Video Chats: Lance Drake on "Dead Eye" by Middle Class Rut
Posted by Doug Klinger on December 6, 2013 in Interviews
"Dead Eye" by Middle Class Rut, the band’s fourth video collaboration with director Lance Drake, focuses on the members of the band traveling across the south of Alaska on foot, by ship, and in the back of a pickup truck. The video features some fantastic shots of Alaska, some which Lance and DP Andrew J. Whittaker risked falling down a bottomless crevice or encountering a giant bear in order to get. We talked to Lance about the video, the amazing natural lighting in Alaska, and getting illegally background checked by the cops.
Doug: How did it work out that you would end up shooting this video in Alaska? How many days were you out there?
Lance: This video came about in a funny way. It's my fourth video for Middle Class Rut, these guys are my brothers and they have allowed me to make some of my best work. Initially, I was hesitant because after what we achieved with "Aunt Betty," I wasn't sure I could top it. I ended up talking to Zack while they were on tour and out of the blue I blurted out, "What if we went to Alaska?" Zack said, "Why don't we?" Next thing I know a week and a half later I'm there with Andrew J. Whittaker and a camera and we are scouting for two days. The band showed up for the third day and we shot for two and a half days across the south of Alaska.
Doug: What was the lighting like? Were the daylight hours all crazy?
Lance: The lighting in Alaska is unbelievable. Sun rises at 8am this time of year and stays low until 730. Its golden hour almost the entire day or it's raining like cats and dogs. The first day we shot in the pouring rain for eight hours. It was brutal, but the video is about the endurance of hitchhiking, of traveling in the wild. That was a reality I knew we'd be facing -40 degree weather and rain. I was better prepared than some of the guys! The second day, I remember shooting the rock throwing scene and feeling my stomach turn because visually the sky looked like it was 4pm entering golden hour, which is usually about the time on set when I start freaking out because we only have 2 hours left of available light. I looked at my watch and it was only noon!
Doug: Did you have any idea what and where you'd be shooting when you got there, or was it a more organic process? Had you ever been to Alaska before?
Lance: The process was very organic. We went with a very small kernel of a story, but we wanted to approach this video in a totally new way. All our other videos were very mapped out, story boarded - plot driven. We went into this one letting the setting tell the story, embrace the chaos. But of course, by the end we had a story aspect, which became even more clear in the edit. Its something I like to leave to interpretation like "New Low."
Doug: There are a lot of really beautiful shots of Alaska throughout the video, did you have days that were specifically for b-roll or did you have to get all of the stuff while you were also shooting the narrative portions?
Lance: During the first two days of our scout we were shooting continuously. Andrew and I visited a glacier in hopes of taking the band. We had to sign a crazy wavier saying if we fall in a bottomless crevice, no one will help you. With snow cleats we climbed the glacier and and shot some b-roll, but knew there was no way we could drag the band on an hour ice hike up a glacier. Beyond an endless icy free fall into middle earth, the biggest fear for me was knowing at any moment we could come face to face with a giant bear. We had bear mace which shoots this stuff 30-feet away. I kept hearing the audio from Grizzly Man of the guy getting eaten alive while we were scouting in the forest.
Doug: Was there a casting process for this video or did you naturally encounter all of the other characters?
Lance: I posted on craigslist looking for a native Alaskan dance group and The Cupiit Yurartet Drummers and Dancers got in touch with me through a wonderful casting agent in Alaska named Grace Olrun. We shot them the day we left for two hours in a wooded area in Anchorage. It was a very cool and emotional send off for us. We went into the project for the experience, shooting the dancers and hearing about their culture was very powerful.
We happened to meet Jack along the way. He's the Native Alaskan guy featured who picks the band up. He was a really interesting and artistic guy. We all had a great time getting to know him. In a strange coincidence he had a very unique left eye that almost was a "dead eye." It definitely felt like a greater force was at work when we were shooting. Also the cool fellow, Austin, who lives in the blue school bus was someone we ran into. Right when we were about to shoot with him a local police officer pulled us all aside and illegally did background checks on all of us. With our luck, I thought we walked into a meth lab sting or something. Luckily, that was not the case!
dead eye, lance drake, middle class rut, video chats
Doug Klinger is the co-founder/content director of IMVDb and watches more music videos than anyone on earth. You can find him on twitter at @doug_klinger.
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