It was a few months ago now, but now the video’s up online, and the bear outfits have been revealed in all their glory I can tell you a little bit about the shoot for Wild Flag’s “Electric Band” that I helped out on this Summer.
I met the directors Lara Gallagher and Andrew Ellmaker one night at Beauty Bar in Portland, and they told me the next week they were filming a video the next week for a new band called “Wild Flag”. They needed an 1st and a 2nd Assistant Director. From my experience of shooting I knew that 1st ADs often have to do a lot of admin and prep work for a shoot, whereas 2nd ADs do a lot of running around and shouting on loaction. After 2 months of American food I felt like I could do with some running and shouting.
We filmed over 2 amazingly sunny days on a baseball field at the back of a Native American school on the outskirts of Portland. After a bit of research I found out that this “new” band were actually a bit of a super-group comprised of members from North-West bands Sleater-Kinney, Helium and The Minders. I was also excited to find out the lead singer was Carrie Brownstein, star of the US sketch show Portlandia. The idea for the video had the girls from the band playing Baseball against a team of bears which for me really sums up the American Dream in all it’s glory. As I arrived on set, I was feeling pretty lucky to be involved in an ambitious shoot with a great band. NOTE TO US VISA OFFICIALS – All unpaid of course, unless you count art vouchers.
I spent a large part of my time co-ordinating people offset, either running around with a clipboard, or running around without a clipboard, whilst frantically looking for a clipboard. But it was nice to sit back at points and watch action unfold, as it’s a luxury you never get when your directing. We were filming on the Red, which is a fantastic camera, and it was the first time I had seen one in action. From the video you’ll see it produces some pretty amazing results.
There was a great energy on set, which was helped by the best catering I’ve ever had, delivered from a couple of local Mexican restaurants. Mexican food is brilliant isn’t it? You hear the Americans complaining about illegal immigrants, but if you don’t want them, we’ll take them here, and you can have some of our Poles in return.
Being the fame hungry wannabe actor, I was itching for my time in the limelight, which came at the end of the first day when I was needed to put my clipboard down and step in and be one of the Wild Flag team as they celebrate their win. I obviously jumped in and went mental in the hope of getting spotted by a Hollywood agent.
My desire for screen-time backfired though on the second day when I volunteered to be one of the “bears” (SPOLIER ALERT – they’re not real). Putting on a fur head with very little air supply in the searing heat was a test to any attention-seeker’s resolve and with the mask down I was certain no one would know whether I had passed out or not. After 30 minutes I had to tap out, making some excuse about needing to consult my clipboard about something. This experience gave a me a new appreciation of what bears go through every day and also made me realise how acting in a mask or suit is a thankless task. Not only are you sweating your arse off and risking death, but no one will ever know your face or care about your name. Like that bloke who was Chewbacca.
The shoot drew to close with the crew sat in the stands, the sun setting, and the band miming along to their song. I reflected on a great couple of days and though what a perfect way to remember my summer in Portland. Then I remembered, as 2nd AD, I really should start clearing up.
You can find more of my photos from the shoot on Flickr here.
Here’s the video here if you’ve not see it yet. I haven’t studied it but I think you can see me at my scene stealing best at the 3:15 mark as I’m about to rugby tackle a girl…