Wendell Scot Greene Directs Adriana Evans “7Days” Music Video

This experience with Wendell at the helm, was a complete
joy. The whole process was pretty stress free. We really clicked creatively. Wendell took painstaking time to learn about the details of Afro Cuban culture and to represent it beautifully. It was very important to me that my heritage be represented unadulterated. So many times Latin American culture is homogenized. The “just add maracas and a sombrero” principle is applied in too many videos. It really demeans the power and individual beauty of the varied spectrum that is Latin America. So what we did was very specific to the beauty of the African influences in Cuban culture. The relationship that African mysticism plays within the culture, the sensuality and the importance of rhythm and nature were the some of the things represented in this video. Wendell’s use of vivid and bold colors created an exquisite canvas that really suits the explosive nature of the song. I am so happy with the outcome of this project. Wendell Greene is a dream director that is sensitive to the creative visions of the artist. The “7 Days” video was one of my most pleasant video experiences.

– Adriana Evans

Interview with director Wendell Scott Greene
MVW: Let’s talk about the pre-production for the music video and how it all started.

Wendell: Paul Stewart, the CEO of Next Thing Records, was working with various hip hop artists and was looking for someone to film a behind-the-scenes on the road DVD project. After I shot the PSA for Chris Robinson, his assistant, Risa Machuca recommended me to Paul. We hooked up and but that project didn¹t work out. But then Paul told me about a project he was putting out on his own record label for Adriana Evans. I listened to the first single “Remember the Love” and he set up a meeting with Adriana and [producer] John Scott and we hit it off really well. She asked me to write a treatment for “Remember the Love” and then when I met with them again, they said how much they really liked it, but they were getting a great reaction from the street on another song and wanted me to write a treatment for “7 Days.”

Before writing the treatment I asked to see Adriana’s other music videos. The first was “Seein’ Is Believin’ directed by one of my heroes, Paul Hunter. And the second “Love is All Around” was directed by Julie Dash ( Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason to Stay Here’) Well how do you try and follow after that kind of talent? So I decided to showcase the Adriana Evans that up until now had not been seen in her music videos by visually supporting the elements you hear in the song: rock edge fused with Afro Cuban percussion and culture.

During the pre-production, my DP Johnny Ching and I did location scouts all around the city. But since L.A. has been filmed so much we realized a lot of the locations we were coming up with had already seen in other videos. And with this being Hollywood, some locations wanted more money than our meager budget would allow. We managed to find the right locations to keep it “street” and yet still allow her natural beauty to shine through.

MVW: The bedroom scenes look great.

W: The bedroom scenes were really crucial to making the entire video work, because this is a song is about passion. Therefore we really needed to create a realistic and intimate setting for Adriana to perform so the audience would truly believe that they’re seeing a woman who’s been away from her man for seven days! Arika Jacobs, served as our art director. She was recommended to by Lex Halaby, and she did an excellent job of transforming that barren loft apartment above a record distributor’s warehouse into a sanctuary of beauty and sensuality. She and her team came through in a major way. And then Adriana just took it to whole other level with her performance!

MVW: How was it working with Johnny as far as accomplishing the look in the video?

W: He’s great! Johnny’s an excellent DP. He‘s technically proficient and he combines those skill with the soul of an artist. I like to refer to him as my “twin” (laughing) At first I was tempted to DP this video as well as direct. But I remembered Hype Williams saying that working with a cinematographer is like having “two directors, like having two brains”. And of course, he was right. So I decided to bring Johnny on board as DP which allowed me to be able to see the whole picture and concentrate most of my attention on Adriana and getting the best performance from her and the other actors. We shot a lot of digital stills of the locations in pre-production and Johnny and I did lot of instant messaging back and forth discussing movies, video and ideas. It really helped being cinematographers and speaking the same language.

I also think Johnny did a really great job of creating the right moods with his lighting. 1st AC Alexander Yellen and 2nd AC Justin Weiss were top notch pros. And Johnny’s gaffer, Alexander Brown was fast, thorough and efficient in executing the lighting plan.

MVW: The different looks worked well and added variety to the video because it wasn’t just the same old thing.

W: Thank you. We really wanted to transport the viewer to a different place and the different wardrobe changes and varied environments helped to create and sustain the atmosphere so that at times you would actually feel like you were with her in Cuba. I spent a lot of time doing research while in pre-production and then going over the looks and the locations we used were a big help, too. I have to give a great deal of credit to Adriana, for the education on her culture and for keeping me honest.

MVW: Did anything come up that wasn’t originally planned for the video but was just something that incorporated into the video while you were shooting?

W: No, if anything it was a case of having to eliminate shots I had planned. What you see in the video was what I wrote in the treatment so outside of a few shots of palm trees in silhouettes there’s wasn’t a great deal of “oh, this is a good shot, let’s just grab it” kind of stuff. We did spend part of another day traveling the city taking stills of murals, the inside of a Cuban restaurant, and photographing drums and percussion instruments in a local African drum shop. And while those shots were tight, I ultimately decided against using any of it in the video

By the way, during the introduction of the video when Adriana is walking in slow motion in the tunnel, you’ll notice that the lights are flickering. Now usually when you use film under fluorescent lights you have to shoot it at a specified frame rate so the lights won’t flicker. But since I wanted the introduction to feel ominous and work with the music, the pulsing flicker of the lights seemed like a good idea to help add to that feeling. It would be cool if you would mention that so people won’t think that we didn’t know what we were doing (laughing). It was intentional as was the greenish tint we added to the lights during telecine.

MVW: Do you want to talk a little bit about the wardrobe and makeup?

W: I learned one thing from working with Daniel Pearl and Malik Hassan Sayeed, that although you might want to film a female artist in a gritty urban setting, no matter what, you can’t have her looking that way. You have to go all out to make sure she looks beautiful! And in support of that you need to have top notch professionals working as your “Glam Squad.” I was happy to have Sarah Benjamin on board as our make-up artist. As you can see when you watch the video, she did a flawless job. Terrell Mullins was our Stylist and I was very pleased with the high level of enthusiasm he showed when we outlined our plan have Afro-Cuban culture reflected in the hairstyles and wardrobe. Together they did an amazing job.

MVW: How many days was the shoot?

W: We shot two full days and then Brett Juskalian, the 2nd unit DP, and I shot one additional night. Bret shot the scenes you see of overlooking the city, and the traffic the sped-up stuff. Like Johnny, Brett a DP to watch. My heroes on this shoot were Jonathan Scott and our PA Charlie Chesire, they really came through when the chips were down.

MVW: What format did you shoot the video on?

W: We shot this video in 35mm, framed for an aspect ratio of 1.85.1,; a full set of Zeiss Standard primes from Otto Nemenz. Thanks to a generous donation from Curt Cressman at Kodak, we were able to shoot our day exteriors using the Kodak EXR 5248, 100 ASA film stock. We shot the night exteriors and interiors using shorts ends of the 5279 Vision 500T and EXR 5298

MVW: How did you like working with Dave Hussey on the coloring of “7 Days”?

W: I love working with Dave and I held out to work with him because he’s such an amazing colorist. Unfortunately, December was his busiest month ever. He had just done the Jennifer Lopez video, the John Cougar Mellencamp video, a project for Dave La Chappelle and he was doing his first feature Digital Intermediate for Francis Lawrence’s film “Constantine” so he was swamped.

But somehow he managed to work us into his schedule and I have to give respect to his producer and scheduler Denise Brown for all her assistance. What really helped our cause was being prepared. After we shot the video Johnny and I got together at his place and worked in Photoshop to set up the looks we wanted. Then he posted the reference stills onto his web site. So when were able to get into telecine suite with Dave all he had to do was pull up the reference stills on his computer and match the look. And then we could move on and make other adjustments.

Dave did an incredible job of coloring this video and I always learn something new from working with him and he’s always very positive and encouraging. And I think he really appreciated that we came in prepared and knowing the looks we wanted. This approach definitely saves you time and money but you’d be surprised how people come into telecine without a clue and just try to wing it.

MVW: What about the black and white scene?

W: Oh, the scene when Adriana is standing with the older Cuban lady sitting in the chair? Yeah I love that shot, it’s my homage to photographer Gordon Parks. It was inspired by a photo I saw in a fashion magazine. The photo shoot had taken place in Cuba and I just loved the composition. I showed it to Adriana and she really was into it. The original photo was in color, but I decided to make it look like an old sepia tinted photo that you might find in someone’s family photo album. I had Logan add that flash bulb effect to help evoke an old school feel.

MVW: Logan Hefflefinger edited the video for you?

W: Yes. Logan works as an assistant editor on dozens of spots and music videos with Editor Livio Sanchez at Whitehouse Post; including several videos for Director Chris Milk, but “7 Days” was his first music video as an editor. I want to make sure that people know that this video came together because of relationships formed from reading interviews just like this one on MVWire. Chris [Milk] had said in an MVWire interview that Logan was going to be the next great editor.” So when I read that I decided to give him a call see if he’d be down for working with me and as things turned out he was really excited to get involved. So MV Wire is the reason why we hooked up and I can’t wait to get hired to direct another video so we can work together again. I also have to give credit to Michael Vaglienty at Giant Steps who did the online edit in Flame. He’s another solid professional.

MVW: I need to go back and review some of our own content!

WG: (laughs) Definitely! MVWire is a great resource for learning and sharing information with people who love music videos. Nearly every person involved on “7 Days” was a result of networking with people here on MVWire. So I have to stop and say “big up” to you Will for helping make that possible.

MVW: I appreciate that. So what’s next?

WG: Last week I had two very positive meetings with video commissioners at two of the major record labels which hopefully will lead to being able to direct videos for their artists. I’m reaching out to meet with other video commissioners and labels to let them see what I have to offer. In the meantime I’ll continue working hard every day and learning all I can so as to get better at my craft.

Credits:

Director: Wendell Scot Greene*
DP: Johnny W. Ching
Art Director: Arika Jacobs
Stylist: Terrell Mullins
Make-up: Sarah Benjamin
Flame Artist: Michael Vaglienty- Giant Steps, Los Angeles, CA
Colorist: Dave Hussey -Company 3, Santa Monica, CA
Editor: Logan Hefflefinger -Whitehouse Post, Santa Monica, CA
2nd Unit DP: Brett Juskalian
Executive Producers: Adriana Madera Evans, Jonathan Scott, Paul Stewart
Label: Next Thing Records

* Wendell Scot Greene can be contacted at
wsgreene@hotmail.com


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