We recently caught up with Departure Films contest winner Alex Amoling and asked him to tell us about making his video for "Mute Angels."
"From the title to the somber instrumentation that builds into a moment of peace, "Mute Angels" spoke to me on such a deeper level than I could have hoped for. At first, I found myself floating alone in a dark abyss and as the track progressed there was a warmth slowly inching towards me. It had a strangely familiar quality about it, but at the same time completely alien. The more I listened, it felt like I was finding pieces of myself that were long forgotten, as if I was guided by a force. Hammock's music has always had this effect on me so I felt the need to marry it to a visual that was deeply personal to me and had also consumed a large portion of my life. That happened to be science fiction.
There's actually a bit of history behind my visuals for "Mute Angels" that I feel I need to explore in order to give the audience a greater understanding of myself and the film. Back at Emerson college, where I was attending from 2006 to 2010, I spent about three years from inception to completion on my thesis film, a forty-minute science fiction character study. It was, in the simplest terms, a passion project that the school and many close friends, like producers Anna McCarthy and Caroline Edwards, supported. I finally finished the film in 2011 and held screenings at the nearby theater for the student body. It was a speechless moment to see a crowd's reaction to the film, thankfully positive, but beyond that and a dvd release to crew and donors, the film's been tucked away on my shelf after a series of festival rejections. Over the last couple of years the film has sat there as a symbol of one of the most rewarding and heartbreaking experiences of my life.
Earlier in July, as I was retreating back to my hometown in Maine to see my brother before he left for a tour in Afghanistan, I heard about the Departure Films contest through a friend. The thing that I've always loved about Hammock's music is that it tears me down to the rawest of emotions, only to then lift me back up and make me feel whole again. My thesis film was one of the few things in my life that had the same effect on me and in that moment, I grabbed my hard drive and threw it in my bag. I've always been afraid to go back to the material, finding it to be bitter sweet. I was not only afraid to look at it, but also show it to people. If they rejected an appendage wouldn't that mean they'd reject the whole? It's always the risk we take.
I was on my parents' porch, while I was listening to "Mute Angels." This was my first moment of feeling truly at peace in a long time and that's where the editing began. I threw out everything I knew about the footage in front of me and worked to recreate the emotional journey the song had brought me on. The process wasn't easy. It involved me re-examining my outlook on the material, leaving thirty five minutes on the cutting room floor, and creating entirely new visual effects sequences up until the contest deadline. I sifted through outtakes, mistakes, little forgotten moments, and anything I could get my hands on to find performances that drove the completely new story.
One of my favorite shots of Evalena starts at 3:28 and finishes 3:35. That was actually when the camera was rolling while audio was capturing "room tone." It had been an extremely long shoot day in March of 2010 when we captured that image and I still remember in detail how I noticed her eyes close and had Charles pan over to see her in that moment of rest. It's so simple, but her expression embodied how I felt listening to the track.
Little moments like those make me think of what other elements are at play, whether it's blind luck or a guiding hand. The title "Mute Angels" brought me back to thinking about those unseen forces in the universe, the ethereal. Space was the abyss, but I was looking for that ray of light to bring to the piece. In the video, through a series of flashbacks, you can see the rest of the crew dying from a meteor shower. Those meteors became a symbol to me because if they had the power to take life, couldn't they also give it? They were an element of the cosmos. They were the angels that slowly enveloped the darkness with light. The opening shot of the video was a test animation that I did, while working on this idea. Once it was finished and put to the music, I knew that it was the beginning of this woman's physical and spiritual journey. As the angels get closer and closer, her world begins to unravel and layers of memory begin to shed until, in the final scene, she is whole again.
It was a cathartic experience traveling down that road, the character's journey often reflecting my own, so the video is a large piece of who I am on display. Years of work, thought, blood, and tears created what you see. In the end, the goal was to put as much of my heart and soul into the piece as Marc and Andrew do in their music. I'm honored to have been able to create the visuals for "Mute Angels" because Hammock reminds me of what it is to be human in this vast universe.
Outside of the contest, I'm currently in post-production on another music video that I would describe as something nightmares are made of: Kubrick meets hip-hop. I like to mix it up and explore different styles and subject matter so I'm excited to see how far down the rabbit hole I go on that one. Later this year, I'm also hoping to rejoin with Shake the Baron since I had such a great time creating "Ghost Hits" with them."