“Hello, Goodbye” :: SubtractiveLAD video essay by Director Tanner Volz

“This has taken me four months to write; time to call it done and put it out there. This is a long ramble of an essay about a music video project I helmed late last year, in advance of the release of the latest – and brilliant – album by SubtractiveLAD entitled Kindred.” The video is for “Hello, Goodbye.” (Written by Tanner Volz)

:::….:.:::….:::::::..:::::…..::..::::…::::.:.::::..:::…:::….:::.::::.:.::.:::.:::.:::…:::..::…::

I previewed Stephen Hummel‘s album and loved it all the way through – a unique and captivating mix of nostalgia, 80’s sci-fi bombast, and his usual experimental bent. A potent cocktail. “Hello, Goodbye” had the most immediate appeal because it cleverly inverts emotional investment – you think at first that you’re in gentle hands, but tides of dark analog arpeggiation soon overtake you. You’re left without a beat to stand on or a melody to lean on, an effect I wanted to emulate narratively and visually.

I brainstormed imagery with Stephen and my creative partners Britt Parott (Producer / Director) and Bob Wall (Producer / Cinematographer). My favorite hour of any music video project is during and after that first listen, when you license your imagination to follow its instincts, to ignore constraint.

The song immediately summoned mental imagery of children at play, sun dappled fall leaves, an empty wood, women emerging into the wood, dancing, playing as adults play, but with none of the chore or pain of adult life hanging over them. We agreed that we needed a core POV, someone who perhaps begins to perceive this playful environment as metaphor, as a stage, and who is ultimately left alone in the adult world, having torn through from metaphor to reality.

The song – and Kindred, the entire, superb album – is un-shy in its love for aging sci-fi scores. We wanted some hint of that, visually – sly hints at cloning, AI, dimensional traversion. It’s all there if you want it to be.

:::….:.:::….:::::::..:::::…..::..::::…::::.:.::::..:::…:::….:::.::::.:.::.:::.:::.:::…:::..::…::

Tanner Volz

Pre-production is tough. Even with a cast of five and just two locations it took a fair share of logistical finagling just to free one shooting day when all were available – and of course the weather then refused to play along! At any rate, what a cast and what a crew. Britt reached home to cast his amazing and multi-talented wife Kimmie Brunke as our protagonist, and their wise-beyond-her-years daughter Mackenzie as one of our children in the woods. Madeline Wheelock, our other forest child, is a friend of Mackenzie’s – and immediately we knew we would have that un-fakeable conspiratorial joy that childhood friends bring to their interactions.

Carley Manion, one of our two young adult women in the woods, I’d met a few times as the partner of my old music friend Steve Westbrook (aka electronic composer Ignatius) – I thought immediately of her, given her moderate resemblance to Kimmie and Mackenzie, her experience with movement and dance – we needed someone who would navigate steps with great confidence – and her obviously generous creative spirit.

It’s technically far from perfect – the amateur hand does occasionally unhinge your attention while watching. But, it gave me a wealth of sound and imagery to play with while editing and is, in my opinion, the closest I’ve yet come to participating in a very modest bit of “pure cinema” (yes, citing Lucas of all people).

For our other young woman, we needed someone who at first glimpse seems out of place, who responds with a discomfort or perhaps conveys the sense that she is not even real. I’d never met Sarah Masear but knew well of her commitment to alternative electronic music and the arts and judged from a handful of photographs that we would never find another whose style and appearance so perfectly fit what I had in mind. Sarah is striking and I knew that with some inventive lighting we would create unforgettable images.

After a sleepless night or two worrying about story details and transportation and the like, the week arrived and off we went.

:::….:.:::….:::::::..:::::…..::..::::…::::.:.::::..:::…:::….:::.::::.:.::.:::.:::.:::…:::..::…::

I pleaded with the weather lady but still got a rainy day. There went one image – sun-kissed autumn leaves, kids at play under an orange sky. The day was wet. It was cold. Okay, so we re-route our thinking and do our best. We started the day just shooting Kimmie coming to in a tangle beside the creek. One hour of Kimmie dredging through leaves and we were done. The rest of our cast and crew arrived, and we paused for a soggy lunch break. I played craft services as well, loaded up on a huge number of deli sandwiches and salads. We ate maybe half of what I brought.

Our crew. So, Bob is an old friend with whom I share a passion for tools and technique. Creatively we both clash and complement, much like a musical collaboration. It’s best to pick your instrument and stick to it. Mine was the static camera, Bob’s was the moving camera. He showed up strapped to his Steadicam – it seems to wear you, rather than the inverse – and strong, gorgeous concepts for long shots following our characters in action. He delivered some stunning footage, and I still have no clue how he did it. Now is also the time to mention that his beautiful wife Molly was literally within about one day of entering labor! They’ve since had their first child, a gorgeous girl named Pavane.

Britt I’ve now worked with on some seven or eight projects, and it’s clear that our brains are somehow linked. He is at least as weird a conceptual thinker as I, with a comparable fascination with the intangible and the unstated. Britt also brings to every project a great calm reserve that keeps us all focused and prevents us from getting too carried away or wrapped up in our own drama. He directed the girls, and brought out of them great naturalism with apparent ease. Britt rarely lets you see him sweat, and this does wonderful things for my sanity (which, as many can tell you, gets a little fast and loose in the middle of these projects).

My old chum Mo Nishiyama took production stills and ran a 3rd camera, capturing handheld footage. Mo brought – as he always does – a great positive energy to the day (a great asset on any long day of shooting, but especially in a water logged park in November).

My dear old best pal Laird Sheldahl humbly named himself my umbrella holder. He probably did spare me having to pay to repair water damage to $5k worth of rented gear. Steve, Carley’s partner who I mentioned earlier, was also on hand, helping us hump all of the gear through puddles and mud through all 9 hours of this thing.

We shot from 11am until dark, in the order you see the footage. Our girls were amazing – all the horror stories about working with kids on film projects are probably true, but not for us. Kenzie and Madeline followed our direction but, more than that, became excited, happy children as if by magic whenever we needed their energy.

All the horror stories about working with kids on film projects are probably true, but not for us. Kenzie and Madeline followed our direction but, more than that, became excited, happy children as if by magic whenever we needed their energy.

Sarah and Carley were in far more ambiguous roles. They are in the park because they always have been. They are the liminal crease between youth and responsibility: so how do you invent a character from nothing more than a theoretical abstract? I don’t know, but they did it. Their friendship and energy and the sadness that follows their inevitable, inexplicable growth apart is affecting and completely relatable. These poor characters aren’t even dignified with names! Carley and Sarah boldly danced into these metaphors and gave the piece perhaps its most moving relationship.

Kimmie, as the stranded witness to this weird generational allegory, is of course our Mary Sue, and as a portrayal of our need to capture and participate in family – even these fictions and dreams of sisterhood – she is wonderful. Wordless and following her, what, hallucinations? Jailors? And trying to understand and ultimately reach out to these phantoms, in the end passing through into the sweet orange of the city in autumn, awake or in a neighboring borough of the same dream. Her phantoms are always beyond her reach, and her sadness is palpable in the closing moments of the piece.

:::….:.:::….:::::::..:::::…..::..::::…::::.:.::::..:::…:::….:::.::::.:.::.:::.:::.:::…:::..::…::

This one means a lot to me. It’s technically far from perfect – the amateur hand does occasionally unhinge your attention while watching. But, it gave me a wealth of sound and imagery to play with while editing and is, in my opinion, the closest I’ve yet come to participating in a very modest bit of “pure cinema” (yes, citing Lucas of all people).

I’m not sure what this piece means. I plead Lynch on that. Stephen, Britt, or Bob would possibly say something entirely different. I think it says something about the conflict of nostalgia and responsibility, about the attraction of abandoning the self when faced with daily mundanities. That children are artists. That artists want nothing than more to continue playing. That we would often rather forget than remember.

:::….:.:::….:::::::..:::::…..::..::::…::::.:.::::..:::…:::….:::.::::.:.::.:::.:::.:::…:::..::…::

Kindred is out now on n5MD. [Listen or Purchase] [Watch video at YouTube]

Tanner Volz is an electronic musician, photographer, and videographer and can be contacted here.

TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0 Comments

You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.