KesslerU (KU) Tell me a little about yourself.
Rick Macomber (RM) I grew up in a city called Chelsea on the Mystic River, connected to Boston by the Tobin Bridge. Like a lot of filmmakers, I was fascinated by cameras as a kid and quickly learned how to use my Dad’s 8mm Kodak Brownie home movie camera in junior high school, shooting rock concerts and making little montages with my friends. Then I traveled cross country for a year after high school, taking the 8mm camera with me. I make a short film of the trip and from that moment on I knew I wanted to have some kind of career in making films. I ended up working in broadcast TV news throughout the 80′s and still have a staff job at CBS Boston today, where I’ve won numerous Emmy Awards and was also nominated for eight Emmys. My coverage of the Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand for CBS Boston won a prestigious Boston Press Photographers “Best of Show” award. I’ve also covered major breaking news stories around the globe including 9-11 from Ground Zero in NYC and the 50th Anniversary of D-Day from the beaches of Normandy, France. Today I juggle my full time gig with my own production company where I produce short films, music videos and corporate videos.
(KU) Would love to know a little more about the project.
(RM) I’m also a musician. That’s how I met Dave Munro of the band Air Traffic Controller. I’ve worked with the band on a few other music videos in the past. So when I first heard Dave perform a solo acoustic version of “Ready or Not” at Hugh O’Neill’s, our local open mic pub in Malden, MA, it touched me. It touched me because I knew it had personal meaning to Dave. And I knew right then and there I wanted to shoot a music video for that song. So when the band put the finishing touches on their new album NORDO and I saw that “Ready or Not” was one of the tracks, I was ready! Dave gave me the green light and I started working on my concept for the story. I sent Dave a rough draft of my script and he dug my idea. I wanted the song to begin with a boy and a girl playing hide and seek in the woods. My vision was to have the boy searching for the girl throughout the song and then insert band performance shots during the chorus sections. Those band shots would be executed in a nice flat cornfield I scouted in western Massachusetts where there were no buildings, hills or trees so we could have a western sky behind the band at sunset. After hashing out the script with Dave, we decided on creating two parallel stories for the song, one of the children playing hide and seek and their search during the game, and another story with two adults in the middle of a crumbling relationship where the woman bolts out the door, and the guy chases after her, creating a second search. There would also be flashbacks to happier times in their lives together. I put out a casting call on Models Mayhem and got lucky. I found Eddie Nason for the part of the man and Andrea Lopez for the part of the woman. Since I wanted them to resemble the children in order to give the viewer the impression that the kids just might be a flashback, Andrea and Eddie were perfect for the roles. For the kids we cast Addison Earle as the girl and Mickie Munro as the boy. Addie is the daughter of my friend Kent Earle and Mickie is the son of ATC’s drummer, Rich Munro. The resemblance between Addie and Andrea was uncanny.
(KU) Loved the style of this piece. Can you talk a little about the creative process?
(RM) You’ll notice that throughout the video Addie is hiding in various locations behind a cello. The recurring visual of the cello represents the string arrangements you hear in the song and helps to create the dreamy story line over and over.
I also wanted to use some cool locations, because well… cool locations help to create a look and feel for a film. Ultimately those spots would include Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover, MA, Fort Hill Park in Lowell, MA, a farm in Andover, MA and a beautiful old mansion on a hill located in Lowell, MA. The home was fantastic with a beautiful front and rear staircase and an attic with perfect morning sunlight shining through a gargoyle in the window that gave us spectacular rays of light once we added fog to the room.
Some tricks were incorporated into the music video. There’s a natural break in the song where I wanted pigeons to suddenly fly in front of the lens when Addie first sneaks into the attic. My friend Don Berube gave me the names of some local guys from Greater Boston Homing Pigeon Concourse. I contacted them but nobody wanted to release their pigeons indoors, especially in an attic where they could freak out and possibly get hurt. So when we did the scene, I shot a GS plate of the room with the fog machine going in case we could get someone later to release their birds outside in front of a green screen. But then Don’s brother Dan Berube, who runs the BOSCPUG events in Boston, sent me a link to POND5 HD stock footage. He found a fantastic clip of birds in flight in silhouette that I could effectively key over Addie’s silhouette just as she looks over her shoulder. I added a bit of wing flapping foley and it did the trick. The shot held just long enough to make it look realistic and the sudden moving imagery and sound fit into the the musical break very nicely.
We did another trick with flip flopping images. Since the bed was jammed up against the wall at the headboard in the small spare bedroom where we shot the bedroon scene, instead of moving the bed away from the wall, we placed Andrea and Eddie’s heads at the foot of the bed and shot them upside down. Then we flipped the image in post. We used this same technique for some of the low angle shots of feet by flying the Glidecam upside down and flipping it in the edit. We did the shots from the hood of the car without using suction mounts. We had absolutely no budget for this video so I decided to try a hood shot by resting the camera in the recessed area where the wiper blades retract and walk along next to the car holding the camera in place. It actually fit into the recessed area quite nicely. I used my Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 with a polarizing filter to cut the glare off the windshield so we could see Eddie clearly inside the car. Again we were driving very slow but the reflection of the autumn colored leaves and tree limbs playing on the windshield made it look like Eddie was driving faster than he actually was. I wish we had a bean bag or the new Philip Bloom VBag to rest the C300 on. That would have been better than perfect!
It was difficult to get all the band members together to shoot the performance parts. Everyone had schedule conflicts. So when the the string section was available, even though the band was not, we decided before it got any colder outside we’d shoot Alison Shipton and Kiara Ana Perico playing at Harold Parker State Forest with a breathtaking sunset in the trees behind them and worry about getting the rest of the band at a later time. When we wrapped the shoot, we saw that the sun was still hanging on the horizon, making some gorgeous color in the clouds. I threw the C300 back on the sticks and rolled on it until all the color was gone, figuring I could use the shot for a nice timelapse somewhere in the video.
The final piece to this cinematography puzzle was to find a location in which to shoot the actual band segments. And now that we were into mid January in New England and the dead of winter, it made no sense to use a cornfield in the middle of nowhere now for those shots. It was too cold outside. So I asked Dave’s brother Jeff Munro, who runs the studio at Arlington Community Media, if we could shoot the band segments there. He made that happen. That’s when I remembered I had that long sunset clip I shot at Harold Parker. I decided I’d use a timelapse of that as a backdrop behind the band to give it a similar look and feel of the scene we had shot of the string section at Harold Parker. I projected that timelapse on a white curtain using a Vivitek D950 1080p HD projector with a 3,000:1 contrast ratio for short change. We lit the set with some CTO gels on nice rim and back light to give the band an orange glow that would emulate the sunset from the projected image behind them.
The video has two distinctive shooting styles. Most of the narrative scenes were either shot on a tripod, on the Kessler Stealth Slider or the Kessler Crane, all donated for the entire length of the shoot by Mike Sutton and Paul Antico. I love Kessler gear for its quality build, ease of use and portability. Everything sets up and breaks down quickly into small parts that can fit nicely into convenient carrying cases. The performance shots were all handheld except for one crane shot of Dave during a specific vocal moment where I thought it might look cool to move the camera up and away from him as he sang.
(KU) What can we expect next from you?
(RM) For the next few months I’ll be the DP on a short film produced by Dan Berube and directed by Noel Barlow. I’m also working on another narrative music video with Sean Meehan, who will be directing. That’s in addition to a full time staff gig at CBS. I have no intention of slowing down any time soon!