INTERVIEW WITH MUSIC VIDEO DIRECTOR, JIMMIE MYERS
Not sure which part of the process you mean, but It started here in L.A. Daniel called me up for a CD listening party they were having in Hollywood. I headed over there, and mentioned a concept I'd been thinking about that would involve shooting underwater and drowning the band. I shot them a treatment the next day, and a month later I was in scuba gear shooting it.
Ricky Aguirre, Justin Miller, Troy Stains and I built the sets by hand inside Sea Hunt Scuba in St. Augustine. They were designed to break down into 10'x10' pieces so we could rebuild them on dry land and in the water without too much trouble. Johnny Ching (our DP) did an outstanding job lighting everything. We shot with a RED One camera in an underwater housing for all of the submerged stuff, and used underwater lighting for those bits. Those things are pretty scary... you're basically dropping a power line in the pool. Very dangerous, but we were safe about it and all was well.
How was it working with such a big band in the hardcore industry like Underoath?
It was great! Like I said, I've known the dudes for a while; I actually assistant engineered on Lost In the Sound of Seperation when I was working at Matt Goldman's studio in Atlanta. We all grew up in Florida, and my high school band played a show with them in... '99? It was Tim's first show with them, Dallas (their old singer) set himself on fire, and Daniel was playing with Lutikriss (which became Norma Jean). Good times. Small world.
Anyway, their manager Randy Nichols, and the whole band were fantastic to work with. I was asking them to do some pretty ridiculous stuff, and they had to trust that it's going to turn out well. They're leaping into the water, getting blasted by funnels of it, treading water in jeans... they were awesome about it all. Honestly, the worst part for them might have been all of the waiting in between stuff.
What inspired you to do the underwater effects on this music video?
Hard to say exactly. I grew up swimming almost every day, so I imagine it's always been rooted in my subconscious. That, and I love the movie The Abyss. It occurred to me one day that it would look amazing if a subject and the camera were upside down underwater. You'd get all of those reflections on the surface, but it would feel like the floor. Then, naturally, I thought it would look amazing to see people falling upward through the floor. To toy around with physics. That's how it started, and the end of the video is a result. The rest fleshed out naturally while listening to the song and brainstorming with my production designer, Ricky.
The ghost family story was loosely borrowing from the logic of the Shining. It's a house in which the victims of a shipwreck have aimlessly returned as ghosts, and are reliving their drownings at sea in their home. The idea was that it's been filling up with water over and over again since the 70's. The band happens to be there this time, to their detriment. But mostly it's supposed to bring a vibe. The hope was to assemble a series of images that arch thematically and conjure a set of feelings. The song is about being buried. It's similar to drowning, and it's a feeling of desperation, and isolation, and helplessness.
How long have you been working on music videos with artists? What's your long-term goal in the film industry?
I've been doing videos for a few years now. I did my first one in 2008 with Troy Stains for a band called The Explorers Club. It was a super low fi riff on all those old Hall and Oates videos from the 80's with black backgrounds and soft focus. It's been one step at a time since then, and I've gotten to work with some great artists through the years.
My long term goal is to write and direct feature films. I've always loved the old works of Spielberg, John Hughes, Chris Columbus, Ridley Scott... and scripts are underway.
What motivated you to work in the music film industry?
I've wanted to since a was really young. My brother and I would spend hours shooting movies on a VHS camera; freestyling dialogue while framing up GI Joes, experiment with lighting by pulling a lamp under the bed... setting up basic special effects gags with fire works and fake blood. This continued through high school, where I managed to talk most of my teachers into letting me shoot videos instead of making a poster board presentation or a written book report. I spent some time trying to make a career out of playing guitar, but realized that the thing I always get the most satisfaction from is telling stories, and films are my means of doing that. I still play guitar though.
What artists have you previously worked with before Underoath?
Like I mentioned before, Explorers Club was the first, then Junior Doctor from my home town. I did two videos for the hip hop group Arrested Development last year, and it was a wonderful experience. I did one for Atlanta band the Debutaunts as well.
What is your process like when you begin working on a music video to gather ideas?
It's a bit hard to describe. I'll sort of mentally combine elements until something fits and feels fresh and interesting. Then I'll verbally "mind jam" with one of my friends who are on my creative wavelength. That's usually Troy Stains or Ricky Aguirre. I'm a talker, so talking out ideas is how I sense how they'll feel. It's an odd process... in ways it's a bit like writing a song. You search in your mind for the chords that feel right, play them, and when you've played a good series of them... you just sort of know. It takes time.
Do you have a genre of music that you'd like to stick to when it comes to work? Or, are you openminded to all types?
I'd like very much not to stick to a particular genre. It's all about new and interesting combinations. I grew up on mostly punk rock and metal, but the way my mind works, when applied to hip hop or electronica could be a much more exciting combo than something more predictable for the genre. Ultimately, it's all about the energy in a song, and what visuals it conjures in my head. A consistency will always emerge, I think.
Are there difficulties working in the musical film industry? As we don't seem to air music videos as much anymore on TV programs like MTV and Fuse, what are the struggles you go through?
The industry is in flux for sure. It's very hard to predict where all of it is going, and it seems to me that the change itself is speeding up. This Underoath video is airing on MTV and Fuse, but it was also featured on the front page of Vevo when it premiered. That's YouTube's new dedicated music video channel, and it seems like a smart solution for now. It's the Hulu of music videos I guess, but who's to say where it will go from there? The goal is to be malleable enough to move with it.
There are plenty of struggles. Videos going mostly to the web have affected budgets, but technology has also made certain aspects of production more affordable. The hardest part is still "breaking in", getting representation, and structuring a business... it's something I'm still figuring out. It's fiercely competitive, and it takes a lot of tenacity to keep going. Fortunately, I have a lot of that.
What advice would you give an aspiring music video director?
First, go make stuff right now. Gather whatever resources you have, do your research (and research is a big deal), and then shoot. Be critical of what you make, and plan for improvements next time. Then make a "next time" happen. Practice is what makes you good. Not thinking about it. Second, be persistent, and like I said before, tenacious. You want to be a director. Welcome to the club. No one will walk up to you and say "Oh, you want to be a director? I have a job for you!" It just doesn't happen. You have to make the work, prove you're capable of making great things, and then pursue work incessantly. It isn't as easy as it sounds, and it's usually not as fun as it seems. It will melt your brain. But it's deeply gratifying. Third, realize there's always a bigger potato, and at every stage you'll wonder if you're a potato at all.