Stories from the Set: Halo Haynes Music Video

Hey Everyone,

Our Location (All photos by Sam Tansley)
   For a while, there were two things I really wanted to do. One was to film something in the 'piano room' of Derwentside Antiques Centre, an old factory filled with old wonders in my old hometown of Belper. The second was to make a music video for actor/model Halo Haynes ever since I saw this creaky -sounding webcam-captured video of her singing on youtube.

   Finally, in February of this year, I got my act together and combined the two. Joined by my two then-housemates, Chris Newman (cinematographer for the project) and Sam Tansley (who came along as a production assistant and stills photographer), we embarked on this fun little passion piece, and spent the day in the antique centre - which turned out to be very drafty in February, and the kind of cold which meant Halo frequently appeared to have steam coming out of her mouth as she sang.

   So, for the first time, here is the story of that shoot:

Me and Chris on location
   MORNING - We had a few grumpy faces first thing; not only was it colder indoor than out, but I had also made poor Chris carry a big bag of my redhead lights all the way from Derby to Belper! But the staff at Derwentside were very friendly, and even found a kettle for us to plug in amongst the old pianos and carpet tiles.

   From a cinematography point of view, the location was fairly difficult to work with. On my location recce months previously, I'd been impressed by the way beams of light shot into the room from either side. But it turns out that there needs to be bright sunshine for this to happen, and we were shooting on a cold late-winter day. Also, this kind of light is never constant unless you set up artificial lighting outside the window, and we were four stories off ground level! So Chris had to compete with a naturally very dark location - but luckily my redheads counteracted that, and the contrast of the dark shadows with the bright lights looked rather lush in the end!

   Halo's opted for an upbeat song first, which helped to raise all of our spirits: Sunday Morning by Maroon 5. Chris set up three shots for the one set - a close-up, a wide-shot, and a roaming close-up which worked as cutaways too - and Halo performed once for each shot. This worked pretty well so we repeated the pattern through her other performances too.

Halo performing Sunday Morning, before the frostbite set in!
    I hadn't heard her perform Sunday Morning before, but because of the youtube clip which had inspired me to do this video, I insisted Halo did a performance of Katy Perry's Extra-Terrestrial (I was recording the whole set on my Fostex, which I still had back then, so I knew I'd get a copy of the song to put onto my Walkman afterwards!). Halo was so cold by that point that she was finding it hard to sing; I agreed when she wanted to put a coat on before singing that second track, but we made sure to get a shot of her putting the coat on to help cover continuity.

A close-up for Extra-terrestrial
   LUNCHTIME - Halo was rehearsing for her third and final song of the day (I think it was a Gershwin piece) when I heard her singing a different song. She was just playing around, I think - strumming to herself and quietly singing a few notes - but my ears pricked up. On not one four four consecutive times at the start of this year, Halo's set being one of those pieces, I have heard versions of Chris Isaac's Wicked Game in a prominent way. I'm not sure I believe in fate or signs, but sometimes your gut tells you to go for something, and you have to listen to it. So I asked Halo if she would at least try performing Wicked Game instead.

   She hadn't rehearsed this at all, and she basically had to make up the guitar accompaniment on the spot, but I wanted to use that spontaneous element to our advantage. I wanted it to be as raw and vulnerable as possible, which inspired Halo to go wigless on camera for the first time since we started working together; this in itself seemed very powerful to me, as though she had taken away her armour, revealing the natural-coloured little bob she had underneath. It ended up being a seriously beautiful performance; after playback, Halo joked that she should have me with her when recording music in the future!

Chris, the Eskimo cinematographer!
   There was a fourth, unofficial song which Halo performed for us that day. She was playing Fly Me To The Moon to herself as I was setting up the microphone, so I made sure to point it at her and hit record, even though the camera wasn't rolling. It was a sweet, short rendition which ended with some silliness akin to the ending of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi. When it came to the edit, this song provided the perfect backing for the end credits.

   We stopped for lunch at George's Tradition, whose chips are the pride of Belper. It's good to be home!

    AFTERNOON - With the songs in the bag, we were able to relax and focus on getting cutaways with Halo. Although, having dedicated the majority of our time to recording the songs themselves, we hadn't left ourselves ages to get the cutaways before the shop had to close. Luckily these cutaways weren't too complicated.

   Whenever I do music videos, I suggest that the client wears their own clothes - perhaps in an exaggerated version of their style - so that the video can say who they are in a personal way. Halo grabbed a big bag of clothes and accessories which said something about her, ranging from the delicate to the extrovert, and we made three outfits out of this collection. The first was a mix of cultures, where Halo wore a beaded Indian-style tunic with a native American feathered headdress. We got some of our most beautiful shots with Halo in this outfit - first we took advantage of the pianos and stained glass windows in our base camp by having her walk past these. Then we found an old bed frame to have her sit and pose inside (I couldn't help but have Ashes flashbacks when we did this); while setting up this shot, Chris had a bit of a 'Eureka' moment when he discovered that shooting against the light source gave the most stunning, gentle, semi-silhouetted look.

Halo's first cutaway outfit was a mix of cultural styles
    With Halo in her second outfit (a ghostly white lace ensemble with a Lana Del rey-style floral headband), we explored the rest of the building, spending a great amount of time in Derwentside's 'room of doors' (which is exactly as it sounds, a room filled with antique and reclaimed doors, where I had gone about a year ago to buy the walls for the Stop/Eject alcove!). This room was difficult to shoot in because there were no available plug sockets, meaning Chris had to shoot in natural (dim) light, which was leaving us by the minute. But these shots looked wonderfully haunting, and we were able to use the redheads again as we posed Halo in the other rooms, sat on old antique beds and other furniture.
Halo in the 'room of doors'

   We created a third outfit with the last of the clothes Halo had bought, which included a luminescent gypsy skirt, striped 'Beetlejuice-esque' jacket, cybergoth goggles and comedy rabbit ears. Halo and I nicknamed this look 'Techno Bunny', which came about because neither me nor Halo had had much sleep the night before, and our brains had gone slightly mushy by this point. Which also meant we broke into inappropriate giggles during the final shots, but since we had exhausted most of the cinegenic parts of the location by that point, we didn't film much with this third and slightly bizarre look.


   So, that is the story of the shoot. Once we finished, neither Chris nor I could decide which of us should edit the piece (both keen to have a go as well as both being ridiculously busy on separate projects). Eventually I found time this Summer to put it together, then passed it back to Chris to colour grade. And hey presto, the video was finished. With a massive thankyou to all at Derwentside Antiques Centre for hosting us. It's a shop I seriously recommend you all visit!

   We've released the first two tracks - Sunday Morning and Extra-terrestrial - online, which I hope you will enjoy watching again, taking all of the above into account:

   As part of a mini marketing strategy, we are going to wait to release Wicked Game until the above video has had 2,000 views across Youtube and Vimeo. This third track is absolutely stunning and quietly powerful, so please, please share the above video around so that I can show it to you all!

Halo's raw cover of Wicked Game in the edit stages

    Halo's video has marked the start of a new era for Triskelle Pictures client videos, as next month I will be creating a video for vintage & handmade store Sheena Holland, then in October I will be returning to music video territory for 60s-style siren Lauren Lovejoy. And I will be sure to tell you all about these projects when they happen!

Sophie x


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