Category Archives: Publishing

“NPR” by Can’t Stop Won’t Stop – Puppet Rap!

If you ever have an opportunity to make a rap video starring custom puppets, I hope you take that opportunity.

Background

When Can’t Stop Won’t Stop released their LP “Wildebeest” in 2013, I pinged the group about doing a music video for a song on the album. They were 100% interested, and the plan was to film something when I was next in Los Angeles. Over the next two years it felt that my work in L.A. either didn’t line up with times when they were in town or I didn’t have time to tag on an extra project while down in California.

Eventually a window aligned when the group was sort of available at the same time that I was sort of available, but during that week, none of the vocalists would be in the same city – they were scattered all over the USA. My first though: make an animated music video! My second thought: use puppets! The band was down with the idea, so I began putting out feelers for excellent puppeteers.

My brother Morgan helped me find Randall McNair of Widgets, Inc., who is basically a reincarnation of Jim Henson. He and his wife Lucy proved to be amazing people to work with. They brought a lot of creative juice to the mix and were total professionals in every way. They have a fair amount of film experience, as well as tons of live theater experience, and they were patient with the rest of us while we worked through the learning curve of filming puppets in action.

Shooting the “NPR” video today and tomorrow with the homie @garrettgibbons – Is my nose really that green tho?! A photo posted by CANT STOP WONT STOP (@cswsmusic) on

 

Production

We began filming in Utah, near where Randall and Lucy live (they had just come back from a few weeks working on a show in Alaska). Filming was relatively straightforward once I started figuring out how to film a puppet in action. The train footage was hilarious to film because people kept walking through the aisle, and they had to step over Randy and Lucy, who were laying in the aisle with their arms raised between the seats to operate the puppets. One security guard just casually stepped over them without batting an eyelid. I guess they see far weirder things on those trains.

We filmed the first verse in front of David Eff’s pink truck that sells frozen bananas, and put out a call to fans to invite them to come and dance it up. Here’s a behind-the-scenes video clip of Randy and Lucy in action, obviously rapping along with nearly every word from the song:

My favorite setup was the recording studio (June Audio Recording Studios in Provo, Utah), which was a shot I had previsualized early in the creative process, and was thrilled to see the footage turn out almost exactly as I had originally envisioned. Normally, during the development process things change and evolve, and the process is a journey that leads somewhere I hadn’t initially planned. When this happens, though, and the strong initial vision is brought to fruition without mitigation, it feels great.

The Mercedes SLK 500 was a blast to work with, as well. David Eff found this car and its owner at a local car show a few weeks before production began. He wasn’t entirely sure what he was committing to, but there’s something special about being able to turn to an elderly gentleman and say, “Sir, can we have this puppet drive your car?”

Never fear! Our puppet rap video has a Benz and gold chains. A photo posted by Garrett Gibbons (@garrettgibbons) on

We filmed the green screen footage in a park, using one pink bike that I bought from a thrift store for $5 the morning we filmed it. I wanted to harness the cheesy chroma key composite feel of early-90s Sesame Street, and I feel like it turned out just right.

All in all, this project was a blast to work on. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop have a huge amount of energy; I hope to be able to work with them and the McNairs in the future! Enjoy the video!

NPR music video

“Grief” – A Dance Short Film

“Grief” is a barefoot Waltz (in American style ballroom, also known as Smooth Waltz), performed by the Youth Show Team at Pacific Ballroom Dance in Auburn, Washington. It is part of my not-for-profit Dance Short Films project.

Since around 2006 I had discussed ideas with my wife Jill for a very grounded, expressive barefoot Waltz based on this song, and we had been kicking around ideas for several years without being able to move forward into detailed choreography because something was missing.

Background

Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim. ― Vicki Harrison

During a particularly difficult time in late 2014, several family members and close friends had died within a very short period of time, and life had begun to feel incredibly bleak. When my friend Sam Oliver died unexpectedly over the holidays late in 2014, I came to the point where I just couldn’t speak. I couldn’t say anything, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t listen to music. The day I learned about his death I went walking through the woods with a heavy heart when I began to discover movements that helped me through the grieving process; the movement became therapy. That night, Jill and I began riffing off of those themes and we developed this piece very quickly, within a few hours of working on it, and began teaching it to our youth team at Pacific Ballroom Dance the next day.

We later learned that many of our dancers had experienced similarly challenging months including death in the family, illness, divorces, and sickness. Our team quickly internalized the movement and also used it as therapy to process the grief. Several of the dancers later told the rest of us that they had specific family members and loved ones in mind while we rehearsed this piece. We have collected the names of those who we grieved for during this period: they are placed near the end of the credits in the short film.

First day of new waltz choreography. These kids are like, “Is this supposed to be ballroom dance?”

A video posted by Garrett Gibbons (@garrettgibbons) on

 

Choreography

This piece is based around the fundamental idea of Waltz: rise and fall. Waltz is a dance (and musical style) based around a systematic 3-count pattern that rises and falls with every measure of music. Often, there is an additional level of rise and fall in the dynamics and phrasing, which is expressed over longer stretches of music. This rise and fall is generally expressed through foot rise, the bending and straightening of knees, body rise (elongating the torso from the center), and through arm and head contractions. Additionally, rise and fall is often seen through lateral expansion and contraction to coincide with the movement in the music. With “Grief” I wanted to take rise and fall and expand it beyond the normal realms of ballroom dance: I wanted dancers on the floor and high in the air, making the dynamics far greater. (One day I plan to work with dancers on wires and bring waltz into the air as well, but one step at a time!) The piece itself follows a certain type of rise and fall: the dancers begin on the ground, contracting and expanding, and gradually arrive on their feet. Towards the middle of the piece of music, three dancers are lifted high above the heads of the group, after which they all return to their feet. The piece ends with all dancers again on the ground. All of this was strongly informed by the dynamics and flow of the piece of music, “Earth” by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard, from the beautiful soundtrack of “Gladiator” (2000). The symbolism we hoped to evoke has to do with the challenges of life itself: we start low, crawling on the ground, yearning and reaching to develop and overcome our limitations. We grieve and mourn with others. Sometimes our pain is too great to bear, but our loved ones around us stand with us and comfort us. We find breakthroughs that help us reach high, but in the end we all return to the earth. We hope that audiences can see that narrative arc within this piece.

Staging for Screen

When we performed this piece in a theatrical setting, I designed the lighting cues to enhance the story that this is an entire life cycle of a group of people, complete with highs and lows. I did this through emulating the light that happens throughout the course of a day. All of the lighting cues, which normally have cross-fades between 3-5 seconds in an average piece, were set to durations between 20 and 40 seconds so the lighting transitions throughout the piece would be mostly imperceptible.

  A photo posted by Garrett Gibbons (@garrettgibbons) on

The intro choreography on the floor was danced almost as silhouettes in blue-tinted near-darkness. The solo couple stands and some amber front lights shown on them, mimicking the golden light of dawn. Gradually, the stage lights arise until they reach a peak at the lifts just after the middle. After that, the lights slowly faded through orange to a deep red, symbolic of sunset and the end of life, and the lights faded to black as the final lift ended and Logan cried over Kaylah’s fallen body.

As much as I wanted to do the exact same thing with the film version, we didn’t have the time or resources needed to bring it to fruition. Any limitation can become an opportunity for creative inspiration, however, so Jill and I scouted locations and racked our brains for the perfect setting and style to tell this story on film. Though exceedingly difficult to get permission, I somehow got access to the raw side of the river below Snoqualmie Falls, thanks to Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater. We only had a few hours with everyone available, and no money for a crew, so we all volunteered our time and resources to make this happen.  

Production

Most of us woke up around 4am that morning to prepare and travel to Preston, Washington, near Snoqualmie pass, 22 miles East of Seattle along I-90. We filmed the intro footage on the rocks in the river around 8:30 in the morning, after hiking through the woods for a bit over a mile, carrying costumes, food, water and camera equipment. A large number of curious onlookers watched on from the Salish Lodge on the opposite side of the river as we filmed throughout the morning. The very first scene filmed was the very ending of the piece, because the light on top of that high rock was perfect in that moment.  

Filming dance with @pacificballroom youth at Snoqualmie Falls yesterday. A photo posted by Garrett Gibbons (@garrettgibbons) on

Those rocks that the dancers begin the piece on were slippery and difficult to access. We taped up each dancer’s feet with athletic tape (I bought all of the athletic tape at Rite-Aid – all of it) to help protect them, and they found ways to protect their pants and skirts while jumping over logs and climbing over rocks, jumping over stretches of water to get into position. I literally stood in the river to get the camera angle I wanted. Jill stayed close to them and relayed any direction I had (through a series of relayed shouts), since the sound of the falls is so overwhelmingly loud. We hid a loud music player behind them on the rocks and former team member Teneal Thomas operated an iPad to start and stop the music playback as we filmed.

The shore of the river had very few places where one person could stand comfortably, let alone for 20 dancers to move freely, so we only filmed one other section near the river (which begins around the 1:40 mark). The rest was filmed in a clearing in the woods above the river. By the time they had changed back into hiking clothes, hauled everything back up the trail, set up again, had some food, and gotten back into costume (while I set up the camera and crane), the dancers were running out of steam. Their attention was fading and their feet were throbbing, and many had time crunches that were making them nervous. There were some jokes from the dancers about how the only way I was able to get them in character was to make them physically suffer for the day. We filmed several takes back to back and the kids were really struggling with heat and fatigue so we only got a few more good takes before we decide to call it a wrap.

Editing

I recorded some audio at the river while were down there – I recorded at a few places, ranging from little bubbling side areas to the roaring falls themselves. The ambient sound at the beginning of the film is a multitrack audio composition made of keyframing volume and audio properties to make it sound more like the rise and fall of ocean waves, and still on tempo with the music.

Audio composition to make natural river sounds sound like a Waltz rise and fall pattern.

Audio composition to make natural river sounds sound like a Waltz rise and fall pattern.

A few shots needed invisible visual effects done: I removed the Salish lodge from the top of the hill just to the left of the waterfall, and I moved once dancer’s eyes to the side for a few seconds when he looked right into the camera during the middle of a take. Otherwise, the film is very much just a 23.976 timeline of 4K UHD footage. The compression of YouTube destroys the natural detail significantly, but it still is better to watch at 4K on YouTube than it is to watch at 720p or 1080p, so if you have the opportunity to watch on a high-resolution monitor, please do set the playback resolution to 2160p!

That’s all I can think of to say about this piece for now. It’s been a journey, and I’m grateful for my wife for being there with me through this process, as well as our dancers and their parents for putting up with me as I woke them up before dawn, dragged them through the woods with heavy equipment, and made them dance barefoot outside until their feet were bleeding.

This isn’t the most solid film I’ve made in terms of film technique and artistry. It doesn’t feature the most skilled or accomplished dancers. It is definitely one of the most personal to me, however, and I’m a little hesitant to share it with the world because of the vulnerability Jill and I exposed through this creative process. I hope that it touches someone, somewhere, at some point in time.

Enjoy the film!
Grief waltz dance short film

“Run Away” – A Dance Short Film

“Run Away” is a short film based around the dance known as Rumba, performed in the International Latin Ballroom style. It is part of my not-for-profit Dance Short Films project.

The creation of this short film began when I heard “Don’t,” a beautiful and haunting piece of music by Camila Recchio. I immediately asked her for permission to use it for a dance piece, then began talking to dancers. Natalya and Umario ended up finding inspiration in the song, and after I gave them a few general story beats and concepts and images that I wanted to include, they choreographed the movement and developed the story between the characters.

“Run Away” has many themes, which may mean different things to different people at different times. To me right now, it’s about the death of a relationship. It shows the tragedy of a once-thriving friendship that is now dead at the core. In many ways, this short film deals with similar themes and visual motifs as my short film “Time Withers” (2011) (choreographed by Elisha Thompson), but while that film ends on a hopeful and inspiring note, this one is deeply tragic.

Credits

  • Directed, Filmed & Edited by Garrett Wesley Gibbons
  • Performance & Choreography by Natalya Zrazhevskaya & Umario Diallo
  • Music: “Don’t” by Camila Recchio (Produced by EOM & Andrew Savoie). Used by permission, All rights reserved
  • Production Assistants: Daniel Suchman & Race Newkirk
  • Filmed on location at Blakely Harbor on Bainbridge Island, Washington

Production Info

I filmed this entirely in 4K on the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K (some shots in ProRes 422 and others in CinemaDNG raw for a little more dynamic range), using an assortment of Canon EF L-series lenses. The camera was often mounted on either a Kessler Crane KC-8 or a JAG35 shoulder rig. The SmallHD AC-7 SDI monitor was invaluable on this shoot, since its color rendition and brightness outdoors is far superior to the built-in display of the Blackmagic Production Camera.  

The editing workflow involved first using Resolve to create 1080p proxy files (with a basic Rec 709 lut applied), which I used for editing. Once the edit was locked I exported a shot list that was used to conform the edit to the source media in Resolve, where I finished the coloring process and exported in 4K. The fade-in effects and a few final visual effects were then added in After Effects (the transitions were created using the Video Copilot plugin called Twitch), including a bit of extra sepia processing on the “happy past” clips (because I wasn’t entirely happy with the look I created for it in Resolve). The closing titles were also created in After Effects.

TV ads for Liberty Coin & Currency

Here are two TV spots I filmed and edited, working under the direction of Mike Johnston at Bigger Picture in Seattle. The is Liberty Coin & Currency, based in Portland, Oregon. The campaign is based around pairs of people who are fundamentally opposed in some way or another, who agree that Liberty Coin & Currency is the place for coins and gold.

The Presidents spot was a lot of fun. Besides two great actors and some fun period costumes, the hair and makeup was amazing. These two men completely transformed for this part.

The Twins spot is based around a classic rivalry between two colleges: the Oregon State University Beavers and the University of Oregon Ducks. The twins were each played by the same actor, and this was a challenging spot to nail down timing on because of the banter involved.

Timelapse for Buzzfeed

Buzzfeed used one of my timelapses for their latest YouTube video, “The Science of Being a Teenager.” My clip starts around 0:35 and is also the final shot. They made a great video, check it out!

Roxanne – Tango Short Film

I recently had the pleasure of filming this short dance film with Natasha and Umario for DanceShortFilms.com. We filmed in one of the oldest buildings in Seattle, located in Belltown.

“Roxanne” – A Dance Short Film from Garrett Wesley Gibbons on Vimeo.

Just for fun, I made a reverse version. It was fascinating for me to watch so I uploaded it as well!

“Ennaxor” – Tango in reverse from Garrett Wesley Gibbons on Vimeo.

If you’re in the mood for more dance media, check out DanceShortFilms.com, or if you want to see more that I have worked on personally, check out this album or look below!

Three web Spots for Familyshare.com

I was asked to make three very different web spots for Familyshare.com, all during the period of about one month. The budgets were decent but the turnaround time was extremely fast, so it was an interesting challenge to get all of these out the door within such a short timeframe.

The first spot is essentially a short film, meant to be a non-cliche, unconventional Christmas message that could be shared during the holidays. It was only six days from pitching the treatment to finalizing the edit. During that time I found the location, auditioned and hired actors, hired a wood carver to make some custom pieces for the story, rented the other props, and began pre-producing a second web spot for Familyshare.com.

Based on “The Street” by Allan Seager (published in Vanity Fair in 1934), but often misattributed to Harry Buschman and others, here is “The Window”:


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Garrett Gibbons Demo Reel 2013

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my demo reel. Maybe I was just waiting for the right musical inspiration? This one is long – just over four minutes – but I also made a 90-second sizzle reel for those with less interest or shorter attention spans. Thanks for watching! It’s been an amazing last few years.

Here’s the full-length version, set to “On Saturnalia Eve” by RA Scion (feat. Blake Lewis):

Also, the 90-second version, set to “Woodwalker” by RA Scion (feat. Mark Shirtz):

Ayron Jones & The Way – Feedin’ From the Devil’s Hands

Here’s the latest music video I’ve directed, “Feedin’ From the Devil’s Hands” by Ayron Jones and The Way. This group was awesome to work with, and I’m also especially grateful for the other Seattle-based musicians and performers (including Sir Mix-a-Lot, Grynch, Davin Stedman from Staxx Brothers and Kitty Kitty Bang Bang) for being involved.

Feedin from the devil's hands Ayron Jones and the way

I highly recommend checking out some of their other work, including this bluesy jam, “Baptized in Muddy Waters,” produced by the excellent Session Seven Media in Seattle. Ayron Jones & the Way will be playing at Bumbershoot 2013, and their full-length album will be released this Fall.

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Dance choreography films for Katie Baillie

Dancer, teacher and choreographer Katie Baillie hired me to direct, film and edit two of her pieces of choreography. She took care of the dancers and costuming; I picked the set, lighting, and the film-related aspects. The resulting two pieces are very different from each other, but showcase her diversity as a choreographer.

Carmen

“Carmen” – Dance Choreography by Katie Baillie from Garrett Wesley Gibbons on Vimeo.

Myym

“Myym” – Dance Choreography by Katie Baillie from Garrett Wesley Gibbons on Vimeo.

I primarily used a Canon 5D mkiii for these shoots, supported by an 8′ Kessler Crane, which was a lot of fun to haul out into the field. Thankfully, Luke Wesson helped me tote gear before he took behind-the-scenes photos.

Photo by Luke Wesson

Photo by Luke Wesson