Our first video experiment: Playdough, Ron, and Valenti jam

post by Michael Lagocki

So a few months back, we told you about the video experiment we were shooting with Blue Pill Entertainment, and some local musicians. Blue Pill is headed by Teddy Cool, a local director who is tearing up the Dallas music scene this year. The musicians we enlisted were local rapper Playdough, and local drummers Valenti and Captain Ron Davison.

I wanted us to try and capture something with some spontaneous energy, and I definitely wanted to pair artists that otherwise might not cross paths and work together. Making videos of pre-existing tracks is cool, but there’s a lot of people who are already good at that. Since ArtLoveMagic is known for live creation, I wanted to find a way to make something on the spot, and then shoot it documentary-style.

For it to work spontaneously, and be caught well on film, I figured we needed to make it as simple as possible. The people involved, from the film and sound crews, to the musicians, all had to be really good at what they did.

A hip hopper and a few live percussionists seemed like a safe bet to try this for the first time. Playdough’s a seasoned freestyler, so I knew he wouldn’t feel pressure making music on the fly. I first met Ron Davison at Open Mics where he was backing up poet after poet, creating live beats and ambiance to whatever they performed. And Valenti works with Ron in the band Melody Memory, so they’re real comfortable playing together. Seemed like a winning team.

I asked Playdough to bring in some lyrics and told him he would meet two drummers who were talented enough to just jump in and collaborate live. I told Ron and Valenti that they would work with a rapper who wrote positive, intelligent lyrics and had a clean delivery. In retrospect, everyone trusted me a lot. Heh. (thanks, guys)

Sunlight makes everything look good. Setting up lighting rigs often only works for one camera angle. The Blue Pill crew is brilliant with lighting, but a rig is expensive to rent and means moving around a lot of big clumsy equipment. The sun however is free and always looks awesome. So we needed to find a sunbathed, INDOOR location. Remember, we were shooting live sound too, so the outdoors was a no go. My friend Tanner found us a yoga studio – Super Yoga Palace – that worked perfectly.

Live sound would’ve been a nightmare, but we immediately went to someone who knows great sound, Colin Roy (who runs audio at The Green Elephant). Colin and I have spoken a lot about what shows should sound like, and how to balance performers vs. instruments, being able to hear lyrics from live singers with bands, etc. I thought he was our safest bet to get this right.

So how’d it go? The whole shot took about an hour from beginning to end. Before starting, and just after meeting them, Playdough gave the Valenti and Ron a quick idea of what the beat should move like. Not more than a minute or two conversation.

And then the musicians went for it. There was no practice run. We actually did two songs, and two takes of each, but all the audio in the vid is from song one take one.

This was a project I dreamed about for quite a bit before executing it, and even sat on for several weeks after it was completely edited. We released it this week specifically because Playdough has a huge show Wednesday night opening for BLACK STAR at the House of Blues, and another big show Friday Night, headlining at The Bone.

But I’m really proud we did this, and I’d love for a lot of people to check it out. If you have anywhere good to post it, a group of friends to share it with, a hip-hop site you know of, whatever… please do. I’d like to get more than just the ArtLoveMagic crowd to see it. The direct link is here:

Crazy thanks to everyone involved from Teddy and to Danny (our second camera man), Colin, Deb, David, Kzach, and Tanner who all supported this experiment in one way or another. To the musicians, thanks for trusting me and sharing your talents.

We hope in the future to do more projects like this, and have already begun discussions with directors and other musicians for upcoming collaborationss. I see no reason why there aren’t dozens of musicians we know who’d be great at something like this. Even visual artists or poets can get in the game. Who knows? It can be like a playground.

-ML

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