6 minute read
X-H2S highlights the poignancies of a heartfelt music video exploring memory and nostalgia, visualized amid the altered orbits of Alzheimer’s disease
Cast in dulled grays and bluish hues, an elderly woman lies sleeping, her surroundings subdued by muted hums of soft focus. Rising gingerly, she ambles to a nearby kitchen, prompted by a somber glance at a nearby sticky note. Tacked to her door frame, the message reads ‘coffee’.
Near a whirring appliance, another memorandum is affixed to the plastic. Scrawled with the same hand, ‘brush hair’ is scribbled messily across the paper. A solemn expression greets the reminder, and like clockwork, the woman hobbles languidly back to her bedroom.
Cut to an assortment of framed photographs, scattered across a bedside cabinet. Suddenly, the woman’s appearance brightens. As reminiscence takes hold, memories flood the room in juts of iridescent color. Emerging from the light, a younger, sprightlier version of our protagonist appears in phantom form – an attendant companion, clutching the story in a bind of relived events.
Forming the basis of band Maple Mars’s latest music video, these are the triggers of a fractured memory, cracked and riddled with dementia.
The accompanying track “Gliding” was originally written as an ode to heartbreak by front man Rick Hromadka while experiencing the challenges of divorce. However, his powerful lyrics were reimagined by Fujifilm veteran Michael Bulbenko and Creative Director Lindsay Mushett, who also stars in the video. From here, the song took on a new lease of life.
The resultant visuals are testament to the power of artistic interpretation, and the complexities that inevitably accompany this kind of adaptation.
“It moved me. I had a totally visceral reaction,” Lindsay remembers. “I know it was meant to represent a separation, but I perceived it as an ascension of sorts – a communication of moving on and letting go. In the context of Alzheimer’s, age and remembrance, these words complement the pictures perfectly.”
“Art can be so profound because it creates empathy for deeply human experiences. Regardless of the original sentiment, I drew out additional layers of meaning, as did Michael.”
Photo 2022 © Kevin Castro | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF35mmF2 R WR, 1/500 sec at F2, ISO 250
Photo 2022 © Kevin Castro | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF35mmF2 R WR, 1/2000 sec at F2.5, ISO 400
Making use of FUJIFILM X-H2S, the short encapsulates the pangs of old age, framed amid the memories of a life lived, and eventually forgotten.
Elizabeth Gaylynn Baker stars alongside Lindsay in the video, which chronicles the collision of two separate timelines; the actors representing opposing incarnations of the same character. Uniting youth (Lindsay) and infirmity (Elizabeth) in bittersweet imaginings, our central character recalls her glory days in fading apparitions of long ago.
Perceptively, the life and vitality of these visions communicate how regression can be something of a double-edged sword – an undoubtedly sad affair, yet oddly happy in how it permits a contented, albeit counterfeit, pathway to the past.
“It was all about the notion of an older woman connecting with her early life – having that sense of adventure, even if it was an ultimately unhappy ending,” Lindsay notes.
“I’m really lucky to have worked alongside Elizabeth. Her performance was so truthful and raw. We’re actually neighbors, so that definitely helped to facilitate the connection!”
Drawing on her acting acumen, Lindsay’s personal experiences with the degenerative disease informed the progression of ideas as they took shape. Autobiographical inspirations lent her performance an authenticity that only first-hand experience can accurately conjure.
“Even though my grandmother was in her eighties, she’d often lapse and believe she was in her teens, or twenties.
“I thought this film would help me tackle those thoughts and hopefully make sense of them. Coming up with visuals for a music video is like a trampoline or a rocket – you can pack it full of your own theories and readings, and watch it take off.”
Photo 2022 © Kevin Castro | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF35mmF2 R WR, 1/2000 sec at F3.2, ISO 400
Photo 2022 © Kevin Castro | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF35mmF2 R WR, 1/4000 sec at F2, ISO 640
Brimming with heart and soul, the accompanying track is an upbeat tune – a plucky piece of power pop, straight from the pages of a Badfinger songbook. Obtaining music from his wife’s independent label – Big Stir Records – the song was furnished to Michael, along with X-H2S and an assortment of FUJINON MKX lenses.
“Once we sourced the music, we assembled a modest budget and crew. From there, it was all about gear,” Michael recounts.
“Fujifilm has been great at maintaining consistency of usability throughout their cameras. If you’re already part of that ecosystem, the interface isn’t going to throw you off at all. As a constant Fujifilm user, I found X-H2S to be totally seamless.”
On top of his directorial responsibilities, Michael also adopted the role of cinematographer – an all-too-familiar position for the experienced practitioner.
Juggling both these positions was an undoubted challenge, but thanks to a documented history with the brand, he was able to translate abstract concepts into technical realities. Proficiency and expertise enabled an erudite manipulation of Fujifilm equipment, transforming inspiration into fruition.
Photo 2022 © Kevin Castro | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF35mmF2 R WR, 1/1000 sec at F2, ISO 400
Photo 2022 © Kevin Castro | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF35mmF2 R WR, 1/500 sec at F2, ISO 400
“With X-H2S, you’ve got excellent cinematic capabilities. Take the contrast between the opening and middle sections of this video, for instance,” he begins.
Intentionally flat and murky, the opening scenes reflect a muddy, indistinct frame of mind. But once the woman’s past self enters the fray, we’re party to a full and effectual use of X-H2S – its resources an ideal means of conveying the intensity of emotion on display.
Photo 2022 © Kevin Castro | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF35mmF2 R WR, 1/125 sec at F2, ISO 800
Photo 2022 © Kevin Castro | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF35mmF2 R WR, 1/60 sec at F2, ISO 800
“She’s recollecting the happiness of her youth – that’s what those scenes were all about. We changed the filtration to make the image seem dreamier, and pumped up the color. We recorded in 6.2K during this section, and that sharpness really helped to heighten the sentiment.”
Using two X-H2S cameras for the sake of continuity, most of the project was recorded with FUJINON MKX18-55mmT2.9. For handheld sequences, Michael opted for smaller, lightweight XF lenses – specifically, XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR, XF35mmF2 R WR and XF56mmF1.2 R WR.
“Contrast levels are great with this glass. They work so well when you combine them with X-H2S,” he reveals. “The smaller lenses were ideal for gimbal work. In that context, you can take advantage of the autofocus – it’s wickedly fast. Pair it with a good rig and let the kit do the heavy lifting.”
Sidestepping anything superfluous, Michael simplified his approach so that he could focus on the narrative at hand. Drawing on X-H2S’s superlative stabilization, principal photography was helped along by the sheer might of the camera.
“I wanted to stay at an even Exposure Index of around 640,” he explains. “Managing the windows with only a few grips, we worked with a lot of natural light. I knew I needed to keep the ISO low for that reason, and the sensor coped perfectly.
“When it came to keeping images stable, we made extensive use of IBIS. Sometimes we even went handheld, it was that good. Having seven stops is massively impressive for a camera this size.”
Working in the Silver Lake area of Hollywood Hills, an old manor house served as location for two-days of filming. Constructed in the early 20th century, it stands as one of the first residences built in the neighborhood – imbued with the heritage of a city built on the magic of movies.
Photo 2022 © Kevin Castro | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF35mmF2 R WR, 1/500 sec at F5, ISO 500
Photo 2022 © Kevin Castro | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF35mmF2 R WR, 1/1000 sec at F2, ISO 500
“The owner informed us that Charlie Chaplin once attended a party there, allegedly,” Michael notes, smiling.
“It certainly has a lot of history. Inside, it’s absolutely beautiful. It looks out onto the reservoir, with a phenomenal terrace in the backyard. Everything a photographer could ever wish for is there. Honestly, X-H2S was the best tool for the job.”
Banding together as one, personnel united with a concerted, integrated ethos. It’s this collaborative spirit that best defines “Gliding” and its production.
“Everyone put their heart and soul into this production. The crew were amazing – I honestly can’t thank them enough,” Lindsay observes.
“It was an excellent opportunity to utilize the craft I’ve been working on all these years,” Michael agrees. “Fujifilm provided us with an ideal opportunity to put all these things into practice. The whole crew worked so hard, and with a camera like X-H2S, we were destined to create something memorable.”