Shooting a Music Video

Picture of filmmaker Kenn Crawford Shooting a music video is a team effort and often has more people working behind the camera than there are performing in front of it. For Sheldon O’Neill’s I’ll Keep a Light On video I kept the crew small – Margie Marr, Angela Smith, Chad Bryden, Andrew Parland and Natalie Boutlier all performed a variety of duties such as running the audio, moving equipment, prepping the sets and whatever else needed to be done.


Long before you pick up a camera you have to know what it is you’re going to be filming. I came up with the basic concept by listening to the song repeatedly to help me visualize what it could look like, then Andrew and I sat down with Sheldon to discuss the concept to make sure everyone was on the same page.

Because of the song’s lyrics the concept we developed was that of “Cold and Lonely” with some type of light in the shots wherever possible – mostly candles.

Once we settled on the overall concept, Margie and I worked out the details and scouted a few locations to make sure they fit our concept. Once I had all my ducks in a row, it was time to start filming.

The Shoot – Day 1

Photo of filmmaker Kenn CrawfordThe first day of the shoot is always the longest. It’s when the pressure is on and the tension is high. I make a point of clowning around, cracking jokes and doing impersonations to keep the atmosphere light. I find it pulls the best performance out of people because they’re no longer “on edge” all the time from hoping they don’t screw up.

Margie and I created the set by rearranging my living room  and adding props to give us several usable angles, such as over-heads, sitting at the piano, and dolly shots of Sheldon on the couch lighting a candle. We then moved the shoot into my recording studio to get some cool shots in there.

Trivia: The microphone I used in the studio shots, my beloved Electrovoice RE320 is an end-fire microphone, which means you sing or speak into the end and not into the side of it, but in most videos people expect the mic to be hanging from overhead so we did it that way too. People familiar with microphones will probably shake their head at that clip because the mic should never be used like that, but for most viewers it just looks cool.

The Shoot – Day 2

Today we headed down to Renwick Park in Glace Bay to shoot the infamous duck footage. Because we didn’t want ducks following us around during the other scenes we decided to save that scene for last.

We started with some footage of Sheldon leaning against a brick wall, then we moved to the second location of him under the Commercial Street bridge for some walking shots with the harbor in the background, and him singing while leaning against a concrete wall filled with graffiti.

Then it was time to shoot the ducks. That’s not what I meant! No ducks were harmed during filming but I can’t say the same for Sheldon. This one duck was getting so mad that it wasn’t getting enough food it started pecking at Sheldon… a lot! I could tell by Sheldon’s colorful language that it really hurt.

With the duck scene finished we packed up and headed to the next location in the community of Tower Road. Much to my dismay they tore down the old footbridge. The new one looked nice but it didn’t have the same character as the dilapidated old bridge. Luckily the graffiti I wanted for a different shot was still there. Once we got those shots we moved up towards the dam to get a few more clips before calling it a day.

Trivia: I used the same locations out Tower Road to shoot several scenes for my upcoming film AMYGDALA

The Shoot -Day 3

Unlike the other days, this one started much later due to scheduling conflicts. The first location we planned for Day 3 was the breakers at South Street Beach, but I forgot to check the tides and the water was too high to get any decent shots. I decided to get some footage of him standing at the cliffs – ironically, we shot those scenes at the end of Cliff Street.

From there we shot a few takes at the Glace Bay harbor but we were losing light fast and most of them didn’t turn out. I did pull a quick segment from a practice run we did even though it was a bit too shaky for my liking.

The next location was back out to the Tower Road Volunteer Fire Department – they graciously allowed us to shoot the stage and restaurant scenes in the fire hall. For continuity purposes the final video doesn’t actually have any of the “restaurant” footage, but the stage shots turned out awesome.

When we wrapped up shooting it was back to my house for a few more indoor shots – namely the mirror shot, and Sheldon playing solitaire to reinforce the “lonely” part of the Cold and Lonely concept.

The Edit

My friend and fellow filmmaker, Brett Holmes, graciously allowed me use some of his time-lapse footage and it really added to the video. Over forty video tracks of Sheldon performing his song were added to my editing system, not counting the inserts. The rest hit the cutting room floor.

The next three days I spent shaping and molding the video until I was happy with the result. And like all artists, the following day I  made more changes. Then more the day after that… and the day after that.

The Final Video

Thanks for taking the time to read our story. Click the image below to watch the final video for “I’ll Keep a Light On” by Sheldon O’Neill. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed shooting it.