Unlike our first experience as an extra in a music video, this time the only blood shed was fake.
A casting call on Facebook led us to Rough Boxing Gym in Windsor. Our job: to be part of the audience attending a “Half fight, half rock concert,” according to Toronto-based filmmaker and director Sean Tighe. The rock concert: “Rolling With The Punches,” from What’s That Sound, the November 2012 release of Windsor’s blues-rock duo The Blue Stones. Why spend four hours on a Saturday afternoon watching two band members do mock battle, waiting for direction and ducking out of camera frames? “It’s fun to do,” said veteran extra Ashleigh Gunter. We couldn’t agree more.
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“Music is like a band’s audio persona,” said Blue Stones singer and guitarist Tarek Jafar. “When you see a music video, it forms a visual connection to the band members. I love Sam Roberts, and I love when I get to see him in a video. It’s just as important as live performance.”
On the strength of only two EPs, Jafar and drummer Justin Tessier have been working to form that connection in video and on stages large and small. “We get compared to The Black Keys,” one of their influences, Jafar said. Other musical muses include Roberts, blues legends Muddy Waters and B. B. King, Rage Against The Machine and R&B artist Rafael Saadiq. The band’s trademark suits hark back to The Blues Brothers.
But just like the same ingredients can result in very different dishes, The Stones have concocted their own contemporary blues rock. And it’s getting served to more and more listeners. They made it through the early rounds of CBC Music’s Searchlight contest to find the best new band in Canada. On Apr. 25, their song “Make Your Move,” also from What’s That Sound, was featured on NBC’s Parks and Recreation.
Action, cut, awesome
The gym is a one-ring circus in mostly primary colours, wallpapered in banners and posters of boxing icons. The numerous dangling speed and heavy bags reminded us of a meat locker, and it was just as chilly.
Tessier and Jafar looked the most out of place, barefoot in their dress pants and shirts. Extras in casual street clothes and the camera crew in socks watched as the band danced around the ring, throwing impressively choreographed jabs, uppercuts and ferocity at each other. “Let’s roll it for shits,” Director Sean Tighe signaled. “Action.” Cameraman and brother Michael Tighe carefully shadowboxed the boxers. Cinematographer Kyle Archibald performed his own smooth choreography operating the long arm of the jib. After a few takes, they paused to swap lenses and go in for some close-ups. “Cut,” Tighe said. “We might get only one or two seconds, but it will be awesome.”
While Tighe directed through the lens, producer Marie Jeannette directed the bigger picture--and the smallest details. “I take care of the scheduling and organization, making sure everyone who needs to be there for the shoot is there, and has the proper tools while we’re working,” Jeannette explained. She also made sure that stray water bottles didn't end up on camera, and Jafar’s tie stayed in the right spot on the ropes. She caught someone’s shadow in a shot, and scoured extras to make sure they weren’t wearing anything with a logo on it.
Jeanette has produced some 60 independent music videos, almost all shot locally. “I like to use Windsor peeps,” she said. That included the video’s special effects crew: University of Windsor theatre arts students Rebecca Myers and Stephanie Taylor. “This is our first music video,” said Myers. “We’ll be doing things a little differently because of the shorter distance between the actors and the camera. This will have to be more subtle.”
Within seconds, using just pencils, brushes and a sponge, Myers and Taylor gave Tessier a three-dimensional cut on the nose. Jafar got a bruised cheek and a cut on his temple.
Tighe was an efficient, courteous and focused director, doing no more than two or three takes for each scene. A boxer at a heavy bag in the background. Jafar strutting around the ring solo with his guitar. Tessier on the drums in the ring. The first take, he sent his drumstick holder flying. The second take, a snare went down for the count. “Just like at a show,” joked Jafar. How did Tighe know when a scene isn’t quite right? “It’s not about looking for the not perfect,” he said. “When the camera hits the right spot, it’s awesomeness, you just know.”
In between breaks for cereal bars and water, Tighe brought more extras into each scene, building towards the fight’s climax. Then, with only a few scenes to go, a fuse blew. Set lights and the gym went dark. Breakers clacked. Outlets sparked. No go. Extension cords were uncoiled, swapped and recoiled. Plugs snapped, crackled and popped again. Finally, for no apparent reason, the lights come back on and the show went on. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Jeannette announced, “we’re almost done.”
But not The Blue Stones. There could be no better metaphor for making it in the slugfest that is today’s music business than “Rolling With The Punches.” Far from getting knocked out, the Windsor natives seem poised to break out and go all 10 rounds.
The Blue Stones (Tarek Jafar, Justin Tessier)
Michelle McKay (ring girl)
|Sean Tighe, director|
|Michael Tighe, camera|
|Marie Jeannette, producer|
Kyle Archibald, cinematographer at jib
|Adam Wright, production assistant|
|Jason Denham, production assistant|
Sean Tighe, director
Michael Tighe, camera
Kyle Archibald, cinematographer at jib
Adam Wright, production assistant
Jason Denham, production assistant
Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images