“Well this place isn’t creepy or anything. Nope!”
That was the general reaction to the location we scouted — and ultimately used — for production of our latest music video for the band No Bad Juju. The video debuted to a crowd of about 400 people at a release party, hosted by Rivers Casino, on July 14, and the question our team was asked most frequently was, “Where did you shoot that?” The inspiration for selecting this location naturally comes from the song itself, in which lead vocalist Sabrina De Matteo expresses frustration over being just a toy in someone’s collection.
In formulating a concept, director Sean Montgomery said the phrase “toys in the attic” was the first visual that came to mind. So he set out to find something resembling a grungy attic, and finding this spot was like unearthing a diamond in the rough. It’s actually the wine cellar of a business located in Harmony, PA — a quaint little town about 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh. It was intrinsically a very cool location — one that certainly could have been used “as-is” — but the set only really came to life after our crew decided to fill the area with a collection of toys.
Gathering those toys was arguably the most time consuming part of pre-production. We knew we wanted toys that had a bit of an edge or creepy vibe to them, and so we settled on porcelain dolls and teddy bears. It was a unifying effort between the crew and No Bad Juju’s network that ultimately got us what we needed. Some were acquired through “less than ideal channels” (oh hi Craigslist), while others were dug out of closets and donated by friends and family.
Mark Matteo, co-founder of No Bad JuJu, says his inspiration for writing the song is from witnessing relationships around him that are not based on true love; instead, they are founded more on possession or ownership. This message was further executed by having Sabrina dress up as a toy herself, her face partially obscured by a decorative mask and her backside adorned with a large toy crank. Both of these wardrobe pieces were custom fabricated by our prop wizardress Austacia McConville:
In terms of equipment, we of course used our in-house RED Epic Dragon to shoot the video. Paired with a couple Schneider Xenon FF lenses, this camera never fails to produce stellar imagery with wonderful skin tones. This was our first time experimenting with the Schneider lenses, but we’re sufficiently impressed with the result. They are built like tanks and give images that are sharp, but not clinically so. Moving forward, they will likely be our go-to lenses and we highly recommend our friends in film to give them a try!
As far as lighting is concerned, we had a relatively simple setup. A single joker 800 HMI was placed high on a C-stand, tucked into one of the arches. This light, in combination with a Radiance haze machine, created a strong shaft of light that resembled sunlight beaming into an attic window. To the left and right of the camera were wafer-thin LiteMat LEDs, which were being used to create a soft fill for the toys sitting on the barrels. They were dimmed to around 50% output so as to not be distracting. Once we had wrapped the wide angle, those LEDs were moved in to help illuminate Sabrina’s face on the close-ups.
On the day of production, everything fell into place perfectly. Well… almost everything. In what was easily the most serendipitous moment for us, the location wasn’t ideal for our music amplifier. In a nutshell, this means Sabrina couldn’t hear the studio track being played because the brick was just eating every ounce of volume being emitted. Enter the saviors of the day: two very helpful gents from Harmony Sound Company, Chuck Glenn and Mark Bodin. We never would have imagined a well-equipped sound company being located in the middle of Harmony, but their presence was an absolute godsend. 20 minutes later and they arrived on our set with an amplifier seemingly capable of moving mountains. Our shoot could have been a disaster had it not been for them.
On a final note, a decidedly fun part of our set design was creating the cobwebs. While the wine cellar itself actually had several preserved cobwebs, we wanted more. And we wanted them ON the toys, to suggest that the dolls had been sitting around idly for some length of time. We accomplished this by building what some might consider a Frankenstein tool, seen above. What you see is nothing more than a power drill, fitted with an aluminum fan blade and a small Tupperware container on the end. That container was filled with a small amount of rubber cement. And just slightly under the red lid was a very, very small hole. When you turn the drill on, the rubber cement escapes (slowly) through the hole and is distributed as finely woven strands of glue. Blasting our cobweb gun for about a minute produced an intricate mess akin to what you see in the video screenshot above.
That’s it, friends! We hope this blog post gave you some insight into our processes for creating a video which we’re very proud of. We certainly hope this will be the first of many music videos we get to produce for No Bad Juju, because they are a tremendous group whose musical talents are surpassed only by their fun attitudes and collective drive to be successful. If you haven’t yet seen the final video, enjoy it below!
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