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Creative Process of Making the Video “Avalanche” (guest post)

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A huge thanks to my online friend, Linda Freeman, for this guest post. Learn more about Linda and how to reach her at the end of this post.

Be sure to also check out her post of music video tips on the awesome Sessionville blog.

As a songwriter and executive producer who enjoys the creative process, I’d like to share some “behind the scenes” information about the making of the music video for the pop power ballad, “Avalanche.”

I worked with Ben Mahoney Productions in Chicago on the “Avalanche” video, which features a talented singer and actress, Crystal Corinne. First, some background on the song: It’s about a woman who goes from feeling devastated and paralyzed by a relationship breakup to being empowered and able to move forward with her life.

Avalanche Video Clip

There were four major aspects of this creative process that were especially striking:

  1. Creating a Unique Vision: I wanted an engaging storyline for the video that would be true to the song. At our first meeting, BMP team members Jack McClain (“Avalanche” director), Elizabeth Schoell (stylist), and Patrick Brown (cameraman and a video director) pitched their ideas. Elizabeth proposed that the video initially have a “Mad Men” style domestic scene, with Crystal’s character folding her lover’s shirts. We could then cut to a scene where she lay on her own scattered clothing. These two scenes would be metaphors for how Crystal’s character met her lover’s needs but neglected her own. Crystal’s costumes would be primarily in a neutral palette, symbolizing her routine existence. The video would fast-forward to a stark, snowbound scene, representing the woman’s isolation following the breakup. The narrative and style of the video would start to shift at the start of the third verse (at 2:36 on the “Avalanche” video) to a woman with growing confidence and independence. The color palette would become increasingly vivid as her confidence grew. This interplay of ideas was original, engaging, and fit well with the song.
  2. Brainstorming and Collaboration: During the pitch, it was fun to bounce ideas off of Jack, Elizabeth, and Pat. They talked about how they would edit scenes to creatively shift from one scene to the next, which camera angles to use for different scenes, and how they would engage and surprise the viewer. For example, they envisioned having Crystal walk through the living room at the start of the video and suddenly transition to walking through the snowy woods; you can see this at the start of the video. Crystal also uses a feather duster in the living room as well as in the fantasy-like outdoor scene.
    During the shoot itself, on which we were joined by makeup artist Martina Pfefferle, I was impressed by how well the team worked together. Jeff and Pat, both skilled cameramen, often discussed how to best approach the shots. Elizabeth and Martina gave Crystal a completely new look for each of the three outfits that she wore. Elizabeth always had the big picture of how we should proceed with the shoot. Crystal and I gave our own opinions on her character and other aspects of the shoot.
  3. Preparation: Almost every scene and shot was on a shot list and track sheet. We also had each prop and wardrobe item ready. I found myself buying a feather duster at Crate and Barrel, two cans of spray paint at Ace Hardware and scouring jewelry stores for bracelets. Although not everything was set in stone, the team prepared a solid framework for the 12-hour shoot. I already had written the song and recorded it with producer Nate Oberman, and Crystal had recorded the vocal at Classick Studios in Chicago. However, since Crystal lip synced the lyrics in the video, she had to memorize their exact rhythm.
  4. Dedication and Professionalism: Everyone involved in the shoot gave one hundred percent. For example,
    Crystal stood outdoors in 20 degree F weather for over four hours straight and never complained. She always stayed in character even when a zoom lens was 3 inches from her face.Elizabeth spent a great deal of time selecting wardrobe items and was up until 1 a.m. on the morning of the shoot to fashion a “crown” for Crystal to wear in the outdoor scene, giving Crystal a magical look. Jack came up with ingenious ideas for camera shots. For example, there’s a scene where Crystal is singing to the camera and snow is floating around her in slow motion. There were also a number of tracking shots which gave the outdoor scenes an expansive feel.
    I don’t know how many hours Jack spent post production, but if you watch the video, you’ll get a general idea of how much work he put into it. My favorite parts of the video are the rapid series of shots that represent the transition of Crystal’s character to a more confident woman (at 2:37 and 3:23 on the video).
    The professionalism of Jack’s team also helped achieve the goals that we set. And it was a lot of fun to finish off the evening with a crock pot full of chili and the feeling of a job well done.

In conclusion, being creative is not just coming up with unique ideas, but also having the skill, dedication and professionalism to see them through. I was glad to be part of this process in the making of “Avalanche”.

Linda Freeman is a BMI member who has been a songwriter and producer since 1992.  Follow Linda on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lindafreeman_ and listen to her other songs at https://tiw-music.bandcamp.com/.

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