Behind the Scenes: TROLLS by Estella Dawn

Purple Star Productions' Artist: Estella Dawn

 With live performances on hold due to COVID-19, artists have been forced to rethink how they reach listeners. Many are opting for livestreams and new music videos, but filming anything while adhering to social distancing guidelines can be a tough task.

When Purple Star Productions reached out to us back in January to film a music video for their artist Estella Dawn's new single "Trolls", the first thing that came to mind was safety. How can Rocket House Pictures minimize the effects of Covid-19 without sacrificing the intricacies of a well produced music video? 

Still from "Trolls"

 First, we needed to reduce the number of locations, or at least choose locations with fewer people. Outdoors was an option. But being in the State of Colorado during the winter where the weather is unpredictable, and considering that Estella was leaving to New Zealand within two weeks put an end to that thought real fast. Ideally, we needed a space eclectic enough to provide us with 3 to 5 different setups in order to reduce travel and give us control of the amount of people circulating the set during filming. We could film at a studio, but that would bring production costs up, since we would have to budget for set design.

We wanted to bring the exuberant atmosphere and pastel colors that old Havana is known for into her music video.

Secondly, when we received the first mix of "Trolls" from Purple Star, we noticed a vague variation of a Latin Phrygian scale being used for the guitar at the intro of the song. Instantly, we visualized an old building in Havana. As we kept listening to the track, that "visual" became stronger. Even though the Latin undertones were most likely unintentional, we still wanted to bring the exuberant atmosphere and pastel colors that old Havana is known for into her music video. 

Fort Greene Bar

Enter "Fort Greene Bar". We had first seen the space back in 2017 when attending a wrap party for a commercial shoot. Part vintage living room, part lounge and part dive bar, Fort Greene sits hidden in the Globeville neighborhood in North Denver where it caters toward the local creative community amidst a plethora of elegantly curated antique furnishings. The space is subdivided by several cocktail lounges, each different enough to provide us with 4 unique backdrops to film Estella's performance. We reached out to the owners, did a tech scout, took a bunch of pictures and booked the space once Purple Star and Estella approved of our chosen location.

Getting ready to roll

Cinematographer & Director Gio Toninelo

 With our space finally secured, we started to focus more on wardrobe, hair and makeup. Lauren Rennells was our choice for the hair department. She is a veteran of the film industry with years of experience creating both historical re-enactment hair/makeup and contemporary interpretations of time periods. Estella and her team sourced the wardrobe, following our guidance on which outfits would work best for each scene. Estella did her own make-up.

Promo Image from "Trolls"

In addition, we wanted to move away from “digital sharpness” and into a pseudo-film-like emulation that felt more organic and familiar without going full "vintage" look. So choosing the proper lenses, lighting setups and filters was another key aspect of bringing our "Old Havana" feel into the project. We decided to use our Xeen Cine Lenses in conjunction with a full set of Black Pro Mist filters to achieve soft, blooming highlights. Another important tool we brought in was a Rosco V-Hazer, because there is nothing better than real atmospheric thickness for music videos.

Scene 2A - Take 2

We shot the entire video in less than 8 hours with a few breaks for Hair/Makeup and lunch. Crew was pretty minimal. A director/cinematographer, a camera assistant working as gaffer/grip, hair department and an assistant director to make sure we followed the schedule and did our jobs as planned. Covid-19 guidelines were strictly enforced through the day.

The results are for you to watch. We managed to do it safely, and we think it came out beautiful! We're so happy that we got to work with Purple Star Productions and Estella again! The video is out April 1st 2021, and we'll be adding more details to this BTS post once the reviews are in. 

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