SameDiff BNL

Barenaked Ladies 'Pinch Me'

Pinch Me Video Still Music Video Wire, October 2000.

Interview with director Phil Harder

MVW: Did you work with the band writing the treatment for the video?

PH: Steven from the band wanted to have a fast food theme which featured Ed playing multiple restaurant employee characters. Steven, Pierre (the band's manager) and myself basically built it from there.

MVW: How were you able to accomplish the look of the burger stand?

Pinch Me Video Still

PH: The burger itself is a miniature that we placed on top of our set in post. We shot it a few weeks after the initial shoot. It was very difficult, as we had to match the initial dolly and crane movements without motion control for the FX designers.

MVW: How did you build the circular interior of the restaurant?

PH: The inside of the burger stand was a half circle of panels which we used for both of the interior angles by re-propping it with either the hamburger counter and seating for the front angle, or the band stage for the reverse. To make it all fit into the budget we took the half circle interior, flipped all the little panels around and moved it outside the studio door for our exterior.

MVW: Who choose the type of cars that drove around the drive-through?

Pinch Me Video Still

PH: Those are AMC Pacers. Steven wanted to use these bad ass 70's vans with the big mural paintings on the side, but they dwarfed the set. The art director suggested the cool Pacers. We painted a couple of them to get a variety of colors. They just drove around slowly and later we manipulated their speed.

MVW: The color of not only the cars but through out the video really stands out.

PH: I always like to use the old school film print look. Vance Burberry, the director of photography also liked the idea. He wanted a bright sun-lit look to it. The film print combined with the colorful cars really brought it out. It's the standard process of making a film print from the negative giving you all those rich colors. Many directors use this method, but it's an expense often avoided. There is nothing like the color of a film print. It makes the music video look like what it is, FILM, what viewers are used to seeing in theaters.

MVW: Where did the thumbs up idea come from?

PH: That was Steven's idea. He wanted to show all of the restaurant employees wearing uniforms featuring the thumbs up logo. We pushed it over the top by having everybody giving the thumbs up. As far as the mascot, the original idea was to just have a thumbs up flag, but instead we had created the mascot character for Steven, dressed in a vinyl suit with plastic make up on his face.

MVW: Where was the scene shot when the mascot breaks out of the hamburger stand onto the lot?

PH: That was right outside the studio door. Luckily we had bright sunshine and the neighborhood behind the set was a perfect backdrop. The mascot comes to the rescue and saves the day, bringing Ed, our disgruntled employee and singer, back to the team. All ends well in perfect fast food harmony in the end.

MVW: It must be great to work with a band that has a sense of humor like Barenaked Ladies.

PH: All five of them were cracking jokes all day long. While giving them direction I had to watch what I said, because often the entire band would jump into a harmony mimicking my direction.

MVW: Have you worked with dancers before?

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PH: No, I haven't. I wanted the dance to be in backward motion while the band was performing in forward motion. We shot the performance in two layers. I shot the band performing on stage and then shot the dancers with an identical camera angled on a blue screen. I then put the images together in post, making for the freaky, surreal performance.

MVW: Did you use visual effects in the scene where everyone in the restaurant was frozen?

Pinch Me Video Still

PH: You could think it is a big post production thing, but I simply told everyone to hold very still while Ed ran through them. Sometimes when we do all this heavy duty post production work, we end up relying on digital effects to create everything. I shot Ed in slow motion to make it a little dreamier. Also, slow motion seems to make people hold still more than they actually are. We just told everyone to freeze and Ed ran through. We did it about five or six times.

MVW: What was the total shoot time from the time you shot and directed the video until it was finished?

PH: The shoot was two days plus another day for the miniatures. We started talking 2-3 weeks before the shoot. Steven sent me his idea and we started building on it. We really cranked it out in post production.

MVW: As your were shooting did the band have a lot of input on how they wanted things to look?

PH: We talked a lot with the band prior to the shoot and had everything scripted and story boarded. During the shoot there were only minor changes. The human kaleidoscope Busby Berkeley overhead shot was added during the shoot.

MVW: Do you usually like to have everything well planned out before you actually shoot on that day?

PH: Most of our work is post heavy. We are used to working with the FX designers at Pixel Farm in Minneapolis to carefully map things out. The Barenaked Ladies video is extremely mapped out. For example, we had to figure out if the burger that didn't exist on our set was going fit on the roof in post. We didn't have the advantage of motion control to match the set with the miniature, so we had to be very careful when shooting the miniature, making sure the camera movement was smooth and consistent with the initial scenes. You think about technical things like that while worrying about the crunch of shoot days, which is never enough time, just ask Rick Fuller the producer. All this combined with trying to get a good performance and a nice vibe to the whole thing.

MVW: What is your background in film making?

PH: Rick and I have been making music videos together for many years. Film making with a punk rock ethic. I started making no budget punk rock videos and taught myself through trial and error. Every new idea is kind of like trying a new film experiment, if possible. I started shooting on video with no budget, and then I bought a six dollar super 8 camera and discovered that film looked much cooler than video. Then I moved on to 16 mm thinking that it was so expensive. I learned early on to map out every single shot because I only had a limited amount of film to make a music video with. It was like running gold through the camera, you couldn't waste anything. I actually found by mapping things out and really thinking about each shot before I pulled the trigger that the images tended to be much better. Being that video was free and you could just roll forever and you get three hours of crap compared to 5 minutes of really solid, well thought-out film footage. I still try to maintain that ethic.

Many of my videos now rely on in post production. We shoot a library of elements and manipulate them in post. But unlike some other directors, who shoot something and hand it over to an editor, I am directing it all the way through the edit. I do rough cuts then I work with the FX design team at Pixel Farm. They've done all of my post production effects work. So I spend two or three weeks in post production on most jobs. Maybe its not financially that wise, as a lot of directors might already be out shooting two or three more music videos, checking in on their editors while working on another shoot. If I just did a cuts only, in camera shoot, ( there's nothing wrong with that ) maybe I could do the same.


Production Company: A Band Apart
Director: Phil Harder
Producer: Rick Fuller
Visual Effects: Pixel Farm
Director of Photography: Vance Burberry