It was maybe a month into summer after I graduated from high school. Timing couldn't have been better. Josh had contacted one of his inspirations, MC Jin, out on a whim just to see if he would respond to an offer of making a music video for him. He got back to us with overwhelming support and enthusiasm telling us that the video that sold him on working with us was "Project Roosevelt". Not long after, we found ourselves having lunch with Jin in Chinatown discussing ideas for the music video as well of other creative endeavors. We left with high energy, eager to get started.
The plan was for us to produce two music videos for Jin. The first one I would direct and then, Josh would direct the second one. I promptly claimed "Open Arms" as the song we'd work on first. Split screen music videos were on my mind for a while as well as single shot music videos. I broke the song up in sections and decided the rap verses would be the steadicam oners, and the bridge would be where the main story could be told. The rap verses had a talking back and forth quality to them which supported my urge to make use of a split screen. Jin would be talking back and forth with himself in different environments. We knew where we wanted to shoot location wise, but also wanted to keep the split screen environments as polar opposites as possible. We were more or less successful with that.
Jin arrived on set as we were busily getting prepared. He stopped us and gathered us around to pray. Pray over the project, pray over the community of people we were in making this music video for God, pray that he be the one in control. Honestly, I don't remember exactly what he prayed about. I just remember it giving us strength.
The steadicam long takes were truly a test on my operating skills. Not only were we walking backwards the whole time, I knew that 50% of the 16:9 shot would be cut off by the other split screen in post, so that meant I had to keep Jin in a tiny frame within the frame as we moved.
The story sections of the music video following Matt Przywara's character as he struggles with his faith where all shot with a really ghetto anamorphic filter I made out of a manila folder. That's the reason why all the non-steadicam footage has such an intense orange light-leak looking cast over the image. I don't regret using the filter, but I do regret not color grading it back to normalcy at least a little bit. I'd say the block of story that I'm most proud of is the scene in the fog lit room where Matt tears down all the papers off the wall. This was technically the first time I used atmosphere and it was a race against time to capture the beams of light blasting through the windows at the angle they were at. No anamorphic filter here since it would most definitely cut out way too much light. Not to mention we were shooting with two cameras at this point and I had only made one filter. I had the second camera catch inserts in slow-mo while I shot the wide in normal motion.
90% of the project was shot in one day. The other 10% was for the two NYC steadicam oners along the Brooklyn bridge and down two streets in Chinatown. I couldn't have imagined a shoot going more smoothly and efficiently. This was contrasted by the second project we "attempted" to do with Jin the very next day. Our plan was to play off the fact that Jin was in Fast and Furious and since the next installment was yet to come out, we thought it be a great idea to make a fake trailer using Jin as a way of legitimatizing the trailer. We got some cool shots. That was about it. The shoot was an uphill battle. Against time, against quality, against energy. What changed from the days before when we were all on fire making Jin's music video? Motives and prayer. Looking back, I realize during the Fast and Furious shoot, I felt like we were relying on our own strength to move it forward. It was a video for publicity and not for God. We never prayed that morning and as a result, I didn't experience the same strength we did on the Open Arms shoot. I mention this here because I believe the contrast between the two shoots helped me see the Open Arms shoot in a whole new light.