Philadelphia-based producer Starkey released his album Charting Stardust (Original Soundtrack) last year on Sacred Phrases, and today we’re excited to premiere the music video for “Ecliptic,” directed by Jon Conklin. (Both Conklin and Starkey are Pond5 Select contributors.) The video follows the journey of all-female biker crew The Miss-Fires as they ride through New York City to pay tribute to a fallen friend, “Rosa.”
Unlike most music videos, this film came before the song. “I wanted to make a film that had a lot of feeling to it, less of a story and more of a vibe,” explains Conklin. “The soundscape, music, and editing are all a big part of that.” The film went through a number of sonic iterations including voiceover and diegetic sound design including cars, motorcycles, and ambient city noise, but Conklin was still undecided on sound when Starkey sent him “Ecliptic.” “When I dropped it into my edit, the song added so much to the film that I was married to it from that moment on,” says Conklin. “I was happy to turn this into a music video for Starkey.”
All shots from the “Ecliptic” video are available in Jon Conklin’s Pond5 library
Starkey grew up with music around the house. “My mom used to play Thriller and Jesus Christ Superstar. Those were huge musical influences for me,” he recalls. But where he really stands out is in his basis for cinematic music — his parents own the oldest drive-in movie theater in North America. Surrounded by popcorn, movie posters, candy, and piano-playing babysitters, Starkey dreamt of scoring sci-fi films. Today, he’s a producer, Music Department Chair at the Community College of Philadelphia, and father; runs his own labels, Seclusiasis, Slit Jockey Records, and NOREMIXES; and has been composing music to be performed in service to film for years. His music has been featured in commercials and video games, and on festival circuits like the Sundance Short Film Festival, Montreal Short Film Festival, and the Long Beach Film Festival.
“Ecliptic” is available in Starkey’s Pond5 Library.
Behind the Scenes
The “Ecliptic” video was shot just before winter, when most members of the Miss-Fires put their bikes away for the season. Conklin and crew attached an Alexa Mini to a Freefly MōVI rig, which acted as a stabilizer. Then they attached the stabilizer to the back of a Jeep Wrangler, which helped to keep the camera steady while driving fast over bumpy roads. “As far as I know, we are the only people to ever shoot with that kind of a setup,” says the director. “We completely invented it from scratch.”
The MōVI Rig with a freezing crew member
With a small but dedicated crew, the bulk of the filming was done overnight between Manhattan and Brooklyn. The crew created a caravan of sorts, consisting of the Jeep, a sedan, and the bikers. The sedan led, to watch for any traffic or upcoming roadblocks. The Jeep, filled with gear and crew members, was second. Finally came the bikers, who rode directly behind the Jeep. When the crew was composing the next shot, the bikers jumped into the sedan to blast the heat.
The Miss-Fires, after wrapping the shoot at dawn.
The Creative Process
When talking about their process, both Starkey and Conklin put emphasis on choice. As with any shoot, Conklin was responsible for thousands of choices here. Without hesitation, he rattles off: “Frame rate, resolution, costume, what to shoot, how obvious of a plot the video should have, and then everything pertaining to the character of ‘Rosa.’”
Conklin decided to go with a subtle visual effect and white helmet to show “Rosa” as a ghost
He says the character required a ton of thought because he wanted her to stand out. “We needed her to noticeably be a ghost, so we tested an effect that looked like chem-trails billowing off of her body as the motorcycle moved through the frame,” he reveals. “In the end, that was a bit heavy-handed, so we went for a more subtle effect, which was to reduce the opacity of Rosa, while everything else in the frame was normal opacity. That created the effect we were looking for; you almost have to squint your eyes to notice it.”
Alessandra Recine, a member of the Miss-Fires, between scenes.
“I tell my students all the time that they need to make choices,” says Starkey. “My heart has always been in doing music for visual media, doing it on a bigger scale. That’s a hard circle to break into, but it’s a choice I’m making. Ultimately, I want to make music that I like.” You can hear that Starkey isn’t going for a big-room house sound or a top 40 producer-of-the-month accolade. He’s been told by DJs that they want to play his music, but they have to wait until the afterparty because there are too many changes for the dance floor. “Your goal might be to sell 100,000 copies of a record,” he says. “That’s totally fine. You have to decide which path you want to go. I’ve made my choice.”
You can license the song and footage in the “Ecliptic” video through Pond5 Select.