Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tick, tick, tick

The Alarm Clock

Wake-up calls are a pain. No one likes to get up before the sun, but music video production usually means starting the day when it still doesn’t seem like day. To get everything done in the time allotted (usually one day in 2007) – things need to get cranking early. The crew arrives, the generator fires up and mmm, mmm “courtesy breakfast.”

But then comes the nerve-wracking part for the producer and the director – when will the artist show up. The call sheet says “9am” – three hours after most of the crew has shown up. Even the glam squad types have been here for an hour or two. Maybe the director is going over the blocking with the choreographer or shooting some insert footage but every knows what to watch for …

The car. The artist’s car. Is it here yet? When were they coming? Have we heard from the manager? What does the label person say? All eyes keep glancing toward the entrance for the arrival of the artist.

Not every artist is late. Some of the most diva-licious glamour-pusses are known for being studiously on time (Madonna, Gwen Stefani). Many touring bands are used to the grind and being carted around by their management team so they might show up even when they aren’t aware they are doing it. And obviously, I am writing here about the big-budget clips with artists that are sure they are stars. Not every artist is a fool, but …

Anyway, back to the waiting. The call time for the artist has been negotiated with the artist’s management team – making sure the production is being realistic. A 6 am call time is gonna get blown no matter what – so the producer picked an arrival time that seems to have a chance of being real. But still, no car.

On a one day shoot – missing two (or even four!!!) hours out of a single, 14-hour day is devastating. How productive could any of us be if we missed 25% of our workday?

And even when the artist finally does show up there will be other obstacles – from image confidence issues that can only be assuaged by armies of stylists to getting a charger for the artist's cell phone. Some musicians might simply have to leave to score some more drugs – the upside of shooting in ratty parts of town is that they won’t have to go far. Other artists will get into screaming matches with girlfriends or dancers from the set. One R&B crooner got into a fistfight with his manager and had a blackened eye for the second half of the shoot. Showing up late only makes all the other problems on a shoot worse. But anyway, back to the waiting …

As the director watches the time tick by he shoots some cutaways of the sexy dancers or smoke rising in super-slow motion. All the while, the director is drumming his fingers and looking at his storyboards and deciding what he tosses overboard first – since the late artist guarantees not everything can get done. He is also eye-balling the label person - who is just as shocked (and powerless) that the artist is late as everyone else. Now the director is realizing there will be a point in the edit when the label person asks where the missing set-up is. The director tries not to grind his teeth.

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