“Nothing I Owe” is an acoustic music video I shot in October on location in Myrtle Beach. It also has the honor of being the fasted principal photography time in the history of Magic Rabbit Productions. All told, we shot for about 40 minutes. I’ve been keeping this under wraps for a while (it was a Christmas present!) but it’s finally ready to be seen.
James Green – Nothing I Owe
The genesis of the idea came very naturally. We were on vacation in Myrtle Beach, sitting out on the porch of our condo. James Green, guitar in hand, was running through several songs he had written. I was shooting him casually, enjoying the way the neighbor’s porch lights looks in the background and not really committing to anything more than a couple cool shots.
He started to play “Nothing I Owe” and the song’s meaningful connection hit all of us. Within seconds, Elizabeth and I had switched from “casual shooting” to serious “I’m cutting this video” shooting.
We resolved to film a couple more passes the following day, along the beach. We didn’t bring change for the parking meter, so we found ourselves with a mere 25 minutes to get all the coverage we needed.
I strapped on my old Pentax 50mm f/1.4 and we got started. Three song passes and and couple B-Roll shots later and I knew I had all the coverage I needed to make a stellar video.
It’s funny how working within tight time confines makes you so much more efficient. If I had an hour or two, I definitely would have fussed more, working on setups, lighting etc. But there just wasn’t time and that makes the video feel more organic. The simplicity of shots is honest and compliments the song well.
I’m not saying I’m going to make a career out of shooting music videos in less than an hour, but it’s a fun experience regardless. Sometimes you need a unique challenge to push your creativity a bit.
Last week I had the chance to see Anna Lunoe spin at one of the clubs DJ Beatstreet normally spins at, as well as sip some early morning coffee the next day. If you are not up on Anna Lunoe, I suggest you go grab up her EP “All Out” or listen to her spin live in a city near you. Anna is very well versed and has played with some of the best international acts in Australia before moving to LA. Anna and I got to speak more about her current single “All Out” as well as the growing scene in Australia and being a woman in the music industry.
Anna Lunoe Interview with Dj Beatstreet
Go behind the scenes on Magic Rabbit Productions’ original short horror film Mute Fate.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Watch the full movie before reading! You’ve been warned.
Let me start by saying I’m terrified of snakes. Like petrified. As in, if I see a snake I freeze up, can’t move and go into a kind of statue – like state of terror. It’s been that way my whole life.
There’s not a formative moment for me. No Indiana Jones – esque defining event that would forever shape my fear. They were just always a dark element for me; I didn’t like the way they moved or looked or sounded. It’s a very base reaction.
I used to work in the shipping and receiving department of a retail store. I don’t know how the idea came into my head, but every time I opened a box of packing peanuts, I always paused before reaching in. No matter what the manifest says, you never really know what’s in that box. There could be anything underneath the styrofoam and there’s nothing you can do but reach your hand in and find out what’s waiting for you.
I never found anything unusual in their packages, but my quasi – phobia was enough to inspire the marvelously talented Elizabeth Green several years ago. She wrote down my fear in a short horror story called “One Way Out.”
I’m the type of person who craves control. And sometimes the best way to take control of a fear is to use it creatively.
When I started developing the story, I decided to cut it down significantly. Because I and altered so much, I wanted to rename the story. I called the piece Mute Fate for two reasons. One is the literal use of the word – there is no dialog at all so our main character’s fate is literally “mute”.
The second reason comes from an old radio play from the Escape show: “A Shipment of Mute Fate”. The “mute fate” in the show is a bushmaster, which hides out on a ship at sea and terrorizes the crew and passengers.
My own mute fate needed a strong visual symbol, since it was only to be discovered in the last shot of the movie. I chose a cobra, with its iconic hood and posture, to be the antagonist.
Now for the gritty technical details…Mute Fate was shot exclusively on a 5D Mark III using Magic Lantern’s raw hack. The credits sequence was shot with a Canon 85mm f/1.8, the rest of the movie with a Zeiss Flektogon 35mm 2.4 and a Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 and the aforementioned Canon 85.
The entire movie was lit with Genaray SpectroLED lights, which are quickly becoming my favorite lighting package. They’re light, run cool and give a nice blue light, as opposed to many other LED’s which tend toward greenish hues. The lights are massive and not focusable, but their falloff is so pleasing that it more than makes up for it.
Three boxes were employed – one empty and sealed, one open and filled with packing peanuts and one half – box that allowed the snake to be manipulated by the puppeteer. The packing peanut box was specially rigged with a tube inside that could be pulled back and forth, shifting the peanuts inside and creating the illusion of a slithering mass rising from the box.
The address on the box is something of an in – joke for horror fans. Robert Blake, Dunwich, Arkham, and even Massachusetts are all nods to some of my favorite Lovecraft horror texts. Poor Robert just can’t catch a break.
I had been working with J Farell since the inception of the film. Since I was creating what amounted to a silent film, I knew the score would have a major impact on the emotion of the piece and he and I worked very closely developing the sound of Mute Fate. The introduction and credits, which I call the “overture” feels like an old 80’s horror movie to me. It’s bombastic and creepy and it brings you right into the movie. It says “Pay attention – you’re about to see something scary!”
The entire movie was cut on Premiere CC and graded in After Effects. I’m not a Da Vinci Resolve guy, probably because I’ve been using AE for years. I can work faster and more efficiently there and it integrates better with the workflow.
The grade was heavily influenced by The Fourth Kind, which used over – saturated practical lights to an awesome effect. I did something similar, accentuating the orange glow from the lamp in the first half of the movie.
Overcoming the Fear
So, I guess the question I need to answer is: Did it work? Am I able to look at snakes without the icy terror?
Yes and no. As with everything, it’s a process. What Mute Fate gave me was a chance to take control of my fear and share it with others. By doing this, I was able to transform it from an emotional response into a weapon. This movie is less about me overcoming my fear and more about me learning how to wield it. It’s not just mine, now it belongs to all of us.
So next time you get a package in the mail, open it carefully. You may be surprised by what is inside.
This has been a busy summer for Philadelphia native Mike Taylor. He has been burning up the air waves as the featured vocalist on Dj Vice’s “World Is Our Playground”, he has performed at Wired Fest, several Mad Decent Block parties and Firefly Music Festival. I had the opportunity to sit down with Mike Taylor and talk about his music, name change, label deal and how Philadelphia has shaped him to be a better artist.
This past week I got a chance to sit down and talk to Grammy Award winning artist Estelle. She came down to Philly to hang out, do a little shopping and talk about her new single and album. The new single “Make Her Say” has caught a lot of attention with the cover art, and the song also is not what a lot of listeners would expect from Estelle. Now that Estelle has gotten the attention of all eyes and ears, her and I break down her single, new album titled “True Romance”, being human, and lastly being comfortable with yourself. A lot has happened to Estelle over the past years and it all pours out in her new album and some it flows here in this interview.
Estelle Interview with DJ Beatstreet
A few weeks ago I had the chance to go to Drexel’s Homecoming party and check out Dj Carnage’s set. Afterwards Carnage and I had the chance to sit down talk about what he has in the works. If you aren’t familiar with Dj Carnage, I highly suggest you head over to soundcloud and get acclimated quickly. He has has been making major noise in the electronic dance movement with his original and remix work.
His dj sets are also very diverse, and he is here to prove that categorizing him as “trap” producer is an understatement. Check out the interview to see what we can expect from Carnage’s album and his thoughts on EDM, Trap and Hip Hop music.
DJ Carnage “Mara” Live
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dj Vice and talk about dj-ing and his single “World Is Our Playground”. I know that the times are changing and the dj now is becoming the main attraction of the show. It is important to focus on this, especially when there are djs like Vice, who are taking the game to the next level. DJ Vice and I talked about the dreaded “open format” title, the future of djing, the importance of production, and how Philadelphia and Mike Taylor played a role in his new single “World Is Our Playground”.
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DJ Vice Interview
Right before the winter holidays took off, I had a chance to sit down and talk to Chris Webby. I have seen Webby perform a few times in Philly and each time his fan base just gets bigger and bigger. It’s actually quite amazing to see its growth. Philadelphia was one of the last stops of his “Homegrown” tour, so I used this opportunity to talk to Webby about the EP, the over saturation of rappers in the game, and his highly anticipated studio album.
Chris Webby Interview with DJ Beatstreet
Chris Webby Performing “Do Like Me” Live
At this year’s New Year’s Eve party, I was discussing movies with some friends and acquaintances. One of the people there mentioned that he was cataloging a list of the best movies of the decade (2003 – 2013) and read me his list. Some I agreed with, some I didn’t, but it galvanized me to make my own list.
So here, in chronological order by release date, is my list of the best movies of the last ten years:
10 Best Movies of the Last 10 Years:
I don’t think I’m alone in classifying Kill Bill’s 2 “volumes” as a single movie. This is, by far, my favorite Tarantino story. Kill Bill is a flawless blend of Asian revenge movies and American westerns (which are some of my favorite genres as well). Both genres feed off each other so well, and make for a very effective journey through Beatrix’s blood soaked vengeance.
Zak Braff’s directorial debut, despite being about adults growing up, makes itself timeless. Garden State is a movie that I can come back and watch – no matter what point I’m at in my life or career – and find new meaning. Whatever’s going on with me, I’m always able to connect to the characters and find a deeper center in myself after watching. This “replayability”, created by a deep connection with his audience and their struggles, insecurities and fears, makes the movie enjoyable forever.
As Kill Bill is my favorite Tarantino movie, The Departed is my favorite Scorsese film. It’s evident that he brought all his experience and talent to bear when making it, from the allusions to classic movies to the layers deep moments of every scene. Seriously, watch it again. The moments have moments. It’s more Seagull than Taxi Driver and, without question, one of the best movies ever made.
When I was a child, my parents would take me to see classic movies at the Allen Theater in Anville. I saw The Longest Day, Gone with the Wind, Dr Zhivago and tons more from those Saturday matinees. Atonement feels the way those movies did. It’s epic, but centered. It’s a story of the war and of a country torn apart, but it’s really about a forbidden love. The interplay between those layers and themes elevate this movie from simple romance into true classic movie, one that deserves to be praise and revered.
There’s not a whole lot for me to say about this one. The Dark Knight is arguably the best superhero movie ever made. It’s the perfect balance of character, plot and action, and still brings a mirror to bear on our world. It’s all about terror, hope, and the end justifying the means. These are universal constants, and they are executed perfectly against the backdrop of a costumed ninja and a clown with an automatic rifle.
Great science fiction is not just about aliens and spaceships. It’s a way to redefine the conflicts of your generation and to ask pointed questions about your way of life. It takes the issue we can’t discuss in public and brings them out in the open, taking them to the next level. I’ll admit, I may have a special bias toward District 9. I’ve been to Johannesburg, and I’ve seen the divide that exists there. In this post apartheid world, there is still a lot of work to be done before true unity is achieved. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away, and Neill Blomkamp draws compelling parallels using real live aliens.
Years ago, I stumbled on a book called Vicious Spring by Hollis Hampton Jones. It’s a touching, disturbing and incredibly accurate depiction of teenage life in a dead end town. Fish Tank is Vicious Spring in movie form. Featuring the best performance I’ve seen from a first time actor, it’s an incredible human drama that needs to be experienced.
An interesting side note for this one…it’s shot in 1.33:1. It’s impressive to see director Andrea Arnold and cinematographer Robbie Ryan take such an ugly aspect ratio and make it compelling. It’s a case for all of us to carefully consider why we shoot what we shoot. Just because we consider it “more cinematic”, it may not be the best choice for the story we’re telling. I can’t imagine Fish Tank in any other aspect ratio…this is not a cinematic masterpiece, it’s a slice of life, and the cropped feel reflects that perfectly.
There are two ways you can attack an enemy: retaliate through violence and become their equal or turn them into a joke and rise above them. Four Lions chooses the latter. It’s a dark comedy about a gang of poorly trained Jihadists. Reread that sentence. The thing is, it succeeds where movies like WTC failed. It humanizes the threat, and makes us laugh at it. It’s the real way to keep the terrorists from winning. Beyond that, it’s a funny, touching look at outsiders just trying to fit in. Well worth a watch, just be prepared – it’s still about bombs.
I’m a huge Refen fan. I could probably list any of his movies here and make arguments for why they are the best. But Drive truly is. It’s a story about the quiet moments between the violence. It’s one of the most compelling and dynamic movies I’ve ever seen. It got me excited about filmmaking again. Drive is cinematic excellence, delivered like the blow of a hammer.
It’s no secret that I love a good horror story. The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh is a GREAT horror story. Not quite like anything before, it’s a haunting journey of guilt, regret and remorse. It’s a powerful look at the brainwashing of organized religion and the horrors that we try to hide from ourselves. Watch it with the lights out and try not to look over your shoulder…I dare you.
These are mine. What are the best movies you’ve seen in the past ten years?