Writing by LALKA
LALKA is a producer, musician, vocalist and music video director. She adopts a fiercely DIY approach to her work, as evidenced in her debut release Dare You To Love Me. The track was self-produced and self-written, and LALKA also directed and edited the accompanying music video. She collaborated with Jessalee Malloch of Jessalee Make Up and Hair Design and Erryn Ayres of BROADER LINES on the making of this music video.
They provide insight into the process and experience of creating the music video for Dare You To Love Me...
The Advantages and Perks of doing it DIY
Directing and editing my own music video was the easiest way for me to transcribe what I saw in my brain faithfully and vividly. If you’re an artist who enjoys 100% creative control over your work, making a music video this way is a good way to present your vision to the audience clearly.
Self-editing forced me to be brutal in the standards I set for myself as an artist, and I think that’s beneficial to grow and improve as an artist.
So much of my work is a reaction against people who were trying to take my agency away from me – this is expressed in the lyrics I write, my aggressive production style and my visual aesthetic. Directing and editing my own music video allowed me to take control back of what the perception of a female musician (and an Asian woman) should be or how she should behave. Working with an all-female crew on this particular shoot allowed us to bypass the male gaze that commonly permeates so many music videos.
There is a minimal hierarchy, people to cc-in and logistics to organise! And my fav: it encourages lateral thinking. For example, we had this idea to use flat golden sandals for the table dancing scenes. We ended up wrapping her tootsies in vintage gold braid, held in place with sticky tape attached to her ankle, and the excess just tucked under the cuff of her pants. Yep… it’s pretty glamorous. But I know that LALKA appreciates little personal touches like that and it worked as a nice subtle point of difference.
The beauty of working on a DIY project is that you are in direct contact with the artist. Knowing that a lot of the lighting on set would be quite dim lit we decided to keep the look smokey with depth on the eyes and texture through the hair to look intense but not too overly theatrical. It also gave us the opportunity to work with water and paints and figure out how they would translate on camera. I love working with LALKA as an artist because there’s never any limitations to creating a look that is edgy and androgynous – she can wear a bold look with conviction.
Challenges in doing it DIY
Being an independent artist means that I have no backing of a label so the budget was very lean! I had to figure out ways of achieving my creative vision with limited funds and resources. Also, being 100% involved in all the creative and technical aspects of the project took up a lot of mental, emotional and physical energy.
As an artist, when I present the finished work to the public, I have to accept the reality that people are going to form their own impressions of what I have created. Despite having complete control during the creation of the work, how people interpret it is beyond my control. This can be a challenge to any artist’s ego!
Not necessary having the time or money to secure certain key items that you know are surely out there somewhere! If only you could spend the time to get to them – time to painstakingly seek them out, talk (beg) your way to securing them, promise they will come back as good as new (this can never be promised), guarantee they have received their certain agreed upon “air-time” (again, not within a stylists’ control), follow up with thank you emails blah blah… my gosh I sound jaded! All of which are of course incredibly important steps, but not necessarily in line with the get in, get the shot, get out, move the hell on DIY ethos. Again, this is where you’re pushed to create alternate, sometimes even better outcomes. And I’m at the point where i actually work more productively under more challenging circumstances. Literally at my best when fumbling around in the dark with a torch in the boot of a car looking for a belt or earring or whatever we’ve all just agreed upon will ‘make’ the look. And of course things always go awry, but being able to think quick and whilst under pressure with minimal back-ups; that’s truly when all the years of experience really pay off.
Working on a DIY project means that you will generally have to cover a few roles while shooting, so it can mean for a very busy and intense period of filming with very few people. It’s important to keep an open mind and be willing to become adaptable to all contingencies. This being said there is a real sense of satisfaction to know that you have had a great amount of involvement in a project that comes together with a group of like minded creatives. It’s such a fantastic feeling to support and build the foundations on a project like this.
Tips on Styling a Music Video
A music video is essentially the visual representation of a song, so it’s important that it looks good – that’s where styling comes in. This can be done via choosing the right props for a room, or sartorial choices.
Clever use of lighting is a simple way to create atmosphere. Little details (flowers, candles, fabrics) can really set the tone for the scene.
Fashion has the reputation to be vapid but clothes/hair/makeup are such effective tools in communicating a character, an idea, or an attitude.
As subversive as the song is, it was important for the clothing to be wearable, and to allow for freedom of movement… there’s some interpretative dance in the video! Nothing too ridiculous, as there was already a lot to contend with between the lighting, fog, props, extra cast, hair and makeup… but the classic palette of black with gold accents with strong shapes assisted the otherworldly tone without overwhelming it.
Finding Inspiration for a Music Video
Read books. Study the work of other artists: musicians, visual artists, fashion designers, creative directors, poets, photographers, etc. Spend time in art galleries. Watch movies. Be on the move – I played the song on loop as I rode the bus to come up with initial ideas for the music video, and I spent many hours physically improvising dance moves in my living room to the song on loop to decide how I wanted to choreograph the moves you see in the video.
With the proliferation of social media, this inherently means blurred lines as people from various pockets of behaviours/cultures have a profound influence on one another. I think it’s important to have a voracious appetite to absorb new social, cultural and visual languages – and to do so with deep appreciation and respect – in order to grow as an artist.
Definitely by listening to the track and the reasoning behind it as told directly by the artist; everything is found there. Following direction first and foremost, then running with it (as little or as far as you’re given permission to) is the secret that takes the longest time to learn. It’s not about the stylist at all; you are facilitating an idea, helping it to fruition, ensuring the talent is comfortable with every step. Enabler is more accurate word to describe my role as a stylist in this instance. Of course my own suggestions, flourishes and ideas get thrown into the ring, but my ego and intimately personal preferences should always remain separate to the artists’ own desired broader concept.
The fashion industry moves at such a rapid pace. It’s forever evolving which means that complimentary looks need to grow and advance simultaneously. I tend to get inspiration for shooting from current runway, fashion trends, from in print and online blogging. As a freelancing artist I find I have a lot of travel time in between my clients which is so freeing for my thoughts and I often have some of my best ideas while traveling & getting in that creative flow.
Tips on Successfully Executing a DIY Music Video
Set a budget and stick to it. Before you even begin filming, envision every scene to the last detail. Plan the shoot meticulously. Find ways to create atmospheric results visually – make props by going to the hardware store, dress up the space you have as cleverly as you can, and find creative lighting options. Work with people who understand your vision. Most of all, have a positive attitude and have fun. Having plenty of food at the shoot also helps because nobody likes working hungry!
Keep it simple and minimal… not that we followed that rule on this particular clip! But LALKA strikes me as the a typical overachiever! Oh, and we used wine as props – that kept things fun!
When working on a shoot for a long period of time it’s important that the artist still looks fresh faced and put together in front of the camera. There is a lot of readjusting styles & looks in order to make this happen.
Ensure you are using your time as wisely as possible. I prefer to build the looks on set. This often means filming in a different order and making sure that this is spoken about while organizing the shooting schedule as to not take more time off of the shooting process as possible. Communication is key. In this video, scenes such as the bathtub shots submerged in glitter & water wouldn’t have made sense as a first look because of the amount of time the clean up would have taken. Timing is everything and schedule is so important. Go in with a thorough plan but also keep an open mind to bend the look if necessary.