Last spring I was called in to help collaborate on a video project for an elementary school. This isn’t unusual as there is usually a campus or two that wants to work on something for their local community. However, this project was different, and I could tell from the beginning, it was going to be something that all kids, not just those at Eanes, could benefit from. The principal had sent me a song, that I thought was surely commercially done by some sort of Disney song-writer and singer. She explained to me that actually a couple of students had written a song as part of an anti-bullying project and they made the song over the weekend (with the help of their Uncle, a guitarist for Kelly Clarkson).
I met with a team of staff and the kids’ parents in mid April to discuss the possibility of making this into a music video. We listened to the song several times together as a group to get various ideas of how we wanted the video to look. My first thought when hearing the song “Lend a Hand” was that kids would slowly start to join their cause throughout the video. The premise behind the song is that bystanders can be just as guilty as bullies and instead of standing idly by, they should “lend a hand”.
We had 5 graders develop vignettes for the verses of the song and we plot pointed parts of the playground and areas around the campus to shoot all of this. Originally, the thought was that we would lipdub the entire song in a single shot. While this can be tricky, it does make editing very easy. I had some experience with this from the previous year and Forest Trail’s “Project Firework” which got on the news when Katy Perry decided to post it on her Facebook page. The only problem was, I shot that entire shot moving forward. This one would be the opposite, and require me to walk backwards, film and give direction.
Needless to say, the ending footage wasn’t very desirable. (click here for never-before seen rough cut footage) It was blurry, not in HD, and bouncy since I had to walk backwards. I ended up enlisting the help of the Westlake broadcast journalism department and a couple of their aspiring videographers.(interested side note, these two students actually attended Eanes Elementary when they were younger!) While the idea of filming the whole song in sequence remained, we decided we could shoot from two different angles and give it more of a music video feel. As a director, it made my life a whole lot easier not having to worry about the camera and focus on what the kids were doing. We could zoom in and focus on the vignettes that the kids had made too, which I felt weren’t seen in the original. To put the finishing touches, the parents enlisted the help of Austin Children’s choir to sing the ending chorus and refrain. The end result was a purely magical video created by students for students.
Here’s the official HD video:
Thanks to the Westlake Film Crew, Eanes Elementary, students Alethia and London for their amazing song, their parents for supporting this and Julia Fortman for thinking enough of me to ask me to come help!