Ever since we worked with Mary Esther Carter on her last music video Joanna, we immediately began discussing ideas to embark on another project for her upcoming E.P., Doula.
We started to talk about Doula track by track via text, phone, over coffee and we eventually came up with concepts for each track.
Settling on the track, “Night Cockroach,” we felt the tone and mood of the song would be easy to execute, and since it was going to be the next track to be mixed and finalized on Doula, it became an obvious choice. The song for us has this dreamy and dark feeling, and at the end, we wanted to make sure that the mix of vibes felt organic.
The idea was simple, we follow Mary through New York City. Using her movements, which resembled an insect, as she moved inconspicuously through the streets...going unnoticed...trying to figure out her surroundings.
For this shoot, we decided to spread it across three days. On the first day, we used the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera set up to film Mary walking, dancing and singing through the streets of New York both in regular speed and slow motion.
The Blackmagic set up included a 7 inch SmallHD monitor to help fully realize the final video. As always, we had a slew of 64gb SD cards along with an external battery pack from Juicebox. The battery pack ensured that we would be able to shoot through the entire day without having to worry about charging or replacing batteries.
We danced our way down to Fifth Avenue…soon rush hour began. The sidewalks eventually filled with people going home from work, and I suddenly realized that it was exactly what we had in mind—the mad rush of people as a backdrop—it was actually happening as we had hoped for.
In fact, at one point a group of tourist during a photo walk all stopped when they saw Mary performing one of her off the cuff dance movements. They began to snap photos, and it morphed into some surreal paparazzi moment. We were suddenly enveloped in the sound of clicking shutters. It was definitely a high moment of the first day.
Soon, the sun started to go down, and we hopped on the subway to make our way down to Chinatown for the night portion of the shoot.
“Using the neon Panels of the storefronts as a source of light a la Blade Runner, in this part of the video we hoped to capture the vibe of Chinatown's gritty urban feel. At one point we ended up in an alley where a Chinese restaurant was located and found the kitchen door open. Workers stood by the entrance talking into their phones as they took, what probably was, a much needed break from their work.”
After shooting an entire vocal take in that alley, we continued further through Chinatown to come upon another Chinese restaurant. In that moment, the idea was hatched to go inside and capture Mary at a table alone. The shot would consist of her eating awkwardly in an empty space. In our minds it would somehow fit in the final piece.
We start with ideas, we begin with a plan, and we see where the day takes us and what moves us.
During the second day of shooting, we met at the 191st Street subway station in Washington Heights which is famous for its walls lined with different murals from different artists.
While using this as a backdrop, Mary danced all up and down the length of the tunnel.
Her movements did not go unnoticed as a passerby stopped to see the dance. She was so moved by Mary’s dance that she requested her photo to be taken with Mary to memorialize this moment for her.
Beforehand, we went out and scouted locations that could be used when the time came to film the music video.
We started this day at the Brooklyn Museum and then proceeded to drive around Brooklyn and stop when we needed to. Discuss, film, hop back in, drive.
On this day, we were joined by a journalist, Hannah Moore from London who was studying at Columbia University at the time.
She and Mary met a few weeks prior to the shoot at an exhibition opening where she spoke about filming this video. She wanted to see the process for herself. Through out the day Hannah was just beyond the camera lens quietly observing and taking notes.
We ended the day at a residential area of Brooklyn where streets were lined with brownstones and residence walking their children home from school.
Mary once again played these moments as an out of place occupant just as she did inside the Chinese restaurant.
The end out come of these types of shots, we hope, will lend to the feeling of isolation, hidden in the shadows and peering through the cracks like a Night Cockroach.
Currently, the video is in post-production and will be released within the next few months. We are already in the works to create another music video for Mary.