Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lie, welcome to the month of July!
The margins continue to get narrower in our TikiKiti judge jams. In the latest round of tabulations we came up with a three-way tie for fourth place, which means this is another Bonus Content post! Six videos! Can you believe it? Keep feeling fascination, everybody!
1. Director: TheArtElaquare
Artist: Marina & The Diamonds
Song: “Teen Idle”
Is that cat real? We’d be lion if we said we were unimpressed by the presence of the King of Beasts. Photoshop or Rent-A-Critter? In addition to Simba, the judges were fairly floored by the seamless editing and sumptuous visual choices.
2. Producer: Smith Video Productions
Song: “Weight In Gold”
Powerhouse choreography and nimble camerawork are all you need to make a statement. Dancer Chaos Omnivox has enough power to light up a small country.
3. Producer: Anders Overgaard
Artist: Alan Walker
Love is a silly game… Until it isn’t. A surprisingly enjoyable romantic drama deftly rendered.
4. Producer: Ilker Toy
Song: “Down To The Cellar”
There’s definitely a vibrant international flavor this month, and Turkish scenarist Ilker Toy has no problem imagining a world of possibilities.
4. Producer: The Gurung Group
Song: “Know This Time”
Genuine poignancy is hard to pull off, but the Gurung Family (siblings?) makes it look easy in an artfully moving short from Nepal.
4. Producer: Silens Films/Oshin
Identity and familial conflict are prevalent themes in Unofficial Music Videos from anywhere on the planet. Figuring out how and where to put your best foot forward can take time.
Questions? Comments? Clarification? Send ’em our way! Nothing makes our day more than original correspondence from actual people. Call us crazy, but sorting out spam is a lonely business.
It’s awards season at TikiKiti and we spent our spring break wading through thousands of indie music videos that found their way to us (a combination of whizzy algorithms and occasional dedication). The goal here is to recognize and encourage video artists and establish a site where new works can be displayed and discussed.
Our panel of judges has deliberated heatedly and at length over creativity, editing, and overall production quality, and reached their decision.
Five (six) artists will be honored, and these high scorers will receive an enviable trophy or gift card as tokens of our esteem and appreciation. More about the awards.
Without further ado, here are the Top Five videos (six actually; there was a three-way tie for fourth place) for January 2018. We’re a few months behind, but we’re aiming to get up to date in a quick-bunny hurry.
Superb work, people! Take a bow and a victory lap.
1. Producer: Ch4rlie97
Artist: Caravan Palance
Song: Lone Digger
A strong narrative concept, supple camera, and unexpected editing choices made the exhilarating “Lone Digger” the top vote-getter this month. Kudos Ch4rlie97.
2. Producer: MangoWatch
Artist: Michael Jackson
Song: Blood on the Dance Floor
The commitment and choreography are first-rate. The attention to detail, the costumes, and performance really bowled us over. Paging Doctor MangoWatch!
3. Producer: Utkarsh Chaturvedi
Artist: Massive Attack
Visually arresting from open to close. The pace and variety of imagery is spellbinding. Well done, Mr. Chaturvedi et. al.
4. Producer: VelvetAnt Films
Song: Cannibal Lectures
Video artist Chad Shepp continues to astound us with his arsenal of found footage and editing finesse.
4. Producer: Alfredo Fortunato Films
Artist: Demi Lovato
Song: Sorry Not Sorry
Spirit, swagger, and genuine joy are abundant in this high-energy entry from Alfredo Fortunato Films.
4. Producer: Sebastian Linares
Artist: Bruno Mars + Cardi B
These guys are having fun but their dedication to the choreography and the project itself is 100 percent. We salute you, Sebastian!
It’s always gratifying to witness a video artist develop from fledgling stylist into a legitimate expressive force. Chad Shepp, 24, hails from Hamilton, Ontario, and wants to be a filmmaker.
An admirer of singular talents like Sam Raimi, Stanley Kubrick, and Quentin Tarantino, Shepp has created dozens of unofficial music videos under the moniker VelvetAnt Films, a Youtube channel with close to two thousand subscribers.
Shepp tailors gorgeous found visuals to a wide variety of emotion-soaked tuneage, demonstrating an unfailing eye for color, movement, and mise-en-scene.
“The thing is, I use videos from public domain sources,” Shepp writes. “I take the videos and splice them together.” Armed with only Windows Movie Maker and a mind keenly tuned to words and melody, the young Canadian scours the internet for images that inspire him to create his captivating video collages.
The footage he assembles is always powerful and evocative, even if it didn’t come from his camera.
Shepp initially got hooked on video by Twenty One Pilots cover of the Elvis Presley hit, “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and from there he’s been a veritable Energizer bunny, producing more than 200 videos.
“What hooked me about the song is the calming effect,” Shepp notes. “It swishes over me when I listen. It’s a beautiful song and speaks to me personally. The song seems to sum up something in my life I can’t explain.”
Musically, Shepp is all over the map, from crooners like James Blunt and Ed Sheeran, to hip-hop heavies like Eminem and Tyler the Creator, to respectable old farts like Creedence Clearwater Revival and Neil Young.
“I love all music, but my favorite is rap and folk,” Shepp explains. To the best of his knowledge, none of the high-profile artists to whom he’s paid video tribute have seen his work.
In “Magdalene” by British folk duo Bear’s Den, Shepp tweaks the colors in a desolate townscape that seems to have been ruined in some kind of disaster.
Though he artfully ducks questions about his current state of mind (and where he finds his footage), Shepp says he definitely sought a post-apocalyptic vibe that is at odds with the song’s quiet intimacy.
“It took a long time to make that one,” Shepp admits, revealing a key element in his process. “Figuring out what song fits the video takes time.”
As an artist, Shepp is certainly capable of frenetic cutting and loading images into a visual trebuchet to bombard the senses (his editing on Machine Gun Kelly’s “Wake and Bake” comes to mind). But his latest work has a slow-mo, languid quality full of longer takes that makes for a more consistent mood frame with deeper resonance.
“Yes very much so,” Shepp agrees, when queried if he’s more drawn to long shots and continuous action these days. But don’t expect this fascination to last forever; Shepp is a restless artist always on the hunt for fresh inspiration.
And us TikiKiti cats will be here to keep you posted on all his latest developments.
What with all the fires, earthquakes, and tropical storms that reduce entire populations to hunting and gathering in one infernal blow, you can, according to The New York Times, rest assured that you’re not the only one having deep thoughts about Armageddon.
As writer John Scalzi notes, “These aren’t the End Times, but it sure as hell feels like the End Times is getting in a few dress rehearsals…”
In addition to coping with massive environmental destruction, we’re angrily digesting a lack of concern among those powerful enough to make a difference. “Thoughts and prayers,” an off-hand empathetic statement has become an empty gesture, a symbol of indifference to suffering on a large scale, another dose of balloon juice to apply to the burned area.
So let’s all sleep with one eye open and hopefully a basement full of bottled water. And maybe while we’re folding our tarps, we can take a break and create a moving picture that adds dimensional substance (tears, mainly) to the nebulous idea of thoughts and prayers.
I wanted to find more recent examples of people using Mashup video and music to make a point about determination in the face of unthinkable tragedy, but then I realized that folks in Puerto Rico, Florida, Houston, etc. probably have more pressing concerns at the moment.
Los Angeles video artist and television director Zadi Diaz captured the confusion, horror, and resilience of post-Katrina New Orleans, seamlessly set to a wistful tune by Green Day.
This is textbook fusion of music and image—unimaginable chaos and devastation written all over the faces of survivors. The song “Wake Me Up When September Ends” breathes to a beat of trauma spun by a narrator who no longer has the will to resist. Great source material and Diaz’s editing is on point.
Why rely on news footage when you can cadge even more dramatic footage from a Japanese disaster film? YouTube video veteran KaMoMo heightens the tension with a pulse-racing synth soundtrack by Dutch EDM producer Martin Garrix.
Despite the theatricality of this approach, the video cuts deep considering how badly Japan has been ravaged, not only by nature, but the systems incapable of preventing impending disaster. It’s like reality is being directed by Werner Herzog instead of George Lucas, like we were promised.
Hurray! Coldplay goes country in solidarity with Hurricane Harvey survivors, dedicating a new off-brand song to wet and miserable fans in Texas and Florida. This comes to us from Houston businessman Jeff Isola.
Maybe it isn’t the snappiest Nashville knock-off, but good intentions count for a lot when you sell as many records as Coldplay. This is what I meant by adding substance to “thoughts and prayers.” Something real that came from somewhere real.
Four ways to help Puerto Rico:
As artists, how do we choose our interpretation?
Is there a story that needs telling? Good people versus bad people? A perspective that is underrepresented at the table? An angle we’ve overlooked?
Foster the People had a sizeable hit in 2011 with “Pumped Up Kicks,” a song that attempted to articulate the point of view of young loners whose anger we typically fail to recognize—until something terrible happens.
We’ve all seen the news. Outcast teen channels isolation into rage. By inhabiting the viewpoint of the teen, songwriter Mark Foster is seeking empathy for a devil that we had a hand in creating.
He explained further to Spinner UK:
“’Pumped Up Kicks’ is about a kid that basically is losing his mind and is plotting revenge. He’s an outcast. I feel like the youth in our culture are becoming more and more isolated. It’s kind of an epidemic. Instead of writing about victims and some tragedy, I wanted to get into the killer’s mind, like Truman Capote did in In Cold Blood. I love to write about characters. That’s my style. I really like to get inside the heads of other people and try to walk in their shoes.”
Foster mulled over writing from the perspective of the victim, but felt it would be a cop out. He also points out that there is no actual violence in the song, only the kid’s internal monologue.
To give shape to this discussion, let’s look at a crop of Unofficial Music Videos, each seeking to define or process the artist’s view on a volatile subject, school shootings.
The Dancing One
Dancer Marquese Scott is a verified sensation as his dope dub-stepping performance video to a remix of the FtP tune has passed 130,000 views. No two ways about it, this is physical artistry of the highest caliber.
Scott’s rippling, contorting, and body control are precise like videogame animation; it’s easy to overlook his nearly inhuman movement potential.
As for the source material, Scott appears to be advising us to dance (i.e., make art) in the face of mounting danger, and to never stop living passionately as a countermeasure to dread and paranoia.
Just for the record, I’ve been saying the same thing for 50 years.
The Anime One
We find similar forces at work in the anime mashup of “Pumped Up Kicks” by video artist AMV BR. Foster’s lyrical frame is abandoned in favor of an anime tone poem that also seems to promote joy and optimism in the face of what can only be imminent tragedy.
The mercurial expressions of rapture and rage countenanced by anime characters tell us everything we need to know in any situation. We’re either having fun, in love, furious, or miserable. In the case of adolescents and adolescence, this is an unarguable statement.
The Narrative One
The video collective known as TheCactusClub employs the most basic approach to the narrative at hand, as we witness an abused, ghostly teen taking a long walk to school with his six-shooter. The action has impact, but lacks an emotional payoff; obviously we’re supposed to feel sympathy for the kid—he does have a vicious wino for a mother—but visually all we are left with is a protagonist who may or may not have committed a violent act. This makes sense in terms of Foster’s observation that the threats are only visible in the kid’s mind.
Footnote: There are many UMVs of “Pumped Up Kicks” out in YouTubeland which reinforces the idea that the song struck a nerve and generated considerable conversation. Even more telling, cable television series such as The O.A. and American Horror Story, that have depicted school shooting incidents, have become UMV visual aides after being synched up to the song. And it definitely gets you thinking.
Have your passports in order, we’re paddling across the pond to meet photographer Phil Bebbington, a prolific producer of Unofficial Music Videos. Hailing from Bath, in the county of Somerset, Phil is a self-taught photographer whose work has been shown in the United States and Greece, as well his native England.
Curiously, a perusal of his portfolio at philbebbington.com (heartily recommended!) could prompt a visit to Google maps. The artist’s nook-and-cranny fascination with America is explored in vivid detail, and it fuels his sepia-toned videos for somber indie-rock acts like Black Heart Procession, Red House Painters, and Willard Grant Conspiracy.
It was a pair of Phil’s videos for the latter band that first snagged my attention. Upon learning of the recent passing of WGC singer-songwriter Robert Fisher, I stumbled across “The Suffering Song” and “The Ghost of the Girl In The Well” on YouTube, and was captivated by the stark archive footage providing the visual landscape for Fisher’s forlorn lyrical musings.
“Mostly these videos are emotional responses to the music and my mood,” Phil says via email. “The lyrics are rarely considered, as is often pointed out by people that view them.”
For Phil, words and tempo are distant considerations, behind tone and mood. His work qualifies as a mashup approach, but it’s more like an organic, historically correct film score set to a Ken Burns joint.
“Oh, I was drawn to WGC through other stark Americana (music), or was it WGC drove me to other; not sure,” he muses. “I love music that scratches the underbelly of a place or helps us retreat into ourselves.
“The videos are rarely linked to the words, I’m not that clever,” he continues. “I tend not to generally connect to lyrics, but, more to the mood of a song. The selection of footage would be with mood in mind.
“It’s a fairly organic process with the video sourced from different places,” Phil continues. “Often I will see footage on YouTube that I feel I could use with a tune I love.
“Other times I use royalty free archive sites and sometimes I shoot the video myself whilst travelling with the aim to perhaps use it at some stage. ‘The Suffering Song’ was, I’m fairly sure, a public information film from an archive site.”
For his photographs, Phil is keen on Hasselblad and Holga medium format cameras, as he’s partial to “the pace it imposes on him.”
“(For videos) I have used Windows Movie Maker in the past. In recent years I have been working with an old version of Sony Vegas. Really anything that allows (you) to cut tracks and isolate audio from video works fine. I’m sure that there are far simpler programs out there than Sony Vegas!”
Several songs utilize footage from Phil’s annual sojourns across America, and while it’s anything but frenetic, the steady cam perfectly captures a slow roll set against dreamy terrain that appears empty, but is actually anything but.
“I love small-town America, I love to photograph it,” Phil says. “I have tried to get over at least once a year over the past 7 or 8. Usually alone … and just drive for a few weeks. I can usually do about 6,000 miles in that time.”
Happy trails, Phil! Take a picture, it’ll last longer.
In our continuing effort to recognize the artists responsible for Unofficial Music Videos (or Amateur Music Video/Fan Video), TikiKiti caught up with director Jesse Locke from Bend, Oregon.
About two weeks ago, we singled Jesse out for his gritty visual take on the Oasis song, “Cigarettes and Alcohol” and followed it up with a director Q&A.
In the “Cigarettes and Alcohol” video, were you looking for particular narrative elements or just trying to create a vivid collage to accompany the song?
My narrative for that video was to depict drug and alcohol addiction in a graphic light. I’m not trying to preach and say this is bad, just show you images of fucked-up shit. I feel like this song is a down and dirty song, so I wanted to have visuals that didn’t pull any punches.
Did you have a specific idea in mind that guided you or was it a more organic process?
It always starts out with a specific idea, but then it changes as time progresses and new ideas are formed. So it’s a combination of both. I had an idea I wanted to use graphic drug imagery and then it grew from there.
Was all the footage taken from YouTube?
Is the mashup approach one you favor? What are some other ideas of methods that you’ve tried?
Mashups are fun. I’m trying to push the abstract video envelope these days and put visuals to beats that are on the base visually appealing, that don’t really pertain to a concept or a narrative that goes with the song.
Is there an art form that informs your work or that you are inspired by?
Animation is kind of like a unicorn to me. Like, I know people know how to do it well and make really cool shit. I want to make really cool shit, but the in-between is extremely elusive.
Is there an artist that informs your work or who inspires you?
Quentin Tarantino has been a huge influence on the way I view the world, and my interests in exploitation etc.
What have you been up to lately?
Heading to Jordan to film our second documentary in the region.
When creating a fan video, is there a goal you try to achieve?
My goal is for the band to [A] see it [B] like it. I want to create something that a major studio band would consider using for their official video.
What is it about a song that makes you want to create visual accompaniment?
It depends on the artist, not all songs make me think in terms of visuals. But there are certain bands that speak to me on a visual level. Like Radiohead. Every time I listen to any of their songs I instantly think of cool little vignettes that would go with it. Songs are pretty awesome to create to because of the beat. I edit everything to the beat, even films that have no music in it. It has to have a cadence so making a music video seems to be a simple and fun idea for a person who lives in a visual storytelling world.
What gear do you recommend for other aspiring video makers?
DSLR camera, an expensive steady cam (save to get) and 1,000 watt light kit.