Dreams to Screens
Bright Eyes through the lens of filmmaker Nik Fackler
story by tim mcmahan
Lazy-i: May 4, 2005
w/ The Faint, Mars Black
May 11, 8 p.m.
The Mid America Center, One Arena Way,
Council Bluffs, IA.
Want more Fackler?
Find out more about Nik's
background in film in this
Jan. 2005 Lazy-i profile.
Imagine interpreting someone's dreams, ideas, thoughts
and visions, and then having those interpretations blown up behind
that person on massive screens to be viewed by thousands of people.
The scenario arose when Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst decided to tour
with The Faint in support of his album, Digital Ash in a Digital
Urn. The Faint have been doing flashy multi-media presentations
for years on their tours, but not Bright Eyes. Instead, a typical
Bright Eyes show featured everyone's favorite kid-who-needs-a-haircut
surrounded by his band of gypsy players lurking in the background.
On this tour, Oberst decided he, too, would utilize The Faint's
huge projection screens for a multi-media show of his own.
Enter 20-year-old filmmaker Nik Fackler.
"Conor asked me about doing it
when we were meeting on another project." Fackler said. That
project is Fackler's feature film, "Lovely Still," which
has attracted a producer and already has been partially cast with
some big-time actors that he can't talk about until the film goes
into pre-production. The film's soundtrack will include a Bright
Eyes song and probably songs by other musicians Fackler has made
videos for, including Azure Ray, Tilly and the Wall and Tim Kasher.
Fackler said Oberst handed him a copy of Digital Ash in a Digital
Urn and asked him to come up with some concepts. The challenge
was "insanely harder" than developing an idea for a single
music video, he said. "The concepts couldn't be storyline-driven."
In fact Oberst specifically didn't want the videos to play off
his songs' lyrics. "The audience has one vision in their heads
as to what the lyrics mean," Fackler said. "If they see
a video that interprets it for them, that's what they'll think about
instead of creating the meaning for themselves."
Unlike The Faint's in-your-face video explosions concocted to add
boom-boom-boom tension to a writhing, dancing audience, the Bright
Eyes videos could only enhance the band's performance, and not distract
from it. "Most people go to a Bright Eyes show to see Bright
Eyes," Fackler said. "They don't want the video to take
away from that experience."
With those barriers in mind, Fackler took solace in simple images,
colors, effects and movement. His tools were paper and paint, a
digital camera, three computers loaded with Adobe After Effects
software, and editor/special effects wizard Aaron Gum, who Fackler
worked with on "Mynoot Loss," a bleak, short film he wrote
and directed about suicide.
For a month leading up to the tour, Fackler worked on the videos
at Gum's Council Bluffs studio from 8 in the morning until 1 at
night. When Oberst returned from the I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
tour, he changed his mind about how the videos should be done.
Many had to be remade. In addition, the tour's set list changed,
and two songs not on Digital Ash -- "Lover I Don't Have
to Love" and "Neely O'Hara" -- were added. The Faint's
Clark Baechle provided Fackler with click-track versions of the
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"The audience has one vision in
their heads as to what the lyrics mean. If they see a video
that interprets it for them, that's what they'll think about
instead of creating the meaning for themselves."
In the end, Fackler's final product
is a psychedelic pastiche that combines images of nature with iconographic
symbols taken from the album's artwork and, well, lyrics. He screened
the videos on an HP computer (he's no Mac guy) from his bedroom
in his parent's far-West Omaha home, surrounded by dogs, videogames
and assorted movie memorabilia (including the script to the new
P.T. Anderson film sent to Fackler by his agent at William Morris).
For the funky "Down in a Rabbit Hole," images of storm
clouds blow overhead in fast motion, pulling into each other along
the center of the huge projection screens. A dark orange sun rises
at the point where guitarist Nick Zinner wails into a guitar solo.
For the jumpy "Arc of Time (Time Code)" a row of nine
squares are shown on each screen, each one popping to the click-track
rhythms. Soon a second and then third row appear following different
Videos for "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)" and "Gold
Mine Gutted" bury viewers under an avalanche of numbers, while
"Easy/Lucky/Free" glows with upside-down crosses and "Hit
the Switch" shows Fackler painting a night sky. All of it switches
and changes and jumps in perfect synchronization with the music.
Fackler saw his final product -- barely finished in time for the
tour -- performed with the band in Kansas City where the tour kicked
off the last week of April. "It was really cool because thousands
of people were watching something that I did," he said. "I'm
glad it's all over now; it was really stressful. I'm just happy
that the band, the tour manager and lighting guy liked it."
He said he can now get back to work on "Lovely Still,"
and hopes to do some old-fashioned music videos for Bright Eyes,
Orenda Fink, Statistics and maybe Maria Taylor. "I never know
what I'm doing for sure until the projects are set in stone,"
Fackler said. "The feature film is the main thing. It should
be in heavy pre-production in the next five or six months. It's
so easy for it to fall through and crash to the ground. I'm trying
not to be optimistic."
Published in The Omaha Reader May 4, 2005. Copyright
© 2005 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.