Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Take Five: Videos Worthy of Shot-for-Shot Remakes

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 15, 2009

I found this shot-for-shot remake of the classic video for Journey’s “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” in the always-informative Sports Guy’s Mailbag, and it got me thinking a little. The video itself was not necessarily any more compelling than the Gus Van Sant Psycho, but the thing that interested me about this imitative retelling was that it got me thinking how I would have gone about doing it if I had to refilm this video with my friends. What exactly is the easiest way to mount a keyboard on a wall? How hard is it to get four guys in a line singing in unison? Is a two-second montage of eight different shots really worth all the trouble? Even with the sound off, this remake would’ve been immediately recognizable as the “Separate Ways” video, but how many videos could that really be done for? So many of the best either have important, hard to reproduce special effects (like, say, A-Ha’s “Take on Me”), are filmed in too-exotic locations (any Duran Duran video), have a cast too wide (Guns n Roses’ “November Rain”) or, uh, camera shots that somehow look cost-consuming (Busta Rhymes’ “Woo-Hah! Got You All in Check!”) Rather, you just need a video that you and six or so of your closest friends could reproduce in a day or two of filming with a hundred-dollar budget, a handheld camera and basic video editing software.

So what videos what I remake with my friends would I reproduce with my friends, given the option? Here are the leading candidates:

  • The Verve – “Bittersweet Symphony”. Easy enough–all you really need is one guy who doesn’t mind bumping into people for four minutes, and a bunch of other guys to join up at the end as the rest of the band. The other roles–the incidental people that Richard Ashcroft bumps into on the street–can all basically be replaced by real-life, unwilling participant extras, except for the one chick who gets supermad and probably should be cast in a role herself. The hardest part I guess would be maintaining the video’s grainy, blue-ish hue–I dunno what kind of filter you have to buy for your camera to achieve that, or maybe you can just work it out in post. Interesting, the video itself is basically a non-shot-for-shot remake of Massive Attack’s slightly less iconic but equally classic “Unfinished Sympathy.”
  • George Michael – “Freedom ’90. Somehow, I imagine this video becomes a lot more affordable when you don’t have to pay five of the most famous women in the world to appear in it. (Of course, you still do have to find five women to appear in such a project, and as the “Separate Ways” remake makes clear, sometimes finding even one can present something of a challenge). Nevertheless, all you really need once you get the girls signed on are a tea kettle, an abandoned apartment, and a bunch of really, really big sweaters–easy enough. The exploding jukebox might present something of a challenge, but I suppose you could always cut to stock footage–no proof that George Michael actually took the time to blow one up on his set either.
  • Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories – “Stay (I Missed You)”: Technically the easiest video on this list to reproduce, as it is a mere one-shot (in fact any number of one-shot videos could conceivably work for this project, with the extremely notable exception of Kylie Minogue’s “Come Into My World“) with no extras needed to support the performance of its star actress. But naturally, the success of the project would depend entirely on the performance of said leading lady, as a “Stay” remake sinks or swims depending on how closely she could emulate the myriad emotions that Loeb manages to project throughout the video (and, yes, the song). Oh, and I guess you probably need a cat too. And those glasses. Might be slightly trickier than you think, but at least the rest of the faux-Nine Stories still get to chill off-screen.
  • Smashing Pumpkins – “Today: Maybe a litlte high-budget for our purposes, since you need an ice cream truck (or at least a truck with the words “ice cream” on it), a whole lot of paint, and a relatively low-maintenance gas station willing to support your tomfoolery for about half an hour. That said, it’s certainly easier than trying to emulate the rest of the Pumpkins’ videography, whether the stop-motion of “Tonight, Tonight” the ridiculous makeup of “Ava Adore” or that super-cool camera-in-a-rolling-tire angle from “1979”. And besides, you get to persuade one of your friends to lounge around in a sundress for a few hours, or do it yourself if you’re so inclined. (Speaking of which–did you know that James Iha and Taylor Hanson are going to be in a band together? Two of the hottest chick-dudes in rock history, in the same band? With eternally hideous Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos? History in the making, my friends).
  • The Replacements – “Bastards of Young In fact, I’m sure this video has been accidentally remade shot-for-shot dozens of times as burgeoning rock bands put their equipment down for a cigarette break during their shoots and simply forget to turn the camera off. Except for the kicking-in-the-speaker part at the end. Or maybe not.

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