Vow/Lovesong

A document of the wedding of Angelica Martinez and Rene Gutierrez. 04 October 2014. This is a capsule of my family’s growth. The score was composed by M.I.Geezus of Machine Language and Alumni. The opening instrumental, entitled “Vow,” was intended to become a song with lyrics and may still evolve into that. “Lovesong,” yet another iteration of The Cure’s oft-covered 1989 hit, is reenergized by Stevie Nader’s vocals. So, to my cousin and her husband, with love and appreciation, and to everyone who was witness to their nuptials, I present “Vow/Lovesong.” Congratulations.

“Wet” by Alumni

This video was shot in a day albeit with a completed screenplay as a (very necessary) guide. The shoot proved considerably more difficult than expected because two-thirds of those pieces-of-shit known as Alumni showed up drunk. What unprofessional trash. Apparently, M.I.Geezus and Prhyme Suspect had decided to apply the method performance approach to a music video intent on paying homage to West Coast hip-hop iconography. They drank I-don’t-know-how-many Olde Englishes throughout the shoot. Naturally, right after we wrapped, M.I.Geezus spewed vomit on concrete, and I will never forgive myself for not having my camera nearby when that inevitability came to pass.

We were lucky enough to have the Impala loaned to us; failure to secure a classic muscle car for an afternoon had stalled previous attempts to execute the video. I considered the car the primary element that made the video worth doing. The Pulp Fiction motif was born out of the song’s fractured storyline and suggested by Prhyme; I then wrote it into the script and created the titles and transitions in post-production. I’m particularly proud of the opening sequence with KelCz cruising along a residential street lined with pink houses. I’m also proud that the warp effects during Prhyme’s drug overdose do not look bad (I hope). Curiously: the ending we were settled with after editing is ambiguous. That wasn’t the case in the script or for what we thought we were capturing on location. We thought we knew what we were creating, but the ending somehow found a way to lend itself to myriad interpretations as to the events that actually occur in the video. So, co-starring my little brothers and my cousin, who were dressed as ghetto West Coast dirtbags by mere coincidence, here’s Alumni’s first single from their upcoming Forever album, “Wet.”

P.S. This was envisioned as the first act in a storyline that could be picked up by future videos. Maybe that can account for how we wound up with such an ambiguous finale.

“Xalos ’14” by Alex Ramirez

A video collage of my vacation in Jalostotitlán, Jalisco, Mexico, the town three of my four grandparents used to call home. I visited for thirteen days to attend the quinceañera of my aunt and the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary of my great-aunt. The piece of music I used was composed by the Sacramento-based production duo Machine Language. The sample’s humming refrain, at once melancholy and triumphant, married well with the images I captured. I think the paradoxical theme worked because I believe that I am profoundly sad that so much space separates my American family and me from such a large sect of kin. In person, it is outwardly apparent that we are of the same flesh and bone and blood that comprises each one of them. We are them and they are us. The angles on their faces and the arcs of their movements are my own. It has yet to cease to amaze me how rapidly and easily I can develop a bond with another new cousin or aunt or uncle I finally meet for the first time; it must be written in our marrow — in blood. At times, in the hollow of my stomach, I feel I must be sadder about the distance that separates us than actually registers with me. To be away from them is to turn my back on an integral aspect of my own identity. But, still, there is always an air of victory in my returns, as if I have risen from underdog to conqueror of time and space and circumstance. Let this collage serve as a victory lap. I made it for my family — which is to say I made it for myself. It is mine; it is ours. It is a topography of our bodies and faces in light and in colors and in action. We were all together in Jalos, Querétaro, and San Miguel de Allende. This is a document of the time we crushed the distance separating ourselves from each other. The Machine Language instrumental is entitled “Closer,” by the way.

“New Day” by Shaun P.

No screenplay needed for this music video. I started with an idea for masked men and built around that. The homage to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly that opens the video followed. Then maybe a sequence in an old school car. And let’s end it with a fire. And we were off. We filmed it all over two evenings. Shaun P. had the idea to switch the soundtrack to another song on his album in the middle of the video, an ode to hip-hop music videos from a decade ago. He also suggested the behind-the-scenes tag that appears after we fade to black. As of this writing, I consider this and Alumni’s “(Take A Walk On) My Side” to feature my cleanest and most confident camerawork.

“Billie Holiday” by Shaun P.

I decided that I was going to direct the music video for this song the second after I heard the beat. The “Strange Fruit” sample also aided in fleshing out the recurrent imagery that went on to dominate the video. I decided not to write a script; I had everything I needed sorted neatly in my head. We borrowed the trumpet from a friend of a friend. I took Shaun P. to the Vizcaya Pavilion in downtown Sacramento for the later scenes. We did not have permission to film on the premises, but when employees saw Shaun’s tuxedo and my camera equipment, they damn-near broke their necks to stay out of our way.

“Mi Corrido” by Alex Ramirez

This one is all mine. I was charged with creating a visual biographical presentation for my college Sociology class, “Chicano Community.” The title of this documentary takes its name from the title of Professor Barajas’ assignment. Rather than utilize Powerpoint like (literally) every one of my fellow classmates, I chose to use my Canon 7D. Needless to say, I murdered every other presentation that semester with this. My mother is the last person on earth who would volunteer to be in front of a camera, but I bullied her into it. I’m lucky she loves me. I love her, too.

“Sweevee Swervicles” by Decarie Black

For what it’s worth, this is my little sister’s favorite music video of mine. I think she likes the ghost. And that song. I cooked this concept up for Decarie, and we shot the whole thing in a garage in one night. He had sent me the track weeks (months?) before, and I got a strong horror film vibe from it. The ghost is a friend of mine. I picked her dress from her closet and gave her a tube of white paint and some black lipstick. I like the video, but I still think the song is sicker than any of my camerawork.

“Project X” by Alumni

We were all drunk during this video. Even me. Alumni, my regular collaborators, wanted one more music video following the successes of (Take A Walk On) My Side and Pretty/Dope before I went away to begin my senior year of college. We threw a party at my house on a Sunday night, and I floated around with my shoulder rig. I had a few set pieces in mind before the party started: the dancing in the living room, the game of flip cup, and the destruction of the pool table. The rest of the video would be comprised of random moments of intoxication woven around that triptych. I liked the idea of experimenting with freestyle filmmaking, especially after our previous two, ultra-structured, collaborations. The resulting music video is a mess. Sort of. But it’s our mess. And if my drunk, shirtless brother doesn’t make you laugh, then you’re just an asshole.

“Pretty/Dope” by Alumni

The most difficult artistic endeavor I’ve ever pursued in my life. I developed the storyline with Alumni group member M.I.Geezus. Then I went away to write. The resulting screenplay was more ambitious than the hip-hop group had anticipated. We weren’t just making a music video; we had a short film on our hands. We filmed the final act of this redoubtable hybrid in a live bar during business hours, which is exactly as difficult as it sounds. I lost approximately six pounds of water weight during that night of principal photography. The intersecting character arcs were supposed to be Altmanesque. The editing technique was supposed to recall Don’t Look Now. But I’m most proud of the fact that we actually got this thing done. I now more than ever subscribe to that old adage (I suppose Kennedy made it famous) about things only truly being worthwhile if they are difficult to accomplish.

 

“(Take A Walk On) My Side” by Alumni

The first single from Alumni’s SQUARE album. The video was shot guerrilla style, as we did not obtain permits to overtake the dead-end neighborhood street. Captured on a makeshift dolly in one continuous shot, we filmed three takes; this is the third. And the fires are real. Special thanks to the residents of South Sacramento’s Meadowview area for not calling the fire department when their skies filled with smoke. We were lucky that they were content to watch from their backyards and porches as we guerrillas scrambled about in the middle of the street.