The Making of “Hey Man”

Through the Hipster Looking Glass

Music videos for us are a chance to explore creative concepts, play with specific technical challenges, or advance our production capabilities. Our new video for “Hey Man,” by the insanely epic band A Million Billion Dying Suns, was a chance to push ourselves in all of these areas, so we thought we’d take a little time to share our process for the video.

Andrew Juncker and Andrew Riddell talking through the water, bit by bit.

This is hands down the largest music video we’ve shot, with a huge cast and crew of extremely talented people. It’s also the first purely narrative music video we’ve made; basically, it’s a short film. When the band hit us up for a video, their only request was that we “go crazy.” They trusted us completely to come up with concept, and we knew immediately that it had to live up to the epicness of both the band’s name as well as the song itself. So… let’s go crazy time!

Our process for beginning a music video concept goes like this: step 1) listen to the song ad nauseam; step 2) listen to it some more; Step 3) are you listening? LISTEN!! Step 4) Ok, let’s create…

1st AC Theresa Wong and 2nd AC Sydney Cox prepping the camera for a plunge.
Underwater Op Ryan Thomas ready to submerge.
Gaffer Kiva Knight and Director of Photography Mike Epple discuss lighting water.
LEFT: 1st AC Theresa Wong and 2nd AC Sydney Cox prepping the camera for a plunge. CENTER: Underwater Op Ryan Thomas ready to submerge. RIGHT: Gaffer Kiva Knight and Director of Photography Mike Epple discuss lighting water.

The concept came out of the music and lyrics. We had this seed of an idea about a year ago that involved a dude getting the shit beat out of him by wizards, but at the time we weren’t quite sure what we’d do with it. When Nate Mercereau sent us the lyrics, we immediately got this “Sexy Sadie” vibe. We knew that this was the perfect video to pair with that original idea and then build on it. We didn’t want anything super literal or on-the-nose, so we took the theme of the song and created a story in which an overly confident, oblivious dude (played by Andrew Riddell) tumbles through a world where everything turns against him — loosely inspired by The Odyssey or the Wizard of Oz — as he journeys to darker and stranger places, only to emerge changed forever.

How'd we get that shot?
Wizard gangs taking over the streets.
LEFT: How’d we get that shot? RIGHT: Wizard gangs taking over the streets.
Canes to the left of me, wizards fist to the right... action!
“Canes to the left of me, wizards to the right…”

From concept to creation, this video took about 6 months. It was a labor of love with a lot of moving pieces, so a big challenge was getting all the necessary pieces to sync up just right. We knew that casting was the most important part of the process: we needed a hero that would carry our story (and as you can imagine, the auditioning process was pretty fun). When Andrew Riddell came through our door, we knew we had our man. He had a perfect balance of physical comedy and dramatic training that was exactly what our story needed. He was also an absolute pro and a crazy trooper: subjected to the elements and strenuous physical acting hurdles (such as running, running, running, and acting underwater), he brought his A-game every day of production.

In terms of scope, this production is the largest by far: a four day shoot with a cast of about 20 characters; underwater filming that required lots of gear, a diving-certified camera operator, and dramatic performance; heavy art direction, FX makeup, and tons of costumes; subtle but necessary VFX shots; all to create visuals for a 6 minute song. No small feat.

Andrew Riddell commits to entering the void.
LEFT: Andrew Riddell commits to entering the void. RIGHT: “This is the part where you catch him and eat him.”

In a production like this, we’re all constantly moving, constantly problem solving, and always keeping an eye on the full picture of the story to make sure we are staying true to our original concept while still evolving and improving.

Producer Alun Lee blending in.
Production Designer Jessie Chaffin creating the siren's den.
LEFT: Producer Alun Lee blending in. RIGHT: Production Designer Jessie Chaffin creating the siren’s den.

Even though we treated this video like a short film, our goal was to create visuals that were entirely informed by the song. We took cues from the song to create the story’s arc: changes, swells, and climactic moments in the song would dictate how our hero’s journey progressed (for example: we knew the video needed to be in slow motion because of its shoegazey wash of guitars, and then listen to how the music changes when we go underwater).

Director of Photography Michael Epple picking some frames.
Director of Photography Michael Epple picking some frames.

Once we started editing, the music further dictated what shots and moments we added to sync up with musical moments: even a simple gesture or a look from one of the actors, when timed with the music, could bring out the experience of the song in a new and unique way.

The final touches of color correction (by Ayumi Ashley) and VFX (by Christopher Bernal) helped to complete this strange and magical world that we believe truly lives up to the band’s vibe, and is hopefully a blast to watch.

Enjoy!


Huge, huge thanks to the crew and cast on this film, A Million Billion Dying Suns and Kyle Pierce, and The Foundry for helping us make this crazy project come to life.

Bride of the Moustache.

All photos by Riki Feldmann. For more photos, check out Riki Feldmann’s work.