Meat Is Murder!

It all led, eventually, to Frank Cordoba. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Meat Is Murder!

The six-year making of Inhumanwich! is such a jumble in my mind, I can’t say for certain when work started on the theme song. During editing, there were on-and-off discussions of moving the main credits to the start of the movie, which would leave only “Mitch’s Song” to run over the end credit crawl. And, somewhere along that on and off, we chose to move the main titles to the end, as originally scripted.

(If you haven’t seen the film: it opens with a single title card and ends with an animated main titles sequence after the movie proper. You know, like one of them Marvel movies everybody seems to like.)

Somewhere in the haze of all that decision making, I decided I wanted a theme song over the end titles, and I decided it needed to be called “Meat Is Murder!” (which was my backup title for the film itself, if we were to receive any nasty looks from a certain sloppy Joe sauce manufacturer).

But what would it sound like? I settled on Lemmy’s cover of “Blue Suede Shoes” as loose inspiration – the blend of vintage 50s rock and modern chaos fits the movie, but more honestly, I just love that version – then worked out a few verses in my head.

Again, I’m not sure when all that happened. But I do know that last summer, I reeled in Shane and John, the Argo One musical team, to figure out the song for real.

The songwriting and recording processes were great fun. John chiseled out the old school rock and roll vibe (while working in his main theme from the Inhumanwich! score as a nice touch); Shane added a harder punk vibe and a great distorted sound. Both helped grind the lyrics, including some new verses, into shape.

We recorded with Jerry Dirr abusing the drums (and, with Shane and me, some throat-shredding screaming), John on guitar for the verses, and Shane improvising the two guitar solos (plus a solid bass track). Add in some clever mixing tricks on Shane’s end, and the whole thing turned out better than I ever imagined.

I ended up crediting the performance to “The InhuBandwich,” and while they’re supposed to be semi-anonymous in a playful kind of way, anyone who reads the songwriting credit (or, well, this blog post, whoops) can figure it out.

So, OK, that’s the song. But this is about the video, right? Sure.

I knew I wanted to make a video for “Meat Is Murder!” before we even recorded it, but my ideas for a video were vague at best. I wanted Brad and Mike to either reprise their roles from the movie or just hang out on screen as themselves. I wanted clips from the movie projected on a wall behind the action. I wanted the band in there somewhere. I wanted an angry mob. I wanted to tinker with frame rates and film speed. I wanted Mike with a protest sign for some reason. I wanted a food fight, especially if it ended in Brad once again covered in sloppy joe meat. Also, maybe masks?

Organizing the shoot was fairly easy – Brad, Mike, and the band were all eager to join in, while my old pal Kerri arranged for us to film upstairs at Dive Bar, a wonderful joint in Clifton whose upstairs was perfect for our needs.

But deciding what too shoot? Not so easy.

It quickly became clear that the mob wasn’t going to happen, nor would the movie projection. The food fight was scrapped early on.

We still went with the protest sign and the frame rate tinkering and the masks. (John and Jerry designed their own disguises; John suggested a Shia LaBeouf parody, and how can you say no to that?) I brought bubbles, sparklers, and silly string in place of food fight meat.

But aside from the opening and closing shot and a very loose idea for guitar solo footage, the only plan we had for certain was “let’s get there, look around, and see what strikes our fancy.”

This is how I like to shoot all music videos, by improvising shots on set, then building it in editing. Depending on your outlook, this is either a fun, loose approach that aims to get the most from the purest creative freedom, or it’s laziness. (The truth is probably somewhere in between.)

And so everyone, all six of us, wound up directing the thing. I’d suggest a shot, and Shane would fine tune it. I couldn’t get a moving shot to quite work, so Mike would try it out. Brad suggested working with the glass doors that led out to a construction area. Jerry and John figured out how to work out close-up lip sync shots for guys whose faces we never see. And on, and on.

It all turned out great, especially the footage we filmed at high speed (to play back in slow motion) and low speed (to play back in crazy fast motion). In fact, the fast motion stuff turned out so well, I wish I shot more that way.

Piecing it all together was a cinch; our usual “it’s digital, we can afford to shoot everything we think up” method left me with an overload of usable clips, and I could probably work out ten or fifteen alternate cuts. Once I figured out the “negative” look for certain beats, the shape of the final cut became clear. After I finished my rough cut, I only needed a few tweaks to get to the end.

The end result is a rarity: a work of mine I’m truly proud of, for every frame. I spend much of my time picking over my other projects, finding flaws and wishing for a do-over, if only to fix a shot, an edit, a punchline. Not so here, in a film where everything actually worked. I really, truly like this video. It gets to the heart of my weirdest side.

But back, finally, to Frank Cordoba. He’s a name I invented for Jim: The Story of Jim (because it needed a fake name on screen, so why not fake it off screen, too?) and decided to haul out again here. Crediting myself as director seemed wrong – too many of us had input, even more than usual on an Argo set – but crediting everybody felt like overkill. So: Frank Cordoba returns.

I like this idea. I was discussing with friends recently how a collaborative production can make it difficult at times to straighten out all the credits. Maybe Frank can continue to be my out in such matters, a catch-all pseudonym for those times when no single vision was in play.

He’s a good egg, that Frank.

copyright 2017 David Cornelius all rights reserved


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