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Case Study

The Sleep Ins - God damn it, my friend

Sean Sully, lead singer of The Sleep Ins, came to me wanting a music video for his band. We spoke briefly about his goals for the video, his ideas and his budget. I love music videos, and I wanted to make sure I could deliver something great for him that would suit what he could afford. It was a shoe-string budget that covered a small crew of 3: myself as Dop and director; Taylor Collins, Assistant camera and locations; and Chelsie, our Producer. Sean’s main goal was to debut each band member so that everyone had “their moment”.

He didn’t have any ideas about a story and gave me a list of songs from the band to choose from to make a video for – he liked all of them and left it up to me. What an opportunity this was. The trust Sean has in me is such an honour. We landed on a one-day shoot and edited with two rounds of changes, and he was happy. The challenge was picking a song I liked and creating a story we could shoot realistically in one day. 

I got to work, listened to the music and let my mind wander story ideas. Cheslie, the Producer for this project, and I had about three pre-production meetings over Google Meets. First, we discussed song choices and concepts. “God Damn It, My Friend” stood out to me with the reggae-rock-western feeling it gave me. On Spotify, it is their most listened-to track – I wasn’t alone in my love for the sound. Now, what is the story? I’ve always wanted to film in country Victoria, in the great open spaces. What if we made the band members hitchhike? Each person would have their moment in the Aussie sun and have the stage to themselves. Sean loved this idea! All we needed to do was find a location and a suitable car and get to work on the shot list. 

Shot through the windscreen of the car in the music video for The Sleep Ins - God Damn it, my friend.

At our next meeting, I prepared a shot list with a bunch of stills from various movies I had found to help give Sean a visual idea of how it could look with the colours and composition. Sean was on board and loved it all! We’d had a 50mm Sirui Anamorphic lens waiting for its time, and I believed this was it. I wanted to film the entire video using this lens. It’s been done before with movies such as Psycho and Birdman.

The shots were simple but effective – to get maximum quality set up time per shot and still achievable to shoot in one 8-hour day. Taylor, being a native Bendigo-ian, has many local friends- friends with acreage. They all sent a few videos taken from their phones; before you know it, he had found our location. 

Band Members from The Sleep Ins in a field for the music clip for God Damn It, my friend.

There were some minor hiccups. Our first shoot day was postponed because some band members were unavailable – we understand life happens! So, we shifted the date a month. At our last meeting one week before our shoot, Sean showed us this beautiful silver 1980s Mercedes sedan he could drive for the video. It was difficult for him to find one available for our shoot date.

Unfortunately, the last car we looked at became unavailable. This new find, unfortunately, could not remove the headrests or the rearview mirror like the other one could. Due to time and budget, we had to work with what we had. It was undesirable, but not the end of the world. 

The day before our shoot, it was a Friday. Taylor, the Assistant Camera for the project, and I loaded up the van with gear from the list I made – and it was packed to the brim. Sony fx6, check; Sirui 50mm anamorphic lens, check; ⅛ pro mist, check; Atomos Shogun, easy-rig, negative fill, black sheet, c-stands, Aperture 600d’s, batteries, cards, check, check, check. 

We packed up with a few other bits and pieces in preparation for our 8am call time in Bendigo, Victoria. This meant we all needed to be up at 5 am on Saturday!

We arrived sluggish and early to the farm in Bendigo. Everyone is excited. We start by filming the band playing together in a field. I run around with the camera on an easy rig, with each take focusing on different shots and people.

Sean Sully, lead singer of The Sleep Ins - on set for the music clip - God Damn It, my friend

Once happy, we moved our video village to film everyone getting into the car. We set this up in the farm driveway because it was safer that way with no cars coming through. We hope no one will notice the background is the same the whole time.

We had a break before we lit the car. This proved a challenge because the sun was moving, and the sheet I put above the windshield showed reflections as the sun moved. The area was not large or high enough, the wind was too strong – and we didn’t have a polariser. We used the marquee from the video village above the car with people holding it in place. This was pretty funny, but it worked!

Shot inside the car on the music clip for God Damn It, My Friend

The next part was a breeze; we filmed on a basically-no-traffic road with personnel at each end, armed with walkie-talkies – to alert us when a car was coming through. “CODE RED”- all cars and people must evacuate the road immediately. During the whole 3 hours, there was only one car, and we were thrilled and excited to see what we were up to. The flies, though, the flies were attacking from everywhere, and were a complete nuisance!! Chelsie found bug repellent in the van (Thanks, Matt). “Spray it everywhere!” I screamed. Chelsie fired the weapon at my face and we waited. “I think it worked”, we laughed. We filmed each person jumping into the car, finished with a few band stills, and we were on our way home. The drive home was much quieter than the drive up. 

– Emel Berdilek – DOP and Director

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