To a generation of people defined by a certain letter of the alphabet, the launch of MTV in 1981 was a defining moment in pop culture that influenced music, film, fashion and everything in between.
Music videos are now rarely seen on TV but the spirit lives on. Music Television, the exciting collaboration between our Intermix youth program and City Of Melbourne’s Signal, aimed to foster that spirit in a workshop pairing established filmmakers with emerging talent.
For the event, celebrated animator Isobel Knowles and renowned cinematographer Ryan Alexander Lloyd joined a group of 15 young people, aged between 13 and 20, to make a music video over a weekend. Like many filmmakers, they have both worked extensively in the music video form. Timed to complement Spectacle: The Music Video Exhibition and Signal’s Melbourne Music Week events, the outcome of Music Television is set to be featured at both.
The first collaborative decision was to choose a song from a shortlist of Isobel’s music industry peers. It was an important decision, as the participating bands have all agreed that the resulting video will become the official clip for the selected song. With a bit of luck, the finished video may end up on Rage. After several careful play-throughs, “Combo” by Pikelet became the official song for the music video.
Next came the creative process. What exactly would the video be about? What would it look like? How could we create an exciting video within the constraints such as budget, time and weather? The young group didn’t flinch and quickly offered creative suggestions, displaying an incredible understanding of filmmaking techniques and musical language.
The group decided that the song was celebratory and had a ritualistic feel that they could harness. They came up with the idea of colour representing the music and invading a world of black and white. With the concept locked down, together we built a storyboard, shooting schedule and divided tasks into animation and live video.
The rest of the afternoon on day one was spent building giant masks that would become central to the narrative of the video. With only cardboard, coloured paper and Clag, a group of unique characters were brought to life.
As the sun set on the first day, Isobel and Ryan went over the shooting schedule for day two and realised that it was ambitious even for seasoned filmmakers, let alone a group still learning and discovering as they went. Complications such as intricate FX shots and potential interference from the public were variables that we would have to contend with as best as we could.
The second day was a flurry of activity, and time passed quickly. Teams were divided into animators and cinematographers, with everyone required to try their hand at acting. The animators quickly learned about stop frame animation, and how to use luma and chroma keys to composite their animations on footage the other group were concurrently shooting. The cinematographers got a crash course in the language of cinema, quickly learning the difference between a mid shot and a two shot. Techniques were borrowed from Michel Gondry, and somehow we got most of the material we needed.
The hardest shot of the project was left till last. Everyone was in a mask for the final scene, as our hero Taren was transformed into a ball of colour by wrapping him to a makeshift totem pole. Samantha and Amanda’s original choreography was taught to the cast and our stoic hero patiently put up with the restrictive cardboard mask, searing afternoon sun and a rising urge to be free of his restraints! With principal photographer Max recording the action and handheld support from the lead artists, the team got the shots they needed to wrap.
Only running an hour late, there was enough time for a quick debrief and a full shot of the crew. Isobel and Ryan are currently completing post-production, and the whole team eagerly awaits Signal’s Melbourne Music Week event with Fatti Francis, where the finished work will be premiered on Sat 23 Nov.
Keep an eye out for the completed video for Pikelet’s ‘Combo’ by this talented group of Intermix participants.
– Tim Bright, ACMI Screen Events Coordinator