Behind the scenes of the mewithoutYou shoot / by daniel davison

I don't think that I've ever put together a "behind the scenes" for any of my videos.  But after Drew, the First AC from the shoot, sent me a video he edited from iPhone footage he shot during the shoot and after looking back through the photos from the days surrounding this project, I decided that it'd be fun to share.  Starting from the initial testing of some of the ideas for the videos, to the travel, location scouting around Philly (which is always one of my favorite parts), to the actual shoot days... It was all such a blast.  The shoot was 4 very long but rewarding days.  Despite the insane hours and lack of sleep, every minute of these shoot days felt like a dream.  Getting to work with my friends Dustin and Drew again, and create with great friends and a great band.  I felt so lucky to be there making this video.  The behind the scenes video can be seen at the bottom of this post.

Initial flour and liquid tests.


After the treatment was approved by the band (after multiple conversations with Aaron, figuring out how to best visually portray the vibes of these songs) I spent a few days brainstorming and testing practical effect ideas that I had for the videos.  I had just returned from a US tour with Every Time I Die, and had a little over a week to get things in order for the videos.  

I flew to Philly 4 days before our first shoot day.  I spent these days scouting for locations and staying up way too late, both planning for the shoot and catching up with friends over beers in the park.  I walked and drove all over some of my favorite parts of Philly looking for locations where we could shoot.  Neighborhoods where I did a couple of different shoots over the 4 years that I lived in Philly.  I know these places well, so I knew that I would find what I was looking for.  I was really excited about the rooftop location that I happened upon.  I'd never actually been on top of that building before, which was exciting... I love the challenge of finding my way onto the roofs of vacant buildings.  I hadn't originally planned to incorporate a rooftop into the video, but the view of the city was so great, I knew I had to use it as a backdrop for some of the video.  It was Aarons idea that he and Kaysha camp out on the roof, and when we wrapped shooting that evening, they actually stayed the night up there.  If you know Aaron, this is no surprise, ha.  In fact, Aaron and I have stayed the night in some pretty rad places together over the years; with sand fleas on the beach in Mexico, in a lemon orchard on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, on a roadside cliff at Big Sur, in the Yosemite Valley, and countless urban and suburban houses across the US.

Location Scouting / prep work:

We shot the performance of "Dorothy" the first night.  The space was the vacant 4th floor of Founders Hall at Girard College, which is one of my favorite buildings in Philadelphia.  It was completed in 1847 and it's an absolutely stunning place (if you live in Philly, you can take a tour... I think on Thursdays).  Not so fun to carry all the gear and equipment up all of the stairs, but totally worth it.  I was super excited about making a one-shot video, but a little anxious about it, as well.  Especially with the transition between the two videos (with the mirrors and movable backdrop).  This was an idea that I had very early on in the brainstorming process (the mirror idea was inspired by a scene in "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang").  I just hoped that the idea would work as well as how I saw it in my head.  Thankfully after getting everything set up, and seeing the first few attempts on camera, I was relieved to see that it was going to work, and work really well!

"Dorothy" / Founders Hall:  black and white photos by Adam Peditto.

The narrative portion of the video was lightly scripted, but I wanted it to feel as real as possible, so Aaron and I decided to leave it sort of open ended.  I had a plan of what I wanted to capture and where I wanted to go, but couldn't really have a timeline for it...  Other than knowing we had 3 days to get all of the content we needed.  I won't go into detail about all of the locations, etc... my favorite memory (even though at the time it was Hell) was waking up after 2 or 3 hours of sleep to head to the train yard in South Philly to try to catch a train.  We got there as the sun came up, and hid out in some bushes at the edge of the yard for an hour or so.  Soon enough, a train came through and stopped, and we went for it (according to Aaron, only having to wait for an hour or so is very lucky... sometimes you can end up waiting all day).  That whole section of the video is not scripted, we just had to shoot stuff as it happened, without any time to really think about it.  Once the train started moving, we were all so excited... it felt so free. 

We rode south into Delaware, unsure of how long we'd ride or where we'd end up.  We didn't really care.  We'd figure it out.  After stopping through a few different train yards, and laying low, we got a little bold and weren't really hiding out very well.  Climbing around on the stopped train, shooting all the while.  Then we were spotted.  Moments later there were rail workers on both sides of our train car, motioning for us to get off the train.  We silently climbed down and had to walk out to the next road, while they watched to make sure we actually left.  A rail cop met us on the road and interrogated us for half an hour or so.  We managed to sneak a few quick shots while this happened, which were included in the video.  We all left having only got warnings, no tickets or arrests, thankfully.  We figured out where we were in Delaware and how to get back to Philly using public transit.  We basically shot everything as it went down, which I think adds to the realness of the overall video. 

Back in Philly, the only things left to shoot were the powder scenes and the colored liquid scenes.  We shot the liquid scenes in the parking lot of a school in North Philly, about 5 blocks from where I lived a few years ago.  A bunch of kids from the neighborhood ended up coming over to hang out and watch as we filmed.  It took a little while to really get what I wanted with the liquid shots, but after a couple of different methods, we got it.  It was really a fun part of the shoot, there was a beautiful sunset, and we were all so happy. 

From there we went to the forest location, about 10 minutes away.  We shot in the pitch black woods of Fairmount Park using two hand held spot lights as our only lighting.  We shot well into the night, and by the end of the shoot we were all completely exhausted, most of us covered head to toe in flour. 

The whole experience of the shoot was fantastic.  Everyone who worked on the project are dear friends, which made the whole process that much more enjoyable.  I was really inspired and overwhelmed with gratitude throughout the whole shoot.  I already can't wait until my next project.  I can only hope that it will be as enjoyable and rewarding as this one.