Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Musical Theatre Music Videos: A Q&A with Annie Simpson

Hey, all! Here we are in 2014-- where did the time go?

With the new year come lots of new beginnings and hopefully a lot of great new theatre. One of my biggest resolutions this year is just that I want to create, to make more stuff, whether it be art, writing, or putting my work out there into the universe. On a similar wavelength, performer Annie Simpson recently got in touch with me about a new project she's working on: making good old fashioned music videos for new musical theatre writers' songs. With the pilot project being a video for Pasek and Paul's "Lying There," I was curious to know how Annie and her collaborator, Terrance Jackson, would approach other musical numbers and what place they hoped their videos would have in the musical theatre universe. Here's what Annie had to say:

Me: Where did the idea to make Musical Theatre Music Videos come from?

Annie Simpson: Like most musical theatre nerds, I spend a lot of time watching every theater related video I can get my hands on. One of my very best friends, Terrance Jackson, and I spend many nights on YouTube admiring what other artists are out there doing! Some of the greatest, most riveting, and heart-filled music belongs to musical theatre and yet, few people besides "theater people" ever experience it. Terrance and I want to change that. There are too many beautiful stories in musicals that some people will never even know about. That's when we realized that some sort of action needed to be taken. We started to wonder what would happen if we combined really great storytelling in music videos with the music of musical theatre? Perhaps if there was a someone who wouldn't be interested in sitting down and listening to a musical theatre song, they might be willing to watch a music video. If they were impacted by the music video, maybe they might want to watch another one or go see a live show someday. Musical theatre has done so much for my life and I want others to have that opportunity as well.

Me: How did you decide to do "Lying There" as your inaugural project? What was the process like concepting and shooting the video?

Annie: It all started one evening when Terrance and I were trying to decide what to do for the rest of the night. We are on tour right now and had a cancellation of a show we were scheduled to do the next day due to weather. Terrance and I are kind of like golden retrievers who can't sit still for very long at a time. One thing we have in common is a strong desire to create. We are always looking for new artistic endeavors that will challenge us! "Lying There" from Edges kind of found us. We both adore Pasek and Paul and love "Lying There". We listened to the song together and knew immediately it was perfect for our inaugural project. We were off to the races and the whole project was completed in less than 24 hours. We began by recording my voice on an accompaniment track at about 12:30 AM that night. We got up the next day and started to brainstorm how to storyboard this video. We decided midway through the storyboard process to cut straight to filming. "Lying There" is so beautifully crafted that the story we wanted to tell was jumping out at us and we were thinking too much and getting in the way! Our awesome friend, Barrett Guyton, was on board to make an appearance in this video and we totally improvised just about all of the footage. We would play the song in the background and let it speak to us. Terrance is an incredible director and was amazing at taking whatever impulses Barrett and I had and figuring out how to best capture those on film. Then we began the editing process which was surprisingly difficult. We had so much great footage that it was hard to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. It's amazing how if you seek to serve the piece of art you are creating, it will end up guiding you to exactly what it needs to be. And I hope that we were able to do that for this video!

Me: What songs are on your shortlist for future videos? What do you hope to ultimately do with these?

Annie: Oh my goodness. I have a long "wish list" of songs that I would be thrilled to do! I would love to do something from Children of Eden, Little Shop of Horrors, Last Five Years, Parade, It's Only Life...the list goes on and on! And that's such a great question...what do we hope to ultimately do with these? Robert Schumann once said that "to send light into the darkness of men's hearts- such is the duty of the artist." I simply love that quote because that is the goal. Always. With any piece of art we create, the goal is to send light into the darkness of people's hearts. Terrance and I ultimately hope to make the music of the musical theatre more accessible. We hope to tell honest stories through our videos and share music with people who really need it but simply might not know it's out there. 

Me: The main difference between musical theatre songs vs. other songs being made into music videos is that musical theatre songs often work in the context of a show or story. How are you approaching that in the way you storyboard your videos? Are you planning to make the videos standalone or are you looking to include more context from the shows in the future?

Annie: Absolutely. I read an article about Amy Poehler (whom I LOVE) the other day that quoted her saying, "Great people do things before they're ready. They do things before they know they can do it." To answer your question honestly, I don't know whether it will be better for these videos to stay closer to the context of the story of the show or be a more removed interpretation. We will probably try a little of both and see what people connect with more. That's scary because that means that some of these videos might fail but that's absolutely part of the process when you create art. Not everything you try is going to work, and that's okay. I think it will be a song by song basis on which we decide what is best for that video in particular and what story we are trying to tell with it.

Me: Have you been in contact with any of the songwriters? Would you be interested in collaborating with them, or are you more interested in a removed interpretation of the songs?

Annie: We have not been in contact with any of the songwriters quite yet but would be thrilled to collaborate one day with composers and lyricists! Composers and lyricists have amazing skills that blow me away. I would love to have anyone's input on the best way we could help share their beautiful work!


Betty Rose said...

This was a great read; I really like your blog, I love going to see London Shows so this was great for me! Thanks

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