Several years ago I went to see Missy Higgins, an artist whose music I had loved for quite some time, play at The Beachland Ballroom. Despite knowing that I say idiotic things when I’m nervous, I was persuaded to approach her for a photo after the show. She said she blinked. I said I’d Photoshop her eyes open. It was weird for all of us. When I listened to Missy’s latest album, The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle, I decided that the coolest thing I could do in my career would be to someday work on a video for her. This is intended to serve as both a public apology for that awkward moment and a plea for Missy to consider hiring me for future editing needs.
– Danielle Miller
I had a chance to ask Danielle Miller a few questions about her creative video pitch (embedded above) to singer/songwriter Missy Higgins recently. Here is what she had to say…
Why did you put together the video? What do you hope to accomplish with it?
I always used to think it was cheesy when people said, “I love this band, their lyrics speak to me, blah blah blah,” but when I was introduced to Missy Higgins’ music I got it. I connected to the things she was singing about. There’s also this calming factor to it. I can get pretty anxious and when I listen to her music something about it is just very settling to me. One time I was on a flight where a little kid in front of me was screaming non-stop for 4 hours. It was so stressful I think my hair started falling out. Then I put on my headphones and listened to her music. After a few minutes the plane could’ve gone down and I would’ve thought, “Oh well, I guess it’s my time.” It’s that good. So without even meaning to, I feel like she helps a lot of people. I respect that. I respect the willingness to put your heart on the line and hope that people like it. I respect that she uses her popularity for good causes. I also identify with getting paid to do what you love. So I decided one of the coolest things I could do in my career would be to create something/anything for her. When I told people what I was doing, they would tell me I was crazy or look at me like they were trying not to laugh. I didn’t care, though, because I figured I couldn’t make this bold definitive statement about a personal goal and do nothing to at least try. Still, I definitely didn’t go into it expecting anything to come from it. I knew that if I was going to commit this much time it had to be fun and I had to try things I’d never done before. I’d never pulled green screen, I’d never done stop motion animation. I learned lot on this project. It’s one of my favorite creative experiences I’ve had.
What went into the creation of the video? Did you plan it out yourself?
Initially I had a plan to write Missy an e-mail a day giving her a list of 3 reasons why she should hire me, some serious, some goofy. Then I figured that was the fastest way to get a restraining order, if anyone even read them. One day I was talking with Mallory SanMarco, the writer/performer of the song (who is so talented and funny and I can’t say enough good things about) and she said if I ever wanted to do a music video for her she would be happy to receive it. It dawned on me that we could take my list of reasons and turn it into a song, and in return I’d happily make Mal a video somewhere down the road. So that’s what we did. I gave her my reasons and what I was imagining visually and she knocked it out of the park. If the song didn’t work, the whole thing fell through. She was awesome.
How do you know those that helped you get the video put together? How did they get involved with the project?
I know Mallory through a mutual friend and work with Caleb Crossen, the director of photography, at Think Media Studios. They’re the 2 who were pivotal to any of this happening. I’ve been wanting to collaborate with Caleb on a side project for the last couple of years. He’s so talented and I love working with him. He also has an awesome laugh. Caleb’s wife Stephanie also helped out on the shoot and did some additional illustrations for me. She’s an incredibly talented graphic designer and illustrator. The others in the video are my good friends Niki and Jonathan, Niki’s friend Katie and my girlfriend Denine. I’m so grateful that they took a day to drive out and help. They were all incredibly supportive, the ones who never doubted that this was something I should try. Niki and my friend Keith also helped me figure out a plan of attack in terms of getting the video to Missy. Without them, none of it would have worked. This project was awesome for me in so many ways: on top of it being fun, it made me realize how many talented people I know and what an amazing support system I have. When I finished it, my friends and mom and sister all re-posted it without me asking them to and said really nice things. Even if Missy never saw it I was feeling pretty damn good.
How long did the video take to produce?
The whole thing took 7 weeks from start to finish: a week of constant storyboarding, a week of gathering props, 2 long days of shooting. I also work as a full-time editor for Brian Glazen at Think Media Studios (www.thinkmediastudios.com), so for 5 weeks I would make the hour commute into work between 5-8AM, then do my real work, then stay at work until 9-11PM, in addition to working weekends. When I finished the project I gave myself a high five and slept for 14 hours straight.
Do you have any funny stories from the production of the video? Diet coke fanatic?
I don’t usually drink that much pop/soda/sody pops/whatever, but I really wanted to finish the video before Missy’s show in Cleveland on September 18th, and was so busy at work that I had to be as focused as possible…which meant not leaving my desk very often and therefor not stopping to eat. I lived off of Diet Coke and lost 9lbs. I also realized that it doesn’t take very long for a person to lose their mind without food and human contact. One weekend my girlfriend was out of town, so it was a great opportunity to squeeze in 14-hour days on the weekend. I was the only one in the building and wandered around talking to myself. Once I turned a corner while saying, “I lost 9 lbs!” and ran into someone who just showed up. I tried to think of a way to make myself sound less crazy, but had no excuse and just said, “Yeah, I was just talking to myself.” He looked confused and concerned. Also, if anyone were to watch the security footage from my office, they would see a lot of footage of me trying to click my heels together like a leprechaun. You have to improvise when you need a 5-minute break and there’s no one to talk to.
The video description mentions how much you like Missy Higgins, how long have you been a fan of hers? Why would you want to do a video for her?
My sister introduced me to Missy’s music after seeing it on a show about 6 years ago and I’ve loved it ever since. I want to do a video for her because I love working on projects that I’m emotionally invested in, rather than thinking, “I want this to be cool, I want it to be the best it can be, I want to make the client happy,” which are all good and standard goals. I just want a little more. While working on King Me, the documentary I cut with Think Media, I spent a year losing sleep because I couldn’t figure out how to make a scene work. I would leave work at 10PM and drive home as fast as I could because I was anxious to get to bed and start again in the morning. I talked my girlfriend’s ear off about what I was doing that day and what was hard about it and what was fun, and I LOVED that. I want to do work that I can pour my heart into like that as much as possible. I can’t imagine caring about something more than doing something for someone I respect so much. I feel like she’s unintentionally and indirectly done a lot for me, whether it’s writing lyrics I can relate to that make me feel like less of a crazy person or making music that will make me feel better after a crappy day, and I want to try to do something good for her. While I would do a music video or whatever I could get my hands on, I would love to do something with a bit more of a personal touch. Something slightly more documentary-ish with a bit more insight into who she is. I have ideas. Someday maybe.
Where did you meet her? Can you describe the interaction?
I met Missy after her show at The Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland 4 or 5 years ago. I was inside talking to her guitarist, and am so awkward talking to people I don’t know that I believe my parting words to him were, “Remember to wear your seat belt,” like I’m a state highway patrolman or something. When I went outside, my girlfriend at the time said, “Missy is over there taking pictures, go talk to her!” After the last interaction I really didn’t want to. I had no idea what I was going to say. She told me I’d regret it if I didn’t, and gave me a push towards her while saying, “Tell her I like her bus!” because her tour bus is very, very yellow. I sort of went running at Missy and just shouted, “MY FRIEND LIKES YOUR BUS!” She gave me a funny look, and after a second said, “Oh, I thought you said your friend likes my butt.” I responded, “She probably likes that too,” which, of course, embarrassed my girlfriend. We got a photo together and afterwards Missy said she may have blinked. Without hesitation, I said, “That’s ok, I’ll just Photoshop your eyes open.” Walking away she said, “Yeah that wouldn’t be weird or anything.” I immediately slapped my hands on my face like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone and screamed way too loudly, “WHAT THE F*CK DID I JUST SAY?!” which I’m sure she heard and helped nothing. I was so humiliated that this person that I admire so much now probably thinks I live in my mom’s basement Photoshopping body parts on people I don’t know. It’s by far the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done, but is also my favorite story ever so I definitely don’t regret it.
Missy Higgins mentioned your video in a tweet, do you think you will be able to do some work with her in the future? Have you had any further contact with her?
This is INSANE. I seriously never expected her to ever see it. I thought, “I’ll do something fun that I can learn from and maybe by some miracle it’ll work out.” She also posted it to her Facebook wall and said really nice things, which got the video almost 2,000 hits on Vimeo. People were responding so kindly to it. I work in a mostly corporate video environment, so usually the only people who see my work are the clients and co-workers. Even when King Me, the documentary I cut, premiered at CIFF, I didn’t get any immediate feedback from anyone but friends and family, and you never know if people genuinely like things or just feel obligated to say they do. To see complain strangers from around the world be so supportive and say such nice things is crazy. It was easily one of the best days of my life. After posting it, Missy sent me a direct message on Twitter and gave me contact info for the person I need to get in touch with for possible work in the future. Even if it never happens, I couldn’t be happier with the way things worked out. This whole thing made me think that she’s even cooler for being so kind. She definitely didn’t have to respond, let alone repost it. She’s a cool chick.
Anything else you’d like to add?
This was an awesome experience from beginning to end. I’m feeling as good as a person possibly can about everything: the process, the people who helped, the support, the outcome. I feel like I could kiss a leper on the mouth.