A BAND CALLED
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
ASTRONAUTS a music branding and image-making project explores visual vehicles in order to launch a new independent music act called ‘A BAND CALLED QUINN’ ‘ABCQ’ or ‘QUINN’. Although the music video was planned over 6 months I wanted to film the ‘behind the scenes’ mechanics of what efforts, costs, logistics, health & safety, crewing, costume, make up and location elements dictated the visual conclusion. The making of Astronauts took myself and my crew all over Scotland as we sourced a unique ‘Astronaut’ outfit from ‘The Planetary Society’ in Birmingham. The Band funded this journey to explore what image worked or them.
'IMAGE IS EVERYTHING!' Arguably an original idea as I observed ‘Jamiroquai’ mimicking this video concept with his self directed ‘Runaway’ video, which surfaced on youtube six months after ‘Astronauts’ was published on youtube.
Task & role included;
Directing, Producing, Cinematography, Logistics, Budget, H&S.
Creating Green Screen in studio in Leith Edinburgh
Sourcing props and costume from ‘Planetary Society’ in Birmingham
Hire of Production crew.
Post Production Direction with Editor
Management of Visual Effects
Transport, Hotel and fuel coverage/management
Co-ordination of ‘Behind The Scenes’ documentary
Cameraman hire for ‘Behind The Scenes’ documentary.
In 2006, I came across 'Quinn' a band from Glasgow and was suitably impressed by the tracks they had produced to date, one being 'Last Night I Saw' and the other was 'Astronauts'. I reached out to the band, and Louise Quinn, who was the main singer/songwriter. A meeting commenced in Glasgow's Merchant City' 'Cafe Gandolfi' and they agreed to shoot a music promo for 'Astronauts' I had a few ideas but they felt cheesy and tacky at the time.
As the Director, my aim was to create an unique visual entity for this promo and I started story boarding and instead of thinking abstractly I was thinking of using the title to dictate the visuals so I literally wanted an 'Astronaut' as a visual in the video.
ASTRONAUTS MAKING OF VIDEO - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LINK
CONCEPT AND DEVELOPMENT
The ideas came quick and fast. The track was hypnotic, and seems to float along gently so I have to come up with a concept that complimented the pace of the song. A vehicle that would carry the viewer and I came across mobility scooters and I thought that was perfect. For me, there was also an understated humour about them, I found them hilarious. This was the perfect visual for the promo. Jim Falconer from Scootamart helped us by allowing us to hire a red Scooter at budget costs, thankfully. The red colour tied in with my company at the time; Red Zebra Films so we added a signature visual of black zebra stripes on the scooter, looked wonderful on film but very subtle.
I looked in fancy dress stores, party shops, and online to find the prefect astronaut outfit, they all look very tacky, so I e-mailed The Planetary Society who were based in Birmingham, Andy Lound, granted us access to a full Astronaut outfit and sent it by post, this was fantastic and was completing my vision for the video. I decided to add a bubble machine which was purchased online to add a trippy trail or slipstream of the scooter when on location. This was exciting as I knew these were unique visuals and as far as I know, this had not been seen before.
A studio interior location was arranged to shoot the band with greenscreen, and the ex-drummer of the band Win, Mani Shoniwa provided an amazing studio in Leith, Edinburgh with the Lighthouse Studios. I had wanted to shoot the band in a saturated unnatural light and sci-fi style backdrops. Using saturated gels for the Arri 800 lamps was the way to go with achieving this effect. We shot on March 4th 2006, from 8am till 7pm at the studios exhausting all possible sequences and ideas.
A small crew consisted of Uisdean Murray, Brian Smith and Claire Mackay to take on the workload. Budgets were tight and unforgiving, so we had to make this work. On the story board I had visualized that the journey the Astronaut would take would be in black and white, contrasting with the bands Pop Art visuals.
Thanks to Ranald Neilson at Metro Ecosse we were supplied with Digi-beta camera equipment which was a broadcast format. We shot the behind the scenes material in mini-dv. One of my major influences was the work of Anton Corbijn, Photographer, Director, Graphic Designer and Stage Designer, so I suppose I would refer to aspects of his work to find visual solutions to some of the budgetary obstacles that I encountered.
This practice led research is an interpretation of meandering Indie pop tune into a vibrant hypnotic Music Video Promo - Concept to completion project. As argued by Vernallis, (2002), video needs to sell the song. The question was ‘How’ do we elevate the song and hook the viewer to buy the record? How do we capture the band and the essence of Scotland’s exteriors? What vehicle can we use to sew these elements together? Again, inspired by Anton Corbijn’s Enjoy The Silence & Never Let Me down Again, Depeche Mode masterpieces (1986-1997) the concept was unique and original to marry the image of an astronaut and a mobility scooter. The added joy of a bubble machine for an exhaust completed the marvel of this vehicle that was in synergy with the slow pace of the song.
LOCATIONS AND LOGISTICS
The external locations had to to epic and breathtaking, and I wanted the journey to start in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands and finish in the city of Edinburgh. Threading the visuals between performances of the band in the studio was a challenge, however the contrast between black and white, and saturated colours I knew would work.
We shot in Leith, Argyle, Glencoe, Isle of Skye, Plockton, Duirinish, Ballachulish, Killin, Kirknewton, Broomhouse, The Clyde Tunnel, Calton Hill, putting another strain on the budget for fuel and accommodation for the crew, and van hire.
As a marketing and branding campaign I suggested getting in touch with radio stations and newspapers to heighten the interest and came up with the 'Spot The Astronaut' Competition. Anyone in the highlands seeing the Astronaut, on the road and the were many, can phone into the radio station and claim their free copy of the single. A Journalist came out to the Raasay Ferry terminal to take pictures for his feature in the West Highland Free Press and The Oban Times. We also got features in the West Lothian Courier and East Kilbride News.
My work is a contribution to the field of abstract art in music and visual communication. In my work I try and blur the lines between fiction and non-fiction with music using a mix of synchronous editing, so that the eye of the viewer sees the realistic source of the sound as well as graphic metaphoric representations of the music. Although the journey of the Astronaut is in black and white, I wanted the scooter to stand out and resolved that by making it red throughout the video. I knew this was a unique and original concept and wasn't that surprised that this had happened.
I would argue ‘Astronauts’ is pioneering and original work, so much so I feel Acid Jazz musician ‘Jamiroquai’ had used my video concept for his video promo ‘Runaway’ in late 2007. Ref: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uldpc4rWNXQ
To compare the videos it may be wise to view the follow ‘Making of Astronauts’ link is above also; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fON1psroLbw
So to conclude an A-listed Pop Star using your work in 2007 can be interpreted as a back-handed compliment. I consider that ‘Impact’. This prompted a phone call to Sony Records in London to insist on me to direct his next music video, Alas this never transpired.
My work is a I'm absolutely delighted with the results thanks to an amazing crew and if you would like to view the finished promo please click on the image below and it'll play the youtube link. "...From one Astronaut to another...'Enjoy!"