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Tackling our Largest Production with a Plan: Dark Island's Music Video for Paradise

The music video for "Paradise" sticks out as a favorite to many familiar with our work and close to our hearts. It is built on what we do best at JECP, infusing band performance shots with elegant b-roll landing in the art-driven category. That's not what makes this video so unique, though.

It's the plan.

Let's rewind. Dark Island is a hard rock band from Northeast Ohio with a lovely usage of hard rock and smooth vocals. The track features a more upbeat feel with powerful dark lyrics, which lends itself to a nice juxtaposition. That works well for developing an intentional shot list, more variety in art direction, and more meaningful lighting usage than playing to trends.

To start every great plan begins with good communication. Shawn Lauderback was our key contact and vision driver for the project. We built a lot of this video from previous music videos they had done, leaving the foundation for the band's vivid fashion and bold looks. You can see this below in the Nervous music video directed by Vince Lundi.

From here, Shawn expressed they wanted to take a big swing with the following video and leaned on us to build from the track's feeling and lyrical content. We felt this song had two feelings within one, and this set the groundwork for the four looks we developed.

How far can you dream?

We have to be realistic, which can be counterintuitive to dreaming. It's such a fine line, really, but something we've got good at with the JECP process for making great art. Money is a resource to solve problems. The band wanted something big but needed to be within a respectable budget. One way you can look at this is limited. Another is resourceful.

To be resourceful is to innovate, challenge ourselves and grow. At the time of this production, we were looking for creative opportunities to grow, and one big area was in the set building. Our creative lead on this project was Ross Theisen and Josh Emerick. After a brief conversation, Ross drove the idea home of taking a more significant swing, so that let us pitch the initial and approved concept to Dark Island for the Glassworld look, including the terrarium we eventually built the day of the shoot.

The real nuts and bolts of how we saved Dark Island and a few others' money while increasing quality...

You'll hear everyone preach how vital communication is, and it's true, but what do they mean. When producing this video, we were chatting with our friends in Hello Luna and In Dying Arms. All three artists had various projects that needed heavy lifting with healthy budgets but lower than the creative could handle, so we presented a solution to make the most of the budgets, meet their dreams, and keep us happy. We batch-produced all three projects back to back.

The benefit and reason this worked are that we could apply the gear rentals and location rentals across all three projects, saving a lot in the production expenses lines and allowing us to maintain crew needs and props and art department purchases for each video. Additionally, all three projects had similar gear rentals and location needs but varied in crew size, art department, and people power, making this the perfect trifecta to maximize budgets and keep all parties happy.

At JECP, we strive to keep artists sustainable and not compromise creative ideas or quality. Theres more than one way to solve a problem, and bands are plagued with financial challenges. We work as a partner and partner with other greats, OHD being one of them.

Sorry for the detour; back to the creative.

Outside of the lead concept, Glassworld, we also built three other scenes for a single production day. Usually, this might be too much, mainly including set building, props, several lighting changes, and staying on schedule, but the plan came to our rescue, along with OHD's internship program.

Our day consisted of four looks: Sunny, Dark, Storm, and Glassland. With so many scenes, we needed a space to build two sets simultaneously to maximize time and people. So throughout the day, we created the terrarium as the final shot and used the center of OHD studio for our Dark Daze look, stage left for the Sunny Daze look, and center for Storm, the smallest footprint.

We organized the day to start with Sunny Daze since it had all the hanging plants, more lighting, and was highly stylized. This built a lot of front-end momentum and made it so the band could show up and get straight to work for the day with us. Moving through this, we opened up to Dark Daze, which was more minimalistic and vast, using haze and lighting to set the mood and feel. While these two sets were going on, Ross and the Art Department constructed the clouds for Storm, and Josh and the other Art PAs were building the terrarium for Glassworld. These happened in near-perfect timing, so Storm was ready, and that flew by with only two takes, then moved into Glassworld, where we shot the b-roll and a few supporting vocal performances.

Outside of time, each of these scenes means something. Music videos are about sprinkling in subtle symbolism and bridging things together. That thinking helps us stay intentional, use time and money wisely, and feel like artists.

BTS Video for the Project | Filmed by Luis Bazan & Edited by Jenna Van Kley

The Sunny Daze set was staged to visually feel like Paradise with warm lighting, bright lighting, and all the plant life. This was an obvious look for the video, and we used orange, yellow, and a touch of red to make up the color palette and a pearlescent and promist filter to create a more dreamlike feeling to the cinematography. We used many of these scenes to kick the film off and invite viewers in with band shots.

Dark Daze was the opposite, feeding more into the turn in the lyrical content of the film. We shot wide for performances to feel empty and alone, using lots of shadows and occasional strobe lighting. These shots pushed the band to bring out more energy and aggression, again juxtaposing the smoother performances we dialed in for Sunny Daze. These looks went against each other dramatically. We used a streak filter and shot with a more snappy shutter angle of 90 degrees for extra style points to push that aggressive feel more.

Storm was only used for a few special sections of the song and only featured vocal performances. This was a physical creation of the Storm in our minds, where we used china balls, polyfill, and programmable lights to create an excellent physical cloud prop around Ryland in the video. While these shots are short-lived, they were great for breaking up the edit with the intention of the concept.

Moving into the last look, Glassworld, we wanted these to be the most impactful shots. So we shot four performances with Ryland laid down and singing for a more unique performance and stylized the lighting to match the Sunny and Dark Daze look. Again, this allowed us to bridge all worlds together and marry the creative. In building this scene, we covered the inside with peat moss and artificial plants but contained in the glass world. The meaning behind this was that we often fight our emotional battles inside. It can be a dark place or a place of beauty, but we have decisions to make. We all grow, but only if we learn to deal with our hardships, be vulnerable with others, and share what's inside. The plants and space represented growth inside, where the lighting influenced our emotions and tied to the other looks.

A little history and redemption.

So, all in all, the Paradise video is beautiful, but it's chalked full of meaning. That's important to us and to the bands we work with. If things are too on the nose, it doesn't feel like art for us, and in the same way, we think that if it only looks cool, theres no substance. Music videos are a fine art with an opportunity to build your brand, market yourself and build partnerships.

This project is our largest "successful" project in JECP history. We keep our crews small for two reasons. Quality communication and budgetary. Focusing on quality videos within reasonable budgets, we have traditionally held our crew footprint to 3-5 per project. Still, for Paradise, we needed people power, and this landed as an 11-person crew.

The thing is, we've done a 13-crew project a few years before, and while the project came out beautiful, we all look back on it with painful memories of mistakes. With that project, the communication went downhill, our plan wasn't concrete, and we were riddled with technical issues that weren't resolved swiftly or up to our standard of excellence. This was 2018, and it hurt.

Fast forward to 2021, and Dark Island allowed us to redeem ourselves. So overcoming that hurdle, we planned more than ever. There were hiccups, new problems, and many questions throughout the day. Yet, we answered each new challenge with quick answers, listened to our team, and empowered them to be decision-makers as much as we were. This mental switch worked and marks our biggest project to date and one worth celebrating.

We're so grateful to the artists who trust us, challenge our thinking and give us opportunities to prove our process. This project is unique to us. We hope this article was enlightening and inspiring.


Ross Theisen | Director & Art Director

Josh Emerick | Producer & DP

Noah Hines | Camera Op

Trevor O'Neal | Gaffer

Will Fairbanks | Art Department

Christian Mott | Production Assistant

Luis Bazan | BTS Video

William Wurzelbacher | OHD Production Swing & BTS Photo


Sammy Lahiri | Art PA

Robby Sliwinski | Art PA

Owen Freshour | Art PA

Production Powered by & Shot at OHD Studios

Are you ready to book your next music video? Book a free discovery call with Josh Emerick at JECP to take your music video to the next level.

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