Pepper Coat & The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past: Making My First Music Video

It was bound to happen, I suppose.

All those weekends spent at my brother’s house watching Headbanger’s Ball and being disturbed by the visual tales told alongside the sounds of Tool, Nine Inch Nails, and Alice in Chains actually paid off. Thank you MTV (when you actually lived up to your name.)

This past weekend I shot my first music video for faux-folk singer/songwriter Pepper Coat. Those of you who know me will know that I’m not much of a music video guy; the last one I’d ever really enjoyed was for Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” back in the ‘90s. But because I enjoy Pepper Coat’s folky tunes I decided to come on board and help him stretch his nostalgic soul deeper into the Internet.

One of my favorite shots from the Pepper Coat shoot.

The storyline of Pepper Coat’s latest single “She’s Gone and I’m Here” is pretty standard and summed up in the title, which is a benchmark of all great songs that stand the test of time. The nonlinear storyline of the video itself, however, which I wrote, is a bit more complex: The character of Pepper Coat is lost in his brooding mind which is haunted by memories of girlfriends past that don’t want to be forgotten. But Pepper Coat can’t move on unless he exorcises those apparitions so that he might find a special someone at the café next door.

Pepper Coat gave me free reign to tell whatever story I wanted, and although my first draft was “cliché” (his word…and eventually mine), I then rewrote the script, taking his only suggestion: “How about many women?” That’s what the story needed, and so it became an amalgam of my short film Perfekt (similar storyline of one guy with many women) and Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (alternating those women within various scenes).

The only other criteria Edmund Lawrence Kasubinski III (the man behind the music) gave was for him to be in a tuxedo and to have a scene in a graveyard. Done and done all thanks to a marvel of a producer, Marinell Montales, who single-handedly put her first production together on a below micro budget. Of course, the video was shot with Alain Aguilar, my best friend and brother behind the moving images in Perfekt and Cerise.

The visual story had been pretty straightforward on paper until Alain, Marinell and I went location scouting a few days prior to shooting. Until then, I never fully understood the importance of a location scout, but I now see how it can change a few elements, and always for the better. With Alain’s guidance as my trusted friend and cinematographer, we were able to create shots that were a bit more conceptual in nature, and a lot more like a music video, something that proved a bit challenging for me as a more linear storyteller.

Shooting this music video was, for me, like opening a door into a new world of ideas and themes I want to address in future productions, like plastification, which I explore in the video in the form of mimicking Edward Hopper paintings, will also be a prevalent motif in my next production Mating Dome and the idea of memories as ghosts which I’ll give further shape to in the short films that make up my “Memory Trilogy.”

Edward Hopper's mood and tone is prevalent in the Pepper Coat video.

I have to say that I was very happy with every shot Alain and I set up, and would like to thank the wonderful cast and crew who worked without pay and who went into overtime each day just so we could put together a music video we’d all be proud to include in our portfolios, reels and shelves. So a big thanks to our crew (Alain, Beth Drenning, Joe Lomas, Tatsuro Nishimura, and our amazing make-up artist Vanessa Brun), all our leading ladies (Uvannie Enriquez, Loarina Gonzalez, Jennivere Lee, Cat Migliaccio, Jessica I. Silvestre, Kate Young, and Mariana Vily), our leading man Pepper Coat and of course, our producer Marinell!

And, of course, a special thanks to Walter Enders and Two Guys Pizza and Grill for donating some tasty food to keep the cast and crew smiling the whole way through!

Aside from writing and directing the music video for Pepper Coat’s “She’s Gone and I’m Here” (and recovering from the poison ivy I got from our first shooting day at the Jersey City Cemetery!), I’m also editing it and I’m hoping to have something to unveil in September, so stay tuned, folks!

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