As a platform for creative inspiration, Pond5 attracts some of the world’s most talented artists — and that includes members of the staff. Pond5 Director of Audio Collections Mike Pace is a successful musician in his own right, formerly as the frontman of indie rock band Oxford Collapse and currently with his solo project, Mike Pace and the Child Actors.
For his newest album, Smooth Sailing, Mike wanted to kick things off with a music video that would capture attention while also providing a look at his quirky sense of style. He recruited another Pond5 employee, Greg Andreacchi, to get behind the camera, and through a combination of creative filming, green screen work, content from the Pond5 collection, and some happy accidents, he ended up with the Adult Swim-worthy clip for “Escape the Noise.”
DIY Done Right
Mike’s original plan for the video was to do something much simpler and more straightforward, but he quickly realized that to keep people watching for nearly five minutes takes a more considered approach. “I had this additional footage from a promotional photo shoot we had done at Brighton Beach,” Mike explains. “Greg shot a lot of video at the same time, and it just so happened that the car got a flat tire when we were heading out to Brighton Beach, so he was filming the whole incident, including me calling AAA, trying to fix the tire myself, and the AAA guy coming. And then we just got a bunch of cool footage of me on the beach and driving around.”
From there, it was a matter of figuring out how all the different pieces came together. “The great thing about music videos is that there’s always been that surreal, abstract aspect to them, where you can get away with a lot in terms of storytelling and technique, because it all falls under the guise of experimentation,” says Mike. “It’s like an experimental training ground for filmmakers. So it was a combination of not feeling beholden to any rules, but at the same time making sure that if I put that hat in slow-motion at the beginning, even if people don’t pick up on it, to me there’s a reason why I’m driving around looking for something, and then I finally find it on the beach.”
A Directing Debut
Despite years of playing music, recording albums, and making videos, Mike had never actually directed one himself before, so part of the experimentation was also finding his feet as a first-time director. “I had conceptualized videos before,” Mike explains. “There was a video for another Child Actors song, called “Summer Lawns,” from the first record that’s just me mimicking the song and a bunch of food being thrown at me in slo-mo, and then it ends with me projectile vomiting out of a 1984 Toyota Corolla. But my buddy directed that. I said, ‘This is what I want to do,’ and he made it happen. So this one was the first one where I did everything on my own.”
Taking full ownership of the project also provided perspective on just how much work is involved in making something you’re truly happy with. “I learned that there’s a fine balance between wanting to make a fun video for promotional purposes, and wanting to spend time on it and perfect it, and make it its own piece of ‘art,'” says Mike. Fortunately he still had some professional help.
“My wife is a professional video editor, so she did a lot of the finessing of some of the animation and just tightening up the video all around,” he reveals. “I just don’t have the patience to do that kind of thing. So I also learned that you should do what you can, but if you know someone who can do it better than you, cede to them. I do that with my music too. Work with people who are better than you. Have them do what they’re better than you at doing, for you, with you.”
Music for Music’s Sake
For someone who started out in the music business with all the benefits of a record contract — managers, publicists, pro studios, recording budgets, etc. — Mike has fully embraced the newer, independent way of doing things. “With the democratization of production, if you have a little bit of wherewithal and some software, you can make great sounding records at home, and you don’t need to go to a $200-an-hour studio, and you don’t need to be a Berkeley School of Music graduate to be able to do that,” he explains.
“Like I was saying, I find people who do something better than me, and I work with them. I have a friend named Matt LeMay, who I knew from my band days, who’s a very accomplished musician, engineer, producer, critic, and project manager, and essentially he produced the record. The caveat being that it took a year to do, because it was just done in free time. I have two kids, I have a full-time job, so I only have a very limited amount of time per day to actually work on the music. But it also allowed me to sit with it for a while. Musicians had it really good for a number years, being in a studio. I loved being in studios. I think a pristine recording environment is amazing, but it’s just not practical for most people. And you can make great sounding stuff on your own.”
Smooth Sailing is out now and available via Bandcamp and all streaming services.