Ha Ha Tonka "Race to the Bottom"
Producer, Director, Editor: Adam Moorman /// DP: Chris Vanderwall
This project came to life in January 2017 while I was on paternity leave and the band sent me a link to, at the time, their unreleased record – Heart-Shaped Mountain. I was looking for something to do between 3am feedings and diaper changes, so I asked if they needed a video. I had already decided that, “Race to the Bottom” was the track for me. It’s a great song and super visual. They said yes, and off we went.
I knew that a narrative approach wasn’t a realistic option since I didn’t have the budget, nor the time to really go big. I’ve been a fan of the band for years and was familiar with their live performance, so I wanted to put the focus on them. I wanted to feature them as individual rockstars, and show the musicality of the full band as well. I felt that if I pulled that off – the song would really cook with the visuals.
I worked with my DP (Chris Vanderwall) and VFX Artist (Sam Kreps) on different concepts. We ate lots of tacos over the course of a few meetings and decided that simple is better. I knew that seamless photo paper was cheap, and if shot correctly, we could make one 12 foot piece of paper feel like an infinite set. We had access to a garage that bumped into a space where we could stage gear that was free.
The garage worked great – but there were some challenges. The paper was only 9’x12′, so in order to shoot each member head-to-toe we had to turn the camera sideways and move it all the way to the back of the room we staged gear in – actually shooting through the doors that lead into the garage. This allowed us to surround each band member with the solid color background. Sam Kreps did an amazing job of communicating with Chris Vanderwall on how to best capture each shot so it was easy to manipulate in post. Ultimately setting up Sam for a quick VFX and compositing turnaround.
The inspiration came from watching lots of rock videos. Old television performances from the 60s and 70s were helpful. I felt like the record sounded a bit like Tom Petty in the mid 80s, so I looked at lots of photos and videos of Tom Petty. I found some more contemporary videos from The Strokes and Foo Fighters that really nailed the performance nuances of each member. I dug that a lot.