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Shooting for SYFY

Fear Culture Case Study: It's all in the details

entry no. 16

Phobia, became a project that birthed a new phase for JECP. The project was challenging on multiple levels and at a time we felt we needed to try something new as music video creators. We believe our biggest strength is making low budget projects seem huge. This is due to an idea we exercise often. Keep the core idea simple and execute it dynamically and with great detail. We make up for lack of budget by knowing our projects, planning as thoroughly as possible and maximizing time available. This project at it’s core isn’t some compelling story, but visually we feel it’s bullet proof.

Our strong point is the producing for Phobia. Fear Culture wanted something that dealt with anxieties and pressures that surround you in life. Our art direction revolved around the color black, muted tones, mirrors and black goo. This all played as symbolism through props, make-up, reflections, lens distortion and specific lighting choices. We tied things together between the band and scenes with Maggie (creature) and Matt (vocals). Once these details were figured out, we created the “story” or in this case all the scenes needed to make the idea complete. From here we could build the project out logistically with crew, gear, props and time.

Music videos tend to work differently than narratives (not always, but it tends to be the case for us). Our formula tends to be a backbone (the band performance) with an overlaid creative “story” that aides the band, communicates ideas and is art driven. For this project we had four scenes and that’s how we broke it down to maximize our available time and make the bigger idea possible, but to still move it along.

Scene one was the band performance portion. These scenes cover the band and tie in the art direction by keeping tones grey scale, color muted and picture frames that are black and white. The black symbolizes an empty void.

Scene two was the hardest set up with the mirrors. Mirrors were used to showcase reflections and dealing with yourself and inner demons. Some scenes we did with Matt by himself, some with Maggie and some just with Maggie. To make the scene feel inside Matt’s head we used lens whacking as a distortion technic. This not only looks cool, but helped with symbolism. By shooting the variety of shots and not having Matt interact with the creature, but the creature interact with him, it let the edit feel like he was dealing with himself and external pressures.

Scene three is where things get messy. Our lighting direction was the same, but we were introducing the idea of Matt being held down and basically poisoned by the “venom” from the creature. These scenes were shot with Matt on his side to make him feel vulnerable, and at a low or out of control state. The venom being black, stayed in line with art direction and amplified it. Depression can be messy and the venom is exactly that in these scenes.

Scene four was our add on scene to the film. We wanted shots that would flash in the edit and break up the darker framing, as well as showcase the creatures figure as a silhouette. There isn’t much to it other than just visually looking cool, working into the edit and following the color palette of the project.

Time is typically the biggest hurdle for projects. We would love multiple days to perfect scenes, but we have to respect budget and the variables that run cost up. Studio time and rentals being the main thing in this case. To make these scenes possible we made sure we had enough crew and the right people in their roles so we could breeze through the day. In addition we made sure we had enough rentals to prep the next scenes while shooting current ones.

Still, we felt this project needed some extra attention to detail. Josh (Producer) spent a few days prepping a production book that laid out 90% of what the day would look like. Schedule, lighting looks, details and presets, the camera specs, digital tech needs and a ton of small details that answered most questions before shoot day. This book let everyone be on the same page, prepared and able to execute the scenes within the time constraints.

Up until this project we had taken pre-production fairly serious, but not quite to this level. We noticed on set our crew just trusted our ideas as they became a reality rather than knowing what we were really trying to achieve. The production book eliminated a lot of typical questions, let Ross (Director) and Josh remain more focused on creative ideas and even played a role in post-production. Often times we get to editing and feel like we wished we had more details or shots are thought of afterwards. This was not the case and the edit is one of a few that we absolutely love.

Outside of creating amazing films we want our clients and talent(s) experiences to be fun and eventful. This project developed a great relationship with Maddie Worrall (Make-Up Artist). She blew us away with her professional attitude, care to our details and opened our minds to what our projects could be. Maggie, the Creature, was equally important to this projects success. She stayed composed, energetic, took the role serious and had fun during the project. This project was a case of working with the best of the best, where our time, skills and energy were appreciated. We want everyone to feel like we giving a project its all.

All in all, Phobia is a staple for us and was one of the first music videos we decided to buckle down and take pre-production to the next level. Since then we have put most of our emphasis on pre-production, which has only opened more doors for creativity and organization in production and post-production. We hope you enjoyed this read!


Ross Theisen | Director + Art

Josh Emerick | Producer, Cinematographer, Art + Editor

Taylor Tigner | AC

Matty McClelland | Grip + Gaff

J.R. Brewer | BTS Film + PA

Mikaya Collins | PA

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