Archive for the ‘Jefferson Starship’ tag
We shot No Way Out in the late spring. It debuted on MTV in June (I think) when the album Nuclear Furniture was released.
In July, Irv got approved to direct another video with the Starship. In the interim, founder Paul Kantner had left the group and was suing them over the word ‘Jefferson’ in the band’s name. The song was Laying It On The Line which had a number of political references – political abuse of power, the fighting at that time in Nicaragua, Mid-Eastern oil problems, etc.
Coincidentally and very conveniently, the Democrats had just completed their 1984 Presidential Convention in San Francisco, where Walter Mondale & Geraldine Ferraro were nominated. A good friend of the drug dealer/wannabe-producer was able to secure all the convention hall decorations.
The story for the video was that Mickey Thomas & Grace Slick are running for office in 1988 (Mike & Slick in ’88) and are addressing convention – their acceptance speech , so to speak. Irv storyboarded the basic shots and we started to plan it out.
We secured a great location for the pseudo convention – an emergency water pumping station. After the 1906 Earthquake when most of San Francisco burned down, the city had build a number of emergency pumping stations that, if needed, would be able to draw in seawater and hydraulically pump it into the system. It was essentially a big empty hall, surrounded by humongous pipes. It was never used unless there was an emergency, it was out of the way and almost soundproof – perfect.
For the convention’s attendees, Irv decided to use the wannabee-producer’s extensive contacts and rounded up as many local celebrities and politicians as we could. They included (in no particular order):
- Bill Graham, the great impresario and promoter
- Hon. Willie Brown (them Speaker of the California State Assembly, later to be Mayor of San Francisco)
- Comedian Pat Paulsen
- Members of Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Avant-garde music and visual arts group The Residents (known for anonymity – always dressed as big eyeballs)
- Grace & Paul’s daughter China Kantner
- Local rock writer & personality Sheila Renee
- The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
- Artist Gage Taylor
- Plus hundreds of colorfully clothed extras and dozens of babies
The 3 day shoot was about as fun as these things can be. It was a lot of work – especially wrangling the babies/kids – but the story worked, the energy of the crowd and celebrities was fantastic. It was inspired, but controlled chaos.
I also got to be a Secret Service Agent, guarding the stage.
There were a few scenes shot outdoors, but the majority was done at the pumping station.
For the final shot, we used a close-up with a phone number – perhaps the first attempt to do direct marketing in a music video.
I was probably more help during editing than I was during shooting, as I had much more experience there. Many of my suggestions made it into the final cut.
Though once again I was paid nothing, watching and learning as Irv and all the other crew worked was worth the effort.
I already had great work habits, but my experience here confirmed that showing up first and leaving last is the best way to stay organized and on top of things.
Sometimes doing a search for people from your past brings you back together – other times it can deliver sad news.
I had not been in touch with Director and Cinematographer extraordinaire Irv Goodnoff in over 20 years. When I searched for him last week, I found he passed away in 2009. That brought back the memories of the work & time I spent with him. Irv had numerous credits, more than his IMDB listing indicates. Variety’s obituary said he’d worked on over 50 films & TV shows. It was interesting to learn had been teaching cinematography for the past few years, as that was his great love.
Though I had been writing, creating, shooting & directing videos for over 15 years, I had never worked in film or with a DGA Director. In the spring of 1984, a drug dealer/wannabe-producer I knew met Irv and I was asked if I’d be an Assistant Production Manager for a music videos for the Jefferson Starship. I was actually a glorified Production Assistant, since I was not paid.
Irv had just won MTV awards for his cinematography of Weird Al Yankovic’s Eat It video and Huey Lewis and the News’ Heart of Rock ‘n Roll, and he had recently started directing music videos.
He was repped by Fran Kapsalis, who later became my business partner. A few years later, we would open the first company distributing productivity software for the entertainment industry (scriptwriting, storyboarding, scheduling, budgeting, etc.) – but that’s a story for another time.
Working with Irv was a great learning experience and began to prepare me for working with other Hollywood professionals. Irv’s background was in commercials and his manic, shoot it fast, improvisational work style first appeared to me to be absolutely crazy. But I learned it worked for him only because of all the preparation he did prior to a shoot.
Irv was both D.P. and Director for these shoots. This worked well for him. When he’d grab the camera off the tripod to shoot hand-held he knew exactly what he was doing. Again, his preparation allowed him to get inspired on the set and to go for it – without hesitation or questioning his creative-side. Sometimes the results were not usable, but the lesson for me was it was always worth a try. Happy accidents can make great art.
We were in San Francisco and it was 1984, so there was an abundance of Peruvian marching powder on the sets (even though by then Grace Sick was straight and sober). It may have taken a toll on some of the band and crew, but it did not hurt the budget as it was supplied mostly by the wannabe-producer. It did make for long hours, though.
It didn’t matter. I was psyched. I was working on a ‘real’ set with a real director and with some my long-time, much admired rock heroes.
No Way Out
The first shoot was for No Way Out, a story of betrayal and comeuppance… maybe. It was a 3 day shoot with some pickups done later in LA.
MTV was in its prime and every band tried to out-do the other bands in the outrageousness of their productions. This video was no exception. The wannabe-Producer had many connections to Bay Area celebrities and he was able to get Father Guido Sarducci (Tom Novello) as a special guest. Tom started his career locally and was then a semi-regular on Saturday Night Live.
We used graphics and titles from an Apple ][, which no one had done before. They look so archaic & rudimentary compared to what’s possible today.
We constructed some surreal sets. One was a confessional booth opening into a bedroom.
No Way Out was voted one of top 5 weirdest videos ever shown on MTV.
Watch it and you’ll understand why it deserves that honor.