Nashville Music Video Shoots Find a Way Amid COVID-Related Limitations

The morning after a night of protest in downtown Nashville,
Matt Stell
snuck into the Fleet Street Pub in the city’s Printer’s Alley,
occupying the space for 12 hours as he portrayed 13 different
characters for the video to “If I Was a Bar.”

In the end, the project had Stell interacting with different
versions of himself, a clever, humorous way to build a story and
create online content at a time when plenty of consumers are
isolated and searching for entertainment. It’s also a victory
over creative limitations, given that social-distancing practices
related to the coronavirus forced him to do the shoot as the lone
on-camera actor, captured by a skeletal three-person crew.

“My mind was geared on ‘What can I do without bar extras or
all these different patrons we’d have, including a
bartender?’” says video director Dustin Haney.
“I had pretty much nobody to work with, so I kind of took that
from there and went, ‘Well, what if I just use Matt a bunch of
times over?’”

The clip is just one of numerous examples of directors and
producers finding ways to flex their creative muscle amid
restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Danielle
Bradbery
took a sexy walk through a lonely field for her
“Never Have I Ever” video. Cole Swindell
did a herky-jerky version of the moonwalk in a NASA-themed shirt
during the “Single Saturday Night” video. And Kane Brown shot
appearances on two NBC shows — The Voice and The Tonight Show
Starring Jimmy Fallon — 
on the same day, using a green screen
to make “Cool Again” look different on both programs.

“The virus has definitely made making videos more
difficult,” says Brown. “In the past when we had the
opportunity to tape a performance like 
The Voice, we would fly
to L.A. and record in front of an audience with all of the show
production. Now we have to figure it out ourselves and try to still
make it look good.”

And they have to make it safe, too. Record labels and video
production companies have all established guidelines for on-set
behaviors. Crews are kept small to make social distancing easier;
masks are required, except for actors while they are being filmed;
the production sites are scrubbed in advance of the shoot; hand
sanitizer is plentiful; and all foods are boxed and individually
wrapped, eliminating the buffet setup that was previously standard
for a shoot.

Complicating matters, some video professionals are
understandably squeamish about working in public spaces during the
COVID era, forcing producers to hire from a smaller talent
pool.

The work, however, is fairly plentiful. With concerts on hold
for the foreseeable future, video is increasingly important as a
vehicle for exposure. Both official and lyric videos, as well as TV
and concert performances, are in larger demand, and since the crews
are smaller, the productions generally cost less, allowing labels
and artists to finance more shoots.

But the creators are doing their best to heighten the quality,
and variety, of the productions. The industry initially responded
to self-isolation with a parade of live, at-home Facebook and
Instagram events. Those attempts quickly lost their novelty, and
video pros made inventive adjustments within the pandemic’s
limitations, such as the split-screen effects director Haney
employed in Stell’s “If I Was a Bar.”

“Dustin came up with that cool idea,” explains Stell.
“Necessity is the mother of invention. Figuring out the way that
we could do something fun and creative within this space, sometimes
it does almost help to have some boundaries to push against.”

To facilitate the collection and rollout of the videos, labels
have made adjustments, too. At Big Machine Label Group, creative
content/asset manager Seth Hellman developed three
simple video kits, each of which includes an iPhone with
dual-camera technology, a high-grade microphone, a tripod,
instructions and return packaging. The label sends a kit to an
artist, who can easily create the content and ship the kit back to
the label, where the phone is sterilized and the materials are
downloaded and distributed.

Even when the business returns to some level of normalcy, the
video kits are likely to remain a part of the BMLG creative
department’s practices.

“Especially with some of our artists that don’t live here in
Nashville, it’s not easy to have them just, you know, ‘Hey, hop
on over here tomorrow at four; we need some liners from you,’ or,
‘We need just a little bit of content,’” notes senior vp
creative Sandi Spika Borchetta. “Almost all of
them actually are really savvy with capturing things on their own
phone. So this is a step above that.”

Given the current explosion in COVID-19 cases and the likelihood
that a vaccine will not be available until 2021, smaller video
productions might be the only realistic alternative for another
year or so. BMLG employees and artists are flying rarely, if at
all, for safety reasons, so most videos are made near the act’s
locale. The lone exception so far is Bradbery’s “Never Have I
Ever” clip. Since her home is a three-hour drive from Austin, she
met director Peter Zavadil there and purposely
conducted the shoot outdoors, which is currently considered to be a
safer environment than an indoor site.

“It was a very, very small, stealth crew,” says Borchetta.
“They shot an interview with her, we got liners, they shot
footage for the music video, and everybody was masked up. They had
gloves on, they stayed far apart and it was very isolated.”

While the video pros are finding ways to work around COVID, it
becomes more difficult with each shoot to find new, creative ways
to react to the pandemic.

“The videos are more cost-effective and that’s great for the
short term,” says Brown’s video director, Alex
Alvga
. “However, we can’t do performances like this
indefinitely. I don’t think I’m speaking just for myself, but I
do look forward to a time when we can get back to fuller
performances.”

Even when that time arrives, the coronavirus era will likely
leave a mark because it’s forcing creative adjustments and
imprinting memories on the participants.

“As different as it was, I’ll never forget it,” says
Swindell of the green-screen production behind “Single Saturday
Night.” “I’ll probably never shoot another video like
it.”

Nashville Music Video Shoots Find a Way Amid COVID-Related
Limitations, Shop Ticket Snatchers

The morning after a night of protest in downtown Nashville,
Matt Stell
snuck into the Fleet Street Pub in the city’s Printer’s Alley,
occupying the space for 12 hours as he portrayed 13 different
characters for the video to “If I Was a Bar.”
In the end, the project had Stell interacting with different
versions of himself, a clever, humorous way to build a story and
create online content at a time when plenty of consumers are
isolated and searching for entertainment. It’s also a victory
over creative limitations, given that social-distancing practices
related to the coronavirus forced him to do the shoot as the lone
on-camera actor, captured by a skeletal three-person crew.
“My mind was geared on ‘What can I do without bar extras or
all these different patrons we’d have, including a
bartender?’” says video director Dustin Haney.
“I had pretty much nobody to work with, so I kind of took that
from there and went, ‘Well, what if I just use Matt a bunch of
times over?’”

The clip is just one of numerous examples of directors and
producers finding ways to flex their creative muscle amid
restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Danielle
Bradbery took a sexy walk through a lonely field for her
“Never Have I Ever” video. Cole Swindell
did a herky-jerky version of the moonwalk in a NASA-themed shirt
during the “Single Saturday Night” video. And Kane Brown shot
appearances on two NBC shows — The Voice and The Tonight Show
Starring Jimmy Fallon — 
on the same day, using a green screen
to make “Cool Again” look different on both programs.
“The virus has definitely made making videos more
difficult,” says Brown. “In the past when we had the
opportunity to tape a performance like 
The Voice, we would fly
to L.A. and record in front of an audience with all of the show
production. Now we have to figure it out ourselves and try to still
make it look good.”

And they have to make it safe, too. Record labels and video
production companies have all established guidelines for on-set
behaviors. Crews are kept small to make social distancing easier;
masks are required, except for actors while they are being filmed;
the production sites are scrubbed in advance of the shoot; hand
sanitizer is plentiful; and all foods are boxed and individually
wrapped, eliminating the buffet setup that was previously standard
for a shoot.
Complicating matters, some video professionals are
understandably squeamish about working in public spaces during the
COVID era, forcing producers to hire from a smaller talent
pool.
The work, however, is fairly plentiful. With concerts on hold
for the foreseeable future, video is increasingly important as a
vehicle for exposure. Both official and lyric videos, as well as TV
and concert performances, are in larger demand, and since the crews
are smaller, the productions generally cost less, allowing labels
and artists to finance more shoots.
But the creators are doing their best to heighten the quality,
and variety, of the productions. The industry initially responded
to self-isolation with a parade of live, at-home Facebook and
Instagram events. Those attempts quickly lost their novelty, and
video pros made inventive adjustments within the pandemic’s
limitations, such as the split-screen effects director Haney
employed in Stell’s “If I Was a Bar.”
“Dustin came up with that cool idea,” explains Stell.
“Necessity is the mother of invention. Figuring out the way that
we could do something fun and creative within this space, sometimes
it does almost help to have some boundaries to push against.”

To facilitate the collection and rollout of the videos, labels
have made adjustments, too. At Big Machine Label Group, creative
content/asset manager Seth Hellman developed three
simple video kits, each of which includes an iPhone with
dual-camera technology, a high-grade microphone, a tripod,
instructions and return packaging. The label sends a kit to an
artist, who can easily create the content and ship the kit back to
the label, where the phone is sterilized and the materials are
downloaded and distributed.
Even when the business returns to some level of normalcy, the
video kits are likely to remain a part of the BMLG creative
department’s practices.
“Especially with some of our artists that don’t live here in
Nashville, it’s not easy to have them just, you know, ‘Hey, hop
on over here tomorrow at four; we need some liners from you,’ or,
‘We need just a little bit of content,’” notes senior vp
creative Sandi Spika Borchetta. “Almost all of
them actually are really savvy with capturing things on their own
phone. So this is a step above that.”
Given the current explosion in COVID-19 cases and the likelihood
that a vaccine will not be available until 2021, smaller video
productions might be the only realistic alternative for another
year or so. BMLG employees and artists are flying rarely, if at
all, for safety reasons, so most videos are made near the act’s
locale. The lone exception so far is Bradbery’s “Never Have I
Ever” clip. Since her home is a three-hour drive from Austin, she
met director Peter Zavadil there and purposely
conducted the shoot outdoors, which is currently considered to be a
safer environment than an indoor site.
“It was a very, very small, stealth crew,” says Borchetta.
“They shot an interview with her, we got liners, they shot
footage for the music video, and everybody was masked up. They had
gloves on, they stayed far apart and it was very isolated.”

While the video pros are finding ways to work around COVID, it
becomes more difficult with each shoot to find new, creative ways
to react to the pandemic.
“The videos are more cost-effective and that’s great for the
short term,” says Brown’s video director, Alex
Alvga. “However, we can’t do performances like this
indefinitely. I don’t think I’m speaking just for myself, but I
do look forward to a time when we can get back to fuller
performances.”
Even when that time arrives, the coronavirus era will likely
leave a mark because it’s forcing creative adjustments and
imprinting memories on the participants.
“As different as it was, I’ll never forget it,” says
Swindell of the green-screen production behind “Single Saturday
Night.” “I’ll probably never shoot another video like
it.”

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