Friday, January 12, 2018

I Wanted to be a Music Video Producer

It was 1981 when MTV launched, and it would soon become a household name. We couldn't wait to view the latest music videos from our favorite artists. Do you remember those days? I was mesmerized. Below is one of the videos that I would later produce to Madonna's "Rescue Me" for fun. Read on to find out how it all began, and to watch another teaser video I created for the same song.


I was already in college pursuing my degree in Mechanical Engineering when I happened upon the campus RHA (Resident Halls Association), which allowed you to check out a camera/VHS recorder combo. The VHS deck strapped over your shoulder, and then you'd attach the camera to it. Very cumbersome. But, hey, it was free! Through the use of this equipment, I made my first music video to the song "Games People Play" by the Alan Parsons Project. With the help of the cable TV public access studio down the street, I taught myself how to edit on 3/4" Sony tape-to-tape decks. I was hooked.

In the summer of 1984, I interned at IBM in Endicott, New York. With my summer savings I purchased my own RCA camera and recorder. That following year, dozens of my college dorm mates would usher themselves into my room and we'd shoot one-take videos while they lip-synced to the music track input from my Technics cassette deck. I also produced another music video to the song "Fantasy" by Earth, Wind, and Fire. The State newspaper wrote an article on my endeavors titled, "Vic Video is Student's Alter Ego." After graduation I put snippets of those videos together in one long montage for a keepsake. It also got me to practice my editing skills.

Cut to 1991 and I was able to purchase my own Sony Hi-Band Beta (remember Beta?) editing decks. Though I worked in the technical field, I still had a passion to create. Luckily, a couple of my jobs required someone with a technical background who could also produce video training and marketing materials. I produced some demo videos for a CAD/CAM company for large trade shows, and I was the scriptwriter for a video magazine on manufacturing technologies.

In 1992 I gathered together a few of my old college mates and produced a video to Madonna's "Vogue" for the MTV "Make My Video" contest. I didn't win, but somehow the video got entered into a Detroit radio contest and I won a trip for two to Disney. To this day I don't know how it was picked. I think someone told me they played it at a bar or something.

Jim and Gayle performing in my video to Madonna's "Rescue Me"
The last music video I completed was in 1992 to Madonna's song "Rescue Me." As you can tell, Madonna was big at the time. I asked a Michigan State University dance instructor if she could put out a word that I wanted two dancers. The only two that showed up, Jim and Gayle, are the two you see in the video. Christine, the lip-syncher, did an excellent job. I shot her portion under an overpass in Troy, Michigan, and also way up on the cliffs of Tobermory, Ontario. I almost fell off one of those cliffs while filming.  A friend of ours, Pam, came along to help. I owe her my life for warning me.

What I remembered most was directing the two dancers. We filmed under an overpass in East Lansing, Michigan, next to some train tracks. They only practiced a few moves, but in between the chorus sections they'd start this slow, seductive dance with each other. I guess it was some form of modern dance, and I instantly realized it worked great for the lyrics. It wasn't until a reshoot a few months later that I decided I wanted to end the video with a long kiss. Gayle had cut her hair a bit shorter by then, and her boyfriend wasn't all too keen on her kissing another guy, though she convinced him it was just acting. Jim and Gayle grew up together and they were great sports.

The video below I produced to get Jim and Gayle excited about going back for the finishing shots. They hadn't seen anything until that point. I also wanted to make a long-form video to the extended version of the song, but that never happened. I moved back to Western New York for a bit, and the last thing I remember is trying to get a group of women from a church choir to perform in it.

Music is such an important part of any video production. I'll even venture to say that it's the most important part. To this day I spend hours looking for the right pieces for film trailers and short edited pieces. I consider documentary and film trailers to be mini music videos; so, in a way, I have achieved my dream of becoming a music video producer.


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