Video Premiere: Where I Belong from Wood Belly

Things have been on the up for Colorado’s Wood Belly since they took first place in the band contest at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2018. That was just three years after the formation of the group through a chance meeting at the RockyGrass festival in 2015.

Their third album, Man on the Radio, was released earlier this year, along with a music video for one of the tracks, Can’t Get Behind.

A new video is now available, with quite a story to go along with it. Wood Belly was chosen to participate in an annual event called The 53:14 Video Experiment, where 10 artists are selected and paired with 10 filmmaking teams, and given 53 hours and 14 minutes to complete an original music video.

It’s a race against the clock, and a serious commitment from the artists and the filmmakers, to give their all for a little over two days to conceive and execute a short film project. 

The 53:14 Video Experiment is the brainchild of Doug Usher with The VIA Company, a creative studio along Colorado’s Front Range. He tells us that he wanted to find a way to get creative juices flowing in both the local music and film worlds.

“I conceived the 53:14 Music Video Experiment with my partner, Tomas Herrera, three years ago as a sort of culmination to a series of music video making workshops that we had been running at The Music District in Fort Collins. We took inspiration from traditional film race concepts (like the 48 Hour Film Festival), but wanted to get rid of the competitive component and instead focus on encouraging collaboration and new creative partnerships between the local film and music scenes in Colorado.”

For folks less familiar with the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the Experiment is named for the 53 peaks in the state of greater than 14,000 feet. Back east in the Appalachian region we have lovely mountain vistas of our own, but nothing to compare with the craggy rock bluffs of the Rockies soaring into the clouds. Locals describe them as the 53 fourteeners.

When Wood Belly was chosen, they knew they had a whole new challenge on their hands. Mandolinist Chris Weist, a founding member of the group, explains how thing progressed.

“The 53:14 video experiment has been a tradition in Fort Collins for years. Basically bands go on blind dates with video production teams and have 53 hours and 14 minutes to conceptualize, shoot, and edit a video. This was our first year participating, and were fortunate to be paired with a super pro crew. The team was a marriage of Jet Black Film Co, and Crescent Sun Productions with Hudson Bloom, Steve Roberts, and Eric Wood working overtime to make the magic happen… and fast.

We met the crew through a Zoom conference call and got to the drawing board immediately. After listening to a few studio tracks of ours, we landed on Where I Belong with Hudson Bloom as the main visionary/director. The production crew storyboarded, and aligned logistics, and the next day we hit the ground running.

It was really eye opening to remove ourselves from the visualization of one of our songs and see how others interpret the same music, words and melodies. It was even more impressive to see how dedicated the crew was to getting the shots, and how fluid everything felt given the frantic nature of the project.

One of the nights we basically shot until midnight and were up and at ’em before the sun came back up. The end result, I believe, is a one-of-a-kind artistic expression of music and film and was certainly a one-of-a-kind experience.”

And after a long weekend of little sleep and lots of fast food, the team of Wood Belly, Jet Black Film Co, and Crescent Sun Productions produced this music video for Where I Belong.

Usher said that given the additional challenges of the COVID restrictions in Colorado, they amended the rules a bit for this summer’s event.

“2020 being…2020, we realized we couldn’t proceed normally this year. But we weren’t going to let COVID stop the festival from happening in some form, so with the help of our incredible partners, we found a way to make it happen.

We gave all our teams an extra 20 hours and 20 minutes (on top of the traditional 53 hours and 14 minutes), and we increased their budgets to $1000 each. Because we couldn’t cater meals, we wanted to make sure everyone had budget available to cover meals during the marathon weekend.

And of course, the FoCoMX festival wasn’t able to go forward as planned this year, but instead has been running a series of weekly concerts at the Holiday Twin Drive In in Fort Collins (called the Drive & Jive). So we decided we’d premiere the videos during the Drive & Jive, releasing two each week for the entire month of August. We then culminated the festival with a special screening of all 10 videos at the Lyric movie theater in Fort Collins, on their outdoor screen. This allowed us to still showcase the videos in a safe, socially distanced environment while celebrating the amazing accomplishments of our participants.”

Hats off to all involved in the 53:14 Video Experiment, and a special tip of the cap to all the guys in Wood Belly – Chris Weist on mandolin, Craig Patterson on guitar, Chris Zink on reso-guitar, Aaron McCloskey on banjo, and Taylor Shuck on bass.

Well done all!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.