New Video: Marion. The short film, the long story.

Creating the video for Darren Watson’s “Ernie Abbott” was such a great experience, how could I refuse when he offered me another tune to work with? At the start of this year, Darren gave me a copy of his next release, “Marion” and asked for my ideas. My first was that as pleased as we were with “Ernie”, we would raise the bar with “Marion”.

Never thought I’d make a music video with a ghostly Euphonium

There were challenges. “Marion” tells Darren’s imagined story of what happens when real life musician Marion “Little Walter” Jacobs gets to the pearly gates but we agreed that the video wouldn’t attempt to be biographical. The lyric also has three narrative voices that I needed to take into account. I wasn’t about to film some pretty pictures and stick some obscure montage together, I’m a story guy. I needed some idea that would resonate strongly with the narrative of Darren’s lyric, yet not distract from it too much. After a couple of listens, I told Darren I wanted to make a little film about a journey of souls.

Test shot of a low angle for the Marion video
Testing depth of field and low angles
Clive Copeman in a test shot for the video "Marion"
Standing in for a Euphonium player’s soul in a test shot

I put some solid weeks into planning. First coming up with a satisfying story and characters to carry it; fixing upon a distinct visual style for my tale; finding locations, cast and props and then drawing up detailed story boards that showed not only how the action would unfold, but how the camera would interact with each scene and its players. I’ve been having a lot of fun shooting stills in black and white lately, and thought it appropriate here. We would be making a wee film noir… et blanc… et rouge.

I had to be able to concentrate on directing, so asked my mate and fellow commercial photographer Alan Dove to bring his eye to the camerawork as my cinematographer. It was a great collaboration, Alan giving me exactly what I asked but also offering extra ideas which I was grateful to be able to take on board and have as options on the edit bench.

Story board frame from the music video "Marion"
Drawing storyboards to test and communicate your ideas won’t make you a great sketch artist, but it’ll make you try really hard.
Story board page from the music video "Marion"
I have always found storyboarding hard work but boy it pays off. My sketchbook for Marion and Ernie Abbott has become a bit of a treasure now.

And then my family and I came down with Covid. It delayed filming by a few weeks and for a while I was worried that when I did try to film again, my cast would get infected or have to isolate and make further delays necessary. I’m so grateful that didn’t happen. So we filmed two days on location in Dunedin’s wharf district and a long night at the New Athenaeum Theatre. On both occasions, there were still a couple of shots left to complete, so we did two quick pickup shoots.

Video director Clive Copeman and actor/musician Quan Tay
I took the extreme closeups like this one with our Euphonium playing soul Quan Tay, on my Canon 4K video camera.
Cinematographer Alan Dove and dancer/actor Summer Paulin
Alan shot most of the film dynamically with his Panasonic DSLR and a hand held gimbal. That’s Summer our dancing soul.

It was so exciting to see it come together pretty much as I had envisaged in the rough cut. Darren and Alan both made great contributions again at this stage by suggesting tweaks. After a 24 hour delay to the premiere due to some issues I had with effects in Premiere Pro, we finally released it on Facebook last Saturday and I had a little gathering of cast and crew at my place. It was so good to share on a big screen with folks.

Black 1966 Lincoln Continental, Dunedin NZ
My friend Mark Cameron’s 1966 Lincoln Continental. It was the first character I wanted to cast. Mark was the second.

So now it’s out there. Darren and I are both pretty satisfied that we did raise the bar a little with this one and it’s fair to say that we’re pretty proud of our second little collaboration.


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