Thursday, April 15, 2010

Making the new Hanson video "Thinking 'Bout Somethin'"

(click on images for larger views)

Well gang, the last time I had this much to do with a minor pop-culture moment involving an homage to a beloved 80’s comedy, the audience was shorter, the actors were woodland creatures, and the spoof was Fletch (2006’s Hoodwinked). Today Hanson debuted “Thinking 'Bout Somethin’,”
a Blues Brothers homage directed by yours truly and produced by my awesome Blue Yonder team Katie Hooten and Timothy Hooten. In one day, the video has been viewed almost 200 thousand times, was featured, among other places, on PEREZ (which the kids tell me is kind of a big deal), as well as (which is a big deal to me. Go Doc Jenson!)

The EW article by Clark Collis entitled “Hanson and Weird Al invoke spirit of ‘The Blues Brothers’ for new video. How does this not suck?” was especially fun for me because it pretty much read exactly like the article I saw in my head when Taylor and the guys first approached me with the idea:

“If you’d told me yesterday that I would like the video for Hanson’s new single, “Thinkin’ Bout Something,” then I would have said, “I’m fairly sure that’s not true….
But I would have been wrong! The video is a delight, partly because the song itself is a delicious, catchy slice of pop-soul, and partly because some considerable effort has clearly gone into recreating the Blues Brothers scene. For a second, I really thought that was the great Steve Cropper on guitar.”

I have to hand it to Hanson for coming up with such a great concept, and thank them for trusting Blue Yonder and me to execute it because, as EW points out, this is a concept that could have easily turned out sucky.

My initial gut reaction became the plan that we stuck to throughout production: let’s nail the peripheral details, and exclude the scene’s three icons: Ray, Akroyd and Belushi. The most famous ingredients of the scene would be magically erased, replaced by the three brothers Hanson. Like, you’ve watched this movie a hundred times, but on the hundred and FIRST time, it would suddenly be different. Basically, I told them if they don the fedoras they’re dead. They agreed.

Soon after that first conversation we had with Hanson and DP Paul Lawson, we were plunged into an insane month of assembling our crew, and gathering instruments, props and materials to recreate the music store from the famous John Landis scene. And that’s how I approached it: as a recreation of a John Landis musical from the 80’s— not as the “Blues Brothers” per se. With a few missteps this could quickly plunge into Universal Studios Florida territory. So the set was everything. As we began our scout in the Hanson’s hometown of Tulsa, we saw a few really awful locations… you know, ones that would have made the EW writer in my head HATE this video. After seeing what we didn’t like, the producers and I made a strong case for getting psychotically accurate with the set. This is a location we weren’t going to find anywhere—we’d have to build it. I soon realized that the Hanson’s rehearsal space was the best candidate for the build… the floor was already right for it and the dimensions were suitable. It was a space we could control.

As is the case with most productions, we were on a tight budget and had to make miracles happen to pull all this off. There wasn’t a line item for an LA art director, so our producer Timothy Hooten had to essentially fill the gap, with a local prop master and members of the Hanson organization jumping in to help along the way with painting, set construction and massive prop gathering. Local music shops and schools loaned us instruments. The violin shop across the street donated 20 violins for the day. By the time the “MUSIC” and “LOAN” signs showed up from the local neon company, the vision for our psychotically accurate recreation seemed well on its way to becoming reality.

Weird Al got involved at the last minute, though I was speaking the man’s name from the first conversation with Hanson. I kept saying, “it’s got to be like the ‘Eat It’ video, you know?” I remember as a kid obsessing over the accuracy of that thing. My brother and sister and I were always trying to recreate the movies and shows we watched, and when “Eat It” came out, it really made a strong impression on me because it was like watching a grown-up get to “play” at the highest level of accuracy, down to the locations and photos on the wall. I guess in a lot of ways this project was kind of like living out a childhood fantasy. So it’s extra awesome that the patron saint himself got involved. We knew the Hanson guys were friends of Al— he directed a video of theirs in the ‘90s… Taylor mentioned the idea of him early on, but the idea kind of got dropped in the shuffle.

Two days before the shoot, Katie, Tim and I were decompressing over some pizza, trying to figure out one final bit of casting— Murph the tambourine player. Katie was suddenly struck with a crazy thought: sometimes it’s easier to get someone last minute than if you plan far in advance. We drove back to the Hanson office to make our case. An hour later, Taylor was on the phone with Al, and 48 hours after that, Al was walking onto our Tulsa set. The “weirdest” part about Al is how unbelievably nice of a guy he is. He laughed when I told him that he was involved in this shoot long before he agreed to it.

One more quick story. The “holy crap” moment when I realized this was actually going to work… about two days before shooting I drove across town to the dance studio where choreographer Heather Hall was going over the routine with Zac and Isaac. First of all let me say that along with my producers Katie and Tim, Heather Hall was the shining star of this production. She’s the one who found and cast the dancers, reconstructed the routine from the film into teachable pieces, and then taught that routine to a pizzazz-filled army of 40.

The large dance crew had been rehearsing all week, and as exciting as that was, I still wasn’t 100 percent sure how the video would all be glued together… meaning, as I studied the Blues Brothers scene leading up to our shoot, I was ominously struck by how much rested squarely on Akroyd and Belushi’s shoulders. Damn Belushi could move. Handsome young Zac would be filling the roll in our version, and in preliminary meetings he expressed some concern about the dancing... about it being too campy. I figured we’d get him busy with the cowbell, but I was still nervous. Contrary to some misperceptions out there that Hanson was ever a “boy band,” they actually have never had dancing as a part of their act, EVER. They just play instruments and sing (what a concept!) They’ve fought that misperception for years, so this was supposed to sort of be a moment for them. A flipping of the bird, if you will. So when I showed up at Heather’s studio two days before rolling, I was pleased and honestly kind of floored to see Isaac and Zac sweating and shaking it all over that floor in perfect synchronization. I’ve been friends with these guys for years, since before the world knew who they were, and usually I don’t really think of them as being famous or anything, but in that moment I suddenly saw the celebrities going out on this crazy limb that they’ve never ventured onto before. It was electric… like having a front seat to a pop culture moment.

Taking in all of the tweets, articles and buzz today (wrote one tweeter: “Shit. Did I just enjoy a Hanson video?”), I thought about the lyric to their song… “I’ve been thinking about something other than you.”

I think the “you” in that sentence is really the cynical pop culture universe who thought they had these three blond boys all figured out. I can tell you as a front seat observer, they really haven’t been thinking about you the way you might think. They’ve been too busy with their kids, their music, having fun, and generally working their butts off.


  1. Way to go Todd. The video is fantastic. Loved it man.

  2. Really? No one else has posted here? This was an amazing video - sharing it all around - great job, Todd - awesome job, Hanson.