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Live, Raw, Real: Producing One-Take Online Music Videos

There's a wave of raw, demolike one-take music videos with an unmistakable live feel sweeping the web, and some savvy event filmmakers have thrown their hats into thering. Here we look behind the scenes of Bill Grant's boneshow and Jet Kaiser's One Take Shows, and get their spin on this new, viral field-recording phenomenon.

If you want your MTV, then move along; this article isn’t for you. But stick around if you’re intrigued by the prospect of watching or producing genuine homespun, documentary-style short films of roots/Americana musicians performing their songs.

“You had me at documentary-style,” you say? Well, it gets better. Turns out that producing these little labors of love—and you better sincerely love indie musicians (meaning, more often than not, struggling musicians) to take the time—can be a rewarding diversion to your wedding or event filmmaking and a great way to apply your ability to capture the moment and get great shots the first time to a whole different sort of undertaking.

There’s a wave of these unproduced, demolike, one-take music videos sweeping the web, and some of your fellow wedding filmmakers have caught on. It started, we’re told, way back in April 2006, when Vincent Moon (real name: Mathieu Saura), a young filmmaker from Paris, conspiring with Chyrde, creator of popular French music website La Blogothèque, filmed songs guerrilla-style “to go” (as opposed to shooting in a standard concert setting) and then uploaded them to the website for mass consumption.

The result was Take-Away Shows, a collection of more than 100 music videos featuring prominent indie rock artists from all over the world performing ad hoc in the apartment balconies, poorly lit cafes, and alleyways of Paris. Most are intimate, single-take recordings of acoustic performances.

Bill Grant

Birth of the boneshow

“I was instantly struck by the power and immediacy of the performances I saw [on La Blogothèque] and realized that I could bring that to the ‘small’ musician as a promotional tool,” recalls Bill Grant of South Carolina’s Caveat Films. With his wife, Mary, a photographer, Grant shoots dozens of weddings yearly. He’s also a lifelong musician, and after watching Moon’s Take-Away Shows and seeing the alchemy achieved despite minimal budget and editing, Grant’s love of music prompted him to start his own series, dubbing it the boneshow.

“My goal with the boneshow was to bring the local musician and national artist on the same plane and focus on performance and musicianship over studio perfection,” he says. Since February 2009, Grant has shot 85 one-take videos, starting with friend and “local legend” Danielle Howle. Many performers are local to South Carolina, but boneshow has also featured national acts such as Amy Ray.

boneshow56 from Steve Nathans-Kelly on Vimeo.