How I Made My First Music Video Set for Whitesnake
Building my own set from scratch was one of the most daunting project I’ve ever completed. Building it for my first celebrity client — even more daunting. I loved the process, I hated the process, but overall it was a total success. So here’s how I did, what it meant to me, and all those things.
For this project, I had a limited budget and some really big goals. Most of the budget was allocated to lumber/ misc. things: Screws, bolts, drill bits (I broke so many lol), with the rest of the budget being allocated to paint, foam, and minor props.
The dimensions of the set was roughly 25 long by 10 ft high, so that way my director could have all the shooting space he needed and not be cut off by the edge of the set. The challenges with building a set this high were serious — the set couldn’t fall on anyone, couldn’t hurt any props (like, the super famous Jaguar that would be right in front of my set!) And, it had to be relatively mobile. And realistic. SO MANY GOALS!!
To begin, my good friend Sasso and I did one large trip to Home Depot to get my materials:
Expanded Polystyrene — About 10 sheets. I had to the one that was at least 2” thick so I could carve into it and it not get punctured easily.
2x4x8 Lumber pieces — So many. Pieces. Of lumber.
Wood carving tool — I got this one. This was for carving alllll the foam (more to come on this later).
An ELECTRIC heat gun — equally fun, equally safe(ish).
Gorilla glue and Gorilla duct tape.
Paint! Lots and lots of paint.
The build was quite complicated. With the frames built, I made these foam covers/sheets over the frames that I screwed in with just some basic screws and drill. Some pieces I duct taped on with Gorilla duct tape, and other panels connected with plaster that dried like glue. All in all, this build was sooo messy. Paint everywhere. Plaster everywhere. On top of that, getting these all aligned together was so difficult — ultimately, as weird as it sounds, I ended up duct taping all the frames together from behind and then measuring over and over to see if they were 90 degrees straight.
For the foam:
Using some unconventional tools — an electric heat gun and a wood carver — I was able to do all my carving by hand for the entire set. When you carve foam though, it melts right into the air though. Which not only is like, really really toxic, but smells SO BAD. All that being said, you should wear good protection (i.e., not a 99 cent cheap filter from 3M), because inhaling these particles will make you really sick. SO proceed with caution if you want to try these tricks at home.
Also, enjoy some videos of me working through this process:
Because this set was all dark lit for the video, it looks quite rough in the daytime. Thanks to the incredible team I was working on, they shaped this set for the final product to be so so good.
Set in Normal light (Not quite as cool)
Set in Dark Light (Super cool)
THE BEST PROP
A little bit an easter egg for the band, a little bit a super cool prop, this neon was one of the coolest creations I’ve made to date. Made with black foam board, hot glue, and El wire, this guy took about 4 hours to make all together.
Up close: Lotttts of glue lol. But none of it shows on camera, so it’s all good!
Directed by: Tyler Bourns
Art Director: Me!
Behind the Scenes Photography: Sasso Photography
Mixed by: Christopher Collier
Engineered by: Michael McIntyre
Hair & make up: Elise Brodsky
I’m so so happy with the final result. Adding in all the little touches — light boxes, graffiti, vintage Whitesnake posters — it all made for such a realistic final product.
All in all, I am so grateful to Tyler (and Whitesnake!) for trusting me with building such a crucial element of their music video for their brand new song. Working on a team like this is a honor and I don’t take it lightly. I’ve learned so much from this process that I can’t wait to apply to whatever next project like this comes my way!