At worst, the scene could have looked like something out of American Movie, a documentary in which amateur filmmaker Mark Borchardt and his listless Midwestern friends try to make a full length feature with no budget, no cast and no prospects for getting a hold of either.
It could have been a sad landscape indeed, but Harvard rap group Tha League made sure that the set of their first music video was not crowded with lukewarm Milwaukee beers and broken typewriters, but $60,000 Arriflex-SR3 16mm cameras, professional lighting and state of the art sound equipment.
The music video, filmed in support of “Stop Stop,” a song recorded for the upcoming Veritas Records compilation, had been in the making for six weeks before the band finally began filming last Friday.
With a seemingly inexhaustible budget, the boys of Tha League—Nicholas H. Barnes ’05, Dominique C. Deleon ’04, Kwame Owusu-Kesse ’06 and Brandon M. Terry ’05—hired an extensive team of professional filmmakers to work on the video, a project that executive producer Jonathan R. Ardrey ’05 calls a “career launching, independent project for everyone involved.”
The band hopes to get the video played on MTV, BET and the Fuse Network after they release it on DVD later this spring, and though their lack of major label support may hurt their chances, the song would fit the rotation with Deleon’s “Wanksta”-reminiscent beat and the group’s Sean Paulish vocal delivery.
According to Deleon, the video follows three people—each played by a member of Tha League—as they separately try to find their way to a mansion party that Barnes’ character has invited them to.
“We’re all trying to leave our respective places where we are and get to this party, sort of like being at Harvard on the weekends,” he says. “I’m working at a grocery store, and a girl comes in, and I see her with her boyfriend, who’s extra big and extra thugged out. I’m trying to rap to her while her boyfriend’s there, and at the end she gives me her number and I try to leave with her and go to the party. The boyfriend of course comes after me because it’s his girlfriend and everything, so I have to transform into Rick James and smack him.”
The video ends with a real party scene, filmed on location near the Harvard campus, where the protagonists win over the girls and a good time is had by all.
“There’s a theme running through it, but it’s a four minute medium, so the storyline can only be so deep,” says Deleon.
Despite its short running time, the video’s plot called for several disparate locales, and by the second day of filming, when the 40 person cast and crew descended upon the Broadway Market in Cambridge, the team had already been to South Boston, Waltham and a private board room at Weston Copley Place.
On Location With Tha League and B2K
At 10 p.m. on Saturday night, the third in a grueling weekend of 19-hour work schedules, Deleon makes his way through the aisles of the grocery store, observing the work of the direction team and making sure things are running smoothly.
“Yesterday was a fiasco, man. I got up mad early and came up to South Station, and the police apparently came down and busted them up in because we didn’t have a permit,” he says. “But you know, that’s part of making a music video.”
Ardrey, the video’s executive producer, paces around a nearby salad bar arranging impromptu choreography for a group of eleven year-olds who have been hired to spoof popular R&B group B2K.
“It’s a line in the song,” explains Deleon. “I go, ‘So say what you gotta say, cuz you just going through the motions like B2K.’”