The last post was supposed to simply be an introduction to this one… except I got carried away. This post is about process, and what goes into the making of a music video. From beginning to bloody end 🙂
Sandwich is one of my favorite bands to work with. I’ve known Myrene and Diego since my formative teens (I actually dedicated my first movie Gamitan to both of them) and have been a fan of their band since its inception, so much so that I actually did their first interview back in 1998.
When Diego asked me to do the video for the new single, I was overjoyed. For one thing I hadn’t done a music video in three years, unless you count this pretty horrible Call Me Maybe parody I did for Business School. For another, it was Sandwich. I love Sandwich, and I love the videos I’ve worked on for the band. 2005’s Masilungan was Diego’s and my first foray into that whole “urban depression” thing, and 2008’s Procrastinator was a landmark in my life in so many ways.
But what do you do with a band you’ve done so many videos with? And how do you come back to a medium you were so close to after such a long time? We had to shake things up, mess with the status quo. I listened to the song a number of times, and I couldn’t get the idea of a girl going increasingly out of control out of my head. And so I wrote them this treatment:
I’ve been thinking about music videos lately, and how no one seems to watch them anymore. Gone are the days when people would ask each other “have you seen _______’s latest video?” and people would wait by the TV screen for these videos on Myx and MTV. The strange thing is, ever since music videos have become so readily available on Youtube and online media, people seem to have taken them for granted.
Maybe that’s good for musicians. Maybe it’s back to basics for the artists now, where people focus on the song and nothing else (albums, videos, promotion). And maybe when we think of a music video, especially for a band that’s been documented and shot so many times, we should think of it as a separate entity—a short film set to music.
At this point in Sandwich’s career you guys have been shot from every possible angle already; from black and white and kinetic to stop motion and fun to urban and depressing. What about a Sandwich video without the band?
And this is what I propose Kagulo be: a short film set to music without the band. The whole thing centers around an actress who has that perfect mix of sweet and wicked. She’s on a date with someone. It’s nice, sweet, cute. So much so that it doesn’t even cut along to the music. They then decide to go and drink a bit and end up in Finder’s Keepers. She gets wilder, has alcohol poured into her mouth, starts dancing on the table. Her date, Edward Mendez, is getting a little weary and turned off. She brings him to Black Market. There she goes absolutely nuts. She starts slapping her date around, finding it fun. She bounces from person to person. She dances like a crazy person. Then she rides piggyback on her date, and ends up slitting his throat with a razor. At the very end it’s just a close up of our heroine, covered with blood, looking around her, strobe lights flashing on her face.
During Mong’s wedding Diego suggested that we go all out with the video. Don’t hold back, go for the kill. He cited Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up video, and how we shouldn’t care about censors with this one. He made complete sense. I remember having to cut out the drug use and suicide in Sugar Free’s Mariposa, and the hammer-to-head shots of Urbandub’s Evidence, and I didn’t want to go through that again.
So we shot another video.
Which was great, because Raimund wanted a performance in there anyway. But Sandwich is a band that has been shot so many times, and so well at that. How do we make it different? Well, why not just shoot everything in one shot? And why not put our heroine in it, linking it to the other version? So we did.
And it was fun, except while I was watching it I got super bored. Then I realized something: while watching the video on my laptop, listening to my headphones at full blast, all the people around me were just going about their business. I loved the contrast. I took out my phone, shot the screen, and sent it over to editor Maui Mauricio with the following text: “tell me if i’ve gone completely insane.”
“I like it. Fuck the man,” he replied. That made me feel a bit better, though I still felt I was going nuts. I showed it to the band, with the preamble that yes, I might have gone completely mad. Raimund at first thought i couldn’t get the original file to work and had to shoot the screen. I told him, “Nope. This is it. Like, this is what’s gonna be onscreen.”
He liked it, surprisingly, but asked that other stuff happen in the cafe. So I reshot it during another meeting, and here it is.
Now is probably the perfect time to bring up Bianca King, she of the closet housewife fame, who did all this crazy shit in the video and yet will go on her probiotic diet and bake you gluten-free banana muffins right after. The girl was a complete trooper, and a literal life saver. The original actress meant for the role backed out at the very last minute, and I just cold-called BK without warning.
Bianca: What’s up?
Me: I need you to act in a music video.
Bianca: Sure! When?
Me: … tomorrow.
Me: I know. I’m so sorry.
Bianca: OK. I have one meeting but I’ll cancel it.
She’s also quite the gifted actress. I remember being really shy directing her and Annicka Dolonius during the girl-on-girl kissing scene and moving on right away. Both girls approached me after and said “you should have let us do one more take.” How can you not love that. We found her the perfect foil in my trainer, True Dream Body Edward Mendez, and without those two this video definitely wouldn’t have happened.
When you’re a music video director you also end up being a production manager at times; begging, borrowing and stealing to get the shots you want. I was lucky enough to have Anna Sobrepeña Ong allow us to use the whole Black Market compound, which is an amazing location with the best employees. A lot of them appear in the video, and many who frequent Finder’s Keepers are sure to recognize them. We also had to text and call friends and loved ones to appear as extras in the video, and that still wasn’t enough. We had to shoot the big shots with crowds some other day, but if you’ll look at the last few shots of the video there are really only around eight people present. That’s why we kept on using close-ups.
In the end, this is our finished product. It’s funny how people who don’t know me get so shocked by the video’s ending, while those who do go “of course that was going to happen.” You always go back to your first love, i guess. Mine happens to be crazy violent girls.
Before closing, I’d like to thank the team, because the team is everything. Mads Adrias is the best producer in town, and I’m always grateful to work with her (and Alrik). Diego Castillo was and will always be the man, and I’d like to thank him for being as valuable offscreen as he was on. This is the first time I’ve worked with DoP Tristan Salas, and we were blown away at how talented this kid was. Sharon See is super sungit but also super talented (that blood effect!) and I love her to itty bitty bits. Maui Mauricio is a true champion of the medium, and you can see it with his super-awesome web series The Playground. Mihk Vergara always just shows up and does awesome work even though I never ask him to. And Tracy Abad brought pizza and actually danced as much as she hated it. Nobody got paid, I shelled out some of my own money, I had to pull in tons of favors. I remember now why I promised myself I’d stop making music videos. Can’t wait to make the next one.