• Sherif Francis

Filming on beta sp..in2020

Updated: Sep 19

So a few months ago I was contacted for a project, it was going to be very interesting as the artist's style lends himself to a variety of visual interpretations which is more challenging but also more entertaining compared to artists that have a so-called "fixed image". The artist was The Prince Karma, who's previous single amounted over 100 million views on YouTube and another 100 million on Spotify. People were certainly enjoying his stuff!


The challenge I faced when I met with the management for the music video was that they already had the idea...and it was good! What was the idea? Well it was this...

Essentially they wanted a tribute of this iconic SNL sketch but instead of Haddaway's song "What is love" it would play The Prince Karma's new single "Superstar".


Seemed easy right? Well not really, there was a lot of analysis to be done to determine what was it that made this sketch so funny...Jim Carrey obviously, Will Ferrel and Chris Kattan. So that's it right? Nope, there was a deeper thought to that, on a more basic level what where these three guys? Comedians, and Jim was from the realm of stand-up comedy. So now I knew what field and realm of talent pool to look into! Why stand up comedians? because they would have the intellect to understand the nuance of whatever it is that made that sketch funny. They would get what it is that made this comedy gold and not comedy dud. It wasn't just a case of imitating said sketch, but to understand the minute details that made all the difference so they can put in their own flavor into it. So my first instinct was to look into that realm in our small town of Athens.

This is where I struck gold because not only I found 3 of the best comedians but they also happened to be friends. Which was good for their onset chemistry! It just happened as I was looking for stand up comedians and I ran into this picture. Ofcourse! How could I have forgotten, that Dimitris Makalias, Zisis Roumbos and Labros Fisfis had a very funny and successful comedy sketch type of show on tv! I finally had my protagonists and they were perfect for this challenging video. Yes it was challenging because next stage was in a meeting with them where they pointed out some things I missed, and rightfully so, because only a seasoned stand-up comedian that performs in front of audience would understand some deeper issues with the original sketch. First of all the original was filmed in 1998....so, yep P.C culture got kicked in to the conversation...and rightfully so! There were elements in the original sketch that we had to replace, and had to be careful how we went about it. Our protagonists were right to point that out to us that the 2 main issues where the excessive gyrating of the groin of the original and...yep the high school dance! That's a no no in today's sense and sensitivity.


What came next was as a director we had to remove the high-school setting and find a suitable replacement, and our 3 comedians had had the task of finding a less "sexually-harrasy" type of move. So now we had to analyze further the sketch and realized that the main gag is that 3 tone deaf guys after unsuccessfully trying to "pick up" women at a club, would subsequently go to more and more obscure places ..that was it! That's the whole essence of what made it funny - but with someone like Jim Carrey that became gold! Once we understood the "code" we put out thinking caps on and found a good replacement for the highschool scene!


Ok so we had our protagonists, we had the sceneries and code broken down, now we were at the execution phase of the endeavor! This is where things got real interesting. The look! I realized that the only way to pull this through successfully, and to really bring it home was to film it with literally the same camera the original was filmed in! A Sony Beta SP....in 2020. I really believed it would be the perfect camera, because filming with a modern DSLR and trying to bring it to "betacam" quality image would do a disservice to the entire project! It just wouldn't be the same or even believable. It HAD to be a BETACAM!


So now I was facing another challenge! Find a working Betacam and someone who knows how to use it! Again we were in luck! not only did we find a working camera but the owner is well versed in it's technical requirements and was an amazing addition to the team! He had all the necessary gear and setup and a way to record directly to a computer from the camera. (Even though we also bought what perhaps seemed the last 2 unused beta tapes available in all of Athens!)


Now, the management wanted to go to real physical locations, and we had a little back and forth there, since I insisted on building the sets. The reason? It HAD to look cheap and crappy in order for it to work! It was one of the rare instances where the cheaper and worse it looked the better it worked for the project, since we were going for that camp aesthetic! They understood the logic and we went ahead to designing and building the set. We also broke the track down to pieces for each set and all that was left was to rehearse. Yep rehearse! All the moves and acting had to be done on certain points of the track, what each person would be doing on what part of the f the track so it could have a proper rhythmical flow.


During the filming we lit the scenes very counter intuitively! Flat lighting, no depth, no shadows, just one big flat lit scene, to resemble the type of lighting on TV shows in the 90's. Along with the zooming in and out of the point of interests the whole project came together really well and organized. In fact the best part was the crew was laughing with what they were seeing so that was the best sign we got it right!



As for editing - it took less than 2 hours since everything was already marked on where it would be placed. In fact the scene with the girl blowing out her candle (which replaced the highschool scene) we only had 1 take! Yep you heard right 1 take! It was good! we laughed and the actors were on sync! Plus it needed very little color correction and processing..since we filmed it with the real deal..the legendary Sony Betacam SP!


Enjoy!





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