Chief Warrant Officer 2 Darby Ledbetter: Hey, Darby Ledbetter here at Direct Image Studio in Nashville, Tenn., about ready to record my new song, "I Won't Let My Guard Down." Here we go.
I think every songwriter has a story to tell. When I think about this song, in the National Guard you'll find some great men and women that serve this country. When Jeff Teague and I sat down to write this song, it was important that we told the story right, that we told the story about these brave men and women that, you know, give up their lives to defend this country.
Perry Jenkins: When we tried to approach this thing in the beginning, the video is really supposed to be about family and camaraderie. Taking those elements after talking with Darby and hearing the song, it was, "What's the best way to approach this video and make it feel like there's this togetherness?" There was this concept that was kind of born throughout just some of my experiences that I've had with the National Guard, going to different events that they have. And I would see, you know, various pictures and that type of thing up on bulletin boards and these collage-type things. It was Soldiers in Afghanistan, or families together at Christmas and that kind of stuff. It was my thought that, "Wow, that concept alone would be a good idea for this type of video."
Jon Howard: Myself, Joel and Perry Jenkins met and basically listened to the song over and over during a weekend and just wrote down our ideas that we came up with. You know, stuff that entered our heads when we heard the words and the music, and put that on paper, and then we meant to just throw all of it out there and see what would be best for us budget-wise, and what's best for the Guard.
Sgt. 1st Class Lee Phipps: There were initially a lot of meetings between several departments within the SRSC because everybody was going to be involved. When we sat down and conceptualized how we were going to shoot this video and the equipment that was necessary, there's a lot of preparation that goes into getting all the equipment that we need, all the people that we need to pull something like this off. So that was part of my role was ensuring that all those logistical assets were obtained properly.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Darby Ledbetter: I had a lot of interaction with the preproduction. I sat down, myself and Jeff Teague, with Captain Britt and his whole team here that were the creative geniuses behind the concept of "I Won't Let My Guard Down" video.
This is really my first time seeing how the video comes together; we shot the end of the video first and the first of the video last.
Spc. Jim Boyd: My role was as the props manager. You've got to make sure that the shoot has all the little props that make the shoot: the patches, badges, all the way up to the up-armored Humvees, the equipment, and to make sure that it is as accurate as what we are using in the field today.
Joel Evans: On the sets, I was the camera operator. I had to be in direct communication with the director, producer, so I could know exactly what was happening and be ready from scene to scene. And letting me know exactly where everything's going to be so that my shots were composed as to what the director wanted. The most challenging scene, out of all the scenes that we shot for this music video would be the battle scene. The environment that we were shooting in was absolutely perfect for the scene that we wanted to depict on camera. I think we were successfully able to pull off effective shots for this battle scene.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Darby Ledbetter: So here we are. I'm standing in water tonight here in beautiful Smyrna, got the SRSC behind me, we have scripted the flood scene. We're stacking sandbags, having a good time, great night. We thought we might have some real rain, but we had to fake it tonight.
Sean Mullen: We're doing the flood scene. This is the b-side of the shot. So we're transitioning from a warm sunny day where a soccer coach is handing out a soccer bag to his players to transitioning to the same soccer coach as a Soldier putting sandbags in a flood scene. So we're shooting the b-side, the flood scene half right now, and we're trying to make some match moves to what Perry and Jon shot about 12 hours ago. The challenge is to try to remember exactly what you did and recreate what you did both with the actor and the setup 12 hours ago.
Perry Jenkins: I really enjoy working with Sean. I love what he brings to not just the postproduction end of things, but he's also a very valuable team player on the set as some of the things we shoot in this realm of visual effects have to be shot a certain way. I always like to put his eye on it before I roll a single frame to know that it's going to work in post, that all these efforts weren't for nothing.
Sean Mullen: Visual effects supervision works on production. They make sure that the production team gets what they need so post can actually fulfill the shots. Everything from tracking monitor comps like you see in the first scene with the girl talking to her family over the Internet, to the pilot scene with the exception of the last shot in that scene. It's completely digital, completely composited. We shot the pilot on the blue screen, and we tracked him in.
The two things like the morphing Soldier, from the coach to the Soldier. We basically supervise everything from production and then turn around in post and complete the shots with the shots that production got.
Some of the little things that you'll never notice are in the war sequence when the Soldiers run up against the rock. There's actually a production tent behind them. It was the best scene in terms of the acting, so we decided to go ahead and roto out the production tent and put sand back behind there.
We've got some really amazing and talented people here, everything from photography, to cameramen, to storyboard artists. I have to thank photography and graphics for helping me out on my end. I would have never gotten the collage done if it weren't for those guys. Photography shot all of the patches and badges and military elements I needed, and graphics cut every single piece out. Saved literally weeks of time.
Joel Evans: I played dual roles in this particular project. On set, I shot some of the scenes. In postproduction, I was the editor. The workflow required me to, as we got footage in from scene to scene, to put it together, see what it would look like, have the directors right there looking at it to say, "Yes, this is exactly what we wanted." And then from there, I would have to shift it over to Sean, and he would have these effects that we had preproduced and preplanned for it to look like, and it looked great. We were able to piece it together piece by piece, scene by scene, and create what you now see is a two-minute, 30-second music video.
Private 2nd Class Britney Polk: It's the second music video that I've actually been able to go behind the scenes and have something to do with. And just seeing it be put together, whenever you're viewing it being done, and then you see the final product, you're just amazed at how everything came together.
Jon Howard: I think this video has something for everyone. Not only Soldiers, not only families of Soldiers, but civilians. It's got battle scenes. It's got emotional scenes. It appeals to everybody, and so I think that this video is going to go a long way — a whole lot further than we ever imagined it would. And it's exciting that now that we're finished, we can get it out there and just see people's reaction to it and just how it's going to touch them.
Perry Jenkins: I think that this piece turned out great. I think that this video is going to have a really big impact on a lot of people, not just National Guard members. I think the public is really going to enjoy this video. And I think they're going to get a better insight of what the National Guard is and what they do for the American people. I really look forward to the next project and making it even bigger and better than this one. It'll be hard to do, but I look forward to it.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Darby Ledbetter: I hope the Soldiers that watch this, I hope that they know that this song and this video is for them. I want the American people to see that it's real. I just want them to know who these people are. That's the whole mission with this song, this video is to tell just one story of the many that serve this country. You know, the tale in this song is just one part of what they do. It's just one story. But when they stand in line, and without saying a word at all, you can see it on their faces. You can see it in their eyes, "I won't let my guard down." You know, it rings, and it rings real loud.
The National Guard rocks, can't say enough about it. And Joel over here. I'm tired.
Speaker: Is that his name? Perry? It's Barry. Barry's doing a really good job, and everybody's proud of him. You know, about two months ago, he was working at Target, and now he's here, and you know, from assistant manager to directing a video is really something, and we're all really, really, yeah, we're happy here.