By: Adam Moorman
This project came to life in January while I was on paternity leave and the band sent me a link to, at the time, their unreleased record – Heart-Shaped Mountain. I was looking for something to do between 3am feedings and diaper changes, so I asked if they needed a video. I had already decided that, “Race to the Bottom” was the track for me. It’s a great song and super visual. They said yes, and off we went.
I knew that a narrative approach wasn’t a realistic option since I didn’t have the budget, nor the time to really go big. I’ve been a fan of the band for years and was familiar with their live performance, so I wanted to put the focus on them. I wanted to feature them as individual rockstars, and show the musicality of the full band as well. I felt that if I pulled that off – the song would really cook with the visuals.
I worked with my DP (Chris Vanderwall) and VFX Supervisor (Sam Kreps) on different concepts. We ate lots of tacos over the course of a few meetings and decided that simple is better. I knew that seamless photo paper was cheap, and if shot correctly, we could make one 12 foot piece of paper feel like an infinite set. I also knew that we may be able to pull this off in the garage of the Guy Bauer offices. This garage bumps right up against all the gear. The practicality of this approach saved us from stressing about locations and tech. We could focus solely on execution without having to pick up and move the production.
The garage worked great – but there were some challenges. The paper was only 9’x12′, so in order to shoot each member head-to-toe we had to turn the camera sideways and move it all the way to the back of the gear room – actually shooting through the doors that lead into the garage. This allowed us to surround each band member with the solid color background. The edges of frame showed all the gear and the garage itself, so we knew we’d have to crop, key and composite the musicians into a frame filled with the solid color background in post. Sam Kreps did an amazing job of communicating with Chris Vanderwall on how to best capture each shot so it was easy to manipulate in post. Ultimately setting up Sam for a quick VFX and compositing turnaround.
The inspiration came from watching lots of rock videos. Old television performances from the 60s and 70s were helpful. I felt like the record sounded a bit like Tom Petty in the mid 80s, so I looked at lots of photos and videos of Tom Petty. I found some more contemporary videos from The Strokes and Foo Fighters that really nailed the performance nuances of each member. I dug that a lot.
I hope people watch this video and fall in love with Ha Ha Tonka. They’re a really good band and really good dudes. The goal was to make each member individually look like a musical badass, while getting the sense that the band, as a whole, gets the room rocking!
Update: The video premiered on American Songwriter Magazine’s website. It was also featured as Magnet Magazine’s video of the day. The most exciting part of this was watching the band play “Race to the Bottom” on Conan. If you’re a fan of Tom Petty, denim and American Rock N’ Roll I strongly recommend this band. Check them out here.