Dan Gedman Interview: Behind The Scenes Of ‘O.G.’ Video Shoot
Dan Gedman from Liquid 9 has been in cohorts with Strange for at least over a year now. Starting out with Krizz Kaliko’s “Misunderstood” video from the album Genius, he’s made his mark as someone who’s able to get the job done well under the constraints of working independently of major label financing, churning out quality product under any conditions. The video shoot for “O.G.” from Tech’s upcoming collabos album, The Gates Mixed Plate, was the biggest yet for Strange, Tech, and Liquid 9. We talked to Dan to get some behind the scenes perspective on the video shoot and his working relationship with Tech N9ne and Strange Music, including the K.O.D. Tour: Live From Kansas City DVD and what’s in store for the future.
Strange Music Blog: How did this shoot rate in comparison to some other shoots that you’ve done with Tech N9ne?
Dan Gedman: At the root of it, it was a two-day shoot. The first day was the night where we shot that big parking lot [at Gates]. By far that was the biggest shoot we’ve been involved with with Strange. At one point there were forty different cars that could’ve been in that video, there were about two-thousand people, and we had cops breathing down our neck trying to blow it out. That shoot was huge, and awesome, and great but in the context of the other videos we’ve done–because the mood of them were so different–it was a much bigger shoot for us. We had to have a power truck, we had to have much bigger lights. We were roughly in a two-hundred square foot area which is like a movie, not like a music video. It was bigger, which made it both more fun and more nerve-wracking, but because we were able to get it off it was fucking awesome.
SMB: What were some of the challenges in making this video?
DG: We had to keep it quiet–because we had neighbors right there–but we still had to keep the party going and keep the energy of the crowd there. The big challenges other than that was that we needed a shit-ton of lighting and a lot of people to make that set work or just keeping the neighbors cool and the party going.
SMB: Yeah, I was there for that. That was a tricky balance you guys had to pull off.
DG: We’re pretty good at this point. Oddly enough, the second night–when it was a lot more intimate, when we just shot at Gates–that was, at least on our level, a lot more fun because that was where we shot all that goofy stuff. We shot him in the different places in the kitchen. That was a significantly longer day for us, but in my mind, those kind of shots are just as rewarding. To make a video out of those two different nights was pretty cool.
SMB: What were some of the fun things about making this video in comparison to some other ones that you’ve made?
DG: One of my favorite things is making Tech act, because he doesn’t like doing it but he’s pretty good at it. So, when we did the scene in the kitchen where he was four different characters–one guy is kind of the super-hype guy, one guy is the super-cool guy, one guy is kind of the stoned guy, and one guy is the dude who doesn’t want to be there–obviously it’s the same guy and we had to shoot four different takes and kind of just let Tech be Tech, which is fun and you can see him do that. When he’s doing the thing where we had the guy dancing on the tray and he’s reacting to it we were like “be afraid” and “do this.” Just watching Tech react–how natural he is in front of a camera–is always a lot of fun of fun for us because everybody isn’t that natural and he’s just so good that it’s a pleasure to work with him everytime.
SMB: Yeah, and he’s been doing it for awhile too. In your experience has he grown into being a natural or is that something that he’s had right from the beginning?
DG: I’ll tell you the truth, that Tech, Kutt, and Krizz, the second you turn that camera on, they’ve been doing it for so long that they’re all great at it. I think if anything Tech has grown as the videos have grown and we’re getting better at it together, but he was a natural the first moment we turned the camera on when he was anywhere around. He didn’t have very far to go, let’s put it that way. If there’s been any growth it’s been growth on our end on how to work together more than it is him being natural in front of that camera.
SMB: For the first shot in the video–I understand that it was done in Lawrence–was that just like the perfect location? Was there nothing closer or did you guys just say “fuck it” because you knew it was a sure thing?
DG: Yeah. To be honest with you, when you’re trying to do something like that and you have very limited time–a lot of these videos we’re not sitting there with the budget of a Jay-Z video–we have to make sure that we get it because we can’t come back the next day. It just happened to be that my producer and I both went to KU [University of Kansas] so we knew that road better than we would’ve known a road in Independence or Lee Summit–so it was a sure thing for us and that’s why we did it. I’m sure there’s about eighty-five different roads or eighty-five different places around Kansas City that would’ve been fine, we just knew that that one happened to be a good place–and it’s a cool-ass street. The hillcrest was perfect and we had to find a road where the sun was in the right spot–it was the perfect location.
SMB: I went to KU. Where was that located exactly?
DG: It was off of Evening Star just on the edge of Lawrence. If you’re going from Kansas City to Lawrence it’d be off to the left there.
SMB: You guys have been developing a relationship over the years, how is it working with Tech and the Strange Music crew? Are they professional? Are they fun to work with?
DG: Oh absolutely. No bullshit–and I’ve been doing this for fifteen years–I think that I’ve had the best creative relationship in my life with these guys and that goes beyond Tech, it goes to the whole family. It goes to Travis and Korey and all of the artists. They’re just a great bunch of guys that love the fact that we’re both in it for the same reason, and that’s to make the absolute best video we can make, the best album cover we can make for the project. It literally is–and I mean this–the best creative relationship I’ve ever had in my life.
SMB: The animated Gates tray: who’s idea was that?
DG: You know I’ll just give the credit of that idea to Liquid 9. We generally sit around when we’re trying to figure stuff out and spit out a whole bunch of ideas. We knew we wanted to do something graphically during the second verse so we could spend more money and more time on the first and third verses. With as big of a shoot as the outside of Gates was, we knew we were going to have a tough time putting another big set up towards that second verse. We just kind of started spitting it around. Honestly, it might have been Chris Weaver, our Executive Producer, it would not normally be his role, he was like “maybe we should animate that dude.” We got to talking about it and we had the perfect guy on our team to do that and it just kind of jumped into motion. We were like “can we do that?” and he said “absolutely we can!”
SMB: When you’re making a video and you’re under the consideration of budget, where does the money go? Are you shooting on film?
DG: We shoot on digital using a film lens. It’s as close as you can get to film without actually shooting on film. It’s like Pro Tools. I think the gear we bring out gets us 99.6 percent of the way there, and that also means we don’t have to spend twenty-thousand dollars on film stock.
SMB: Yeah, and the thing about Pro Tools is that if you mess up you can do another take and not have to worry about the cost of actual tape.
DG: That’s the exact same reason why-especially in the context of a music video-I wouldn’t consider shooting it on film unless we had six figures sitting around to do it. We would be so worried about film stock at that point, that you might not be able to have the fun like we did in Gates. Shooting him in that chair-that Spike Lee kind of shot-we did seventeen takes of that to get a perfect one. You couldn’t do that on film. That would’ve been a six-thousand dollar shot.
SMB: Was he on a platform that was attached to the camera?
DG: We threw him on a dolly, which is like a platform, yeah. You run rails on the floor and weirdly enough there’s a light and a camera mounted to the dolly and you just kind of push him around. It helped us get that trippy vibe when he was in the restaurant.
SMB: Yeah like it was all taking place in his own universe.
DG: Exactly. You can’t explain why it’s that weird but it got weird and all of the sudden Kaliko woke him up and they had a party in the parking lot.
SMB: Are you happy with the video and how it came out?
DG: You have a pretty good idea whether you shot something good or shot something bad. Putting that one together, we had a pretty good idea that we shot a lot of nice stuff. Under the constraints we were under on a Tuesday night out there in the parking lot–that shoot started a little rocky compared to where we wanted to be. To see that thing come together the way it came together–and it was funny because we all went in and worked with our editor and gave a little bit him freedom on the first cut–and when we saw that first cut it was like, “holy shit, this is a big, good video for Tech.” “Leave Me Alone” was a great video and we all love “Red Nose”, but this was one of those videos that we could tell was special after we watched it for the first time–and then when we put that little Gates guy in there. I don’t know if you’re from KC or not.
SMB: Yeah, I am.
DG: When I lived in Chicago you had to bring Gates Bar BQ sauce to me, and so getting to do the whole thing with Gates was just so cool. It’s such a good Kansas City thing, which I really dig. That’s my favorite thing about it. Like, we made a Kansas City video for Tech N9ne, which is rad.
SMB: Yeah, the song is as Kansas City as it gets and I think the video definitely serves that up just as well.
DG: Yeah, it’s just a KC thing. I love that about Tech. That’s a rock star from your hometown so you got to feel good about that.
SMB: Does this shoot have you invigorated to keep working with Strange and keep trying to take it to the next level?
DG: You know, everytime we do a project with these guys we try to do it a little better than the last. I don’t need to be invigorated with these guys because it’s an absolute pleasure to work with people that are professional as Strange Music is and it’s also an absolute pleasure to work with people as talented as they are. So it’s not like I needed to be reinvigorated by the video but every project we do–it’s funny because our whole company looks forward to when we do projects with Strange. Sometimes I’m shooting a commercial that I might not necessarily want to be shooting it so I consider myself unbelievably lucky to be working with Tech and Strange Music. You get to be on a video on MTV with a “Directed by” credit and I feel very fortunate just to be a part of that.
SMB: Is it a fun challenge to just go and be like “I can’t wait til we see what we can do next time”?
DG: That’s exactly what it is. We have a lot of internal conversations about “well, we did this on the last one, we got to go one better.” It’s always one better, two better, five better. Like the Strictly Strange DVD versus K.O.D.. K.O.D. is ten times better, you know what I mean?
SMB: It really stands up to a lot of concert films, not just rap, but any genre.
DG: I’ll say this arrogantly: that thing looks good. That is a great, really well-shot concert and I’m really proud of my guys who pulled that thing together. I ended up directing that thing from behind stage and barking out orders into headphones but that was five great cameramen making that thing happen and I’m really proud of the way that thing worked.
SMB: I would be too. It’s very epic.
DG: Yeah and in the context of rap you don’t really see a lot of productions like that. That’s a big point of pride for us.
SMB: Any idea of what’s in store for the future?
DG: You know what we’ll probably know about three days before it happens. We’re in Denver right now [June 5] shooting a video for “KC Tea”. So I know that’s in the immediate future. My guess would be a whole bunch of more good, you know? It’s going to be a big year for Tech especially coming into next year so…the future’s bright.
SMB: Cool cool. Well have a good one man and good luck on the shoot. Thanks for taking the time.
DG: Cool I’ll talk to you later. Have a good one as well.