Although frequent collaborates when it comes to that all important element of score, musicians are rarely perceived as the driving force behind film projects even when it's created as a promotional tool for their music. Not so with Ben Lovett, who co-wrote, co-edited and stars in the heart pounding, civil war era chase short Ghost of Old Highways:
Ghost of Old Highways is the fourth film in an ongoing project from Lovett called the Highway Collection in which the musician is partnering with different directors to bring the nine tracks of his album to visual life across a variety of filmic styles.
This instalment is the second collaboration between Lovett and director Dan Bush (Lovett scored Bush's feature The Signal back in 2007). Citing An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge as an initial inspiration, Bush was drawn to the project by the song's dark theme of ego death. The project goals very quickly expanded from music promo to high production value short encompassing period costumes, stunt doubles, special effects, props -- including a particularly impressive six barrelled revolving musket -- and a Fitzcarraldo like journey for cast, crew and equipment up the North Carolina Black Balsam Knob mountains for its seven day RED and Canon 5D shoot. This all achieved on a zero budget:
It's about creating the right kind of motivation for people. If in fact Money is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions, the answer to your question is perhaps the one that's left. You'd be surprised what people will put themselves through to make art. Our crew was all volunteers, people who get paid to do this sort of thing every day on commercial productions. Those gigs require hard work but not always an end result to write home about. Creative people ultimately require creative satisfaction, and don't often call up their friends to tell them about a car commercial or reality tv show they worked on.
Sometimes you're lucky and the right folks come together at the right time with a common goal of making something spectacular in order to realign themselves with why they enjoy doing this sort of work in the first place. "Ghost Of Old Highways" got a heroic effort by a lot of people who could have decided they had better things to do than hike up a mountain for a week to make a piece of art. We owe the success of all this to them entirely.
Once the images were in the can, Lovett went through a lengthy sound design process as no location sound had been recorded, the intention being to "approach it like a cartoon". Lovett then reunited with members of Ponderosa to record the score mostly live to the picture, based on the original four minute track.
You can see how it all came together in this making of video:
And by means of comparison here are the first three Highway Collection films:
With the Highway Collection producing such a varied and watchable body of films, it's something we'll definitely be keeping an eye on and hopefully more musicians will follow in Lovett's hands on footsteps.
Be sure to share any examples of stunning narrative music videos you've made or seen in the comments.