Nathan “Karma” Cox has an MTV award for his work on Linkin Park’s “In the End” video and he just started up his own production company called Creature. We asked Nathan a few questions about his latest project “The Red” and the treatment writing process for a performance video.
NC:The song is “The Red” about releasing this tension when you see the red everything goes crazy. We got the song and a budget and just came up with an idea.
The band is made up of three brothers and apparently early on in the bands career, when they were younger, they would bicker and fight and it turned to fist fighting, occasionally, while they were touring and stuff. The label mentioned that one of the band members especially, when he was younger, had some anger management issues. It’s about him seeing red whenever he would get pissed off.
The basic idea was pretty literal, they wanted to something about anger management to go with the idea of the song. The song was really specific so it was easy to write something to fit it. I just loved the idea of taking a normal situation, something as controlled as a 12 step type program meeting. Right from the get go the label was very supportive, they thought the idea was perfect for the song.
MEETING THE BAND
NC: For the most part my career is based on people I already knew or had a personal relationship with. So this is one of the first videos where I had never met the band and had no idea what they were going to be like. The guys came in a day before the shoot, and they’re from a big family of about 8-10 brothers and sisters. They’re just three of the brothers from the family. They’re all gear heads, and they are big car guys, hence the name Chevelle.
BUILDING UP TO A FIGHT
NC: The casting was one of the best casting sessions I have ever had because these guys were just perfect. The success of the video really relied on who these characters were. Just being able to have people who could be bizarre, be a little off kilter and then be able to spazz out in the end was great!
Also, I had a buddy of mine who has a t-shirt company, somewhere here in LA, and this guy is a very successful businessman, but for some reason he’s got this character that’s like a roadie guy he plays in his life when he is not working. He has a full mullet, the handle bar mustache and drives around the full Bert Reynolds bandit car, a Trans Am, black with the gold eagle on the front. He loves to be this guy and will roll into any party and just act like that white trash jack ass and really flip people out, but its all kind of his inside joke. Anyway he came down and I thought he would be perfect for it as well.
We knew that we wanted to build the suspense and the tension that would lead up to the climax. We set up these little scenarios were people are looking at each other and giving dirty looks here and there. For the most part during the shooting I would just yell out, “you try this and you try that.”
So during that process everyone in the room had the ability to get crazy or do something pretty simple. We just set up those scenarios as we were shooting and covered the crowd. I wanted to give each guy a moment to sort of start small and build up a little bit get more stress and stuff. Then the fight sequence was really fun.
We were just getting ready to start the fight sequence, and I like to start shooting wide with the stuff I am not sure about, because I know where to cut into later on. The song builds we are going to hit this point where the fight starts and I want Rob The Mullet guy to pick up a chair and chuck it across the room and knock over some chairs and that was the only action I gave.
We start wide and the camera starts moving. We get in the right position and I go, “Rob throw the chair.” He stands up throws the chair and everyone in the room went ape shit. They just started grabbing shit and attacking each other. Then it got crazy, like dude someone is going to get hurt. They are throwing chairs around and throwing stuff at each other and it just got crazy and when the take was over everyone just roared. I was so happy. I was like, this is going to be easy from here on out, it is just going to be fun. We kept going with it setting up little scenarios and smashing tables and flipping s… over.
THE SODA CAN
NC: The idea is, as the meeting is progressing and the tension is building the doors slam shut and their like submarine pressure locked doors, the pressure in the room builds and the can crushes on its own from the tension. The can has “Karma” cola written on it. I come from that graffiti background so I try and throw a tag in there somewhere, pretty much all my videos there will be one Karma somewhere.
NC: What we did is we took out the fluorescents that already existed in the lighting fixtures and replaced them with our own. We wired them all through a switcher so that with a flip of a switch that it would go from the normal light source to hitting a button and they would all start cycling. Running them through the switcher was a real pain in the ass because there were a s… load of lights. We had a guy on the side and during certain cues in the music, we would just give him a signal and he would set them off.
I think what we attempted to do was to get the lighting where it was all overhead and it was all sort of pure light. Once we got in there, we didn’t want to have to fuck with it too much. So once it was pre-set we were pretty much locked in and we could just switch out between them and just have to adjust the stops here and there. I like to work that way because it gives us a lot of freedom. It’s really a pain in the ass when you have to re-light for every shot. It’s really time consuming and it can really suck the hours out of a day.
NC: The DP was Cutter. It was the first time I had ever used cutter and he was great. It turned out a couple of his crew guys were buddies of mine from back in my old punk rock drinking days.
IDEAS FOR PERFORMANCE VIDEO
NC: What is tough about treatment writing is that everyone wants to see a performance, which is to a large extent a marketing tool. It is essentially a commercial, so we need to sell the band and make them look great. That being said, practically every performance scenario you can imagine has been done to an extent. Unless you are doing CG and you want to put them on the moon or you want to put them somewhere completely abstract, just picking a location and slamming them in there, which is generally the budgets that are being done right now, everything has been done.
You have the band performing on a rooftop, in the woods, in a warehouse, etc. Those are all my videos too, you know I did twenty videos in a row of bands performing in a warehouse somewhere because we didn’t have the budget for anything else. Imagine every single scenario and I can name five videos that have it. It’s a real tough one and then try to tie in a story line revolving around that location.
I think that is the hardest part with lower budget videos, trying to consolidate your locations so that you don’t have to do a major production move in the middle of a shoot, cause that will kill you time wise. Unless you can get a really great producer, who can have one team pre-lighting on one location while you are shooting somewhere else, but without the money to pay these guys it gets really difficult.
For me I have to think about that before I start writing, what exactly can we afford and where can we create it. Chevelle’s “The Red” video was a perfect example of how that treatment worked well. The whole video takes place in one room and a hallway.
Production Co: Creature
Producer: Matt Caltabiano
Director: Nathan Cox
DP: Jeff Cutter
Editor: Mario Mares
Telecine: Dave Hussey
Production Designer: Jeremy Reed