Would you believe it was filmed with practically no budget?
North Carolina-based indie hip-folk band LiLa have released the music video for their track, SHUSH.
Directed and produced by filmmaker Stefano Pennisi, the video was shot over a single day at a warehouse outside of New York City. The production had little to no budget, so the cast and crew had to get creative to make something worthwhile.
Thankfully, with the help of literal smoke and mirrors, not to mention some imaginative special effects, they did.
“This was an 100 percent independent production. From the music to the music video. There were no labels, production companies, sponsorships etc.,” said Pennisi. “This was made entirely by a group of independent artists that wanted to come together and make art that would entertain and wow their viewers.”
SHUSH is the third music video off LiLa’s new album, entitled V. We recently spoke to the members of Lila, as well as director Stefano Pennisi, to learn more about SHUSH and its music video.
Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration and the process behind SHUSH?
LiLa: “SHUSH represents an inner monologue. What started as a self-reflection quickly turned into a broader criticism of hip-hop, namely, whitewashing and misrepresentation.
“Being an independent artist gave us an outsider’s perspective. From out here, popular music is mostly just loud and flashy with not much else. This song is a refusal of all that noise with the alternative being peace and quiet.”
You did everything independently. No labels, no production companies, no sponsorships. What was it like creating music without all these?
LiLa: “Way more time with way fewer resources. It becomes more about making something meaningful than it does about creating buzz or gaining clout. This was further inspiration to the sobering message of SHUSH.”
“The reality is that sometimes silence is better, sometimes having more time to be alone with your thoughts. It kind of embodies the quiet quality of SHUSH.”
“From a technical stand point we used an Electro Voice RE-20 for everything.”
“Being completely independent is nice because you have complete creative control and space to make mistakes.”
“It would have been nice to have a dedicated mixing engineer to keep things polished and in perspective, but you can just bounce the mixes off your friends for ideas on how it’s sounding, energy, loudness, etc.”
SHUSH is the third music video from your new album V. What do you hope for this record to mean to your listeners?
LiLa: “We wanted this record to cover all the things we didn’t feel were being talked about in mainstream music. Each song is totally different and we wanted the videos to reflect that. We want V to reaffirm listeners. V should satisfy our listeners in two ways: the sounds embrace the trends of the time while the messages offer unique, alternative perspectives.”
You did the music video with no budget, although it sure looked like you had one. How were you able to do it?
Stefano: “I think it was a combination of knowing how to really take advantage of a location as well as leaning into the resources I had available to me.
“Luckily I have a bunch of friends in the film world that wanted to help and that made things achievable, but when planning the shoot I really tried to lean into my friends’ strengths as filmmakers when coming up with the concept.”
“I knew I had access to this location, the camera and its gear, and a friend that was phenomenal in special effects. So I build around that.”
“The final project looks much bigger than the actual production was. It was a total crew size of nine, including the actress and band, on a one day shoot at a warehouse just outside New York City. It was an all hands on deck kind of situation.”
“At the end of the day, it was pretty much just like being in high school making movies with your friends. Just with more powerful toys.”
The effects work here was superb. Could you take us through the creative process behind it?
Stefano: “When you’re making a music video that tries to tell a visual story, like this one, your first concern must be — what serves the story? So every effect needs to serve a purpose, and once you figure out what the purpose is, it’s usually fairly easy to determine in which direction you want to take the effect.”
“After you have that settled, then it’s just a matter of getting the look right to fit what your visual taste is.”
“We kind of ran the gamut of effects. We have simple practical effects, like hanging the wooden frame with fishing line to make it look like it’s hovering, which required wire removal. Then we have 2D effects, that require simple tracking within the screen space, like the shifting membrane inside the wooden frame.”
“And then we have more complex effects that require full 3D camera and object tracking, like the embers that float throughout the room.”
“When you have a range of effects like this, you just have to go with whatever you think is going to work best. For this project, we used a combination of PFTrack for the 3D scene and object tracking, 3DsMax for creating the embers, Mocha for 2D tracking and foreground mattes, and After Effects to bring it all together and define the look of the final composite.”
What did you love most about the project?
Stefano: “I think it was the teamwork and seeing everyone come together for something that on a production level was so scrappy. A lot of the people who helped me with this project I work with professionally, so to be able to relax on set and just have fun with it was extremely rewarding.”
“We were making something for us and not a client or a brand, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”
“I also love the way the special effects came out. As a filmmaker who is trying to continue to grow and push myself, this was a great project to really dive into the special effects world. It’s an entirely different type of filmmaking that I love. You have to fill the frame when you are on set, but then you get to add to it and create this whole new world in the post-production process and it’s all very exciting.”