I recently went up to New York City to meet a film collaborator friend of mine in Times Square. It was the first sign of spring after a series of blizzards in the Northeast that trapped everyone indoors all winter so I thought it would be a nice day and a perfect opportunity to test the SNAP! lens gear from iniSYSTEM. My goal was to try to be as low profile as possible and to carry light with only my bike messenger bag to hold my camera gear. I decided to take with me my GH1 and Schneider 1:2/18-90 C-Mount zoom lens and the indiRAILSpro MP with a 75mm SNAP! gear.
Most of my footage was just quick tests pulling focus with the gear and seeing how well you could rack focus. Overall I was really pleased with the performance of the SNAP! gear with the indiFOCUS20. With the right amount of squish in place between the lens and gears I was able to pull focus very solidly and with the MP and GH1 it looked like I was just shooting stills in Times Square.
When I got home I was initially just going to cut the footage as quick tests showing the smooth focus of this combo but when I looked at some of my opening shots I realized I starting filming at Pennsylvania Station and a light bulb went off in my head.
Whenever I think of Pennsylvania Station I think of Mosaic aka Glenn Suravech who is an amazing artist, producer based in Los Angeles. Mosaic released his ambitious debut album in 2007 entitled “Through the Eyes of A Woman” collaborating with independent artists and musicians from across the nation. One of my favorite tracks is his song Pennsylvania Station which my amazing sister Jenny San Angel who is also a singer/musician in her own right is also featured.
So I thought hmm..
Because I was literally just shooting what I saw that either grabbed me visually I was not focusing on any particular shots I was really just focusing on the SNAP! gears usability factor. I was not thinking end result at all so this really was kind of a challenging prospect.
But I decided to go for it and sat with the song for a while to listen to the lyrics and to find the heart and emotion of the song. For a few weeks I would play random images with the song in the background to see what relationships I could find to tie in the right image to the music. There was an Asian bike messenger who was sort of contemplative and calm among the fast flowing walking New Yorkers and tourists of Times Square. I sort of focused on him from far away and shot a quick sequence of him preparing to get on his bike and then riding off into the crowd. When I found that section and played it with the first verse of the song I knew that we could make something from what was meant to be just a simple test.
I tried a number of variations and combinations of footage literally squeezing every bit of good footage I had to make this work. The last scene of Times Square was shot with the very common peephole effect you get from using c-mount zoom lenses. From a technical aspect it’s generally frowned upon because you want to use a lens to cover the full frame of the sensor. In this case, I liked it and left the imperfections. I wanted to use what was a visual flaw and make it work. It still had the right feel and moment.
When I finished I sent it to my sister Jenny and to Glenn as a little surprise. I knew that if they liked it we could post it as a music video online and if they didn’t it would be just some nice test footage. When I got their e-mails that they loved it I was really floored simply because I never thought the outcome of the footage would be a music video for Pennsylvania Station.
In Glenn Suravech’s e-mail to me he shared a little bit about the background and meaning behind his creation:
“When I was putting this song together for Jenny back in 2006, I imagined her standing and walking amid a ocean of people (just as you depicted in this video). While most of your shots were overground in Times Square, the setting for Pennsylvania Station is underground in the subway stop located beneath Madison Square Garden. There is a huge lighted corridor there where people seem to walk expressionless past rows of store fronts. Your video captures all of that in the song except that it’s overground, outside.”
I’m proud to put together a visual interpretation that complements this beautiful song and to use Times Square as it’s backdrop. I went for simplicity and rawness allowing the imperfections to come through. The visual imperfections of me trying to focus from one scene to the next as well as the human ones, the images of real moments of people passing each other by, walking uptown alone, a city worker collecting garbage, a bike messenger on his way to his next destination or just friends and loved ones in a group going “uphill” though the “ocean of people”. These are moments that we don’t see because we are so busy going to our own destinations. In this piece, we can take a moment to see where they may be going and see our own connections to these random travelers.
Written and Produced by: Mosaic
Lead vocal: Jenny San Angel
Lead guitar: Shin Kawasaki
Acoustic guitar, bass and keyboard: Mosaic
Drums: Harvi Kato
© 2007 Mosaic Sound Recordings