Column 230: Seeing Red; The Rural Alberta Advantage, UUVVWWZ tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 12:22 pm July 15, 2009

Little Brazil’s Greg Edds said that when the production company showed up at the West Omaha house for the video shoot last Saturday morning, it garnered plenty of attention from the neighbor, followed by cops, who merely did drive-bys. “There were 15 dudes standing in the front yard at 6 a.m. with giant equipment,” Edds said. “We stuck out like a sore thumb. Everyone had to think that a porno was being shot.”

Column 230: Seeing Red
Little Brazil and the art of the video.

Upon arriving at The Sydney at around 11 a.m. last Sunday — the time the “shoot” was scheduled for the Little Brazil music video — only a handful of people were mulling around in the bar. Near the entrance, four guys in jeans and t-shirts were stringing lighting equipment above the curtained-off front windows. Scratch that — only one guy on a ladder was actually doing something while the other three “grips” watched and gave advice.

Track had been constructed along the floor in front of the bar — two shiny chrome rails like long strippers’ poles lay side by side. A large push car sat on one end with the camera rig waiting to go. This was no ordinary camera; it was a Red One — a state-of-the-art digital cinematography camera capable of shooting up to 4,096 by 2,304 pixels — huge by industry standards, or so I was told. Little Brazil was going all out, diving head-first into the artistic realm of music videos. And it wasn’t cheap.

Video director Bill Sitzmann, a still photographer known for his quirky, artistic style of shooting rock bands (including many featured in this newspaper) hustled me down to the Sydney’s dusty basement for a demo of the Red One in action. On a Powerbook connected to two portable hard drives, Sitzmann played video from the previous day’s 16-hour shoot at a West Omaha home. Recorded at 100 frames per second, the effect was surreal — intricately detailed images of children playing in a back yard, frozen in the air on a swing set, every nuance, every speck of detail captured crystal clear, near 3D, ghostly, like CinemaScope at a wide-screen ratio of 21 x 9. This wasn’t a video, this was a motion picture; this was art.

To Little Brazil guitarist Greg Edds, it was the art that made it all make sense. Because it wasn’t the band’s label — Anodyne Records — or their publicist picking up the multi-thousand dollar tab for the shoot; it was the band along with Edds himself.

“This is our first major production of a video,” Edds explained. “We’ve done things in the past with HD cameras and crews, but I wanted to take a step forward. We were raised in the MTV generation. I remember the videos more than the songs themselves. I can’t remember Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer,’ but I remember its crazy video.”

Now with YouTube and Hulu, millions of music videos are viewed every day. “You can do a lot with flip cameras and camera phones, but there’s a quality issue,” Edds said. “From an art perspective, that’s where the Red One came to mind.”

It was Sitzmann who told him about Red One. Edds saw some examples, including two recent feature films by Steven Soderbergh shot with the camera as well Maria Taylor’s video for “Time Lapse Lifeline,” shot by Alan Tanner.

“I knew (the camera) would give the whole idea for the video new meaning,” Edds said. “The rest of the guys (in the band) jumped on board. It’s a big financial gamble. We’re not going to make money from it; it’s just another creative aspect of the music that will make the song hit home.”

The song is “Separated,” from Little Brazil’s recently released record, Son, a concept album that tracks the lifeline of a family from a couple’s first date to its suicidal demise and beyond. “Separated,” comes toward the end, after the couple splits. The husband (played by Workers Deli sandwich chef Francis Rowe) struggles with losing his wife (played by Son Ambulance vocalist Jenna Morrison) and seeing his children bond with her new boyfriend. He daydreams about getting back together with her.

The sequence being shot at The Sydney is part of that daydream — the couple’s glorious hand-in-hand entrance into a party greeted in a cloud of confetti thrown by all their friends. Unfortunately, this Sunday morning Little Brazil’s friends hadn’t shown up. Frantic calls for “extras” were sent via text and Twitter and Facebook. It wasn’t until 2:30 that Sitzmann yelled “Ready!” while standing atop the bar, telling everyone to go crazy when Francis and Jenna enter the front door. Queue the song, and then… action. In rushed the talent, pushing through the crowd’s smiling, screaming faces — the same faces you’ll see on a typical night at O’Leaver’s or The Sydney or The Waiting Room — while the Red One and its operator floated beside them down the chrome rails.

The shot was done again and again and again. Extras ran out of confetti. Little Brazil bassist Dan Maxwell found a new use for The Reader, tearing its pages to tiny bits. By 3 o’clock, Sitzmann yelled “Moving on,” and the crowd cheered. But that wasn’t the end of the shoot. Everyone stayed for three more hours for shots of the couple dancing while the band played on The Sydney’s stage.

Now Sitzmann along with editor Jon Tvrdik will cut the video, with Edds looking over their shoulders. Post production could take two to three weeks. With the band scheduled to tour in the beginning of August, they hope to have a screening scheduled when they get back two weeks later. After that, copies of the video will be sent to their label and publicist, who will filter it to different networks and online outlets, with hopes of it “going viral.”

As for Edds, he’s already thinking of the next shoot. “It was a fun experiment,” he said. “It’s exciting and really addicting. Now I want to do it again.” But next time, he said, it’ll be 48 minutes instead of 48 hours, and lot less expensive.

* * *

It’s a duo CD re-release party tonight at Slowdown Jr. The Rural Alberta Advantage, who I wrote about in the last issue of The Reader (read it here) is celebrating the re-release by Saddle Creek Records of Hometown; while UUVVWWZ is celebrating the re-release — also by Saddle Creek — of its self-titled debut album. On top of that, Dave Dondero is in town and opening this show. Except a very crowded front room (maybe even a sell out?). $8, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, another chance to catch Brad Hoshaw (third show in less than seven days?) along with Anniversaire when they open for Chicago’s Cameron McGill & What Army at The Waiting Room. $7, 9 p.m.

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