I was recently involved with the production of the music video for Argyle Smile's "Every Song." I got the opportunity to interview director Alex Lamb about the video. Check it out!
JC: Why did you choose to shoot this video. Did you choose it or did the band choose it?
Alex Lamb: I chose to shoot a video to this song because the song inspired the idea. In fact, [band member] Jared Parsons and producer, Jon Guillen, both thought that it was an odd choice for a music video at first considering the other songs that were on Argyle Smile’s demo.
JC: How did you come up with the concept.
AL: I was listening to the song and it just hit me. I don’t’ really know why dominoes came up in my mind, but they did. The only thing that I really knew right away was that I wanted the dominoes to feel like a character that followed Jared around rather than something that he set up the previous day. I also knew that I wanted to show Jared and Dana’s dominoes dancing together.
Then after about an hour of toying with the idea in my head, I had a rough story that fits pretty much what you see in the finished video. A lot of details were filled out weeks or even months after the idea though. The art gallery was originally going to be a record store that Jared’s character worked at and Dana’s character was going to be a regular costumer that always came in and flirted with him, but we heard that we could get an art gallery for free, so we changed it. I guess it worked for the story though. In fact, the free art gallery fell through and we had to dress an empty loft up with all of our friends’ art pieces. So, even though it was an idea that came out of happenstance, it became something that we considered necessary for the story, at least in our eyes.
Also, Jared resetting his dominoes at the end was something that we came up much later in pre-production. That’s what really tells the story I think. The fact that we see that this guy goes through the same thing every day, and that even though he gets disappointed, he’s going to try again tomorrow. I think that it makes it so much more powerful to see him set up the dominoes again at the end of the video. That was never in the original pitch.
JC: How many dominoes did you buy?
AL: I think we bought six hundred and some odd dominoes. A little over 300 black and 300 white. We used pretty much all the dominoes at once in the spiral shot. I think that was the biggest domino shot, and we didn’t get it the first time, so we had to reset that whole thing. I KNOW we used all of the dominoes when we did foley. We set up another spiral and four microphones at different positions so that we could get a long track of constantly falling dominoes.
JC: What were some of the highs and lows of the shoot?
AL: I’m going to start with the low points because that’s how the video started. The first day of the shoot was one of the most nerve racking and disappointing days of my life. It started with false hope. We got the shot of Jared’s feet walking down the hall from his bedroom to the bathroom and the dominoes following him. It took about three or four takes I think, and we were really happy with what we got when we finished. We looked at each other and thought, “hey, this is going to be easy.” The rest of the day was crap. We shot for about seventeen hours. Our crew left after twelve hours and we called all of our friends who were getting off work to come and fill in as our backup crew and we shot for five more. I think we got about three or four shots in that day that we ended up using in the final video. We knew that it was going to be hard to shoot dominoes, but I don’t think we understood how much time it was going to take to reset them. Usually, after you shoot a take and it doesn’t work, you just do it again because all the lights and camera are set up already. However, when you have to reset a couple hundred dominoes, that adds forty minutes to every take.
I felt horrible at the end of that day. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t want to lose my leadership skills, so I held it in and just hugged [Cinematographer] Max. The hug said everything. We’re sort of gay that way. Fortunately, each day after that went a little smoother than the day before. So by the end of the video, we were all domino toppling experts.
I think that the highlight of the shoot for me was the third day of shooting. It was the day that we shot in the bedroom. Every day up until then was really grueling, and I was so stressed and anxious, I wasn’t sure if the video was going to work out. That day though, we ended up getting so many shots that just made me smile. I loved the dolly shots of Jared asleep in the bed and crawling in to bed, the first and last shots of the video. They both took a LOT of takes, but when we finally got them, I knew that whatever else we shot was going to be bookended with these two shots and I wanted them to be perfect. I’m really proud of those shots and REALLY proud of Max Well for pulling them off.
I also remember getting really excited about the shot of Jared’s feet stepping into the slippers. All we really planned was to show the dominoes go by and have his feet come down, but on set I decided that I wanted to see the train pass as well. This took a lot of practice. We had one guy (a certain JC) running the train, one guy toppling the dominos, Jared stepping down at the perfect time, and an AC pulling focus for all of these things. When we finally got that shot, I think I started giggling. Is that weird?
The other shot we got that day that blew my mind was the shot of Jared leaving his house. I don’t say that in a conceited way at all; I had nothing to do with why that shot was awesome. The credit can only go to Jared and Max. Max set that shot up and was able to get the crew to operate the dolly in an incredibly cramped space, and Jared amazed us all with his uncanny ability to walk at the same speed as toppling dominoes. That was something we were really worried about in pre-production, was that they would go way to fast for Jared to be able to walk naturally and keep up with the dominoes. I think he might have practiced at home. Every time we had to do another take, it had something to do with camera or lighting, it was never because Jared couldn’t keep up with the dominoes. He makes it look so effortless, jerk.
JC: Anything you would change about the video?
AL: The opening shot of the art gallery. There is so much I would change about that shot. I wish that the frame started tighter on Jared and pulled out to where it is at the end of the shot. I also wish that we had an extra or two cross the screen so that the shot didn’t seem so flat. I just don’t buy that shot. Also, I think that the dominoes could be revealed a little later. We were so rushed that whole day. Most anything that I’ve ever wanted to change in the video is from the art gallery shots. Fortunately that’s really the only shot that still bugs me though. I hate that it’s right in the middle of the video too, because youtube and facebook use it for the thumbnail. It’s just a frozen frame from the one shot I don’t like.
JC: Does it have anything to do with Mike Burrows or me in the background? Honest.
AL: Ha Ha. No. Well, actually, sort of yeah. I don't like the way that I directed you, Erin, and my mom to move. But it's not your fault, it's mine. Mike did great. Mike didn't even know he was in the video until I pointed it out to him because Jared's performance is so enthralling.
JC: Fair enough. Jared is sort of dreamy... like the glitterboy from Twilight. So, if you could shoot a video about me, what would it be?
AL: I would dress you up like the Easter Bunny and you would walk around with a basket full of Faberge eggs. You would deliver the eggs to all of the girls that like you, but instead of handing the egg to them, you’d throw it to the ground, smashing it. Somehow that would magically destroy the girls’ lives in different ways. I’ve got some ideas, but I want to talk to you about them first. I wouldn’t pitch this idea to just anyone, you’re the most bitter person I know. I think it fits you.
JC: I'm all sunshine and smiles. What are some of your music and film influences?
AL: I’m not really a musician, but I love Ozma. I guess that Argyle Smile influenced this particular video. Film on the other hand I could list so many influences. I think for this video particularly though, I would have to say Tim Burton, Wes Anderson, and Michel Gondry. Tim Burton, because we watched the opening to "PeeWee’s Big Adventure" a bunch to get ideas of how to visually show a chain reaction/Rube Goldberg kind of device. Wes Anderson, because I think a lot of the shots remind me of Wes Anderson. I don’t think we did that consciously, but people have pointed it out to me, and I agree with them, so there was probably some subliminal influence. I don’t know if any aesthetic aspects of the video were influenced directly by Michel Gondry, but I know that I was watching a lot of his music videos the week that I came up with the concept, so I have to imagine that he sparked the idea somehow in my brain.
JC: Do you like black licorice?
AL: I like Good N Plenty
JC: What is in store for you, Argyle smile, and the video? Any new projects?AL: Argyle Smile’s EP is due out at the end of May and the video is going to be available on the CD. As for the video alone, we’re sending it to lots of festivals. It’s already generated a lot of interest from bands that want to hire us independently, but we hope to start working with some record companies soon so that we can get bigger budgets.
We’re talking to a couple bands right now that have seen the “Every Song” video and want to hire us, but nothing is official yet. Surf Monkey Pictures has two pretty big projects lined up though; both are web series. One is starring Joey Derryberry as the Long Beach independent talent agent, Mel Greenwood. The other is the original animated series developed by Nolan Wang called Stick Figures. They should both be premiering this summer if we get off our asses.
JC: If you could shoot any band's music video, who would it be?
AL: Van Halen
JC: What is Jared's email address?
AL: Just message him at www.myspace.com/smileargyle. If he doesn’t get the email, Dana will, but she’s hot so it’s sort of a win win.
JC: Thanks, Alex.
Alex Lamb is from Long Beach, CA but now lives in Beverly Hills. He graduated from Chapman University in 2006 with a BFA in Film Production. He is now an editor and director.
Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Alex-Lamb/55879215871
Check Argyle Smile out on the internet:
-jc del barco ii