IDEA: In their storytelling and filmmaking techniques, ads and music videos overlap only superficially. Having worked on plenty of the former at The Martin Agency, Brig White and Evan Parsons got a chance to try the latter recently, directing a fascinating video for the song "Same Days" by J. Roddy Walston and the Business.
Heather Tanton, a broadcast producer at the agency, made the initial connection; she is friends with lead singer Rod Walston, who lives in Richmond, Va. "Quickly, the concept for 'Same Days' came together, and the band and the record label [ATO Records] loved the idea and let us run with it," she said.
The result is a disturbing, nonlinear narrative full of oblique symbolism—told partly through a series of challenging camera and editing tricks—about the mundane lives of characters whose worlds suddenly and inexplicably intersect.
COPYWRITING: The video has six basic scenes: a woman looking in a mirror in a bathroom; a mother, father and daughter at a candlelit dinner; a fisherman in a boat on a lake; a butcher in his shop; three girls in masks cavorting in a motel room; and a riverside baptism scene. The stories unfold cryptically, a few seconds of each scene at a time.
"Brig and I would have long jam sessions on the wall, sketching out different graphic representations of the story and juxtaposing various symbols," said Parsons, associate creative director at Hue & Cry, Martin's in-house production company. "Rod didn't want a story that the viewer would 'get.' … It was an opportunity to start a conversation and leave the door open to interpretation."
There's an undertone of menace, and hints of madness and murder. At the end, all the people go missing, except for the woman at dinner, now alone, who raises a glass darkly.
"We worked a lot with the idea of 'mundane,' realizing that while most of the world lives a repetitive life, each mundane existence is different and intertwined with others," said White, an acd at Martin. "There is no mundane, only the same old days we each live in. That became the backbone of our thinking and a vehicle for storytelling."
ART DIRECTION/FILMING: White and Parsons shot for three long days in six locations around Richmond. The visual look is natural but dramatic, real but stylized, with cinematic lighting and compositions.
The central filmmaking technique is that the camera is always moving to the right, making the scenes flash by right to left. This makes the film extremely dynamic, but was tough to pull off, particularly as the scenes needed to be stitched together painstakingly in post.
Using a Kessler Shuttle Pod track with a motion control slider, "we were able to run the camera repetitively as far as 20 feet, or as little as four feet, with perfect timed precision, over and over," said Parsons.
TALENT: The directors used some friends and family, though all the key characters were professional actors. The band members do not appear at all to keep a blank slate in terms of interpretation.
SOUND: Music videos are unique in that they feature no sound design—only the song. The lyrics in "Same Days" are themselves cryptic, so the filmmakers didn't feel wedded to them.
"Sometimes when I watch a video that plays too hard off the lyrical content, it seems too obvious, so I liked working in a space that was open," said Parsons.
MEDIA: Online at Vevo.com. There is also an interactive version at samedaysforever.com with a wall of images that lets you jump into any of the six scenes at any moment.
THE MUSIC VIDEO:
Client: J. Roddy Walston and the Business
Director: Brig White, The Martin Agency
Director: Evan Parsons, Hue&Cry
Producer: Heather Tanton