Monday, November 14, 2011

Scale It Back

One day, I got up at the crack of dawn to take the early train down to Cardiff, and waiting for me in the basement of an abandoned shop were a huge cast of unusual people and props. "Hello, I'm Ray, I'm the old man," said an old man. "Yes, I thought you probably were, but I didn't want to ask in case you were someone else," I replied. "Hi, I'm Toby, I'm doing the monkey," said someone else. A small girl called Teeohnee flapped by in a pterodactyl costume, and her mother Alison told me she recognised me from the telly. The giant green snake lying in the corner just grinned at us.

When Buzz the eagle owl arrived, he was immediately the centre of attention, and quickly proved to be the most reliable and patient of the actors, happy to just sit on his perch staring at people, making occasional squawky noises that reminded me of an electric screwdriver, and never failing to glare at the camera when it came over to him. He was a much more talented actor than the remote-control hummingbird, which quickly proved to be temperamental and moody.

But everybody was able to work together in the end to produce a masterpiece:

DJ Shadow "Scale It Back" from Ewan Jones Morris on Vimeo.

Okay, I'm not an actor. The music and fun start at about the 1-minute mark. Feel free to skip ahead.

The music is "Scale It Back", by DJ Shadow featuring Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon. The directors and creative geniuses who had the idea of making one of my mental journeys into a music video were Ewan Jones Morris and Casey Raymond. It was all filmed in one continuous take, which meant nine hours of continuous filming, a lot of it spent hiding in a rapidly-disintegrating cardboard cake. But it was well worth it for that finished product!

It's a real pack of cards: 5h 3h 8c 2c Ac 3d 6c 6d Ah 4s 2s Kc 9s 8s Ad 7d 4c 5d Qs 5s 10h 3c Jc 3s Kd 6s 9d 5c 8h Jd 7h 10c 4h 9c 2h Qd Qc Jh 10s Qh 7c 6h 9h 4d As 8d Ks Kh 2d 10d Js 7s. And I did actually memorise it, but what you see at the start of the video is take four or five, so I'm fake-memorising cards I've already looked at.

Some of the images are changed from the ones in my head, mainly for copyright reasons - the generic pterodactyl is actually Dac from the cartoon Dinobabies (this pterodactyl was much more nice and friendly than mean old Dac), the street-fighter in my head is actually Fuuma from World Heroes, but I just said "street-fighter" and the producers interpreted that as Chun Li, the owl should be an eagle, but eagles aren't easily available in Cardiff, and so on. But apart from that, the interactions and the flow from one scene to another are exactly as they appear in my brain! It's really an uncannily accurate representation of what I'm thinking!


Chris D. said...

That's one of the coolest things I've ever, ever seen, without even slight exaggeration.

Jack said...

Spending lots of time in Wales, but you didn't gimme a shout? -cries-

Awesome vid by the way.

Chris D. said...

I'd love to know the story behind the, well, story.

There must be just as many possible stories as there are ways to shuffle the deck, so 52! of them, which is quite a few.

Is it the case that you shuffled the deck, worked out what the journey arising from that particular shuffle would be, told the directors in advance so that they could arrange all the various props, then rearranged a deck that you fake-memorised on the video to come up with the story that you - and the directors - knew would come out?

I was particularly charmed by seeing your brother in there. Clearly I didn't know who he was, and enjoyed trying to work out who he might be, only to have the secret revealed at the end!

Zoomy said...

The scene of me memorising the cards was filmed a week and a half before the rest of the video. The directors were very keen to have a random sequence with as little 'cheating' as possible - we did four different packs on the day, in a couple of cases changing the images to filter out the cartoon characters and celebrities, and the directors chose their favourite of the four. Then they had ten days to arrange the props and costumes!

They invited my brother to star in the video in person, but since he's in China, we had to make do with a cardboard cut-out.

Chris D. said...

I am still really, really tickled by this. (My favourite photo on the Flickr stream is the one of the old man with the walking stick preparing to duel against the very pretty street fighter...)

Where on earth was it filmed that you might have a set of escalators at your disposal? I don't know Cardiff at all, but I just can't imagine what sort of place it might be filmed at.

Zoomy said...

It was filmed in an empty shop in the Capitol Centre - there's a very small ground floor area, and then escalators down to the larger basement shop floor.

We start in the shop, then the catapult and sofa are in the loading bay, back into the shop for the old man, then from the freezer onwards we're in what used to be the stockroom.