Video Premier: Without a Face – The TSA Song

This past February I interviewed Eric Webb about the Kickstarter he set up to secure financial backing for the production of a music video. If you’re not familiar with the project here is a quick summary, the “TSA Song” is a satirical attack on the policies and practices of the Transportation Security Administration. Henry Dillard (Without a Face) wrote it as a contemporary R&B ballad. Dillard sings from the point of view of an overzealous TSA agent determined to visit “twisted sexual assault” or “TSA” upon anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves at his security checkpoint.

So what can you expect from such a protest song? Think Justin Timberlake a la “Dick In A Box” sans Andy Sandberg. Hands slither down to nether regions and gratuitous groping and gyrating ensues. While some of the lyrics in The TSA Song are a little disturbing taken out of context, there’s also a sense of exaggerated absurdity that the video explores instead of focusing on more real world scenarios.

“We want to draw attention to the issues, but in an entertaining way. We took our inspiration from the song, which already does a great job of striking that balance,” said director Eric Webb. “It’s pretty obvious from the start that Henry’s character in the video is a special kind of creep, above and beyond the normal TSA Officer. The character has a rich and demented fantasy life that we explore in the video, that includes consensual interactions with passengers, role playing, and sexy back-up dancers!”

Without a Face is working on a new album with the working title “The American Scheme” currently set for an October 2012 release. Fans of “The TSA Song” can expect more songs about political and social issues on the new album, some serious and some more satirical. Dillard will also be continuing the trend of taking on more musical styles including jazz, folk, rock, gospel, and blues.

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Webb and his co-producers assembled a cast and crew for the two-day shoot which took place in Oklahoma City and Guthrie. Impressed by all the effort that brought this music video to fruition, I asked Webb if he wouldn’t mind doing a little Q and A.

1. When we interviewed you about the Kickstarter, you hoped to make your financial goal before the cut off date. Did you end up making more than your original goal, and if so, what did that allow you to do that you might have not had the budget for?

The video was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign held earlier this year that exceeded its $5000 goal, raising $6,354 from nearly 100 backers. Donors earned rewards ranging from signed CD’s to original personalized ringtones and songs. One backer from Missouri received a house concert performance by Without a Face for his $2500 contribution. The extra money went to cover various unforeseen costs like costumes, catering, and insurance!

2. What was your favorite part about making this video?

That is a really difficult question.

Getting a chance to work with Henry from Without a Face was really special. We may be friends, but I am a genuine fan of his music. We also had an incredible cast and crew of 40 people that were a joy to work with.

I guess my favorite part is that after nearly six years away from filmmaking, that this got to be the project that I returned to directing with and that it all went so well!

3. What was the worst part of making it?

The most difficult part was finding a location with a security checkpoint that would let us film. After months of searching we were able to get permission to use the Logan County Courthouse in Guthrie just a few weeks before we were scheduled to begin shooting.

4. What was the biggest unforeseen challenge?

Henry misplaced his TSA costume before the shoot and neglected to tell me, which means we didn’t have time to order a replacement. We ended up giving him one of the dancer’s costumes and our incredible crew made a replacement costume using a white shirt, iron-ons, and some gaffer tape the morning of the shoot. They did such a good job that it is indistinguishable from the other costumes in the video. Of course, Henry found the missing costume upon returning home to Texas.

We also lost about 3 hours of shoot time at The Boom due to a scheduling snafu which led to some scenes getting cut. I still wish we would have had the extra time to get those shots, but am quite pleased with the final video, even without them.

5. Did the project take longer than expected?

The editing did take longer than expected. We shot on a RED EPIC, one of the highest quality video cameras in the world, which necessitate an overhaul of my desktop system before I could even start working on the edit. The shear amount of footage I had to go through from our two days of shooting was quite daunting as well.

6. Do you have a favorite scene? 

Another really difficult question. Getting to do green screen work for the first time was certainly a highlight, but honestly we had a lot of fun shooting all of the scenes. I guess I’m most proud of the material we shot at The Boom! with the amazing dancers from Race Dance which is run by Hui Cha Poos, who also did our choreography. The combination of their incredible work, Henry’s performance, and our lighting and camera crew certainly made for some of the prettiest images I’ve had a hand in creating.

7. Were there any onlookers who ended up getting involved?

Not really. We did recruit a few PA’s to fill out our passenger queue though.

8. Did the fuzz give ya any heat when you were shooting scenes?

We had cleared the shoot with the Sheriff’s office, but were still a little nervous knowing we were being watched all the time thanks to the security cameras. We did our best to respect the space and thankfully, everything went fine.

9. Given the subject matter, was it hard finding extras or did people sign up to get sexually harassed by the dozens?

It wasn’t hard at all, actually. We actually had more people that wanted to be in the video, but improv festivals in Dallas and Denver the weekend we shot cut into some of our potential cast. The biggest challenge was finding a baby. Fortunately, my assistant director Nathan Gardocki was willing to let us use his daughter, Evelyn.

10. Would you do this kind of thing again?

Hell yes! I’ve already chatted with Henry a bit about doing another video for him. I also have some dream projects that I can’t talk about just yet that I’d like to tackle if the TSA Song video really takes off.

Bonus points: What would you tell a noob about using Kickstarter and making a music video that you wish someone had told you when you first started this endeavor?

While I’m sure there are things that we could have done better/differently, I’m not really sure what they are. I had done a fair amount of research beforehand and feel like we did a pretty good job. My advice to noobs would be to set a realistic goal for yourself. Don’t ask for more than what you actually need. Be sure to justify the need for the Kickstarter and explain what the money is being used for. Have a really dynamic and entertaining pitch video that does a good job of presenting the project. If at all possible try to put together some kind of a proof of concept for the pitch video, whether its a song demo or test footage, so backer’s get a sense of what the final product might be like. Lastly, have some fun and desirable rewards for backers to incentivize giving.

One Comment
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