Q&A – Sierra Swan
May 17th, 2016
From May 18 through 22, local filmmakers and musicians will collaborate together during the 2016 EFS 72 Hour Music Video Competition. EFS blogger Sidney Moore spoke with Eugene-based filmmaker and University of Oregon Cinema Studies student Sierra Swan about her experience in the 2014 inaugural event. Swan’s video collaboration with musician Will Brown for his song “Snakebite” won the Mark Gall Award in 2014.
EFS: Had you filmed a music video before this?
Sierra Swan: I had made a music video for a class project a few years before “Snakebite,” but it was done to a John Lennon song so it was never uploaded online anywhere. It was a final for a visual design and production course at a community college before I transferring to the University of Oregon.
EFS: What was the experience like working with filmmakers and musicians you didn’t really know?
Swan: I actually worked with two of my very close friends as far as the production team goes. Getting to work with some of my best friends really worked out for us, because we were always on the same page and we weren’t afraid of speaking our minds. We worked really well together, and the added pressure of time didn’t take away from that. As far as working with Will Brown went, he was the best! We gave him our idea and he loved it and he let us take the wheel with making a video for him. What’s great about Will’s music is how raw it is. When we pitched our idea, he let us know that each of his songs were improvised, that he never played it the same way twice. We knew this would bring us some issues when it comes to shooting, but Will worked with us to make sure we had the best footage we could get for his video. I really believe working with someone who was open to our ideas and trusting of us as filmmakers was what led us to creating something that everyone involved with could be proud of. The respect was mutual, the lines of communication were always open and clear, and our focus was on giving Will something he would love rather than trying to win a competition.
EFS: Do you think the event provided you with a bigger platform for your work?
Swan: Yes, because the music video ended up being successful, it has been screened at two separate events and has been seen by more people than would have had I not been in this event. It also gave me the opportunity to create a real music video, especially one that was for a new song made by a local, independent artist. There also wasn’t already a video for this song. It was incredible and I can’t deny that this opportunity has made me want to look more into going into the music video world.
EFS: Did it provide you with the opportunity to meet and work with other artists?
Swan: I got the opportunity to meet and talk with other filmmakers outside of UO. Because Cinema Studies is a fairly small department, we all end up knowing one another pretty quickly and end up working together on projects outside of school. So having a whole event set up where we can talk to people who are working in Eugene as members of the community rather than just other students was nice. To continue with the kick-off event, we had to pitch ideas to a multitude of artists and discussed our visions in comparison to theirs. This forced my group to figure out how to best match several different tones and styles of music with the correct type of visuals like color, camera work and editing style that we may not normally think about.
EFS: What were some obstacles you faced while filming?
Swan:The biggest obstacle we faced while working on Will Brown’s music video was getting an exact sync on the sound and visuals of Will playing his guitar. It was important for us to have him in the video, and we wanted to show off his playing skills and emphasize that he was still telling a story with his lyric-free music. Will Brown’s style of playing reflects what he’s feeling and he told us himself that he doesn’t play a song the same way twice. But we managed to pull it off. We also were faced with the challenge of getting a real looking snake for as cheap as possible because even though we were making a video, we were still poor college kids. My friends ran to Wal-Mart and picked out a toy snake and we spray painted it and hoped for the best. There was no way we were going to get a real snake. Neither of us knew anyone with a snake and I personally have a fear of snakes.
EFS: Did the event provide you with hands-on experience?
Swan: I definitely got experience that you can’t get in a classroom. Sure we have production classes, but we’re given weeks to put something together. We’re turning in pre-production work that shows we know what we’re doing before we go into shooting. It’s all pretty scheduled out for us and we do the fine tuning of that schedule to make the due date. These competitions, which allow you a short period of time to get everything done, help you learn how to think on your feet better, how to get creative quick, and how to keep friendly with those you’re working with even if you’re grouchy and tired and hungry. It’s basically a condensed version of a group project: trust everyone, respect everyone, and despite whatever comes up, get it done in time.
Eugene Film Society Presents, in collaboration with Sam Bond’s Brewing and The Barn Light East, the 2016 EFS 72 Hour Music Video Competition. From May 18 through 22, 12 regional filmmakers will compete to make the best 3 to 5 minute music video within 72 hours using songs produced by local musicians. A block party and screening event hosted by Sam Bond’s Foundry and The Barn Light East will take place on Sunday, May 22, from 7-10 pm, to showcase the videos produced in the competition, as well as award prizes to the winning teams. If you would like to attend, please visit eugenefilmsociety.com to learn more.
You can view the video for Will Brown’s “Snakebite” below.