Being in a Music Video for the First Time

Editor’s note: Click here to see the video and read about the making of it.


It was Friday night when the suggestion came up. He asked almost in an offhand manner, like it was no big deal.

“Would you want to shoot a music video this weekend?”

Ron, my dad, had been wanting to shoot a music video for a long time, but I had always put it off. I never felt like I had a good enough song or I was just too intimidated at the prospect… or both. Me – in a music video? Please! The very thought seemed absurd at times.

Ron setting up scene with the 5D Mark III and a SmallHD monitor.

This time, however, it seemed feasible. I had just finished a song that I was really proud of. I liked it. Maybe this could work.

“Okay,” was my reply.

Saturday was the day of preparation. I looked for music videos that I liked and found even more that I didn’t. I took notes on all of them. This one had great, raw emotion. This other one had a good story. That was important to me – story. I refused to be that girl – the one who dresses up in five different outfits and sings into the camera for 3 minutes. What a bore.

As the day wore on, I began to get a clearer sense of what this music video could be and that was exciting. But as night approached, all those happy feelings began to go away. What was I thinking? Could this actually work? I really dislike bad acting. I mean, who doesn’t? Could I pull my weight when it came to the acting?

It was at this moment, that I took some of the advice of Elizabeth Gilbert’s ted talk on creative genius – I just needed to surrender this. I was going to show up and do my best. I could do no more than that. I would give it everything, but if my everything wasn’t enough then my muse, spirit, God, angel, what have you -would be the one responsible for helping me out. This thinking was what saved me from pulling out my hair and having a bald head for the shoot the next day.

I wrote the song about an estranged relationship. I didn’t write it as a love song per se, but really, I suppose it is a love song, just with a different kind of love. It’s called “Burn Our Bridge”. Clayton, doubling as both crew and cast – playing the boyfriend, asked in between shots, “What’s the message of the song?”

“I wrote the song with the intention that one would burn the bridge of the relationship, but really, it’s not that I want people to burn their bridge. I think the message is to not be afraid to burn it if you have to. It’s okay to consider it.” I explained.

The story in the music video is of a young couple who’s relationship is on the rocks. The question is whether or not they’ll work it out. Maybe it really would be better to let it go – to burn the bridge. Most of the video is of me, the girlfriend, grieving and then at the end, the boy is revealed.

I love the story we chose to tell. However, I felt my acting abilities were sorely lacking. When you’re broken hearted, you aren’t usually thinking about what you look like (actually, you’re probably trying to avoid it), or how to recreate that expression. I had no idea how to look broken-hearted – only how to feel it.

This proved to be a difficulty on the shoot when I was supposed to be grieving and all I could come up with was a sort of blank/angst-filled expression. At this point, Ron pulled out his magic directing powers and took me aside to talk. He told everyone to clear the set so we’d be alone.

“So, tell me about the impetus for this song. What did it make you feel?  What were you thinking when you wrote it?” We spoke for a little while and then he left me for a couple minutes to get into that space.

As soon he walked out of the room, I was in tears. Then, he came back and we tried again. I still couldn’t bring myself to sob in front of the camera, but all the heaviness and grieving that the song was about managed to leak through in it’s own quiet way. It was good.

At this point, I was feeling the most grateful because everyone around me was so patient. I knew I wasn’t the best actor, but they were all willing to work with what I had. For some reason, I had thought that shooting a music video or any kind of film where you’re the star, would be glamorous and could even cause arrogance. I was so wrong. Being the “star” of this shoot, was incredibly humbling. There was a pressure, a good one, but a pressure none the less to do everything I possibly could to make it great. I was working with a team and my performance reflected not only on me but on everyone else who had a hand in this video’s creation. Being the “star”, is in itself a kind of burden because you have the greatest responsibility to represent the project well.

By the end of it, I was really enjoying myself. During the day, I found myself quietly praying to myself a lot; my nerves were jumping all over the place and I needed to remind myself to surrender it to God and not get too wrapped up in expecting a perfection that I couldn’t deliver. Overall, it was fun. It was really fun.

My hope for this video is that it will make everyone who was a part of it’s creation, proud. That we will grin broadly and say, “I helped make that happen.” I hope it’s a beautiful piece of art – yet another representation of what artists can make when they join together, meshing their gifts, to create something that none could have done alone.

[Editor’s note: for the record, her acting was spot on. Particularly her look at the end when she sees “the boy” coming. It was subtle and nuanced. And I’m not just saying that ‘cuz I’m the dad. 🙂 You’ll see for yourself when the video eventually posts.]

Imahni Dawson is a writer and musician, with a passion for helping others realize their own greatness. She loves learning and to create things whether that be music or prose, poetry, or art.

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