“Strange” by Jena & Claire.

posted in Films

“Strange” by Jena & Claire.

This all started when I ran into Jena Pyle at 35Denton right after she played Layer Cake’s reunion show and I asked to take her photo for People of Denton. Afterwards I listened to every Layer Cake song I could find, and everything from her current side project, Sundae Crush. I really dug her music, and messaged her on facebook about possibly collaborating. That’s when she told me that she was recording a cover of Patsy Cline’s song “Strange” with another of my favorite Denton musicians, Claire Morales.

The inspiration for the music video came from Patsy Cline’s appearance on Tex Ritter’s Ranch Party, where she sang “I’ve Loved And Lost Again“. I loved the obviously fake western set, and wanted to build my own out of cardboard as if were the set of Woody’s Roundup from Toy Story 2. The inspiration for the sad girl vibe came from two Angel Olsen music videos in particular; “Forgiven/Forgotten” for its film burns and B-roll of wandering aimlessly, and “Tiniest Seed” for its moody black & white lighting. (Originally we were going to make a delightfully ridiculous video that included an 11 foot costume Claire’s dad had made of Texas State Fair icon Big Tex, but instead decided to stick with the sad girl vibe.)

For the B-roll of wandering aimlessly, we filmed on location out in Ponder, Texas at Bill Marquis’ place. He restores historic cabins and his property is absolutely filled with amazing western stuff from every era, including a cabin from 1840. I have loved the location ever since I filmed the western short film Adeline there last year. I had my friend Javier Elizalde join us to get glidecam shots before the sun went down and a storm rolled in.

For the western set, Jena & Claire cut & painted all the cacti, mountains, and sky out of cardboard and paper. My roommate, Hannah Bishop, made all the clouds out of 2 liter bottles, some spray adhesive, and lots of cotton stuffing. She also made the owl chilling behind Claire, the lil coyote howling on the mountains, and the snake at Jena’s feet. Claire & I created the campfire using a box fan, tissue paper streams, and cardboard logs. Erin Summerlin helped set everything up to look good for the camera.

The first time we tried setting up the western set in Claire’s garage an actual Texas thunderstorm interrupted us, blowing the paper sky off the wall, knocking down the cotton clouds, and threatening to rain on some sensitive equipment. (How silly that a real storm outside prevented us from creating a fake inside). The second attempt went much smoother, and included a good amount of pizza for everyone. We used two smoke machines to create an eerie atmosphere, and a flash to create lightning during the bridge of the song. After I hit record on my RED Scarlet each take, I’d scramble to keep the fog machines going and adjusting them due to the breeze, and attempting to sync the flashes with the song. To make it a little more interesting, I had Erin & Hannah hold a light on Jena & Claire each, and keep them moving around so that they came in and out of shadows throughout the song.

Editing all that 4K RAW footage took quite a toll on my computer and took several weeks to edit, but thankfully it’s such a wonderful song I never got the least big tired of listening to it. And I spent an entire day just finding the perfect film burns, light leaks, film grain, and flash frames to include in the music video, and another full day arranging them perfect to match the music and so the shots flowed effortlessly from one to another.

So far the music video has been picked up by The Grey Estates, The Autumn Roses, Central Track, and The Revue. It’s been great to see such a positive reaction to the video. Jena & Claire are fantastic musicians & artists, and they were so much fun to collaborate with. Below are some screenshots from some shots that did & didn’t make it into the film, as well as what the western set looked like in color.

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