Thursday, March 5, 2015

The music video I never finished and what I learnt from it

In 2012, I partnered with my cousin Cmo (Simon) to shoot a music video for an upcoming gospel artist, D-best (Duncan). We had a few meetings leading up to the day of the shoot and when the day finally arrived, I met up with Simon early in the morning to drive to Bunga to pick up the shooting equipment from 'Ninja's studio.

Because we were literally doing it for nothing, we cut many corners so that we could get everything on a cheap. Hiring equipment from Ninja was the best offer at the time since he was also coming a long with us to help setup the jib, which proved to be helpful, however we soon discovered that having an extra person on set cost more when feeding and transportation was factored in.

Duncan showed up with Sami - K around 10 am in a mini-van with his friends, who were to be set extras. Simon was tense the whole time because he was the producer, who was charged with the responsibility of raising every single penny. I was focused on art direction. I had assured both Simon and the talent that I was qualified to shoot the video and I had already sold them on a concpet that had captured their imaginations.

As the camera rolled on, I started to realize what a horrible mistake I had made by taking on the assignment. Somehow, it sounded a better idea in my head than in reality - a reality where things were starting to go wrong and fast. The first challenge we faced was with we location, Watoto church, which we hadn't booked in advance. After a standoff of some sort with security, we were granted only thirty minutes to use their parking lot which wasn't nearly enough time to get all the shots I needed to but non the less we proceeded, hoping for the best.

The second challenge I soon discovered was that the single battery for the camera that  Ninja had given us was half empty which meant I did not have the luxury to call for different takes in an effort to save the little battery we had left.

Once it was a wrap on the first set, we headed over to the the second one - Hotel equatorial rooftop. We lost a significant amount of time while Simon, who was had tenancy in the building, negotiated with the custodian. Once we got permission, we setup quickly and started shooting right away. It was around 2 pm and the skyline of Kampala looked exactly like I had imagined in my concept. At least something was going right. My excitement did not last long because I soon discovered that the battery had given way completely, just fifteen minutes into the shoot.

In our moment of disappointment and blame sharing, Ninja came up with a brilliant suggestion. He offered to get us a second battery but that meant going back to his studio in Bunga, a 20 minutes drive and that meant we would miss our dusk shoot. We eventually decided to load everyone into the small Raum Simon had hired, to head over to that side of town. I suggested finishing the rest of the shoot from Gabba landing site. I had no idea whether we would even be allowed to shoot from there but we went either way.

When we reached Gabba, we simply set up the set without asking anyone for permission. We figured that if we acted like we were supposed to be there, it wouldn't be a problem. 'And cut,' I shouted an hour later after the second battery fired as well. Even though I acted like we had recorded everything we needed to, I knew that we had only covered a third and there was no way I could ask Simon to raise a budget for a second day shoot because clearly, he couldn't.

Back in my dorm room, I struggled for days to put it together and the video in the link is the result. However it was never quite finished because I was unable to get a graphics guy to color grade it and with time we all eventually forgot about the project. But looking back at it now, I realize that even though it was not a successful project, I learnt just as much from it about directing and funding a film. Below is a quick summary of the lessons I learnt.

  • Always be willing to try. The only thing worse than failure is never trying at all.
  • Finish you work. I procrastinated a lot and that perhaps cost me the entire project. Even when you think that what you are working on is the worst piece of art you have ever created, work on till the end because you cannot possibly understand the value of a creation unless it is complete.
  • Own up to your mistakes. I should have been straight with everyone from the start that I had messed up and that my projections were slightly off. It would have saved both of us a lot. Own up to your mistakes early on.
  • Understand your worth. In truth I could shoot an award winning music video however because I was not confident of my skills, I under valued the project which in the end did not serve either of our purposes.
  •  Partnerships are important. This venture was the first I entered with someone and working with Simon helped me realize the importance of going into ventures with other people.

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