I just finished doing the cinematography for Cindy’s newest film/music video: “MISS STEP”; and it was a phenomenal experience.
Let me share what made the experience so awesome.
First of all, I have always thought of myself as a photographer. I never knew it was even an option for me to shoot film or do video. But after being inspired by Cindy, her epic films (all shot on a simple LUMIX lx100), I got inspired to also shoot film. And it has been awesome for my creativity — now I can exercise my video muscles (which I didn’t even know I had!) I think all photographers can benefit from shooting video, to think of new creative ways to approach visual story telling, and also for us to practice our composition, framing, and visual art-making.
Secondly, it was just plain fun. Cindy wrote the poem, made the first beat, and had the concept. I was the camera man, and not only did I listen to Cindy’s directions, but I also came up with my own cinematography ideas on-the-fly. I simply followed my intuition in terms of thinking that “this framing or composition would look cool”. We played a lot with different framing in different locations: in the back streets of Tokyo (nice grid composition), and inside our tiny Tokyo hotel room (in the hotel bedroom mirror, and the bathroom/bathtub). If you want to have fun, I highly recommend you to experiment making your own fun music video— with a friend or creative collaborator.
Third, doing this music video with Cindy has opened up my eyes to new creative possibilities! Combining music, dance, performance art, poetry, and cinema is so fascinating. A big takeaway for me is realizing that I shouldn’t restrain myself in the tiny little bubble of photography; I should experiment with all forms of art! And I think the same applies to you; don’t trap yourself in the tiny bubble of any art form. Experiment and just play, have fun, and try out new things!
I recorded all the footage in intelligent auto mode (iA mode) in the Panasonic LUMIX G9 Pro, with Leica 12mm f1.4 lens, in 4K, 24fps (which gives a slower “cinema” feel), everything hand-held. I turned on the electronic in camera stabilization for the LUMIX, which works phenomenally. For all the shooting I used autofocus, with the exception of a super closeup of Cindy’s lips (manual focusing).
I think the problem is that when a lot of us try to experiment with video, we think we gotta get all this extra stuff, like stabilizing gimbals, fancy audio equipment, tripods, etc. Cindy and I kept this setup very minimalist, and it was better: it allowed us to be more flexible, nimble, and freestyle/improvise more.
With editing the video footage, Cindy used Final Cut Pro, and did all this epic layering with the “subtraction/overlay/difference” layering options, and cut the footage to the rhythm/beat she liked.
For the audio recording, she just used simple Samsung headphones (that come prepackaged with your phone), to record her voice in Final Cut Pro. Also, the lyrics are from a poem she wrote, “MISS STEP”. Cindy’s big innovation is this: taking her poetry then turning it into a music video, which is more entertaining to watch, and will be more widely experienced by more people (than just reading the text of a poem). Not only that, but with music and visuals, the poem is more catchy!
Cindy made the first half of the beats in garage band (good job Cindy!) The second part (with the snapping fingers) is an instrumental remake of Janelle Monae’s “Pink” song (we got a lot of inspiration from her, and her recent “Dirty computer” music videos.
My recommendation is if you’re interested in making your own beats, just put together a simple hip hop beat in GarageBand, and just have fun with the loops! I’ve been making a lot of my own beats in GarageBand and iMovie for my slideshows, and it has been a great new source of creative experimentation and fun.
Ultimately my takeaways are this:
- If you like music, try shooting your own music video for fun. Don’t worry about it being super epic or “good” by mainstream standards. Do it for fun, and don’t take it too seriously. Upload it to YouTube and share it with your friends, family, and followers, and don’t worry whether you get a lot of views or not. And certainly don’t be worried whether people will downvote it or leave negative comments. If you’re innovating, trying something new, of course you’re going to confuse people.
- You can create more stuff than you think you’re capable of: Don’t just see yourself as a photographer. You can shoot film, cinema, video, make poetry, dance, etc. Don’t constrain yourself or put yourself into silly categories.
- Don’t worry too much about the technical settings: Too often we fall into “paralysis by analysis”; by having too much worries or stress about technical options, we end up just doing nothing at all. Better to create something that is technically “imperfect” than to make nothing at all.
- Treat it like a fun, playful creative experiment: Whenever you’re trying anything new, don’t treat it like an ultimate or final product. Whatever you create is always in a state of flux. You as a visual artist are constantly changing, evolving, and developing. Therefore allow yourself unlimited opportunities to create new stuff, with new processes and approaches.
- Have fun! Others night judge your artwork as being “good” or “bad”; but nobody will be able to deny that you’re having fun. If you watch Cindy’s music video, you can see how fun, playful, and joyful she is. You cannot fake enthusiasm.
Have fun and create something everyday!
MISS STEP POEM
Command + A step here.
Control + Zipper. No, zebra. A zigging and zagging and surrender to the zephyr on my cheek.
Option + Alt you. You hilarious tease of forgotten functions.
Mavis Beacon, did you say something?
I can’t hear you between the patterned pecks of perfect precision.
Move/Be/Do Here, there. now. Everywhere. Nowhere.
A song in my stomach, twisted into computerized contortions
A wellspring of movement, made mistakenly malicious.
The way you make me feel, I make me feel, I make me me.
Seeps out, secretly through the meticulous cracks of caked fears.
A nod. Then two.
A twitch of the finger
tips of the toes bounce in the tight space between.
>> spam = ‘A mischievous literary litany’
A sly smile, a knowing glance
to the Miss Step, who was always there,
Shibuya, Tokyo 2018
Written to the rhythm of Dirty Computer, Janelle Monae.