By Phil Cartwright, CEO HorizonVU Music

Erik Paulsen and Drue Pennella

Erik Paulsen and Drue Pennella

As followers of Emily Zuzik and HorizonVU Music know, Emily’s first official video “Motels” was released November 1. We have the pleasure of speaking with the man “behind the scenes”, producer Drue Pennella.

Hi Drue, it’s a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak with you about Emily’s new video. Please tell us a bit about Four Legged Features.

DP: Sure thing. Four Legged Features was born three years ago from my long held (secret) dream to be a filmmaker. I’ve spent most of my life as a stage actor with a minor in being a huge film buff. As much as I love being in the theater I found that whenever someone asked me what my dream was I would always respond with “I want to direct a horror film.” Finally I said it one too many times and actually did it. A bunch of serendipitous events led to me meeting my FLF partner Erik Paulsen and together we made a short horror film for a 48 hour film festival. We won! I thought, not only is this my dream but I’ve got a knack for this and we were off to the races.

How did you come to connect with Emily? What motivated you to produce “Motels”?

I’ve know Emily for several years now. We met through mutual friends and I’ve always had the pleasure to see her perform live as well as having all her albums. When I get involved in projects it’s usually because there’s this nagging voice inside and for several months the voice was telling me we should make a music video with Emily. When I told her she was very receptive to the idea and it coincided nicely with the upcoming release of her new album. At our first production meeting she gave me a demo of The Wild Joys of Living and was interested in me taking it away to see what track spoke to me. After one walk with the dog and my iPod, Motels jumped out at me right away. The song has this driving darkness to it and those elements really spoke to me. By the time I got back to the house I was already composing shots in my head.

Describe how the two of you worked together on this project.

DP: Emily had the feeling right from the beginning that I would come back to her wanting to shoot “Motels” so we proceeded to have several production meetings where we each brought in ideas. Usually I start with the “if money and time were no object” idea and work from there. We can dream right? In the end I’m always interested in what can be achieved well given any particular project’s resources. Emily is very theatrical in nature so we just naturally riffed off each other through meetings and email and eventually came up with the final concept for the video.

Can you give us a high level view of the video?

DP: Even though we had the over reaching concept for the video, we did not do any storyboarding. Part of my life as an actor has been studying and performing a heavy dose of improvisational theater. I’m very comfortable making it up as you go and so is Emily. We shot over the course of two separate trips to a motel in the Catskills. On set we discussed each individual character and what Emily felt motivated to do as each. Once decided, Erik and I then went about setting up the shots and Emily turned in great performances.

Okay, before we go further, let’s have a look…Emily Zuzik and “Motels”!

What makes this video production rock?

DP: Wood paneling, strange cat paintings, bizarre masks, ghosts, suicide and paranoia. Also we were able to shoot all the principle shots in one location. The room and motel ended up becoming one of the characters. I like that.

Tell us a bit about the technical perspective. What are the technical stand-outs in the work?

DP: We thought a lot about each character Emily plays and with lighting on set as well as post production we came up with a look for each. For instance a character like the paranoid girl really took on a kind of Hitchcockian feel. Also we had a really fun piece of equipment. At Erik’s suggestion, a few weeks before we visited the folks at Kenyon Laboratories . They are the makers of very compact and powerful gyros designed to keep cameras steady when shooting from places like helicopters. We were intrigued and rented one for the shoot. Most steadicam rigs need to be adjusted almost on a shot to shot basis. As long as we stayed within the weight limit for the particular gyro we were using, it allowed us to move very quickly and get rock steady shots. Very cool piece of gear!

Looking back, what what you say were the biggest challenges and how did you manage them?

DP: What you see is really the result of three people. Due to various reasons we wore all the hats on this production, talent, director, DOP, grips and gaffers. On one hand this is great because time is of the essence and you only have to manage yourselves. You can really get into a grove. But at a certain point exhaustion steps in and you can’t think straight anymore. Fortunately Emily then set us all to bed. At that point it was pretty cool we were shooting in a motel.

Finally, and I fully recognize I’m putting you on the spot…describe Emily Zuzik as a singer/songwriter and performer for our readers….

DP: I think the music speaks for itself. Her music encompasses such a spectrum. From The Wild Joys of Living alone you travel from the hopeful energy of You Wanna Go Out Tonight? to the darkness of a song like Motels. I’m always so happy when one of her songs comes on my ipod. Also I’m very fortunate to know Emily personally and this has afforded me seeing her perform live on numerous occasions. I’m always struck with how wonderfully she connects with her audience. She is a fiercely talented performer and I encourage everyone to get out and see her live.

Drue, thanks so much being with us and sharing your views…. It was a real pleasure. Let’s stay in touch.

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