Whitney woerz - Six Second Love

 

We're so used to the irony by now: in an age where everyone is increasingly "connected" we've never felt more alone. Being social means talking to pixels instead of people. Sure, there's a ton of great things that the information age has given us--like more platforms for music videos like this one  (not to mention emoticons) but the whole operation could arguably be called a curse as much as a blessing. This song and this video is a little bit about all that but without being too heavy-handed. Instead of showing the loneliness and isolation of the person using the laptop, cell-phone or tablet; this video is going to make the viewer feel the loneliness and isolation of the device when not in use as a symbol and substitute for ourselves.

It relies on a simple visual device that has lots of room for play and experimentation (not to mention making production requirements extremely simple): screen-replacement.

Its the technique of keying out the screen on any particular device and replacing it with whatever we want: in this case, the lovely, talented Whitney Woerz. The clearest example I can give you is this test shot:

The video will largely consist of slow-moving, steady, "Kubrick-esque" tracking shots over various screens in various rooms--almost all devoid of live humans. The video starts in a few such rooms as the lights go out and the device is powered down: a desktop computer is put to sleep and the lights go out in a smart-looking home office, a teenage girl tosses her tablet to the foot of her bed as she pulls the covers up, a janitor finishes mopping the linoleum of a high-school computer lab before locking the door, etc. There are at least ten other rooms with screens like this that we will see over the course of the video. In each scene we are seeing the dark screen in a dimly lit room--alone, empty, hollow, and mysterious like the opening "oohs" of the song. Then the piano comes in--and the screens start to come to life. It starts with a blank neutral grey light fading up on one desktop computer. In the computer lab, where there are multiple screens, the light comes on in a staccato rhythm, in time with the chords of the piano. Finally the lyrics begin and Whitney appears on one of the screens, in one of the rooms, looking straight out--a lone black and white figure against a seemingly infinite background as we've seen many times:

The twist is that we're always tracking over this image as its projected from whichever device, in whichever dark, empty room. We're constantly seeing a different office, a different living-room, bedroom, etc. so the shot is always new and interesting. There's a certain quiet, stillness to this series of shots that is captivating. Its a bit like several of the opening shots in Lorde's "Royals" video--the static shots of empty rooms, etc.

The fun really starts in rooms where there are more than one screen that have magically "turned on"--in this case, over the course of a single shot, Whitney might start singing on a laptop screen and then walk to the right and out of "frame" only to appear walking "in" from the left side of the frame on a nearby cell-phone screen. Here's another test:

Hence, the computer lab: one of our primary locations (there will only be 3) that we keep returning to. In this setting we get to really play with having Whitney move between screens or appear on multiple screens in mosaic fashion. This example demonstrates some of the interesting creative possibilities to be explored:

Apart from the computer lab, the only other places we will continue to come back to are two bedrooms: the one with the sleeping teenage girl and another one, introduced slightly later, that belongs to a teenage boy, also fast asleep as his nearby cell-phone has Whitney singing fervently on it, unbeknownst to him. These two are our only real cast, apart from Whitney. At first they are really only glimpsed in the foreground or background of our tracking shot over their respective devices/screens. Then, during the bridge of the song--there is a change. In keeping with the rising power of the song the grayscale image of Whitney on all the screens we see begins to take on color--though not in a b/w to color Wizard of Oz kind of way, but in a dance-party strobe light kind of way, sort of like this:

The light from the display, now much more eye-popping, has the effect of waking up our two sleeping main characters. Each takes notice of the strobing device and the strange woman singing this awesome song on the screen! Not only that but the teenage boy notices a similar pulsing light from underneath his bedroom door. He exits to see the same image on the TV in the adjacent living room and the tablet left on the coffee-table. The girl notices light coming from outside her bedroom window and goes to look--

Outside, in all the windows of all the neighboring suburban houses, the same strobing light from all the different anonymous screens that we have been seeing. Its a tremendously energetic display and a surprisingly simple effect to create, as typified by this time-lapse video:

All the while we're intercutting with the Whitney mosaic computer lab which is ablaze with color/strobe/flashing computer screens. Then we're back outside on the front porch of the teenage girl's house as she walks outside, flashing cell phone in hand, looking out at the neighborhood's flashing windows-- until all at once the chorus stops and so do the lights. She is left alone as the last lyric plays out "There's always a person that you don't know" and she looks around to see the teenage boy, her next door neighbor, also standing on the front porch of his house, dumbstruck. Their eyes meet. The crickets chirp. Two people make a non-virtual or in other words "real" connection. The end.

 

Production

The great thing about this concept is that it could be made extremely easily and for next to nothing but still look stellar. How? Because despite the seeming complexity there are actually very few locations, very few actors, and very few (full) production days required.

What we're talking about is one day with Whitney against a cyc-wall in a studio.

A second day in a suburban house in a suburban neighborhood which will double as both teenage boy and teenage girl's house/room as well as the final exterior front-porch shots.

 

A third day (or possibly half day) in a high school computer lab (no actors required for this).

All of the other shots in the video over various random screens and rooms include no actors or talent and can be done with barebones crew and equipment. These are simply tracking shots over various computer screens in as many volunteer home-office/bedrooms/living-rooms/etc. as we can muster. This is the kind of thing that could be done by a single person if necessary but preferably at least two if budget allows and spaced out over several days as time and scheduling permits.

That's it. The rest is created in post with delightful ease and with a great deal of control and "tweakability" of the effects we are employing. I have other ideas for particular details and moments from the song within this framework but I think this should give you the basic concept and structure!