If you ever have an opportunity to make a rap video starring custom puppets, I hope you take that opportunity.
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
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:
Another boring day at the office. @cswsmusic @davideff #film #smallhd #provo #musicvideo #puppet #hiphop #sesamestreet @widgetsinc A video posted by Garrett Gibbons (@garrettgibbons) on
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.
#Repost @cswsmusic with @repostapp. ・・・ Gee, it feels surreal. Handheld Hawkins bedeviling the mic. #overgram #notsorry @smallhd #juneaudio A photo posted by Garrett Gibbons (@garrettgibbons) on
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!