not all labels suck
why the LMTF project was so rewarding for us
Josh Emerick | entry no. 27
We get asked a lot why we don't work with labels all that often. There are many reasons, but the most prominent is that the alignment of values rarely exists. We value personal relationships, and for some reason, this never seems to be prioritized with labels. Truthfully it feels like a race to the bottom with money as the primary focus. We get it, you're a business, but for us, it's crucial to create work that feels effective and in-tune with a bands brand.
The most significant difference we see between labels and locals is that locals tend to be more open to sharing ideas, getting to know who they are spending their money with, and ensuring the project is a success. We're on the same page. All too often, it's the same process with every label. We need a music video for "X" song. Get us a treatment asap. No other information about the art direction, other existing content, strategy for release, personal feelings from the artist, budget limitations, and the list goes on. It's their tactic, but that tactic sucks. As problem solvers, we value understanding our client's desires and expected outcomes. How can that happen without sharing a conversation?
Every once in a while, one breaks the norm, though. That was the case with the recent Like Moths to Flames project "All that You Lost." Working with UNFD, LMTF, and their management team felt natural, fluid, and left us feeling respected for our expertise and care for client experience.
To start, they sought out our director, Ross, personally, because they liked the way he shared details from other projects and his passion for art direction. LMTF (Chris) came to us expressing that they wanted a project that had more emphasis on the creative treatment, having some say in that and putting an idea together that felt collaborative. Our biggest obstacle was building this music video and hitting the release date. We had roughly three weeks to do so.
It's refreshing to be in a conversation with our care for detail being recognized. A bonus was the directness of the time frame of the project, budget available, and how essential this music video this was for the upcoming EP. Having all this information lets us create an effective plan from the start, which impacts the end.
In our meeting, Chris wanted to incorporate the idea of fire, black goo, a coffin, and views around internal battles. He expressed so much trust in letting us take these ideas and turning them into a cohesive project.
With any project, these general ideas start off feeling a bit disconnected until everything starts to align. It's chaos put into rhythm. With less than usual time to visualize, Ross and I decided to divide and conquer. Ross and I both took the day to listen to the song, build our ideas individually, and then reconvene. This method worked well because we both work differently, but in a complementary manner. I tend to live more on the visual ideas from motion, set design, composition, color, and how these elements will all work in post-production. Ross is good at making ideas flow together to form a meaningful story.
From the initial meeting to final treatment, we landed at the vines overtaking Chris in substitution of the coffin, symbolizing anxiety through physical restriction. The vines are there at times and non-existent at others, showcasing these struggles are sometimes our mental battles. We used the black goo to cover the ropes for a touch of realism and pulling from horror themes. To play in the performance and story, we used fire as the source Chris used to warn-off the demonic vines. Combining all of this, we used simple lighting to create a look that felt consistent between the void, Chris's performance, and the storyline.
With the creative in place, our first thoughts were running a safe set, executing within the deadline, and putting a team together that had good chemistry. We decided on the team, dates of production, and started reaching out. Luckily our first picks we're all available, and we moved into production calls, eager to build a successful campaign.
ALBUM CYCLES + STORY-TELLING | THE CREATIVE PROCESS
On day one, we spent a night in the woods, for the main storyline + fire performances. Working overnight in the woods is never easy. Working with limited light and adding fire to the equation, it requires extra layers of safety, caution, and care. A pro-tip for any overnight shoot is to start hours before, with daylight, organizing gear and prepping anything you can before you lose all light. We mapped out three separate locations and pre-gripped our lighting so we could change scenes as quickly as possible. Another helpful piece was using all KinoFlo Select 20 fixtures, so we could easily map out the same lighting values, which helped move the edit in post-production much smoother. We wrapped up into the late night and cleaned up to have a bit of downtime before our second day in the studio.
The second day was in our makeshift studio to create all the remaining scenes needed for the project. We had profile performance shots with the vines on Chris, some VFX of the vines on greenscreen, and the chorus shots with Chris facing camera. A huge benefit to the space we had is how spacious it is. There was enough room for us to stage two sets at once, so while half the team built the set for performances, Josiah was able to lead and shoot all the green screen work with the other half of the team. This day truly felt like a divide and conquer style feat. We made up a lot of time and boosted energy from the previous night.
With production wrapped, we moved into post-production with less than seven days to deliver the final edit. The label had their concerns, and truthfully so did we. Luckily, we had a plan. While I worked the main edit, we had Josiah working the unique VFX scenes. This way, we could plug and play as he completed them. Over the first three days, Ross and I worked through the edit from "RUFFCUT" to "FINECUT" to "FINE_FINECUT." We worked between our internal team and ensured it was solid. This also gave Josiah precisely what he needed for his VFX compositions—so landing at "FINE_FINECUT_3.0", we decided it was good to ship to UNFD. Also, we went ahead and uploaded the files to Dropbox (we had a feeling it was the final).
To our surprise and UNFD, this cut, the first cut they viewed, was deemed the final cut, and we beat the deadline by three days. This may have been one of the best feelings in our career, not only because we nailed out the project under pressure and a short deadline, but because UNFD recognized our efforts and expressed how impressed they were. A deeper layer is that it proved to us how effective our process and strategy could be for creating the best experiences.
This project is quite different from many of our projects. We typically work with a full band, keep performances more simplified and focus on smaller stories, but what we took away was how creative we could be with less. Using one character forced us to dive more rooted in the story and feelings of the song and find the right creative treatment. Our biggest concern was creating a film that felt boring after the first 30 seconds. All That You Lost is a heavy hitter music video that we as a collective are immensely proud of creating.
Ross Theisen | Director
Josh Emerick | DP/Editor
Josiah Moore | VFX Supervisor
Zach Abbott | SFX Coordinator
Trevor O'Neil | Gaff, Grip + Electric
Noah Hines | Fire Safety
Trent Borke | Production Assistant + BTS Photo
John Fleischman | Production Assistant + BTS Video
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LIKE MOTHS TO FLAMES | ALL THAT YOU LOST