Archive for March 4th, 2010

Interview with Matthew Brown

One of my favorite videographers in the Vimeo/HV20/30/40 community is Matthew Brown. He’s already very popular with videos like “GAY = SIN”, “Bloom”, “Autumn”, “Crash” and many more. Recently, Matthew was asked by well known Seattle label Sub Pop to direct a music video for one of their artists, The Album Leaf (legal free mp3 downloads here). Matthew was very kind to give me an interview about this whole experience.

1. How did the Album Leaf music video happened? Did you approach Sub Pop, or they approached you etc?

Matthew Brown: I made a random art video for my video journal on Vimeo called PETAL showcasing the tulip farms in Washington State, and the band saw and liked my style of shooting and editing and immediately wanted to do something with me. After a few months of no contact I get a message from Jimmy Lavalle (the lead singer of The Album Leaf) saying that he’s watched all my videos and really wants me to do a music video for his upcoming album. The next thing I know, Sub Pop Records says hello.

2. How was the idea for the music video evolved? Did you story board, or you filmed in a free flow way that you put together later?

Matthew Brown: When Sub Pop contacted me, they basically gave me a budget and wanted to have something within two weeks or so. I had a nice conversation with Jimmy on the phone; he told me he wants four things for sure in the video…children, an elderly person, tall grass, and aerial shots (which were chosen because those were some things in my past videos he liked a lot). So, with the time restraint and those four items, I came up with a little idea. The evolution of the actual story and full idea came while shooting. We basically made up everything as we went. We were in the middle of one shot and said, “Wait, what if we did this?”…then that would take us to another moment of the same thinking. The ideas were definitely all over the place. We kind of knew what we were doing, but I think with the weight of the deadline on our shoulders we couldn’t really think about it, haha. I think the editing created the story for sure. It shaped it into something tangible and not too abstract…luckily. We made a simple shot list, but even that wasn’t concrete. I don’t think we even looked at the shot list after we had come up with it. It was just floating thoughts in the back of our minds. I’m a very visual thinker, so I kind of knew what felt right when we were doing it.

3. How different, if at all, is to shooting+editing an actual music video compared to your other videos?

Matthew Brown: I get the same feeling when shooting both a little fun artsy video and an actual music video. With one of my artsy videos I have more leverage to allow it to be abstract, maybe not go anywhere by the end, and with a music video (in most instances) you have to at least “go somewhere” with the concept…it’s got to hook in some way to make the viewer want to watch. My artsy videos are my way of documenting the world around me in a beautiful, emotional way. With music videos, there’s a lot of fiction being told…I think the documenting aspect has to often leave the scene and let something strange and wondrous in. To me, music videos are WAY more fun and challenging. As far as editing, the only difference would be that in music videos I’m a little more hesitant to be experimental, because as everyone knows, they call them experiments because they don’t know what is going to happen or whether or not they’ll even work.

4. What gear did you use exactly to shoot the video? Did you have a crew?

Matthew Brown: We used three cameras, a very bunch pair. The Canon 7D, the Canon HV40, and the Panasonic HVX. Unfortunately, we were only able to use the footage from the 7D and HV40 because there wasn’t enough time to gather and “convert” the footage from the HVX. I was shocked that the footage of the 7D and HV40 was very seamless through the video. I’d say it was 60% 7D footage and 40% HV40 footage. I don’t think people would be able to tell to much. We had two camera rigs for the 7D, one was the Zacuto Gunstock Shooter (that I was privileged to get from my Zacuto award last year), and then another, bigger, rig compiled of both Zacuto and Redrock parts…pretty much a shoulder mount with handle bars in front, hehe. As you can tell, I’m not a very technical person. We had a little DIY dolly with us for a couple of shots. Other then that, it was all handheld. No tripod in sight. For crew, I had the amazing Nate Miller. He’s definitely been my partner in crime on my bigger projects. He played role of cinematographer/assistant director/producer. He knows exactly what I want. Definitely my key person. We had another producer (Ian Todd) acting as the spider web connectors to keep everything together. He was doing the paperwork/emailing/phone call stuff to make sure we were actually getting things done. We had a very talented shooter with us as assistant camera (Christian Hansen) with us as well. HUGE help. During the birthday scene we had a lot of random people show up along with the actor whom I’ve never met before, so we had three coordinators and a couple production assistants.

5. What’s next for Matthew Brown, the filmmaker? Are you interested in directing an actual short movie?

Matthew Brown: Right now I am wanting to get jump started on music videos, and really hone in on my craft and grow creatively, but narrative storytelling is definitely what I’m eyeing at. I am planning a short film where we see the world through the eyes of a little autistic boy as he witnesses his family crumble around him because of his disorder. It’s a very surreal, emotional film that I don’t have funding for right now. I have been trying to raise money to make this project, but it’s been very difficult. I have a couple hundred dollars saved up from generous people so far along with bits of my paycheck, hehe. We are also currently auditioning children with autism to play the roles in the film to make it a more genuine story and to raise awareness easier by showing the true reality of the issue. For now, though, I’ll make music videos and keep experimenting and evolving into more complex and interesting currents of creativity.