Friday, October 26, 2012

Exclusive DB Congress Interview: Wes Edwards-Story Behind Directing Dierks Bentley's Tip It On Back Video

Dierks Bentley (left) presents a plaque to video director Wes Edwards at the No. 1 party for "5-1-5-0" in Nashville on Aug. 30, 2012.  Photo Credit: Brian Tipton

Wes Edwards has been making films ever since he was 12 years old. He's been directing professionally for more than 10 years, working with everyone from multi-platinum recording artists. to children in the townships of South Africa.

Couple that with commercials, short films and nearly 50 music videos, including Dierks Bentley's "5-1-5-0" and "Tip It On Back," and you've got one talented dude who's vision and hard work results in a moving experience for the viewers that immediately connects them to the song.

We found each other on Twitter and Wes quickly agreed to contribute to the "Tip It On Back" story behind the video DB Congress Blogs  - Part One is below.  

How did you come up with the treatment story for TIOB? Is the video process collaborative or do you bring the vision to the table?

The treatment was fitting because I came up with it after a couple of drinks one night!

My parents had just sold our family farm in Kentucky and though it was the right thing to do for them, it was still weighing heavily on my mind.  The core idea came about when I was just listening to the song and I imagined the for sale sign at the farm falling over or "tipping back."  It was a really exciting moment because I knew that could be the final twist in the story to leave the audience with. 

The only thing I wrote down that night was: "On one level it’s a video about losing your inhibitions ... but in a deeper way, it’s about how losing your inhibitions makes you discover your priorities."  So with that image, I wrote the story of the young couple forced to sell, and how "tipping it on back" made the guy realize that he would do whatever it took to keep the farm.  

The for sale sign we made listed the farm at 276 acres - the same as our farm in Kentucky.  

How much ad-lib do you allow Dierks to do? Was the stage dive his idea?

Actually I think I brought up the stage diving the day before we shot in a text message to Dierks and he just said, "yeah let's try it!"

I let Dierks ad-lib as much as we can shoot.  Driving Big White through the mud on "5-1-5-0" was his idea, and all I had to do was get the cameras ready.  

Dierks is awesome to work with.  He has ideas but in the end he just wants a great video and defaults to what I think, so we are both free to try something and if it doesn't work we just scrap it and try something else.

Dierks is also great at speaking up right away if he doesn't like the vibe of something.  For example, when we first started shooting performance he thought the stage looked too clean, so we added some rugs, some equipment, and made it a little more messy.  It suddenly felt more authentic and the video was better for it.  I love working with Dierks because he actually cares about the end product.  He's reached a level of success where he could only be concerned with how much time he needs to be on set, but he actually cares about the quality of the video as a whole and that's what is really impressive after 18 videos.

Can you share a sample page of the script or do you just use an outline?

I just worked with a simple shot list on set.  Actually, it wasn't even a shot list, just an event list.  It looked like this:

- couple enters theater 
- couple orders beer 
- couple loosens up 
- dancing 


Obviously there is a lot more subtlety to the video but I've found that sometimes it's better to let things happen on set and not in an overwhelmingly long and detailed shot list. 

When we shot the scene of the couple first arriving at the venue and ordering a beer, it was a much more simple thing ... Order beer, get beer, exit.  Once we got on set I could see that the actors were expressing quite a lot through the expressions on their faces.  It became a way to say: they are upset, but they love each other and they are going to do their best to forget about everything and just have a good time.  And that's something that if I had just stuck to a shot list, wouldn't have been conveyed.

Had you planned to use the little boys as flash back or did (make up artist) Jenny Sue happen to have them on set?

We were going to find a little boy down there.  We found out Jenny Sue had a son so I said, great can you bring him?

Then I found out that she had two boys and that the younger boy LOVED "5-1-5-0" and I thought, we can't have this kid stay at home while his brother gets to be in a Dierks Bentley video, it'll ruin his life!   So I said, bring them both ... And she did.  Their names were Jack and Walker and they were awesome. 

Did you personally pick Jason and Sarah? If so, what sold you on them getting the part?

We didn't do regular auditions, I just brought people in and asked them questions on camera. It's more important to me that the person be comfortable and collaborative than just be able to "perform."

I had just seen Sarah and really liked her.  As she was leaving Jason came in next.  I also liked him but found out that he was moving the next week so if I wanted to pair him up with a girl this would be my only chance.  About a minute in to his interview I ran into the hall and yelled "get that Sarah girl back here!" 

My producer called her, she turned her car around and came in.  I put her and Jason together and it was magic.  They looked so comfortable together,  like they had known each other for years.  I auditioned a lot more people but they were my first choice from the moment I put them together.

You have done a ton of Jason Aldean videos. It's interesting that Jason's bassist, Tully Kennedy was a co-writer on Tip It On Back. How much insight did you get from the "Tip It On Back" songwriters to create the treatment? 

I've known Tully for years but had no idea he was a writer on the song until the day we wrapped the shoot.  He's a great guy and I hope the song does well for him.

Who has been your favorite artist to work with?

Well I can't pick favorites .... I love all the artists I work with.  I'll say that my two videos with Dierks have been extremely fulfilling.  Dierks is a very responsive artist who is awesome as a creative collaborator, and is just a pleasant down to earth person.   You really couldn't ask for more from an artist.

Editing seems to be a really long and tedious process. How long did it take after two days of filming TIOB?

I had the first cut within three days of getting back home.  I think we delivered about three weeks after wrap.  Editing is tedious but I have a love/hate relationship with it.  When you're on set you're always up against the clock.  Since I edit my own videos, the pressure of the clock goes away and I take the time to make it as perfect as it can be.  And though it can be tedious, it's worth it to get the cut just right.

Do you prefer music videos over commercials or short film? If so, why?

I love them all for different reasons.  

There is a lot of freedom in music videos and it's nice to write a concept and bring it to the screen.    It becomes the visual that people associate to the song, so there's something very fulfilling about that.

With commercials the concept is written by the ad agency, and it's nice to have the creative already written when I come aboard.  There are only 30 seconds to fill in a commercial so you have a lot more time on set to perfect the shots, which is refreshing after working on a lot of music videos where you have to just keep moving.

Short films are great fun.  I ultimately want to direct movies so short films are the closest to feature film-making for me. 

But I love it all. 

Thanks, Wes!  

Stay tuned for Part Two of the Behind the Scenes Exclusive Tip It On Back video interviews with the lead actors--Sarah and Jason!

DB Congress Chair (FL)

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