1987. National Video Center. NYC.
Usually when I got a rush job to edit an ’80s music video, Rush was not involved. This was not one of those times.
Producer Stuart Samuels called sales exec Steve Ostrow to book me for 7 days straight. I’d have to be available 24 hours a day. Zbigniew Rybcznski, one of the hottest directors at the time, wanted the freedom of working around-the-clock on two music videos: one for Rush and one for Mr. Mister. He wanted to, as he put it, “Edit live.”
Rybcznski was know for his Oscar-winning short “Tango” and his supremely cool music video “Close To The Edit” by The Art of Noise.
His early work had been shot and edited on film, but lately he’d become enamored with video effects, shooting his last few projects on videotape. I personally thought he seemed more concerned with technology than aesthetics.
The Floating-Aimee-Mann Rush Video
An edit suite was set up in the control room of National Video’s largest stage, where I would live for the next seven days. You can see the edit suite at 2:17 in the Rush video. Zbig moved his wife and kids into one of the green rooms. Rush and Aimee Mann moved into adjoining rooms. I got a room in a Holiday Inn across the street from National that I never saw.
Zibig had shot footage of country landscapes for Rush. The idea was to shoot short pieces of Rush performing the song against green screen, then composite them together. When we started working, Zbig decided he loved the stage and wanted to composite Rush over that instead. I suggested that we shoot them live in the stage, but Zbig wanted everyone to “float” around it. He also insisted that everything had to happen “live.” Each new layer would be placed on top of the preceding layer without making protection copies or “laying off” a copy, as we used to say. The green screen footage was shot with the same giant studio camera Aimee Mann is using in the video. Zbig would give some vague direction to Rush; I would set up the effects, play the audio track and press record, causing multiple one-inch tape machines to roll up on the third floor. For 3 days in a row. It didn’t matter what time it was. If Zbig got an idea at 3 in the morning, he’d wake everyone up (I was sleeping in the control room) and we would all go to work. We started the Rush video on Saturday morning and finished Tuesday night. Wednesday morning Mr. Mister moved in.
The Disembodied-Heads Mr. Mister Video
This one was a bit more focused. Zbig wanted it to feel “surreal,” like a Dali or Magritte painting with many, many layers. (Complete with umbrellas.)
Zbig had already shot cityscapes; we started by looping sections of this footage to the beat. Next we shot each layer live and composited them live. I can’t even count how many layers there are in this video. The band was never on the stage together. Each member was shot separately and layered on top of each previous layer. It could not have been done without the Abekas A62, which I talk about in another post (“It Takes Two”). Three days and nights later, we finished and everyone moved out. I personally hated this video, but National Video Center decided to frame a giant print of the disembodied heads and hang it in the lobby, to my embarrassment. When it was nominated for an MTV Music Video Award for “Best Special Effects,” I went into hiding.
Here’s a brilliant spoof someone did of the Rush video. It really skewers the editor. Me.