Letter from Editor: Two weeks ago, Lorde fans got an eyeful from the songstress for her latest video “Yellow Flicker Beat.” The music video is in support of this same track featured on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 Soundtrack – which also happens to be curated by Lorde. The movie is an adaptation of the 2010 novel by Suzanne Collins and is the third installment in the The Hunger Games film series. The soundtrack was released on the New Zealand iTunes store on November 13, 2014, and released worldwide through Republic Records yesterday, November 17, 2014. The music video for the aforementioned song made its TV/Vevo debut on November 6th to coincide with Lorde’s 18th birthday. Now, the reason why this particular song is so near and dear to my heart is because… drum roll please… I’M IN THE MUSIC VIDEO! That’s right kiddies; I’ve had to sit on this incredible secret for over two months now – eagerly awaiting its release so I can share my experience. I played a vampy 1920’s flapper and midway through the music video you can spot me. My experience on the set was delightful and yet very intimidating – but more on that later. I’ve never worked on a set before nor do I still understand its logistics – but I can’t deny how refreshing it was to live the fantasy, if even for just one day. Also, another reason why I couldn’t spill the beans was because I was under contract, so I couldn’t voice my video shoot whereabouts… that is till now of course. *BIG WINK* Again, all views expressed here on this site are of my own accord – so, get your comforter and hot cocoa ready ’cause you devoted fans are in for a special treat. 😉
Filming took place mid September at the famous Park Avenue Armory. The original plan was for my friend and I to both partake on this shoot; however, my friend got the wrong call sheet and I was left alone. Can I tell you how scary it was for a newbie such as myself? I was mortified and when I took a look at this place, it crippled me with even more anxiety. Above, you can see how beautiful but also how intimidating this place can be. It’s extremely massive in square footage (even more so inside); and based on majestic appearance alone, it can seriously unnerve a painfully shy person such as myself. No comments from the peanut gallery, thank you. Taking everything into account, I saw it as a sign to ignore that voice of insecurity we all share and just simply let the cards fall where they may. As writers, we often have the luxury of creation behind the scenes, but when confronted with the risk of public humiliation, some of us (not all) can crumble under the pressure. Thankfully, whenever I get this nervous I think of a time when I was fortunate enough to have met one of my favorite authors, Junot Diaz. I can remember having a brief encounter with him where he was asked to speak in advocacy of bilingual literacy. I can distinctly remember asking him, “don’t you ever get nervous at these public speaking events?” he leaned in and whispered in my ear, “why should I get nervous? You’re gonna f*ck it up anyway.” and for some reason that statement has always lingered in my memory. It calms me somehow in knowing we all have insecurities, but we push forward. So, ladies and gents, I did just that. I didn’t f*ck it up (thank goodness), but what I did do was pull-up my big girl underoos and put one foot in front of the other. Oh, and by the way, the music video currently holds three million+ views on Youtube – not too shabby for this Uptownie, am I right? My assessment from the shoot: zero regrets.
The Park Avenue Armory was the perfect location for this shoot based on history alone. Walking inside this massive 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall—reminiscent of 19th-century European train stations—and array of exuberant period rooms truly provided an air of history and sophistication unlike any other famous NYC landmark. New York State’s prestigious Seventh Regiment of the National Guard, the first volunteer militia to respond to President Lincoln’s call for troops in 1861, built the Armory. Members of what was known as the “Silk Stocking” Regiment included New York’s most prominent gilded age families including the Vanderbilts, Van Rensselaers, Roosevelts, Stewarts, Livingstons and Harrimans. Built as both a military facility and a social club, the “Reception Rooms” on the first floor and the “Company Rooms “on the second floor were designed by the most prominent designers and artists of the day including Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, Herter Brothers and Pottier & Stymus. The Armory remains one of the largest unobstructed spaces of its kind in New York. A marvel of engineering and really provided a gorgeous backdrop for the video’s concept.
Now, I am by no means an actor and seriously commend those who do it as a profession – but, if any of us needed a source of inspiration to get into character, this was the place. From its high ceilings to the gorgeous chandeliers, from the lush furniture to the hardwood flooring – everything at this location provided the narrative. I can remember walking into this dimly lit Armory feeling a sense of, dare I say, “old money.” The walls, the staircase banisters, even the paintings hanging on the walls were heavily immersed in history – ah, to have been alive as a fly (with a pen and paper, or rather a quill and paper) in those gorgeous rooms. I felt like I was on a set for a Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, James Cameron, and Baz Luhrmann movie all wrapped into one. Now, stepping onto set that was entirely another story. It was so pitch dark that all I can remember was thinking ‘what have I gotten myself into this time?’ When I first arrived, they were finishing the first dance sequence and playing the beginning of her track where she’s humming this eerie tune – inside, I’m flipping out ’cause I can’t see and I don’t know where I’m going. Thank God for stage hands, PAs, and my trusty cellphone flashlight that truly saved the day. Phew!
The concept for the music video was to portray survival of the fittest – a perfect parallel to Katniss Everdeen’s character, (played by Jennifer Lawrence) the head protagonist in The Hunger Games movies. And though we see small hints of the movie with wardrobe and dramatic cuts – Lorde and the video’s director played with the idea of directly/indirectly paying homage to the famous Kubrick film “The Shining” (more specifically its ending).
Walking into the dressing room was like being a kid in a candy store, but instead of candy, the goodies were these lavishly detailed couture dresses – all in the $600+ price range. HI Apparel, a well-known dress company that travels onto movies sets provided the best quality costumes and accessories. The dresses were of all different colors, textures, and hemlines barely showing the knee – very fitting of the 1920s era. I was nervous as all hell (’cause I’m going through the motions ALONE) but still hopeful I’d get a flattering dress. Little did I know I’d get this gorgeous white asymmetric flapper dress. However, I must admit at first glance I was skeptical ’cause I’m a shorty and certain cuts aren’t as flattering for my size. Once I tried on my white fringe dress and paired it with my accessories, (pearl necklace, pearl earrings, and a pair of strappy kitten-heels) I was definitely living the fantasy [insert Rupaul’s DragRace winner Bianca Del Rio’s voice here]! The men on set were given the same colored tuxedo (traditional black and white) with few variations in accessories like scarves and top hats – but I must say they all looked very dapper.
As for myself, transformation was not yet complete until I was sitting in the makeup chair – and oh boy, was that fun. First, because I was about to have one of my fantasies come true: transforming into a gorgeous flapper for the camera – and secondly, it gave me a chance to talk to my fellow cast mates. Upon waiting, I noticed a lot of them were veterans of film and TV. The lady in the photograph on the far left fixing her hair was an old pro (excuse the pun) in partaking in these sets. Her name was Rose (yes, I see the Titanic irony all over this statement, lol) and she had a history of serving as background talent for most movie sets, and more recently the famous HBO series Boardwalk Empire. In our smalltalk she revealed that because of age discrimination (that so causally runs rampant in this industry), acting jobs were few and far between, especially in a competitive city like New York. Freelance gigs such as background acting helps pay the rent and her medical bills. She really was a pistol personality-wise and even came prepared with own vintage dress she had previously used for another shoot. As time passed and everyone “oohing” and “ahing” at each model repeatedly leaving the chair, the ladies around me would continue to converse. I overheard everything for landing a gig, to traveling onto sets, to menopause – the conversation truly ran the gamut. An eye-opening experience for a novice “quasi” actress/writer such as myself. Perhaps these stories will better serve me for future reference. hmm…
Once I was in the chair, stylists decided to go with a tradition 1920’s pin curl hairdo, accompanied by a plush, cherry red velveteen hat. Ah, and how I loved that hat. *Whimper* I did not want to give it up, but unfortunately had to… DRATS! Now with regards to makeup, head makeup artist decided to match the color of my hat to my lipstick and gave me the most beautiful matte red lip that would make Angelina Jolie blush. Eye shadow and blush were earth tone neutrals. And just like that folks, I was transformed. The hair and makeup team were living for my look and kept comparing me to the legendary Betty Boop. Below is a pic of me… now tell me, what do y’all think? Do I look like the Latina version of Ms. Boop? Boop Boopy Doop! 😉
Props were the typical New Year’s Eve goodies: party poppers, horns and your choice of bubbly. I opted for the red wine – my character really wanted to stick to the whole red motif. I even gave my character a little backstory and here it goes: “they called her Ms. Rosie Red, Ms. Rosie if you’re nasty. lol. She was the vamp of Savannah G.A. A southern belle and newcomer to the big city, ready to make her musical debut at the legendary Cotton Club. I can get creative when I want to be, am I right? If anything this whole experience served as a source of inspiration for the good ol’ noggin. We shall see if it leads to some grandiose manuscript…till then, stay tuned.
Meeting Ms. Lady Lorde:
Now in between setup and wardrobe, most of us had been kept off set. So once we got the okay from the crew, everyone was allowed on set. It was still very much dark, but once you looked at the grander scheme, darkness made sense. We were given the instruction to socialize as if it were our very own New Year’s Eve party – dancing and schmoozing were encouraged. I got to schmooze with a few gentlemen. One was a professional model from Harlem, and the other gentleman was a visual artist from the boogie down Bronx – Go Uptown! After a few minutes of playback, Ms. Lorde enters. Her hairstylist gave her this sick pompadour hairdo and this ultra chic black sheer dress covered in feathers – it was to die for! Wish I knew the name of the designer of her dress, but all those details were kept very hush-hush to avoid leaking onto the internet. Her makeup was very sheer: a strong cat eye with a nude lip. Below is a pic of Lorde in this very dress… gorgeous, am I right?
She was a true professional on set. Gracious and grateful to the cast and crew. For certain shots, she sang this very song a cappella – and have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised to hear her vocals match the production value. ‘Cause let’s face it folks, we all know of certain “singers” making a pretty nickel when you and I both know those vocals don’t hold up live – no tee, all shade. Now back to the story: after a few shots had been filmed in the ballroom room, we were then escorted towards the staircase to shoot her visual perspective of walking into this lavish NYE party. I was asked to move back a smidge because the color of my dress was so bright white (‘shining bright like a diamond,’ hey Sia.) the light was picking it up tons and drawing attention to me! I tried moving back, but dang it, I wanted to come out in this video! Hell, I had waited this long – I was gonna get my mug all up in this video! So, a nice balance of standing and swaying back and fourth helped, I think? Moving on, the crew instructed for all of us to not look directly into the camera, but let’s be real, that’s easier said than done. I didn’t realize how hard of a task it would be till this huge moving object was rushing right smack into my eye line. It’s almost like having your knee not jerk up when the doctor hits it with a reflex hammer. I tried for dear life not to stare, but I’m sure there had to have been a couple of takes (or 12) of me staring right into the friggin’ camera lens. Oh well, can’t win them all. C’est la vie! Shoot ran from 11am to 11pm, but so worth the blisters on my pretty little feet. Below is a screenshot from Lorde’s homesite mentioning her interpretation of the video shoot, enjoy.
And now…. drumroll please… MY BIG DEBUT!
“You like me, you really like meeeee.” Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the Sally Field references, but yes folks, a star is born. Everything described above (with regards to color, light, and standing) are all visible and true in this here screenshot. I even freeze framed my special appearance just for you lucky readers so you won’t have to strain your eyes and fingers hitting that pause button… yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Peep my dimples below:
And there you have it folks. A grand experience filled with New York City history, life experiences, and a touch of cinematic fantasy all in one. Everything mentioned in this post will forever be cemented in my memory as the time I ventured out of my comfort zone and dared to explore greener pastures. I encourage my fellow writers, bookworms, and introverts alike to join me on these city adventures where I can say with much conviction, there’s finally room for squares. 😀
And now, *Big Drumroll* is the RBATC video premiere of Lorde’s “Yellow Flicker Beat:”
Till next time mi gente,
Artsy besos, Roz Baron