On the set of Dessa's "Call Off Your Ghost" music video
Dessa's first album since 2011's Castor, the Twin will be released on June 25, but she just debuted the first music video promoting Parts of Speech, and it's as stunning as the word-artist herself. Weaving words and images together, "Call Off Your Ghost" brims with symbolism and emotional narrative -- from reflections (literal and metaphorical) in a beautifully mosaicked broken mirror to the starkness of a white room decorated with empty picture frames.
Earlier this year, Gimme Noise got to hang out on set for half of the two-day video shoot with Dessa and dozens-strong crew around Northeast Minneapolis on a chilly spring morning.
The first day of the shoot took place at Public Functionary, a new gallery in Northeast, shortly after their inaugural exhibit debuted to the public. The space inside the gallery was compact and almost claustrophobic, just a single room to roam about with oversized, patterned canvasses and mosaics covering the walls as part of the Dzine: Victory exhibit. The crown jewel of the space was an enormous, low-hanging chandelier in the middle of the room featured throughout the video.
The second day of filming began with shooting beneath a bridge with trains rumbling overhead every few minutes. After several hours of shots on the sidewalk, the crew migrated to an indoor studio where a three-sided room had been erected, all the furniture expertly rigged by on fly lines to seamlessly float into the air on command.
Dessa drew upon her experiences dealing with seeing her ex around town and coming to terms with the emotional tug and pull that comes from moving on. Though "Call Off Your Ghost" is technically a breakup song, it comes off more as a brilliant catharsis rather than biting criticism of a doomed relationship. Piecing together reflections post-breakup, she said, "I think we've got meaningful scenes that create a full emotional picture."
After having searched for a creative team with distinct ideas about her song, Dessa credits director Dan Cummings of Picture Machine Productions with much of the inspiration for the video. "I sent the song to a few directors," Dessa said. "I listened to treatments from them, and I thought that Dan was enthusiastic about the music, which is important to me when picking a team. I always try to pick a team that really cares about the art."
Checking the lighting on a shot of Dessa in studio
The pair worked on a vision for the film for six weeks, coming up with a storyboard that hinged less on viewers finding concrete plot lines and more on finding empathy with the situation at hand.
Often the rationale behind breakups becomes foggier than the feelings in the moment and the sentiments thereafter, which Dessa and Cummings strived to convey. "We worked collaboratively to try to create a mood that could convey the emotions that compete, the tension after a breakup: regret, forlornness, anger, and a strong desire to be a better person."
Rigging the fly-system in the studio
Though the song and video content hold deep meaning for the artist, Dessa was nothing short of downright jovial when she wasn't shooting scenes. Dessa's focus, determination, and professionalism shone through when doing take after take, conferring with Cummings about lighting and aperture settings after cut was called. However, when the cameras stopped rolling, she joked around with the cast and crew throughout the day, eventually chowing down on pizza with everyone after 12 hours of filming and several more to go.
Ever the adventurer, Dessa relished the chance to do any sort of exciting activity on set. "My favorite parts are always stunts, like any time I get to do harness work," she confessed excitedly. "The closest I got to that in this video was riding on a dolly. It was a struggle to make sure my face didn't relay how much fun I was having riding on it."
Finally, Dessa revealed why she was compelled to appear in the music video herself. "I wanted to become better on screen, I want to be a more confident actress." She finished with a wry smile, "And I imagine I'm probably as vain as the next indie rapper."
Watch the video:
This is the last week Dessa fans can capitalize on the standard and deluxe preorders for Parts of Speech before the album release later this month. Every preorder comes signed by the artist herself, while the deluxe version includes a ton of extra goodies for ultimate fans including her tiny book/short story "Are You Handsome?" More information can be found on the Doomtree store website.
(Full disclosure: The crew needed a stand-in, and as one of the only other females on set, I got asked to be the "new girlfriend" in the outdoor scenes.)
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