Independent hip hop artist Onry Ozzborn is about to put out a new album called Duo. It’s a set of duets (thus the name) with some of his friends, including Aesop Rock, Kimya Dawson, P.O.S., and many more.
But rather than shooting a standard music video for two or three singles, Onry went big to promote this release. He teamed up with a production team called Soundlapse to create “duofilm,” an epic 15-minute music video meant to be a visual expression of the entire album, with guest appearances from almost every featured artist on the record.
Even more impressive: they shot the whole thing in just seven hours on a shoestring budget.
How? I asked them.
An interview with Onry Ozzborn and director Tim Slew (of Soundlapse) on the making of an epic independent hip hop video
What’s the concept behind this music video?
OO: The concept was to make a visual version of the album to stand all on its own rather than just a series of videos to promote the album. DUO has a very cinematic feel to it along with a lot of personality due to my circle of friends who all participated in both the album and film.
TS: For myself it was really just wanting to turn something which is very normal on paper into something truly unique and attention grabbing.
How did you coordinate to get all the featured artists involved?
OO: I coordinated it by arranging for everyone that could make the shoot to be there, and those that couldn’t to send in footage of them doing their parts. It was Soundlapse’s (Tim Slusarczyk and Sean McDonald who created the film) idea to project them all about and such though. I’ve never seen that done personally.
TS: That was all my man Onry.
What was pre-production like for this video?
OO: There was none really. We showed up to a friend of mine’s house and she allowed us to just hang out and shoot. It literally was only a seven hour shoot, all shot on one day. Tim knows what he wants so he don’t waste any time.
TS: For me, pre-production was an anxiety-fueled nightmare. With that many scenes I had to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything at all. Planning out the shots is one thing but then also making sure we had every little prop needed was a whole other story. There were definitely many nights leading up to the shoot where I would wake up out of a dead sleep to jot down notes to self about props, shots, and equipment.
What did you budget, and what did you ultimately spend?
OO: It cost us 7 dollars and 17 cents to make the picture.
TS: Actually it was 7 dollars and 18 cents!
How scripted was the story? Any improv happening with the performances, acting, extras, props, and such?
OO: I came up with a few ideas for some of the scenes, sent them over to Tim where he put his thoughts in and after that we were pretty much set to go. There was some improv for sure though. When Cloudy robbed the house he snapped into full character and scared the daylights out of everyone and also made us all laugh at the same damn time. Scotty Preston (dude w/ the shirt off) was very impressive also.
TS: Yeah, I mean it definitely was scripted out but the artists all brought a little something that wasn’t planned. It was very collaborative in the best way possible.
There’s a variety of videography and editing techniques used throughout the video: slow motion, shaky handheld shots, projections, stuttering (or whatever you’d call that effect with the balloon). Were you consciously trying to keep things changing in that way to make the video interesting and dynamic the whole way through? Or were you discovering the right technique for each scene as you went along? Or a bit of both?
OO: I feel like that’s a better question for Tim, but I know we definitely had to keep changing as it went along, because in this day and age do you know how hard it is to keep someone’s attention for three minutes, much less fifteen? Haha.
TS: It was 100% conscious. I feel like I have to ditto what Onry said — it’s EXTREMELY hard to keep someone’s attention nowadays. If the cinematography wasn’t keeping it visually interesting then people would probably just open a new tab to scroll though Facebook or something while only listening, which defeats the whole purpose of duofilm.
What was the biggest challenge with this video?
OO: Biggest challenge with this video was trying to make sure we didn’t all get too drunk, ha — and by the way, my kids were not present during that, nor during the ill parts of the film.
TS: The number of shots in the limited time we had. I wore one of those fitbit things that day which tracks how many steps you take. By the end of the shoot I had taken enough steps inside that one house that it added up to seven miles of walking. It was the wrong day to wear my blown out vans. Blister city.
What do you want the viewer to have experienced by the end of the video?
OO: I just want the viewer to be able to put it on like they would a record, or a CD, or a cassette, and just be able to let it run all the way and enjoy it whether they’re watching or not.
TS: I would hope it provokes an appreciation for everything that goes into an album and the making of a video. More importantly though, just fifteen minutes of enjoyment honestly.
Do you have a “strategy” for this video, in terms of promotion?
OO: My strategy is just that it will resonate with people and eventually spread like wildfire. It’s not everyday you see something like duofilm, or hear something like DUO.
Have you shot an epic music video? Any tips for other artists out there? Let us know in the comments.