Jane Lui is a Singer-Songwriter known for her offbeat vibe, quirky mashups, and her penchant for sampling found objects to incorporate into her music. Most of her YouTube videos feature her recording process, allowing viewers to see that the accordion, guitar, or piano they’re hearing is mixed in with the sounds of luggage clasps popping open, crumpled paper hitting an empty box, an empty water dispenser being drummed.
For her “Southern Winds” music video, however, Jane tried something new. The result is a whimsical single shot video that features two hands acting out a romance amidst a changing scenery of papier-mâché mountains and cardboard city streets.
When Jane was thinking about what she wanted to do for this particular song, she considered animation and stop motion, but after speaking to production and animation houses it seemed that this route just wouldn’t be in her budget. Then she saw Cirque du Soleil’s show Kurios. “There’s a small segment they use as a nice breather moment from all the physical magic, a hand actor and some moving sets, shot live and projected onto a screen. It was incredibly beautiful and I knew I wanted to steal the idea!”
To do this herself, Jane knew that she’d need to build several different sets. It made sense for her to work with cardboard and paper, since she was familiar with that material and, just as a habit, hoards the scraps she finds. But the truth was, even though she was familiar with the material, she’d never done something quite like this. This was her first project working with miniature sets and trying to papier-mâché.
The set has a number of interesting features: A fountain in the background has string moving through it to emulate running water; there’s a moving backdrop of trees to simulate movement; and the mountain has a slit to allow a car to “drive” to the top. All these details add up to create an atmospheric and rich visual experience.
Jane shared her process developing the music video, so you can see the work that went into this project.
“Rather than attributing this to what i’ve done,” Jane said about the success of her set design, “I think what made this possible (as it does for other makers as well) is how you work: Precision, obsession with detail, and clean lines are always important tendencies to have as a maker — I honestly think you can do anything if tendencies match the project.”
Ultimately, one of the catalyzing moments behind this project was when Kari Lee Cartwright came on as the director. While Jane came up with the ideas and built the sets, it took Cartwright to get the right people and manage production on the day of the shoot.
This was both a major boon to finalize the project and a challenge for Jane since accepting help can be hard if you’re used to doing things yourself. “I learned from [Cartwright] that things can change, and since I definitely needed help, rather than being controlling it’s in the idea’s best interest to let people in. By the end of the night, we had so much fun that no one wanted to leave, we awkwardly lurked in the parking lot like the best of teams.” You can see this awesome group dynamic and get a better look at the work that went on behind the scenes on shoot day in the teaser video below.
For those who are trying to tackle their own creative projects Jane has the following advice:
1) Show your work, no matter how small. This automatically gets you talking, thinking, and rewarding yourself for work. It brings in witnesses, seeing reactions to details you might have missed. But be mindful that it’s just a tool to help, don’t depend the project’s identity on it — It’s nothing without you working hard in your corner.
2) Poor man’s approach. It always surprises me how much simplicity can do. Do research, then work with what you have: this is the easiest way to make something creatively yours — add/subtract according to things available to you.