Dances To A Beat Of Her Own Filmmaker
Director Jenn Page Depends On Blackmagic Design’s URSA Mini Pro G2 and DaVinci Resolve to Help Boost Music Video Project
With so much negativity in the world, filmmaker Jenn Page set out to create something that was happy, positive and fun — something that would make people smile. With an inclination towards music, what she produced was a two-and-a-half-minute music video, titled Shake it Up, that would do just that. “I have spent countless hours creating happy, feel good projects and I wanted this to be the most feel good yet,” says Page.
The projects the accomplished feature and series director refers to includes work for/with internationally known brands and artists like Panic at the Disco, Weezer, Billy Ray Cyrus, Estee Lauder and Hans Zimmer. She also completed such award-winning projects as the comedy musical feature film, Waiting in the Wings; the comedy series, My Two Black Girlfriends; the dramatic rock opera, The Breakout; the International Academy of Web Television’s live awards show hosted by Tony award winner Roger Bart and the soon-to-be released feature film, Playing with Beethoven. Her most recent work, the Shake it Up music video, has already won the audience award for Best Music Video at the Silver State Film Festival in Las Vegas, NV and has appeared in (so far) the LA Femme Film Festival and Los Angeles Film Awards, among other festivals.
The video, which Page says meant to capture the same spirit as hit songs like “Can You Feel It” by Michael Jackson, involved a lot of moving parts. She needed to first coordinate with her songwriting and producing partner Chris Edgar on an original song and then her cinematographer Sarah Phillips on the ambitious shoot, as well as the many choreographers, singers, and dancers it would take to create the video. The team then employed some of the most advanced, yet affordable, solutions on the market today and at the center of it all was a Blackmagic Design’s URSA Mini Pro G2 camera and DaVinci Resolve for color grading, editing and graphics.
“I have been forced to use other cameras before, and I’m not a fan,” says Page. “I don’t think many look better than the Blackmagic Design. I love the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro G2 because you can literally pick it up and use it even if you’re a novice filmmaker. With Resolve, it’s the same thing. It’s so easy to use and it’s free. What company gives away their software free?! And it has everything you need. You can do your cut and then click the next tab and do color, put in a graphic or do audio. It’s all there. And there’s no conforming involved, so you can easily just pass it along to the next post-production department when you’re done.”
THE LOOK AND FEEL
Once there was a song, Page set out to create a video that would feature different styles of dance — such as jazz, tap and hip hop — as well as a diverse cast. “I knew I didn’t want to cast just one singer,” she stresses. “I knew right away that I wanted actor Andre Darnell Myers , who I’ve worked with before, to do the main vocals, and then from there, I wanted to cast people who were totally different from him. So I basically cast people by their look and style, as well as the sound of their voices.”
With about two months for production and post, and a limited budget, Page grabbed her URSA Mini Pro G2 camera and began shooting groups of dancers in various locations around LA. To make the video work, the transitions from one setting to another, as well as the style of dance, were key.
“Throughout the whole process, I either had transitions from one dance to the next that worked or didn’t work,” she explains. “And because we were shooting it so fast with no time to perfect them, we did have some challenges. Luckily, our supervising choreographer Alice Dranger was on-location for every scene and was able to work with the dancers on the spot to help move each dance style from one sequence to the next.
“This was one of the biggest team efforts and collaborations I think I ever worked on. Everyone needed to understand the circumstances we were up against, know their part (from dancer to Steadicam op) and be on the same page and ready to rock at a moment’s notice. I think that if this were a film the gravity of potential mistakes would have weighed heavier, but because it’s a music video we had much more room for creative freedom.”
According to Page, “The whole video is almost an exercise in improv. For instance, in one case, we had a theater reserved to shoot one sequence and when we got there, they told us we couldn’t use it because there was a paying show booked that they didn’t know was scheduled. I somehow negotiated an hour out of them only to find out our gimbal was broken. Ultimately, we had to shoot our six-hour dance block in 40 minutes handheld and move our second half of the day dance block outside. It was absolutely crazy!”
BLACKMAGIC ON THE SCENE
Page says that the URSA Mini Pro G2 saved the team a number of times throughout the production, particularly during the outdoor shoots. “We had to move fast and we didn’t have time for putting on big filters or matte boxes, but one of the things that saved us in these outside locations was the built-in ND filters on the URSA G2,” she says. “Our DP was able to quickly switch a dial and we were filming. That was fantastic. And the other thing about this camera that’s awesome is the way it captures slow motion. You can see every little spec of glitter coming down in our finale.”
In the end, Page created an award-winning video with all kinds of diverse voices and talents, staring four lead vocalists: Andre Darnell Myers (whom she worked with on The Breakout), Lindsay Zana (who she worked with on Playing with Beethoven), Harleen Silva (who starred in Page’s film Soledad) and Nick Conroy (who has been a DP on some of Page’s projects).
“Somehow the magic of it all — the song, the attitude of the dancers as well as the creative team behind the camera — just all worked out,” Page adds. “We had many issues along the way, but we still got it done. Even though it’s not perfect, I think it does its job of making people smile and feel good when they watch it.”