Shooting the Video – Reflections
Monday 22nd February was the day. I was going to shoot my first ever music video, for my new track, ‘Proud to be a Zionist’. I was pretty nervous – I’d never done anything like this before. What if I was no good? What if I couldn’t lip-sync properly? What if I couldn’t remember my lyrics? So many things to worry about, as I arrived in the Old City of Jerusalem clutching a bag containing my various changes of clothes, and trying to be sure that I remembered my rhymes.
It was 8.30am and I was pretty tired – I’d been up since 6 and had already been hanging around a bit as the crew had got stuck in traffic. I met the team, who were a great bunch. Our director was Sam, who’d done several music videos before, a lot for the Russian equivalent of the Spice Girls, as he used to be married to one of them. On camera we had Addie who was ably assisted by Ron. Ami was in charge of lighting and Miron was a general helpful individual (schlepping and other stuff). Sharon was my make-up artist (I had no idea, but apparently this is really important). And then there was our producer Benny, and the executive producer, and my mate, Ziv, who’d put the whole thing together on an incredibly tight budget. This seemed like an enormous amount of people to me but apparently is actually very small for what we were doing. I nonetheless felt rather overwhelmed to have all those people there for yours truly.
I was introduced to everyone as “the Talent”. I was familiar with this term for protagonists in video from my work on developing advertising. It felt strange to be applied to me, and to be honest I felt rather unworthy of the title. But, apparently, the talent I was.
The day begun inauspiciously. Sam, our director, was expressing his great concern at the fact that we had not engaged a stylist. He was worried having not seen the clothes I planned to wear. Fortunately, he approved, and we were able to get down to the nitty gritty of our first take, shot in an area near the Cardo.
As the crew set up Sharon set about me with the make-up. Unfortunately, not being very experienced in this area, I was not very good at being made-up. Particularly the area around my eyes. I had to keep them open but they kept closing. No matter how much I tried to “look up” or “relax” there was little I could do. Poor Sharon, she did her best, but I think she found it something of a struggle.
Being the Old City, there were a fair amount of tourists, groups and yeshiva/sem students passing through. We soon began to gather quite a crowd. I was beginning to feel rather self-conscious – all eyes were on me as it were. And, as I mentioned at the beginning, I was already rather nervous. The time for the first take arrived. I was instructed where to stand, where to look and to be very expressive. I tried my best to internalise the instructions. And then, “ACTION”! On went the music, and I began to get ready. Suddenly: “CUT”! I hadn’t even started yet. Rather ominous”¦ “Why are you smiling?” asked Sam. I hadn’t even realised I was smiling, but it was no doubt a mixture of the joy and mild disbelief I had that this was actually happening. No matter, we readied ourselves for take two, and I tried to combat my smiling tendency by trying to feel miserable. Not easy.
Fortunately, I managed. The second take went very well and I could see from the faces of the crew that I’d done a good job. They were delighted and gave me great feedback. That was super and helped calm the nerves significantly. I proceeded with the following takes without an issue. My Dad told me when I started Kol Cambridge that I had a face for radio but it seems that despite this doing a video was not completely out of the question!
We shot at a few different locations throughout the day (and you’ll see them in due course) but one of them was a little unexpected and gave me some cause for concern. We were walking from one location to another in the Old City when the team spotted a street sign pointing to the Kotel. Apparently this made a nice shot so they decided to set up impromptu and go for a take. Now, this was all good, other than the fact that we were shooting on the border of the shuk. And of course not only was the song immensely pro-Zionist, I was wearing a T-shirt that on the front said “I love Israel, I want peace” with “I am a Zionist” on the back.
Now I’m not the type to want to be overly provocative. There’s a difference between being proud, and standing up for what you believe in, and being silly. I was rather concerned about the possible results of us shooting, particularly with the crowd that was beginning to gather, but having been assured that things would be alright, I tried to comfort myself with the thought that most people around probably wouldn’t understand a lot of my words, and went with the flow. Apparently the shot was artistically too good to miss out. We did a couple of takes, and it was all good. Then, it was decided to shoot from a different angle. This required me actually having to stand in the shuk. I was really unhappy about that but kind of ended up doing as I was told (one does not argue with the director, it seems!). The camera was being set up, and one of the friendly shop owners decided to engage me in conversation on the subject of my T-shirt:
Friendly shop-owner: “You love Israel?”
Me, complete with nervous smile: “Yes”
FSO: “Do you love Arabs?”
Me: “Yes [followed by an attempt at a friendly greeting in my rudimentary Arabic]”
FSO: “So why doesn’t your T-shirt say “˜I love Arabs’?”
Me: “Errr”¦I don’t know”¦I didn’t make the T-shirt”
FSO: “So why don’t you get one? If you loved Arabs, it would say it on your T-shirt.”
Me: “Ah, yes. Good idea. I’ll look into it”
At this point another friendly shop-owner piped up:
FSO2: “You want peace?”
Me: “Yes, don’t you?”
FSO2: “In your sweet dreams will you have peace”
Fortunately at this point the cameraman announced that the shot didn’t in fact work and I made a hasty and most relieved exit.
Some of the other locations provided other challenges. I’d been informed that we’d purposely chosen sites for which it was not necessary to get permission in order to shoot. However, it wasn’t always that simple. At the kenesset, we had three security guards approach us and they took quite some convincing to allow us to film. Throughout the process they kept us under their watchful eye. I’m not sure how the convincing happened (I was being re-made-up at the time) but I got an interesting insight when we were shooting in the Mamilla open air mall. A security guard approached and started asking questions. Things were looking a bit tricky at which point I interjected, with my best Received Pronunciation: “Hello!” The guard then proceeded to say the following (in Hebrew): “Aaah – you’re from abroad? No problem!”
We continued setting up and I began chatting to one of the girls in the shop whose electricity we were using. The conversation was recorded, and will definitely appear online at some point, but here’s a preview:
Friendly girl: “You are a rapper, you must be rich, you are Jay-Z, no?”
Me (slightly taken aback that this mistake could occur): “Erm, I’m not Jay-Z, I’m Antithesis”
Friendly girl: “Oh, so why did he [pointing at the producer] tell me you are Jay-Z?”
I didn’t get to ask Benny if he did in fact tell her this, and why. I can only assume that he was joking, based on the fact that it would be very hard to confuse me with possibly the most famous rapper in the world (for a start, he is black, and I am quite clearly not, unless they were doing something with the make-up on the sly). But, I suppose it was a compliment, or should at least be taken as such!
The concert scene was particularly fun. We took over a small bar on King George and invited people down. It was great to see some familiar faces and big love must go to the Southern Hemisphere section of the Machon L’Madrichei Chul – they represented something big. It was great they had so much energy as I was feeling properly knackered by that stage in the evening but the passion they had was infectious, and gave me the extra push I needed to keep going.
By the end of the day I was quite hoarse, and completely exhausted, but very happy. It was a wrap as they say, and the crew were all very excited about the results. I got to see some of the shots at lunchtime and I must say, even though I am biased, they looked pretty cool. I’m really hyped to see the first edits which should be coming through soon, and then to get the video and message out to the people.
A big thanks is due to all the crew (many of whom worked for less than their normal fee for the cause) and especially to my mate Ziv for putting it all together. And a huge huge thanks for all the people who put in some money to help us make it happen. At the beginning we needed to raise £4000 and we managed already £3400, which is pretty amazing, particularly given the short time-frame.
Stay tuned for the behind the scenes video and the video itself!