I have been talking about the development of the Cuppa Change song here and here. Celia Palli composed us a song and Arlene Hazzan Green offered to direct a music video. Shawn Hook-Carleton came on to do sound and edit, and Jake Vincent came on to shoot.
Then Celia found us some wonderful musicians. First, she asked on Heather Crawford to play guitar. Heather was the recipient of the Greg Wells Music Scholarship in 2008, and often performs in jazz festivals around Ontario, as well as events like Ottawa’s Bluesfest and Toronto’s Nuit Blanche. She is a regular member of Toronto’s gospel group HeavenSound, and folk/jazz ensemble, The Michelle Willis Group. Then Ben Miller offered to play double bass. Ben plays with bands like God Made Me Funky, Leah Daniels, Brownman, and ko. This gave us a song to sing, a band to play it, and a crew to shoot it. What fun.
We booked a session with Juan Valencia to record the song in his studio. Juan not only writes music for and works with, bands, he also produces as well as composes for TV. Juan has worked on YTV’s The Next Star, and several shows for HGTV, Slice, CBC and the Discovery Travel Channel. It was my son Emmett’s first time in a recording studio, and he got lots of great advice from both Celia and Juan.
Here are Celia and Emmett in the studio after the session was over:
And here is Juan Valencia working with Shawn Hook-Carleton, our diligent sound guy and editor. Shawn is also a drummer in his own right with his band, Starship Experience, so he had lots in common with Juan:
The following weekend, we met at the Alternative Grounds warehouse to shoot the video at a very early 7:45 am. I have since come to understand that a 7:45 am call time might be a bit early for musicians. Celia, Ben and Heather were all very good-natured about it… Emmett, the 10 year-old musician in the crowd, not so much. He might be 10, but he already sleeps like a teenager.
Linda Burnside, who co-owns Alternative Grounds, was already at the warehouse, making, well, what is the best coffee ever. Now there’s a perc (so to speak) for blurry-eyed musicians and crew: lattes and espressos with excellent, freshly roasted, fair trade coffee.
Arlene, our director, staged the musicians by the huge, beautiful roaster, surrounded by as many 150-pound bags of fair trade coffee as we could lift.
Ben, our double bass player, actually stood on a pile of coffee bags. (And here’s a staging trick: those bags behind Ben were actually filled with paper – so they could sit on a shelf, and provide a lovely backdrop. But the rest of the coffee was real. And very heavy.)
Five and a half hours and twenty-six takes later, we had a music video. Emmett — who was experiencing his first music video shoot — enjoyed the jamming with Heather, Celia and Ben between takes a lot more than the amount of repetition it took to get the music and shots and lighting just right. At one point, Celia suggested they all race around the block to get their energy back… something Emmett enjoyed tremendously. None of the musicians would admit who won the race. I suspect, though, it was the youngest member of the Cuppa Change band.
So, like most film and tv sets, it was hurry up and wait. Kirk Dunn, who was there in the capacity of heavy-coffee-bag lifter and child-guitar-player-eyeline-provider and producer-assistant, managed to get in several rows of knitting on his massive knitting project, so he was very happy:
Linda Burnside also managed to get in several rows, but her knitting project was not quite as massive as Kirk’s – the beginning of the kind of Christmas gift you wear on your hands to keep them warm in the cold weather, I believe:
Here are Ben Miller, Celia Palli and Emmett between takes:
Heather Crawford, waiting patiently:
Jake Vincent, setting up the camera:
Arlene checking the shot:
Here is Shawn teaching Emmett about his drums:
And here are a few great images from the Alternative Grounds warehouse:
Our last shot of the day was Emmett sitting on the loading dock, doing a quick direct-to-camera about how to get involved in Cuppa Change. That’s Kirk is the background, holding up the coffee bags so that they wouldn’t topple over as Emmett does his takes.
I’d like to make special note of the fact that, between takes, Jake Vincent, our cameraman, won the Excellent Trick of the Day Award by taking a very short run and doing a standing broad jump from the driveway to the loading dock in one go. He did this without hurting himself or even breaking a sweat. We were all shocked – but Shawn caught it on tape, so I know it to be true.
As we cleaned up the warehouse, as the musicians packed up, and as the crew put away all the camera and lighting equipment, I saw this poster on the Alternative Grounds warehouse wall:
And I thought that this could very well be Cuppa Change’s motto:
Change the World. Why the hell not?
We were finally done the shoot, and we got back into the car and were on our way. And the crazy early start to the day finally took its toll…
Shawn is editing the video as we speak. I can’t wait to premiere it here. Stay tuned.