Set It Off Dance Video

by Jimmy on January 21, 2010

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Synopsis:  A young man sets off on a dance tour of downtown D.C. set to the tune of DJ Girl Talk’s “Set It Off” from his album Feed the Animals

Making the video (read after watching video): I’ve always wanted to make a music video and I’ve always wanted to be in a music video.  For one, I am a really good dancer as evident from the video you just watched.  However, what you saw was only a small piece of the larger rug that I cut almost every day.  I don’t get out to clubs and dance bars much so I might have appeared a bit reserved in this video.  I wasn’t used to dancing for such large audiences, in this case tourists in and around the National Mall.  I usually get my dancing out in the privacy of my own home.  I like to dance for 30 minutes every morning on the weekends to get me ready for the day.  And sometimes after work, I like to dance in my long johns while my wife does some sort of crafts project.  She looks up from time to time to nod approvingly when she notices a particularly pleasing new dance move.  Anyways, it felt kind of liberating to dance outside in the sunshine.  They should start outdoor clubs where you go and dance and get drunk all during the day in the sunlight.  How novel and beautiful would that be?  How come we always end up dancing in the middle of night in a sweaty club?

This particular dance video was shot after work in the summertime.  I felt I needed to do something creative and fun after another mind-numbingly boring day at work.  I have to admit that I was nervous going into this whole situation.  However, I knew I was going to do it and when my mind commits to something, I go on auto pilot and I keep telling myself, “For a couple minutes of embarrassment, you’ll have something beautiful to show for eternity.”  That’s the mind frame I’m in when I start most projects.  During the making of this video, I was employed by the USDA, which has its main building right off of the Mall.  All I had to do was walk out the front door and start heading towards the Lincoln Memorial.  I first stopped at 14th Street and Independence to do a dance on the field of the Mall in between the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial.  As always, after I set up my tripod, I asked two strangers to come take a look at the LCD screen on my digital camera to tell me if I was in frame.  In exchange for their help, they got first row seats to the dancing extravaganza.  I knew they enjoyed the dance because when I played back the video on my computer I could hear them laughing a lot.  After videoing this segment, I thought I had enough video to work with to finish my dance video.  The WWII Memorial and Lincoln Memorial were in the background of this shot and that’s what I wanted.  I had already shot the dance footage from when I was in the tree and in my backyard (the part where I do the handstand and my wife is weeding our garden).  I also had the footage of me and my coworker, Avis, dancing in our office.  But, I just wasn’t satisfied with this shot.  It felt cheap.  I had to get closer.  I had to get Lincoln’s face right next to my face.  So I kept pushing ahead and I continued walking towards old Lincoln sitting on his big ass chair.

When I arrived, it was awfully crowded on the steps of the Memorial.  Lots of tourists and student groups walking about, relaxing on the steps, and taking pictures.  I saw a young student group, possibly from a middle school, and I got up the nerve to ask them if they wanted to be in a music video with me.  They seemed a particularly rambunctious group and I so I knew they would oblige.  Moreover, in this day in age everyone wants to be a star even if it’s being a YouTube star in their own inner circle.  Sort of like myself with you all.  So the students listened to my cue when they should start dancing and danced they did.

Afterwards, I went up the Memorial stairs to get the shots of Lincoln in the background and the Monument far away in the distance, respectively.  Surprisingly, when I was doing all this only one person asked me what I was doing.  From my time on the streets videoing my street musicians documentary, most people are in too much of a hurry to worry about what an Asian guy with a camera is doing.  Now if I had a large DVX 100 with a huge boom mic attached, people might start noticing.  But I try my best to be as inconspicuous as possible when making anything out in public.  So I’m quite happy with my small prosumer HV30 and small shotgun mic.  It also doesn’t hurt that most Asian people in D.C. are tourists with cameras around their necks or shoulders.

Fun facts:  At the end of the music video, a Park Service Officer tells me to turn the camera off and take the tripod down.  This was not planned.  And after I told him, “No need to touch it [my camera].”  He told me, “Do you want me to take the camera?”  I wasn’t intimidated though, because I knew that the only rule working against me was that I couldn’t video on a tripod.  So I took the camera off the tripod and put the camera on my plastic lunch container.  That’s where I got those wonderful shots of the girls sitting down and scooting to the left so that I could get the Monument in the background of the shot where I jump out and do a brief break dancing move.  I saw the officer pacing around while I videoed on my tupperware and he couldn’t say nothing until I was all danced out and left.  Let’s just say I don’t like Park Service Officers because they harass street musicians who try to play in and around the Mall.  They are just trying to make a living and I’m just trying to make movie magic.

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