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From Dreams to Screens
Bright Eyes through the lens of filmmaker Nik Fackler

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: May 4, 2005

Bright Eyes
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 two songs.














"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 melody lines.

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."

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Published in The Omaha Reader May 4, 2005. Copyright 2005 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.