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  • Writer's pictureRua Fay

My Experience With Public Filming During A Pandemic

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

On February 27th, 2021 I had the long-awaited pleasure of meeting two of my friends, Cade Earick and Jonathan Picard who I'd met on the internet six months prior. The two traveled from Rumney, New Hampshire all the way to my native Boston to film a music video for Cade Earick's new song: "The End of Us," photographed by Jonathan Picard and directed by yours truly. This was my first time directing a feature in public and with a subject and crew that didn't consist entirely of myself. So I thought I'd share my experience about what it was like filming in the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We arrived in the city at about half-past two and started shooting in Cambridge near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We took about twenty minutes worth of footage inside the famous Cheapo Records, making some purchases along the way like some brand new vinyls. As far as music retail stores go, Cheapo Records is a pretty small store consisting of two rows of alphebetized vinyls and a cluttered checkout area so we weren't sure if filming was allowed or if we could get confronted about having a public filming permit. To make things more complicated, the store was at peak capacity of about 15 people and it took us a while to get in. Fortunately we were able to make the most of the situation by taking several medium and tight shots by the door and soon after, we were let inside.

Luckily, the staff of Cheapo Records was very nice and let us film without interruption although we tried to obstruct as little as possible while in the store, only bringing in our handheld camera rather than our tripod setup. Due to the cramped nature of the shop of course we had to wear masks, in fact the only filming location from the video that did not explicitly require masks were the shots we took on the streets. After leaving Cheapo Records, we took some more dynamic medium and wide shots on the sidewalks and a nearby mural. Cade even wanted to take a "Rushmore shot" to replicate Jason Schwartzman in Wes Anderson's Rushmore.

What surprised me from our time in Cambridge was just how deserted it felt. I have never seen that particular area have so few people. The current pandemic paired with the gloomy, rainy weather led to possibly the lowest number of pedestrians I have ever seen in urban Boston. Fortunately, this ended up working out for us since we were able to get a lot of footage from the streets while disturbing as few people as possible, since doing anything like that in a public setting can be super awkward.

After we wrapped up filming on the MIT campus, we made our way to Boston gardens where we took the majority of our footage. Again, due to the pandemic as well as bad weather, the park was absolutely desolate. Despite it being a wildly popular place, especially during the weekends, I could count the number of people that were there on both hands. The entire lake was frozen solid and practically our only company was a bunch of ducks nearby. This was super unsual for a place that is normally bustling during the summer. However, it allowed us to take some pretty great footage after setting up our tripod on the frozen lake.

Our strategy for making the video was that we would splice footage from the streets and the record shop together with shots of Cade performing the song himself like most standard music videos. Cambridge was where we shot all of our story footage and the parts we would use for the song were entirely recorded in Boston gardens. We were fortunately able to get a lot of footage on the iconic bridge over the lake. Since it was late February, the lake was almost completely gone. At our first location it was frozen but at the bridge it was almost dried up with this incredibly squishy, unstable layer of mud that I initially thought would be able to hold the weight of a person however I was wrong. The photo above was taken by my iphone camera while I stood ankle deep in mud, surrounded by a family of ducks. Again, there were very few pedestrians near the bridge despite it being somewhat of a tourist attraction in the park.

What made "The End of Us" an unusually difficult music video to make is that the song is six and a half minutes long and Cade refused to cut the song for a radio/video edit. For a normal three minute length song I would normally film twenty minutes of footage total. For "The End of Us" it ended up being upwards of an hour for all of our shots. For the music sequences we initially planned on Cade lip syncing the song with a speaker so that we could match the footage with the audio. This ended up not being the case and he insisted on actually performing his songs out loud, in public. What we found especially difficult was recording the song's minute long guitar solo which utilized an electric guitar that wasn't even plugged in. And every time he got a note wrong we had to completely start over. We took this one specific minute of footage from five or six different angles and it took up the majority of our time filming.

We left Boston gardens at around 5:00 PM, around the time it was getting dark. By this time the streets were completely vacant, we probably came across only 5-10 people after twenty minutes of walking. After taking more street footage near the North End, we wrapped up filming for the night. In total, the entire music video for "The End of Us" took around five and a half hours to complete with virtually no breaks in between except driving.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic I was obviously expecting to see a lot of people in masks but what I didn't anticipate was just how few people were taking the time to leave their houses. We spent our time filming in some of the city's busiest areas and encountered barely any foot traffic or pedestrians. Although it might've been cold and rainy, directing my first music video was truly an experience I'll never forget. Lastly, I want to commend Cade Earick and Jonathan Picard for their extraordinary work and being the best crew I could ask for. Here's to the next video!

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Mar 04, 2021

Looking forward to seeing the finished video .. Will definitely have to visit cheapo records ..

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