Colorful fingers dance over a human foot piano. A girl plucks the imaginary strings of a dancer’s-leg guitar in time. An orange party gel catches fire from the heat of an HMI light. It’s ECG Productions’ shoot of the new 16OS music video, “Lil Freak”.
“For some reason, those party gels working on a M18 HMI… It burned holes right through them,” recalls director and editor, Jason Sirotin.
Not exactly the kind of “hot” you look for in most music videos featuring beautiful women but hey, nothing about “Lil Freak” is quite what you’d expect.
“I don't want to do something that's conventional,” Sirotin acknowledges. “If you're looking for a booty-popping next to cars, I'm not your guy. But if you're looking for something a little weird and different, I'm probably a good fit for you.”
Harrison Thacker, often known as 16OS, was searching for just that: something different. Meticulous to the core, 16OS wanted a video with striking visuals, first and foremost, so he turned to ECG and Jason: his friend and collaborator since 2014.
Sexy, Yet Unexpected
The “Lil Freak” video centered on the empowerment of female sexuality with a focus on brilliantly colorful visuals and simple, iconic imagery. Bright “light sandwiches” of primary colors dominate the screen, courtesy of the party gels kind enough not to burn. ECG’s Director of Photography, Brandon Peterson, captured it all on our Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro with Otis lenses.
During post-production, our colorist Jenn Lee, did some typically phenomenal work to make those colors really pop.
For the ECG team, “Lil Freak” was as much a passion project as it was for 16OS. Everyone on the shoot was devoted to getting the best results possible, and having a hell of a good time along the way. That winning formula presented a unique music video for a song with a strong message: let your freak flag fly.
“You're kind of playing with the idea of freakiness,” says the director. “We like the idea of the different body parts, and different people having fetishes.” The video replaced each instrument with a different part of the female body, in order to accentuate these differences.
The vision for “Lil Freak” went through several incarnations before Jason and 16OS found an angle that inspired them. They wanted to conceptualize a video that was sexy, but didn’t objectify women. Things only really came together when Sirotin teamed up with Emily to help produce the video.
A Fresh Take
“She brought a lot of female sensibilities to it,” Sirotin says of Payton. “We talked through a lot of those things. We just decided like, let's not overly-sexualize it.” One of the keys to the approach was ensuring that women were the ones handling the “instruments”.
Madness, you say? What male artist doesn’t want the women fawning over him in his music video?
But 16OS has more on his mind. He’s always been focused on the aesthetic of his videos, and something unique is always more interesting. “Jason has a great way of painting a mental picture for you,” he said. “He was like, ‘What do you think about the guitar player, instead of playing a guitar, playing like, a girl’s leg?’”
That conversation actually took place regarding a potential video for another of 16OS’ songs. but “Lil Freak” emerged as the real target, and the concept's allure remained. When the time finally came, the artist, director, and ECG crew were more excited than ever to get down to the business of getting weird.
Making a music video requires a lot of trust between an artist and his production team. For 16OS and Jason Sirotin, that trust has been built over years and several collaborations.
“I just love him,” says the director. “I think he's super talented. The depth of his understanding of the English language is incredible.”
But back in 2014, 16OS was just starting to build his brand in Atlanta’s hip-hop scene. “I was looking for quality visuals,” he remembers. Days of cold-calling production companies proved unrewarding until, looking through blog posts on ECG’s website, 16OS noticed something that caught his attention: a post by Jason Sirotin. “He…talked about how much he loves hip-hop, and how, you know, he’s got a passion for it,” the artist says.
Now, several years and videos later, 16OS and producer Kid Klassic are ready to use Lil Freak as the lead in to the re-release of 16OS’ album, Late to the Party.
It’s a fitting title, in part because of the time and thought put into the Lil Freak video. However, it also refers to 16OS’ journey as an artist. He spoke about his time in college, being a late bloomer, not being “traditionally cool”, and coming into his own through music. Late to the Party focuses on these ideas, including the notion of “dealing with attention from beautiful women” that inspired Lil Freak.
Now, through a lot of sweat and glitter, Lil Freak stands as the centerpiece of the artist’s new and improved Late to the Party. More provocative, more polished, and more mature.
The Next Move
It’s a great feeling when production team and artist can both be proud of a project. Gels aside, the shoot went off without a hitch. It was a prime example of a shoot when everyone finds a way to help, from Brandon spending hours drawing designs on gold balloons, to Emily’s demonstrations of how to properly play someone’s abs.
Now, 16OS is promoting his album, and Lil Freak’s indomitable bass and catchy hooks lead the way. Seeing an artistic vision come to fruition is a thrill for all of us at ECG.
Sirotin says he just gets excited about working with an artist he enjoys. “I don't do their videos for money,” he said of 16OS and Kid Klassic. “We do their videos because we believe in who they are and what they're doing. They're good people who are working hard at their craft day and night. I respect the fuck out of that.”
Hard work plays a huge role in any production, but the music video business is special. It’s intriguing in its unpredictability. To a creative mind, it creates endless excitement around pushing the envelope. “You don't know what people are gonna like ever,” Sirotin muses. “Even when you think you do, you have no fucking clue.”
For artists like 16OS and teams like ECG Productions, for whom staying on the bleeding edge is imperative; that’s fuel on the fire. Taking risks and being experimental is worth it when you want to be the best.
And sometimes, being a bit of a freak is worth it, too.