Shoot the tune
From location to record label to actors, the making of local band Greyscale’s new video is a homegrown affair
Last month, Chris Williamson found an interesting ad on Myspace.com. It was a call to audition in Reno for local hard-rock band Greyscale’s upcoming music video. Williamson knew Greyscale guitarist Larry Coleman (LC3PO) and was a fan of the band. So he thought, “Why not?”
Williamson is no actor. He’s a 26-year-old enrollment specialist and information technology student at the University of Phoenix, as well as an amateur skateboarder. “I just got a wild hair to try it,” he says.
Two days after the audition, he was officially cast to play the leading role of a disenfranchised, put-upon adolescent in the video for Greyscale’s song, “Weep.”
When all’s said and done, five people will have taken just short of a month to produce it right here in little ol’ Reno.
Greyscale’s record label is 1-year-old Battle Born Records, which is owned and operated by New York transplant Craig Belis. He and the video’s director, Erika Frick, used to work together. In 2000, their employer sent them to Reno to complete a project. The project ended, but Belis stayed.
“I’d always had the intention to start a label, and Nevada’s good for business,” says Belis. “Reno is exploding, and there’s a growing desire for the arts here. It will be a viable center for music.”
Greyscale’s members hail from the Big Apple as well. Belis used to manage bass player Jon Middleman’s band in New York before Greyscale formed in 1999. When Greyscale relocated to Reno two years ago (with the exception of drummer Tom Morrow), they turned to Belis to put out their album Discord for the Dead Kid last spring. Although it’s the only Battle Born release so far, the label is far from amateur. “Anyone can start a record label,” Belis explains. “But professional recordings have expenses. You need a business plan, organization and management of the product. We’re a label with real distribution that sees retail space in Best Buy, Tower or i-Tunes.”
Battle Born’s plan to market Greyscale involves everything from mailings to logo merchandise. Wal-Mart’s in-store TV network even played a Right Guard commercial using Greyscale’s song “The Fold” as background music. The Internet and sports publications feature prominently in the business plan. And, of course, there’s the video.
Frick’s production company, Globetrotter Films, recently wrapped up editing on the independent film Chronicles of a Skater Girl. When her old friend Belis attended a screening and saw Frick’s strengths in editing to music, he immediately offered her the Greyscale video—her directorial debut.
“Her work is awesome,” says Belis. “I knew if I had that representing my artists, it’d be great.”
“This is not an on-the-fly project,” Frick says. “We wanted to take the time to find the right people, the right locations.” Frick’s intent is to complete the video by the end of December, just in time to submit it to South by Southwest, a music/film/interactive media festival that takes places in Houston this March. That means her time this December has been precious.
“Kristian [Raimo], the lead singer, writes all the songs, and although they seem specific to events in his life, they can really be applied to anyone and be relevant,” says Frick. “That’s gotten [Greyscale] a good reaction. And people listening to them for the first time react most strongly to ‘Weep.’ We chose it because we thought it was fertile ground for creating something that would resonate with a large audience.”
“Weep” deals with pressure in all its many forms and how that pressure takes its toll on us. Lyrics such as, “All my fears from so far away/I lie here in bed still quite awake,” immediately created images in Frick’s mind, and the video’s story line came together right away.
“We’re making it applicable to coming-of-age—the stress that young adults face, their nightmares, and the [way stress] impacts everything in their lives,” she says. “It deals with the idea that the most comforting place—your bed—still isn’t an escape.”
This is a story about an abused teen who deals with social alienation. The 14-second, frenzied scream, and his bed begins trembling and spinning as all his fears are “projected” onto him from above.
“That bed scene’s going to be the most challenging part for us,” says Frick, who’ll edit the whole thing at home on her Mac with Final Cut Pro.
On Nov. 13, 15 people showed up for auditions, which were conducted by Frick, assistant director Brandon Collins, and director of photography Stephen Zideck, who is also Truckee Meadows Community College’s director of media services.
“We had some acting, but we wanted to do an intimate portrait,” explains Frick. “So we used close-ups and mediums to make it interesting and poignant and to take pressure off the acting. Instead, they’re acting with gestures and body language. Little things will connect, like seeing nails on a chalkboard.” Candidates were asked to do things like open their eyes, nervously fiddle with a pencil and scream.
“We said ‘no experience necessary’ in the ad,” she says. “But of the 15 people, there were five viable candidates and two who were really close.”
It was Williamson’s intensity that won him the part. In fact, his anxiety during the audition wasn’t fake. He confided to Collins beforehand that he was incredibly nervous. “I can kind of relate to the character,” he says. “My childhood wasn’t as rough as his, but taking the hard times in my life and putting them into the character definitely helped.”
And Williamson’s compensation? A copy of the video for his resume reel.
Frick and Belis don’t expect Reno to figure prominently in the video since most shots are tight. However, fans of Stoney’s Music Hall on South Wells Avenue may recognize this nightspot in the video, where four cameras captured the live performance.
“There aren’t any aerial views, but Reno has amazing spots with interesting visuals,” says Frick. “There seem to be more locations than we can use.”
If you want to catch the video, check out www.battlebornrecords.com. Or look for a screening; Frick and Belis would love to host one and have Greyscale play afterward.
Belis wouldn’t mind if Reno came out of this a star. It would be good for the town and for his business. “It’d be nice if people saw this and realized the viability of filming more things here,” he says.