hand held. We would use the dolly for some of the long walking. However, when Joel reaches his destination he is still. He isn’t traveling any longer and neither is the camera. We would put it on the tripod when he alone. This would provide a contrast between the traveling scenes and the alone scenes.
Another important thing when you are telling a story visually is color. I knew that we would be filming the video in autumn. Indiana has little to offer by the way of interesting landscapes. Autumn in Indiana, on the other hand, has two drastically different color spectrums we could rely on. We could use the harvested cornfields to make things look lifeless and dull. The colorful trees could be used when he returns home and the mood changes. Then when I was in post production doing the color correction I could exaggerate the colors to help drive their point home. The lifeless fields would be become cold and blue. The colorful leaves would have a totally opposite effect. Another thing we stumbled across is how well the color spectrum works with Joel’s skin tone. This was an added bonus. Also when he was with the love interest we would film with the Sun in the background. Then we could color correct the image to appear warmer. The summer prior to this production I was the Art Director for a feature film the university produced. Working on that taught me to think harder about what the actors wear. I looked through Joel’s pictures on facebook to give me an idea of what looked good on him. Then I asked him to bring specific shirts and colors for the shoot. His green flannel and dark jacket would contrast the rural backgrounds but still fit with the pallet of autumn. A red flannel (he has a lot of flannels) would complement the colors and tone of the Valentines Day shoot. Then during the rock-skipping scene he wore a t-shirt to make it seem less like October, and more like June. I did the same for the actress’ clothing; she wore a skirt to make October look like June, a blue flannel to match the bedroom we filmed in, and a red scarf on Valentine’s Day.
Locations were a big part of the video. A week before production Joe and I did location scouting together. I knew that I wanted to have the drummer playing in a field with a slow dolly moving towards and away from him. So we drove into the countryside of Muncie Indiana and came across the ½ truck, windmill, barn and power lines, as well as some other great locations that didn’t make into the final edit. My favorite location was the blue building.
This Is a Picture I took of the location about a year before the video.
Much like the drummer in the field, I had a very specific image of him getting out of my friend’s Volvo and walking by that building. I had taken some pictures of it before when I was living in Chesterfield. The building is an abandoned bar attached to what appears to be apartments. Across the street is a Laundromat that we could use to stage equipment and a sidewalk to set up the dolly. Other than being a thirty-minute drive from Muncie, this location was perfect. Joe wanted to shoot at a park in Muncie, which worked out great because I wanted another spot for Joel to perform in front of.
After the location scout I compiled a detailed shot list. (I’m including a copy of the shot list at the end of this document) I also drew a storyboard of some of the specific shots I wanted, like to dolly with the Volvo and the one with the drummer.
Scans from the storyboard.
Most of the time I storyboard every shot of a film, but this time I tried something new. Joe has a creative eye for camera placement so I wanted him to be able to create his own images. Also the locations were so good that they provided their own shots. I’d never worked with Joel and I wanted him to be himself when performing. I couldn’t really draw his “stage presence”. I made sure to storyboard the shots that told the story but I wanted us to be free from some of the restrictions that storyboards can provide. I sent a copy of the shot list to Joel with a big expiation of what I wanted to do with the color and movement. He liked it and was exited to start. We had our story, locations, and a good shot list/storyboard and were almost ready to shoot. Finding someone to play the love interest should have been hard. It was two days before fall break and most people would be going home. I called Adam Lord, a student who helps bring students from TCOM together with people from the theatre department to make films. Before I knew it, he put me in contact with Megan Farley. We met the next day and she agreed to be in the video. Cool I don’t have to worry about that anymore. The Thursday before shooting I borrowed my father’s truck. Joe, Andy Mesin (the dolly grip), and I went to school and raided the equipment. We borrowed as much as we could, everything that wasn’t being used over the break. The new Matthews Doorway Dolly, 40 foot of track, C Stands, flags, one of the Sony EX3s and all of the stuff that went with the camera. When we left both Andy’s, and my truck were full.
Production Friday October 23rd, 2009 was the first day of shooting. It was supposed to be rainy and crappy all day so we decided to shoot all of the indoor stuff. With every first day of production there are the added challenges of everyone getting to know each other and the work flow. This was Joelâ€™s first time acting and he had to be huggy with a girl heâ€™d never met. The biggest challenge however was given to Joe. It was crappy outside but I wanted it to look bright and cheerful inside. I wanted the shots of Megan to be a positive contrast from the depressing ride in the car at the beginning of the video.
Joe had the crew put up an HMI outside to shine in the window to look like the sun. He put some ND over the window and an orange gel in front of the light to add a nice sunny look. I was really happy with the outcome. Because it was raining they had to put umbrellas over the lights to keep them dry. We opted to use a hand held stabilizer because it was much lighter, faster, and easier to use than the steady cam. I really like small shake it provides. In the Valentines Day scene we put Joe with the stabilizer on top of the dolly.
This combined the X and Y-axis movement of the stabilizer with the Z-axis movement of the dolly. The results were quite nice.
Later that afternoon we went to the park to film Joel’s performance by the bridge. A short rainstorm greeted us, so we went to McDonalds for some lunch. By the time we came back the rain was over and the sky was beautiful. It was sunny and only moments before sunset. The colors were perfect. In fact the final image only has minimal color correction from the original picture.
This was one of the most fun shoots during the video. We didn’t have to follow a storyboard. All I really did was start the playback on the boom box and watch. Joel preformed the song and Joe worked with camera stabilizer to mimic the tone of Joel’s performance. After a few run thoughts of the performance a person walking the park applauded. We headed back to Joe’s house to shoot the night scene were Joel takes his things and heads out on the journey. The crew had the light set up memorized so they were able to work really fast. Joe added an extra light and replaced the orange gels for blue. Before we knew it day one was over. I was very happy with how well we managed our time, everyone was having fun, and a big piece of the video was done. Megan fit right in the groove. The next day Andy, Joe and I would meet Joel in Chesterfield to shoot the big dolly scene. Saturday October 24th, 2008 it was my 22nd birthday and there was no better way to spend it than making the video. I was exited to see how this sequence would turn out. It was probably the biggest set up in anything I directed prior. When we arrived it was cold. My producer Virginia Hurraw tired to get the police to block of the small stretch of road. She was told that they would have to bring it up at a town council meeting and vote. If they decided it was okay for us to film we would have to pay the officer his hourly rate to direct traffic. We didn’t have the time or money to do this so we just winged it. There was just enough room on the sidewalk to set up the entire track before running into a light pole. This kept the dolly off the road. The station wagon could pull up near the building on the opposite side of the street leaving the road empty. After a few attempts with cars driving though the shot we figured out away to
deal with the problem. When the dolly reached the end of the track Andy and I (with the help of some 10 year old spectators on bikes) would go into the street and stop traffic. Luckily during the whole shoot there were probable fewer than twenty cars that went by, most between shots. The police went by a few times but never stopped, which if you know Chesterfield police is somewhat of a miracle.
Things were gong well. I was surprised how much it was looking like the image I had in my head. Andy was doing a really good job pushing the dolly at a nice steady pace that matched the music. We would go inside the Laundromat to get warm between takes. The main problem came from the big window in the building. Dispute how much we tried our reflection kept showing in the camera. Upon reviewing the footage there was another problem with the window. People had drawn expletives in the dust on the window. We tried to erase the “big ones” while we were there, but a few got past us. HD has its disadvantages. Luckily I was able to amend both of these “window pains” (pardon the pun) with the color correction. Next we prepared for the shoot inside of the car. Joe and Andy came up with a quite ingenious way of achieving this. The tripod was placed over the shift leaver. The Anton Bauer battery was too big to fit so they gaffed it to the dashboard. Joe cut a small piece of bounce card and gaffed it to the ceiling.
The onboard light reflected off the bounce card and provided extra light on Joel’s Face. We drove around for about an hour shooting inside the car. Aaron Condon, the driver in the video, drove the car while I sat in the passenger seat. When the camera is in the font seat I’m in the passenger seat. When the camera is in the back it is James Layne in the passenger seat. Sunday October 25th, 2009 was the third day of shooting and quite an easy one compared to the others. Joe, Joel, and myself just drove around to the locations in rural Muncie getting pick up shots. Monday October 26th, 2009 was even easier than Sunday. Joel and I went to Pendleton Indiana where we met Aaron Condon to film the intro with the car. After a quick shoot Joel and I went to Falls Park in Pendleton to get a few more pick up shots. Wednesday October 28th, 2009 was the last day of shooting. After classes Joe, Andy, Joel, Megan, and myself went to a park in Muncie to film the rock-skipping scene. We also filmed Joel sitting by the river looking at the diary and photograph. After we were done shooting we had about two hours to film the dolly shot with the drummer. We went to a spot that Joe and I came across on Sunday. Things went really well. We just took Bradford, the drummer, out to the field, set up quickly, shot and went home. It was a wrap on production. I’ve never had a production go so well. The only real problem came from the window and the rain, but the rain ended up being a blessing. It was time for postproduction. I was excited to try out my new MacBook Pro. For the first time I had my own Final Cut and was able to work at home on my own schedule.
Post Production Once I got going, the editing went pretty smooth. I really enjoyed cutting the film together. The footage from the Sony EX3 looks great. The colors are so good. The camera moment really worked. There were a few shots that I hade to â€œflopâ€? (mirror image) so that Joel stayed in the direction that was important to the story. I tried to cut the video while listening to the music so that it would flow really well.
Screen Shot of the final timeline in Final Cut Pro 7
By Thanksgiving (I had to catch up on some assignments for other classes) I had a ruff cut together. I showed it around to Betsy and Joe, everyone seemed to have the same small issues. I addressed their concerns and moved on to color.
This would be my first time using color and I canâ€™t see why I never used it before. I used to do color correction within Final Cut but Color provides so many more opportunities. Normally when you color correct you have to choose between different corrections. It was fun being able to color correct things in more than one tone and have them both in the video. The drumming shots are a good example.
The first one is a little more desaturated and dark to reflect the tone of the story. Then when Joel is on his way back home, the shot is much brighter and a more positive tone. I really like how both of these shots look (the top one is probably my favorite of the whole video) and because of the story I was able to use both. Like I said before, it was important for me to be able to help tell the story with the colors. Appleâ€™s Color is really great for doing this.
Final Thoughts It’s Easy To Be Alone is defiantly my favorite of my own work so far. I worked hard planning and tried to put a lot of thought into what went on screen. Thanks to Joe we ended up with some really beautiful images that I’m proud of. I only hope that we can work together in the future and create more images that are even better than the ones in this. I’ve never made anything that came out as close to how I imagined than the two big dolly shots in the music video. It was great to work with people who were having fun doing what they wanted to do. Everyone seemed to care about the project just as much as me. After showing the video to Joel I could tell he really liked it. This might be due to the fact that he said, “I really like it”. So far the reception from others has been just as positive. I haven’t gotten any bad feed back. (Knock on wood) As of today I’ve sent the film to two film festivals, South by South West and The Film Festival for Talented Youth. As I get more money for entry fees I will continue to submit the video to other festivals. I hope that someone will like it and award us for all of the hard work. Thanks for reading! Please watch the video if you haven’t yet. Follow this link: http://www.vimeo.com/7978481 I’d love to hear what you have to say. -Andrew Quinn firstname.lastname@example.org Below you will find the original shot list and a short bio about Joe and myself.
Andrew Quinn – Director
Andrew Quinn is a student filmmaker
currently in the process of obtaining a bachelor's degree in Telecommunications (Video Production) at Ball State University. He has been making films since the ripe age of 15, when his uncle gave him an almost broken RCA VHS camcorder that didn’t record sound. Commissioning friends and action figures as actors, he produced his debut silent film Space Rats From Outer Space. The next year, with the help of more friends, more action figures, and family he made the sequel, Space Rats From Outer Space 2, this time with sound. Since then Andrew slowly turned his hobby into something bigger by directing several music videos and short films. He’s worked on dozens of shorts and a feature length film with responsibilities ranging from Art Director and Camera Operator to Director of Photography and Director. Andrew uses filmmaking as an outlet for his creativity and passion for story telling. He likes to explore film narrative thought the use of color, movement, camera placement, and blocking. It’s Easy To Be Alone is the fourth music video directed by the 22-year-old movie theater manager. The video was Andrew’s first collaboration, of what he hopes to be many, with director of photography Joe Vella, a fellow Ball State University student. Quinn planned for over a month so that he could shoot the video in one weekend for less than $100 using Ball State’s best equipment. Since the film’s completion it has gained much praise and attention from other students and professors. Andrew says that this film is his favorite to date and has, “set a new personal standard that [he] has to try and outdo in everything else [he] creates”. For More Information on Andrew Quinn visit: http://www.andrewpquinn.blogspot.com
Joe Vella â€“ Director Of Photography
Joe Vella is a
student Filmmaker who has a passion for seeing the world through the eye of a camera lens. He is currently enrolled at Ball State University where he is earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Video Production. Vella blends his strong background in still photography with his knowledge of cinematic lighting to create ascetically pleasing images. While earning his degree, Vella has interned for an ABC news affiliate as well as working as a Lighting and Grip Technician for a local rental company. Vella was the director of "Dying Traditions" an official 2009 entry in the Louisville edition of the 48 Hour Film Festival in which the film was awarded Best Cinematography. Vella has received 3 Emmy nominations for work on various projects including a documentary titled "Forging Friendships" in which he directed and produced. He is also the proud recipient of The Woodress Award of Photojournalism for the best photography of 2007. Joe Vella's most recent project is titled, "It's Easy To Be Alone," a music video directed by Andrew Quinn. The pair thrives on being resourceful and the entire project was shot for less than $100 and within 72 hours. This was a new and fresh collaboration of talents between Quinn and Vella, and the two hope to work together on future projects. The final product of this new and exciting partnership is already garnering praise from professors and colleagues.
Easy to Be Alone – Directed by Andrew Quinn Shot List Intro – Joel on Curb Hitching a Ride Close up of Hand Strumming the Guitar Close up of Hand Making Cords Close up of Joel’s Head Singing Close up of Back Pack/ Suit Case Close up of Sign “Nowhere or Bust” Wide of Joel playing Song – Car pulls in and blocks the camera’s view of Joel Verse One – Relationship River Side Stones skipping into water – Pan over to Girl Teaching Joel Joel sits near the river writing in the Journal She sits next to him examining a leaf. Bedroom Close up ‐ Joel Writing in Diary (can’t see out side of pages) – “June 24th 2008 I met her at the bank of the river bed” – Pull Back from this to reveal that they are in his room on the floor leaning on a bed. She sits next to him She leans in and takes a self‐portrait of them with a Polaroid. She looks at it and smiles then give it to him. Close up‐ Joel holds the Polaroid in his hand and we pull back again to reveal that she is gone. It is dark. Puts the Diary in a Suitcase/Backpack Chorus One – Traveling in Station Wagon Outside of Wagon Wagon driving by Stationary camera Wagon driving down the road Camera trucks along Wagon passes something interesting. Inside of Wagon Joel in back seat shows the photo to the couple driving he sings the song camera is in the ‐ front seat? Joel looks out the window and sings Joel writes in his diary Joel writes in his diary and then looks out the window Joel Leans his head on the Window and sings as well as not singing Shots of the countryside passing by Shots of the sky passing by Drummer in Field Slow dolly in as he plays Slow dolly out as he plays Small Bridge – Station Wagon Drop off ‐ Dark
Wide shot – Wagon pulls up by the blue building Joel gets out and gets his things Medium – Wagon pulls up by the blue building Joel gets out and takes his things Verse Two – Sidewalk Blue Building ‐Dark Medium/Wide Truck – Camera moves parallel to Joel as he walks down the sidewalk playing the guitar Medium/ Close Truck‐ Camera moves parallel to Joel as he walks down the sidewalk playing the guitar Medium – Joel reaches the end of the line of buildings and leans on the wall playing the song Close – Face‐ Joel reaches the end of the line of buildings and leans on the wall playing the song Close‐ Hands‐ Joel reaches the end of the line of buildings and leans on the wall playing the song Chorus Two – Traveling on foot through rural places – (Joel only moves from right to left or away from camera) Joel Walks down Train tracks singing while moves backwards Shots of Joel’s legs as he walks Walking down cornfield Walking by large objects like water towers Climbing Jib shot up as he walks away Drummer Dolly push in/out – with drummer Drummer Dolly push in/out – with Joel playing/singing Bridge – Alone in the wilderness. Camera is stationary. He doesn’t move as much always sitting, standing, or resting ‐Wide shots of him in woods – He is shrunk by the frame ‐Sitting playing the guitar part ‐Sitting on the ground breaking a stick and throwing it ‐Leaning on a tree writing in his Diary ‐Laying on the ground looking at the stars ‐Shot of the stars Verse Three‐ “Realization” Alone in the woods/flashback Wilderness Joel alone by the river trying to skip stones Sitting alone he looks through the diary and the photo falls out. Close up of diary‐ “February 14th 2008 Valentines day” Joel’s Bedroom – Very bright colors and soft lighting Girl has her back to camera holding a Valentine card he is infront with eyes closed Her Face‐ “open your eyes”
He opens his eyes She is holding out the card‐ it is a heart with a rock skipping across: “You make my heart skip a beat” Wilderness Joel Smiles while looking at the diary Packs his bag Chorus Three (Final) – Returning Home – Goes back through the old locations traveling in the opposite direction. Joel Walks down Train tracks singing while moves backwards Shots of Joel’s legs as he walks Walking down cornfield Walking by large objects like water towers Climbing Jib shot down as he walks towards the camera Drummer Dolly push in/out – with drummer Drummer Dolly push in/out – with Joel playing/singing Walking back in the opposite direction by the blue building – day light – singing and playing Outro – Side of the road He gets the old sign out the trash and writes on the back Flips the sign – “Home ” He sticks his thumb out. Cut to Black
The making of Music video for Joel Levi's "It's Easy To Be Alone". Watch the music video here http://vimeo.com/7978481