Matt Leone, Music Video Director, Talks Production and Storytelling
Little Pebbles are a moody instrumental pop Americana group out of Morocco signed by Henry Stone himself at a smoky bar in Marrakesh.
Since moving to Little Haiti in Miami to record for the Henry Stone Music label, they’ve created visuals for their music with famed director Matt Leone of Leone Creative.
Here’s what Matt had to say about great storytelling, overcranking for smooth slow mo in 4K, and eating steaks with Henry Stone in Vegas.
Hey congrats on the awesome new Little Pebbles videos!
Cool. Yeah. Thank you.
What was the process like for shooting “Worthless and Weak?”
Here’s what the mindset was going into those projects. The first project was a very sad story about a guy, “Worthless and Weak.” Aaron Fishbein had some phenomenal guitar playing in that piece. We shot the entire thing in 4k, so that was the first music video I ever worked on in 4k. The challenge was that we needed to create mood. The guy had a love of his life and we don’t make it clear how, but he loses her. So the video shows him years later in life. He went downhill. He’s drinking. He lost the girl and he never got over her.
We create a bleak, stark mood of our hero taking a fruitless journey back to where he and the girl used to be together. He has to walk for miles, hop a train, and hitchhike just to finally get back to the long lost love nest they had together, and there’s a foreclosure sign on the door.
He’s carrying an odd shaped suitcase that he opens and pulls out the rose he gave the girl so long ago. He puts it on a pedestal where it stay red like the burning love that lasted for her all those years with no hope in sight.
That’s what the song’s about. A guy that’s real down on his luck.
How did you get it there?
We did a lot to it in post production. We shot in South Dade, not far from the Redlands, down the street from Robert Is Here. I’m getting gorgeous, lush, green, tropical foliage when what we wanted was bleak. And by the way it was 93 degrees out and we were sweating like you wouldn’t believe. So I used the Davinci colorizing program to take out all the green and make the foliage brown. The original video would freak you out. We turned it into a wintry scene. That was a challenge we overcame.
What about the flashback?
For the flashback we wanted a warm, nostalgic look with red warm colors. And then back to him at present and we get the stark lunary, all-is-lost feel. That was all created through color techniques.
How did you get involved with Henry Stone Music?
I’ve known Joe Stone for 25 years now. We started working on projects together in the early days of the internet and been working together ever since.
Can you talk about the other video you directed, “Nobody Cares?”
Sure. That one really isn’t a story so much as a mood piece. A feel piece. Aaron actually wanted to include the feel of the music. The heavy guitar and piano strings. You see the tight shot of the strings actually vibrating. We overcranked the hell out of the camera and ran the frame rate up. A lot of the shots we cranked up to 180 frames a second to give us a really clean slow-mo effect. That’s how we did that. We did that on the guitar and the piano strings. If we shot in real time, we never would have gotten that feel.
How did you film the shadowy female dance sequences?
Originally we were going to project her as a shadow on different textures. But when we were setting up the shot and the lights on the seamless white paper we said, “Wow, that looks good.” So we shot it like that and then in post we softened it up to make it a little more interesting. We also overcranked her movements so they’re very slow and fluid. It’s a very flowing piece that’s more about the sound and the music. Aaron is a connoisseur of vintage guitar sounds like nobody I’ve ever seen and he knows his licks and the way around the strings.
What did you shoot on?
We shot with the Sony FSX-7 a 4K camera that’s used to shoot major motion pictures. That’s the type of quality it is. The ability to overcrank at 4K, and the quality, and the depth of field will blow your mind. I also did a lot of compositing and colorizing in post. But I want to emphasize, it’s not about the gear, man. It’s about your ability to convey a story. It’s about storytelling. Everything of any value whether it’s a corporate promo, commercial, or music video is about telling a story in a compelling way so that people absorb the information or emotion that you’re trying to get across. I’ve been doing this 35 years now. I’m not a genius. I paid attention. When you do the same thing that long you can’t help but notice some things on the way. It’s intuitive for me. I can feel what the audience is looking for. What moves them. I’m always watching the audience to see where they’re reacting. Why they’re reacting. What moves them. It’s not just the shot, dude, it’s the timing. A half a second here, twenty frames earlier there. What type of shot goes into the next shot. How to arrange it. That takes years and years. It’s skill and craft. That’s why Joe came to me.
What was it like working with Henry Stone?
We got to know each other quite a bit over the years and what a fascinating story he has. All those acts, and groups, and artists. It was surreal at times to be talking to this guy. I met up with him in Vegas a few times and he talked about doing stuff with Frank Sinatra, and the time he almost bought RCA Records. It was fun. He told me about the time that George McCrae’s “Rock Your Baby” went worldwide. That was the apex for Henry Stone. When he was sitting in his office and they created that hit and started getting calls from Germany. He said “Oh my God,” and it went crazy and the orders started coming in from around the world. And when I asked him what made a hit, he said, “I have no idea. It’s magic. It almost comes out of nowhere, like it’s not in your hands. Like it’s God or a supreme being and everything just falls into place.” And that’s what we hope will happen with Little Pebbles and this moody instrumental genre.
Any shout outs?
The dancer in “Nobody Cares.” She was fabulous. Aaron Fishbein is just one of the best musicians I’ve ever come across. Joe Stone for believing in my vision. And Little Pebbles.
How can people get in contact with you?
Check out my website www.leonecreative.com and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org