The Case of the Missing Artist

A silhouette with the words "MISSING" in red
Is it possible to make a music video when the artist goes AWOL? The answer is yes, if you get creative.

It’s a bright & sunny day in Miami, FL. The birds are chirping, the girls are lounging outside in their beachside best, and ECG Productions is in the heat of shooting a new music video.

There’s only one thing wrong: the artist whose song they’re making a video for is nowhere to be found. Vanished, disappeared into thin air. How can this be? What’s the team to do? To answer these questions, we need to start from the beginning.

It all started with a call…

Noir-style phone call with hands

One afternoon about 5 months ago, we get a call from an aspiring young musician who’s aggressively pursuing a team to make his first music video. Now, for reasons which I cannot disclose, I shall henceforth refer to this artist as simply “Mr. F.” And yes, that IS an Arrested Development reference. Good eye, reader!

As with any artist looking for a video, we take our time to talk through both the financial and the creative nuances of the project. We talk location, budget, concepts, visual references, the works. Mr. F is eager, excited, and invested in making this video as amazing as possible. We love the track, we love Mr. F., and we love the concept we landed on. An accord is struck, and deals are signed.

All is looking good…for now.

Suddenly, the radio went silent.

A few weeks pass, and the wheels of production keep in constant motion. Mr F. is adamant about shooting the music video in Miami, which is both exciting and challenging for us. Managing an out of town production, especially one with as many moving parts as a music video, is a daunting task.

Having worked in the Miami market quite a few times, however, we’re able to source all of our needs with ease. One by one we book all of essentials for Mr. F’s shoot, from travel to models and beyond.

As anyone in production will tell you, as you ramp up to the shoot things start moving at a breakneck pace. Throughout all the wheeling and dealing, negotiations and bookings, Mr. F is responsive and quick to help in any way possible. His enthusiasm is palpable, and we as a team love and appreciate his responsiveness.

Then, about a week from our scheduled shoot date, the unthinkable happens: Mr. F. goes radio silent. Try as we might, we cannot get ahold of him. We try calling, texting, emailing, we even consider carrier pigeon. No matter how many times we try, there’s not response. Silence.

With less than a week until we left for Miami to shoot this music video, what were we to do? The video was all about Mr. F and his skills as a dynamic performer. With him nowhere to be found, seemingly vanished into thin air, we were lost.

That is, until we realized that the solution was staring us right in the face.

Masking the problem

We book the location. Next, we lock in the models. Our flights are booked, and our crew is ready to rock. This music video is locked and loaded and ready to be fired. The only thing that’s missing—that one ever-so-crucial metaphorical match to light the powder keg of production— is the artist. Now that we’ve invested so much money into making Mr. F’s dreams a reality, what are we to do despite his absence?

Masking the case of the missing artist

In a stroke of brilliance, our director, Jason Sirotin, devised a plan that was both ingenious and aesthetically interesting. To make sure that Mr. F was still in the video while not actually being present, why not make masks of his face and have all the male extras in the video wear them?

By masking our male talent, we could turn the tables on our situation and make a music video where Mr. F was literally everywhere while he himself wasn’t even in the same state. To put it in music video terms: through some quick thinking we were able to pull a Young Thug on this music video, and in turn, save it.

We printed 50 masks of Mr. F’s face, loaded them into our bags, and continued on, business as usual. Now came the hard part: actually executing our idea.

Less “Who-done-it” and more “Can we do it?”

So here we are, back where we started. It’s a bright & sunny day in Miami, FL. The birds are chirping, the girls are lounging outside in their beachside best, and ECG Productions is in the heat of shooting a new music video. Yet, the featured artist is nowhere in sight. But ECG is prepared with a creative solution that might—just might—make this video even better than they imagined.

Who-dun-it noir-style video shoot

The shoot day itself is a long, challenging affair. Between the artistry of composing beautiful shots, juggling the paperwork and management of over 30 talent, and troubleshooting fits of transmission interference on the camera, the ECG team has its hands full on this music video.

Luckily, this isn’t their first time on a case, and all these issues get resolved with relative ease. It’s a day filled with stops-and-starts, as well as more Redbull than any group of people should drink in a lifetime, but overall it’s a roaring success.

Most importantly, however, is the fact that the masks are a huge hit! Throughout the day, we capture a ton of coverage where Mr. Fs of all shapes and sizes give amazing performances. True, the masks’ reflective sheen makes certain shots a bit tricky, but we always get exactly what we want in the end.

The masks play beautifully on camera, and the shot designed to open the music video highlights it particularly well. We could not be happier.

Another case closed

At the end of the shoot, our male talent all untie their Mr. F masks, letting them cascade to the floor where they’re left forgotten (except by a dutiful PA). Everyone says their “thank you’s” and “it’s been a pleasure to work with you’s” and are on their way.

Behind them, copies of Mr. F’s face cover the floor, staring dazedly, unblinkingly up at the ceiling. We may not know where exactly Mr. F may be. However, this sea of masks, this soon-to-be-trashed tableau, is proof that, in a way, he was always there with us on set.

In the end, Mr. F may not have a story to tell about a trip to Miami. But, did he get an amazing music video out of it? You be the judge:

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