Do you remember when you first felt you became interested in cinema?
As a child I imagined being in the TV shows and in movies my family took me to see. In television. I was a bed wetter until age ten, so I used my imagination to put myself into episodes of my favorite TV shows and would rewrite the shows to help me sleep. It worked.
How did you learn this profession? Do you believe in academic or experimental methods?
At City College I had taken a TV/radio class and then took a film class. I grew up with a camera in my hand so it felt like the next best step. I think it’s important to learn about different directors and technical aspects – I’m not a cinematographer but have that natural eye. I believe in both. When I studied acting I studied with the best in several methods, tossed what I didn’t need depending on gigs and used what I learned that ultimately became my own version. I think experimenting and not going by-the-book or by-the-method of a certain style teaches you to get your own more quickly.
The rhythmic and fun start of your work shares the director's intended tone with us from the very beginning. Tell us about the formation of this opening.
“Denise” is a song from the album “This Is Life Now,” that I did lyrics to and Drake “Munkihaid” Shining composed and sang. I had never done a music video before – I now have four from the album in various genres – so the verses told the basic story but she’s low-end hooker that a guy ends up with. I needed a reason behind that and it was from a quote not used literally. The quote is from Charles Kettering: “Every father should remember one day his child will follow his example, not his advice.” From that began the idea of this man having the worst day ever, his wife writes him a card telling how awful he is, she wants a divorce and inserts a photo of their son. This makes him go on a bender and he ends up in a low-end red light district and gets hijacked by an even seedier hooker called Denise when he thinks he’s getting the beautiful blonde.
How did you come up with the original idea and how long did it take to write and edit the script?
I had the music, the verses so that last quote is what made it sing for me, pun intended. I also wanted to put Easter Eggs in for the viewers so they’d come back to see it again and again. I watched the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard trial and I believe it’s the first time the term Depp coined from Heard’s attorney, “mega pint” was used so quickly during the trial. The character of Denise has a tattooed “Edward Scissorhands” look and her behavior is definitely Amber Heard – a week I’d say and everything was shot in two days.
How much of the scenes in this music video were pre-planned and how much was improvised?
I’m a big believer in letting actors do their thing so long as they understand what the director’s vision is and the crew was small, so I was open to input. My cinematographer works very differently than me so that was interesting because we had to move fast and it was a night shoot for most of it and a half-day thereafter. Most of it the storyline I knew but I also knew that things might change due to locations and within locations or actor changes - which happened last minute because I made sure everyone was taking Covid tests. It was stressful but if you know you’re safer by doing that and having people wear masks when close together - (unless on camera) - it’s easier to deal with improvisation.
The role of editing in this comedy should not be overlooked. Please tell us about the editing process.
The cinematographer knew how to edit and she was with me every step of the way. She gave me a rough cut and I gave her notes that were important to me in timing, especially comedic timing. My background is also well versed in both comedy and drama. The process wasn’t that long it was more in getting her to understand what I needed for everyone to look good and to make light of a tough situation.
Do you think music videos still have the effect of their golden age in our time? And how much has this industry changed?
I don’t think music videos have the privilege of viewership on MTV or the power that they once had and it’s really a shame. To be able to tell a story and gift listeners with looking at music videos as fun and informative is not easy. A lot of great directors came directly out of music videos before the industry changed. Now it’s YouTube, some streaming but mostly film festivals are seeing the opportunities they have of entertaining people. We screened at a Film Festival here in Hollywood that we won and to hear the laughter and applause between narrative shorts with dialogue was magnificent and proved my belief that you don’t need to speak to have good storytelling or great acting – but you do need sound. Even Silent Movies had that and it’s how I view making a music video. Drake “Munkihaid” did magnificent music to lyrics and Frank Simes did spectacular theme music for the intro to set the song up.
A story, being narrative, draws the audience to look for the images at the same time as it makes them follow the music. Do you use the same strategy when creating a story, that is relying only on the language of the images themselves?
Images are what draws the audience in no matter if it’s spoken or sung. Movies are snapshots in time and the only real difference was that I was married to the lyrics more and that made the creating stories more difficult but ultimately more satisfying.
What do you think about the role of film festivals in the visibility of music videos or short films?
Huge! With the demise of the popularity of MTV and the awards are for the elite, or as Ricky Gervais would say, bought and paid for by the most money – I think film festivals are extremely important in reaching a different audience and hopefully being seen by folks who judge that might have some clout. A music video not only tells a story but the song can be used in films, shorts, TV and streaming.
Please tell us about your next project, if possible.
I’m not sure if it’ll be one of the other three other songs I’d like to do from the album, “This Is Life Now” that is on Amazon (great reviews) and streaming on all platforms under Munkihaid. During Covid I became a lyricist so it opened my world and mind to using the written word in a different format and I love it but I slammed out 4 in-a-row and we’ve had a lot of success in winning festivals or getting mentions and we’re extremely grateful to New Wave Film Festival for having us.
You can see the other three and Denise on my Youtube channel under Eva-Marie Fredric or EvaMarieFredric.com or Munkihaid.com.