On the Easter long weekend, a team of 36 people came together for the making of my very first video clip for the title track from my band new album, Hero in Me.
What an experience!
I’ve never made a video clip before. I had little idea of what to expect. I wanted to create a visually exciting video to compliment my music, entice viewers, reach new fans, and ultimately enhance my web persona. I see how important things like YouTube have been for a musician’s profile, and ashamedly I haven’t made video clips a priority. But there’s a first for everything.
It all started when I was visiting my Sydney hometown late last year, and chilling over chocolate and tea (my poison of choice) with my long time mates, Jess and Bec. Bec Greensill works as Standby Props for the long-standing Aussie TV series, Home & Away. The idea came up that we could make me a video clip.
Bec’s enthusiasm blew me away…
And it all began…
Director & Writer: Rebecca Greensill
Not only is Bec a crew member for Home & Away, she’s also a writer, director and actress, spending her spare time working with the Lane Cove Theatre Company. Her pantomimes are delightfully witty, contemporary, and her directing abilities are particularly inspiring to many youths, bringing out their in the most uplifting and enjoyable of ways. What a privilege to have her write and direct my clip!
Song Choice: Hero in Me
Easy choice! Hero in Me is one of the most popular tracks on my latest album; it’s uplifting, commercial, and it has a modern day message portrayed in an honest yet light-hearted manner.
The song is about a tomboy finding her way in the world, with this deep desire to be a hero and save all the girls. The ending reveals in fact the tomboy herself needs a hero: her own lady love.
Bec is the genius behind the storyline for the video clip. She toyed with different ideas – from following the song’s actual storyline, to a mix of over-the-top-superheros. Instead, we settled on a parallel storyline (is that a thing? I’m not a writer/director, so I’m unsure of all these terms) intertwined with me singing live. It goes as such:
I’m in a boardroom (or should I say “boredroom”) analysing the trends of annual paint sales (fun fun, hey?). I am completely uninspired and disinterested. I started doodling a superhero on a page. When I look up, all my colleagues have turned into children, and we are now looking at a slideshow that reads: “HOW TO BE A SUPERHERO”. Suddenly my enthusiasm peaks. With each change of slide show topic, the clip cuts to me acting out the practical components of Super Hero School: I build the JB superhero gadget, I catch a random litter bug (THE BAD GUY!!) on the street, I attempt to fly. It’s all rather tongue and cheek, over the top, and light hearted, intertwined with the “real” me singing live with my guitar. When I am shaken back into the real world, I come home uninspired from my “bored” meeting, to hug my beautiful lady who hands me an application to join the paramedic team. The moral of the story? My lady is my hero, inspiring me to be the best person I can be, and encouraging me to take on my dreams and find the hero in me: a paramedic (and aren’t nurses and paramedics, doctors, such heroes in our society!)
Location: MNR Constrcutions
Filming was held at MNR Constructions in Tempe, NSW. MNR Constructions VERY kindly allowed us to use their workshop. It was perfect with workshop space, tools, the boardroom, and many nearby locations including a park, sea shanties, water, and the iconic eyesore of Tempe: the water tower.
Gosh I can’t comprehend the amount of preparation required to getting a video clip happening. Most of it was thanks to MONTHS of preparation by Bec Greensill and assistant Jess Branch. The pair hunted for locations, created slide shows and sketches, and got props and filming equipment ready. There was script writing, story board designing, organising logistics and call sheets, managing the crew. So much happens before the day of filming. All for 3:30seconds of footage.
Rose Edwards redesigned the logo on my lyrca suit (to avoid a run in with the REAL Superman). MNR Constructions made JB ninja stars. Tom and Adam made props. And my lovely aunty and uncle, Janet & Owen Quinlan prepared a full day of catering for 36 people so we would have enough energy to sustain a day of filming.
In contrast, my part was quite small. I practised singing/playing to the recording of Hero in Me, flew to Sydney, and simply figured out my costumes with the help of Cai: 3 stage outfits, business attire, workshop attire, casual attire, and superman suit.
Up at 4:00am, flight from Melbs to Sydney, on set by 8:30am (I’m hoping my saggy eye bags can be photoshopped). Cai and I were welcomed with breakfast from my amazing chef of an aunty (she’s partly to blame for my chocolate addiction), and a terrifically enthusiastic team (many of whom I hadn’t yet met).
It was like walking into a city of ants, everyone busy, on the go, each with their own important role to play to keep the city functioning. It uplifted me to realise all of them were there in support of a video clip for MY song. It felt amazing to be part of such a team.
There was no muckin’ around. I met the crew and jumped into the first scene for the day – in a workshop (which isn’t the first scene of the clip) . Nervous, I threw on my brother’s overalls, rubbed dirt on my hands, and got into position.
All of the filming crew were from Home & Away. It was such a privilege to have them working on my clip. It was soon apparent that each of them had a huge passion for their roles, and were so keen to volunteer their time, grow in their fields, and gain more experience being part of projects outside of Home & Away.
I had never put too much thought into how a show like Home & Away comes together, but apparently there are around 100 or so staff working on getting the show happening. I myself, had overlooked the importance of a role like Prop Manager. Tom Gibson was on props and he just made it all happen. He was in charge of handing me bits of wood, tools, ninja stars, and designing set layouts. He put little bits of green tape on the ground to show me where to stand (more often than not I’d miss my landing by an inch or two and we’d have to do redo the take). For continuity, Tom had to make sure the props were in exactly the same position for each take.
Adam Chantler was on lighting (and camera support). His aim was to get the best light for each shot, by whacking up a big foam reflector, or bouncing light off walls to highlight my face. There was a science to it. All I can say is I felt sorry for Adam’s arms… holding stands in position for take after take. Dedication!
Ben Mezups, brother of Sam Mezups who owns MNR Constructions, operated the camera. Gosh he did a great job. The angles, the zoom. We only had one camera. So we’d have to repeat scenes, doing exactly the same thing, exactly the same way, and Ben would grab the scene from a different perspective.
Unbeknown to me, there was more time between “Rolling” and “Action” than I expected.
At the beginning of the day, I’d stand there anxiously waiting for my part… By the end of the day I was chatting with crew right up until “Action” (naughty!)
I tended to overact – which perhaps works for an over-the-top Super Hero vibe, but certainly wasn’t always ideal. Director Bec Greensill was awesome to work with, and never crushed my spirit or told me I wasn’t doing it right. She simply nudged me in the right direction with every take. She said it’s easier when actors OVERACT cos you can always pull them back. It’s much harder to ask someone who underacts to GIVE MORE when they have nothing more to give.
From watching little pieces of the clip, I realise now that stage acting and TV acting are so very different. On stage it’s all about grand gestures so the audience experiences a sense of passion and movement, even when they’re watching from the back row. But on camera it’s all in the subtleties: the twitch of a nose, the tilt of an eyebrow, a single glance. My initial “SHOCKED” impersonation was so over the top I was springing from my chair onto the floor, gasping, eyes and mouth as open as possible. Slowly, under Bec’s direction, this turned into a slight leaning of the head and smaller eye/mouth movements.
The boardroom scene was great fun. Monique, the lecturer in the boardroom meeting, would come out with some CRACKERS as she talked about the analysis of annual paint sale trends. I had to block her out to get into the zone, or I’d burst into laughter. Every take we did, she’d come out with something different to keep us alive through its repetitiveness.
The kids were amazing to work with. Generally directors say kids and animals are hard to work with… but these kids ruled. They were all so keen and excited to help out, whether on screen or off. Those that weren’t in the scene loved working the film clapper, and sitting with Assistant Director Sean Mobbs to watch what was happening on the screen. They were pros. It wouldn’t have been the same without them.
The superman scenes were… awkward. I came out in my lycra costume that’s… not the slightest bit flattering… with lumps in all the wrong places. It didn’t help that I’m 5 foot tall and the costume was made for a 6 foot man. I kept telling myself “Don’t be insecure… or it will come across that way… just let go of insecurities, let go. You are what you are.” Bec came and had a quiet word to me when I first walked out as Super Jen. She said “Jen, just COMMIT. Take a breath before you walk out, and COMMIT to it. You can do it. ” Commit.
The whole team of 36 watched in silence as I peered out the door in my lyrca suit… revealing SUPER JEN to the world. And YES, we had TWO FANS blowing my hair and cape as I stood in my superhero position. Ah Classic!
Claire Fromm was backstage manager and general “checks”. She’d come over to me between scenes and “shimmy” (as she called it) my lycra pants up into the right position (intimate!), adjust my cape, fix my hair, and we’d roll again. She generally went around the set organising logistics and extras, being awesome, getting extras drinks. She compared the video clip to working on Home & Away, and said H&A is much like a machine, and you do 4 times as much in the same day. The video clip was more relaxed and allowed for creativity.
Assistant Director Sean Mobbs did a terrific job – organising all the scenes, ACTION, getting kids involved. Such a terrific guy to work with. He built me up in moments when I felt I was a tad… silly. Such a professional production to not only have ONE director, but TWO.
Outside, the superhero shots could be summed up as ridiculous – falling over while I chased a littler bug (good running Nic!), falling off a wall, over acting, committing. The extras soaked up the sun waiting patiently to be called on screen, as Super Jen scared members of the public in the downtime (gotta stay in character ya see!)
I felt more at home when it came time to sing with a guitar in my hand. I always wondered how it was done in video clips, thinking you just “mimed”. But instead, I was instructed to sing along to the recording of Hero in Me, and play it how it’s played on the recording (although, this is somewhat challenging for someone who likes to improvise), so I was able to get passionate when playing. It’s funny when you see video clips of an artist hardly moving their lips, miming sweetly, when the audio is so contrastingly yelling. We wanted to avoid that. It helped to pretend the camera lens is another pair of eyes I’m looking at in the audience… otherwise I could fear the camera altogether. My goodness – I’m sure the crew won’t want to hear Hero in Me for a very long time, as I sang it a total of 15 times; this angle, that, wide shot, close up, focus on the guitar, now on the fact, this space, that space, this costume, that costume. Big shout out to Cai who did an AMAZING job on wardrobe, pre-selecting outfits, organising them for each scene, setting up the outdoor change tent, making sure everything ran super smoothly. What a woman.
All up and AMAZING day. It was SUCH a terrific experience. I was humbled by how many people were there, giving up there Saturday, so happy to jump on board to make it all happen. Such a team effort. There’s NO way I would have been able to do such a video clip without the offering of so many talents, equipment, catering, venue, cast, extras. It was estimated that a clip like this would have cost upward of $10,000, which is rather unobtainable for the indie musician. I was so blessed. What a team! Such a great day 🙂 What a success!
When will it be ready you ask? Bec is just doing some colour gradient matching, and fancy tech editing (what a multi-talented woman). I suspect it will be viewable around June 😀 Can’t wait!!!!
Many many thank yous for the amazing team behind the video clip. I cannot wait to get it onto the world wide web!
Bec, you are an amazing writer and director. So easy to work with, so organised and prepared, experienced, and efficient. You brought out the best in me, and it was so uplifting to experience your enthusiasm throughout the making of the project.
Many many thank yous to Janet Quinlan (and assistant Owen) for your amazing catering. You kept us going!!! Yum. What an effort to cater for the entire crew for an entire day!
Cai, an amazing job on wardrobe, and general support throughout weekend. Behind every musician there’s an equally great woman.
Mum and Dad, you’re always there, ey. Thank ya for bringing the bits and bobs required to get it happening.
Jess, what great drawings and slide show. Thanks for all your time in the months leading up to the shoot. Epic behind-the-scenes effort! We did it!!!
Rose, I’m so glad I met you. What a great logo (so profesh!), your experienced and cheeky extra work, and general bubbliness around the set!
Cooper and Jackson, you li’l super heros. You guys rock! Don’t grow out of those suits too quickly!
All the kids, Bianca (what a smile!), Phil, Sophie, Daniel, and young adults Hannah, Sarah, Lily, Rachel, thank you for all your behind the scenes efforts! Way to go 😀 Daniel, keep reading. I wish I could read novels when I was six. Hope you loved working behind-the-scenes.
Adam, thanks for your huge effort, and coming back for Day 2 to finish off bits and pieces. Great help with lighting and camera control.
Ben, you’ve done a terrific job shooting. TOPS!! You captured some great moments.
Tom, man you are good at your job. Just in there, makin’ it happen.
Claire, you are awesome. You’re so bubbly and helpful and proactive and smiley.
Sean, top bloke. So easy going and friendly with the whole cast and crew. Thanks for making me feel comfortable for my first ever film clip.
Big thank you to Sophie Greensill from SilverEdge Photography, all the way from Brisbane. I smiled so big to receive your photos. Those memories, I’ll keep forever. What an awesome time.
Nic, thanks for running slowly and helping me up when I fell…. Great chewing!
Extras Vanessa, Elly, Andrew, Nicola, Jana, Bella, Daniel, David, Sophie, thank you for donating your day to help out with the clip. I loved having you there and hope it was a memorable experience.
Daniel Linssen, sorry I didn’t clean my hands before shaking yours… awkward.
Last but certainly not least, thank you Sam and Terry from MNR Constructions for lending the venue. Gosh, that was huge of you. Many many thank yous.
Photos by SilverEdge Photography
Backstage Manager & Checks
Props & Art Department
Sophie Greensill – SilverEdge Photography
Costume Alterations (logo)
Drawings & slideshow