The Torture Videos
THE STORY (2009)
In 2009 I was approached by two different bands to direct low budget music videos, Farewell Continental from Minneapolis, Minnesota (Paper and Plastick) and Josh Steinmetz from Los Angeles, California. (Adamant Records).
The songs were both amazing and really dark. Farewell Continental wanted to something sort of creepy and we had a perfect concept from a rejected treatment for the amazing band Low that involved a girl torturing a guy that seemed to fit perfectly.
I had been wanting to try an experiment for a while that involved TWO different bands making the exact same video, but from two different P.O.V. angles. One from the guy's point of view and one from the girl's. The idea had never happened because its very hard to get two bands to have availability on the same date and I wanted the songs to have similar subject matter, so these 2 songs were perfect for both criteria.
After pitching Farewell Continental and Josh, they both agreed that it was a fun idea and the torture concept worked well with both the songs dark tones. A few weeks later a caravan led by a small motor-home we left Minneapolis heading toward this creepy forest in Osseo, Wisconsin.
In the 50's, some farmers had planted trees expecting to sell them to be made into telephone poles, but due to developments in alloy technology the trees were never harvested and remain in perfect rows hovering 40' above the ground. I knew this whole video shoot was going to be a total junk show: low budget, cold weather, too little time and remote location, but that just makes it more exciting. Right...?
I was just hoping the crew and bands didn't revolt, and I was even more nervous when we pulled into the parking lot of our motel, which was sandwiched between a row of fast food dumpsters and the local XXX porn shop.
The camera department and my friend Cole Koehler had created a helmet camera mount so I could operate and have use of my hands while acting in the videos. For the Josh Steinmetz video this involved wearing a bloody dress and bright red press on nails much of the video. To quote Jason Lee in Mall Rats "I would have made a sexy chick!"
We shot both videos in two over-nights at temperatures around 2 degrees F. By this time they had already become affectionately known as The Torture Videos, not so much because of the subject matter, but it was torture making them. You can see Josh literally shaking in some of the shots and there were a few painful moments as a Director where I realized I couldn't do certain things I had planned. Like dump 5 gallons of fake blood on Josh, or myself or shoot coverage until we got the all the takes perfect.
We had an amazing crew and didn't really hear anyone complain too much despite the cold and long overnight hours. My neck started to seize up because of the weight of an old school HVX 200 camera being mounted to a helmet cam. A big mistake not to shoot on a Go-Pro, I guess.
That morning my brother who was shuttling band members and crew back to Minneapolis accidentally left without amazing filmmaker Sarah Jean Kruchowski, who was doing the production design. She needed to get back to see one of her good friends get married. When we realized it was too late, I ended up driving her back to Minneapolis and racing back to set, so I got barely any sleep, but was feeling good.
On the last night, everything actually going pretty well. My neck was working again and we were going to finish early, until a unruly group of local Wisconsinites showed up asking for cocaine. We declined and he grew very angry unconvinced that a rock band would not have illicit drugs.
He then said he was going to shoot us with a shotgun if we didn't at least give him and his friends (who were all in their mid 30's) beer and come see their "fort".
When we finally appeased the drunk dudes, and prevented a shooting. I was 3 hours behind schedule, fighting the sunrise and a nasty case of frostbite on my toes and cheeks, but the end was almost in sight. I remember getting my second wind and having a pep talk with the crew. Just then, the motor-home generator went out. All the cars were parked in by the massive motor home. We had no way to get past the trees to jump start it, or to get out of the forest for help and now their was no heat source to warm the cast and crew.
After about 7 failed attempts to remedy the situation, I thought "Well this is it, we're screwed."
Just then super hero crew member TJ Schwingle, came around the far side of the forest, down the narrow path in a beat up truck. I have no idea where he got it but he jumped the motor-home, got the heater working again and a few hours later we successfully wrapped my most painful filmmaking experience of my life.
We drove home early in the morning and I was happy no one froze to death, fell through the ice or was shot by hillbillies. I couldn't feel my toes for about 3 weeks after the shoot but these songs and artists are amazing and it was worth it for sure. I hope they like the videos as much as I do and I'm interested to see if anyone is into these.
Thanks to the amazing crew for your hard work and the fantastic artists for the opportunity to make something memorable and weird.
-Shane Nelson (Director) Post Filming in 2009
THE CRITIQUE (2014)
Looking back, it's kind of funny to read this. We never really released the Josh Steinmetz - My Little Animal music video. I'm not sure he even released his record.
But regardless, the videos are fun and creepy. I like the performance of the Farewell Continental members as the psychotic band of tortures and the look of the point of view shooting style especially the P.O.V. guitar sequence and the contrast blood on snow. I like how the reverse P.O.V. concept worked and overall I am happy with the videos.
The section where the girl actually attacks (in both videos) doesn't really work as well as it could have. In retrospect I should have used Twixter and just made these super slow motion or even still frame allusions to the beating. The cold made impossible to get the performances I needed to make it look right and it seemed too dangerous to pour fake blood all over in the sub zero wind chill.
"Sometimes as directors we fail and need to make sure the edit doesn't."
I also think the end might have been better if we just shot the girl using an auger to make the hole in the ice. The shot with the axe doesn't quite convey the exact look for the drowning that I wanted. Other than that I guess I don't hate them.