TCF students film video for R&B singer

Mazie Bryant

Tuscaloosa might as well have been Hollywood last week as a crew of 50 current telecommunication and film students and alumni worked diligently through all stages of production on a music video for R&B singer Gifted’s song “Superstar.”

The video, created by 13 students in TCF 444: Producing and Directing Music Videos, was the final product of a glimpse into the professional world. Throughout the week, students were in charge of writing, producing, directing, filming and editing the film. In addition, the students were responsible for casting, location scouting, budgeting and transporting the equipment.

“The class gives students the rare opportunity to work together in a large crew, making a product for a real person who is counting on the quality of the students’ work to deliver,” Rachel Raimist, the assistant professor for TCF 444, said. “In production classes, we always do hands-on projects and exercises inside and outside of class time, but rarely do we work on a crew that is functioning as it would in the real world, on a professional set.”

Raimist, who knew Gifted’s management team from her 15 years of experience in the film and music industry in Los Angeles, was asked to direct the video herself. However, she declined the offer and instead suggested the opportunity be handed to her students.

Two weeks before the filming began, Raimist chose the director for the project, Micah Russell, and gave him until the start of class to invent and plan a storyline for the video.

“I was not hugely familiar with the R&B genre before writing the treatment for the video, so my biggest [job] was watching upwards of 40 to 50 R&B videos just to get a sense of what I was going to be doing,” Russell said. “After that, I sort of just worked through an idea that was fun and not too serious because the song had that fun feel to it. That’s how the cat and mouse chase idea came around.”

After analyzing many music videos, Russell decided on a classic storyline – a man chasing after a woman’s affection. However, he chose to focus on the chase, putting the crew members’ skill to use by filming at several locations around the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham areas.

“The locations were chosen based on the idea and what we could find,” Russell said. “We knew we had to have a club, and we really wanted a balcony for the finale. From there, our producers did what they had to do to get us those locations.”

Jon Barge, one of the producers for the video, was responsible for finding and booking the locations and cast.

“The locations for the club scene were a crucial decision we had to make because it was gonna be one of the main scenes in the video,” Barge said. “The choices were simply based on appeal to the eye, size and timing to shoot. We needed almost the entire day to shoot the club scene.”

Based on these criteria, producers decided upon Above Bar at the Redmont Hotel and the NV Ultra Lounge, both in Birmingham. However, the location hunt was not without flaws. A Tuscaloosa location cancelled their availability to film, and the students had only a day to create a new set in Reese Phifer Hall to replace the cancellation, using their parents’ curtains as makeshift colorful backdrops.

“This was a great learning experience for the students because it happens all of the time – locations often fall through at the last minute,” Raimist said. “In the end, it all turned out better to film on location here in the studio because we had much more control of the lights and the filming environment. We had plenty of space for the cameras, lights and crew, as well as enough power for all of our equipment.”

Last year, the students in Raimist’s class were unable to finish the class project of a music video for a rapper after the April 27 tornado disrupted the post-production process.

In addition to this big group project, the students will also film smaller group videos, make agreements to create videos for small, local bands and write papers that analyze a certain aspect of music video production.

Below: A behind-the-scenes look of TCF students creating the “Superstar” music video for the R&B artist Gifted.

TCF Behind the Scenes Gifted’s “Superstar” Music Video from UA, Telecommunication and Film on Vimeo.