“We’re standing ready on the precipice. The chase is on—it’s much too much and not enough. Fang fangs! It just eats you up.”
As these lyrics pulse across the latest music video for “Empire Vampire” by indie group The Goodnight Darlings, you get the sense that the song is building to something. In the ruins of Howey Mansion, in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., lead singer Kat Auster and a troupe of dancers, magicians and circus performers tell a story of transformation.
Producer/choreographer Isis Masoud has known Auster since junior high school. When the singer sent Masoud the unreleased “Empire Vampire” song, Masoud says she immediately fell in love with it and wanted to do a video. Filming took place during Close Up Experience, a workshop Masoud created to bring together bands and dancers. After some brainstorming for the music video, Masoud and team decided it would have Auster as a goddess and the performers as vampires transformed by her blessing.
“When these creatures turn, they become the best version of themselves—best juggler, best dancer, hoopers. An internal shift in them. …. The style was like a gritty vampire story,” said Masoud.
She brought in Joey Bevan to lead the artistic team as art director and lead wardrobe stylist. His work has been featured on X Factor and America’s Next Top Model, and in Vogue Italia and InStyle Spain.
“Because I had worked with Joey on a music video in Egypt, I knew I needed an expert in fantastical characters—Joey thinks of how to tell the stories through characters and styles,” said Masoud. “We decided to have vampires through the ages.”
“Basically I thought about the history of vampires,” said Bevan via email. “I researched back to Dracula and thought of vampires living forever as mortals—taking inspiration from fashion trends throughout time … As in, say, a vampire being turned, say, in 1924, so her style would be more roaring twenties.”
The day before the video shoot in Florida, Bevan and his team—head make-up artist Abbi-Rose and hairstylist Charlie Wilkinson—decided what looks to give the 27 performers.
“We got to know who was performing and then tuned the make-up to the type of performers and styles,” said Rose.
“It was this magical moment: ‘Oh we can do this—boom, boom, boom!’” said Masoud. “It was a really magical experience for these dancers because they’ve never done that before. ‘Oh she looks like a pinup.’ Or ‘Ooh, she’s like Elizabeth Taylor.’”
Kryolan Professional Make-up sponsored the contact lenses, fangs, eyelashes, nail products and all the make-up for the video—which included shimmering foundation, full-coverage foundation, HD powder and water-resistant finishing spray. Make-up assistants Andrea Joe Cicalese and Nikki Oxley helped apply the fangs and contact lenses and worked on set for touchups. Annabelle’s Wigs sponsored the different wigs and hair looks. Auster’s crown of braids and extensions became a heavy creation that took hours to wrap around her head.
“The Kryolan make-up products were awesome—it created a more realistic film look. I didn’t want it to be like a normal music video it had to be like a movie set!” said Bevan.
Masoud said the production took about three days: two days with the dancers, one day with the singers and the performer in all-black make-up—doing a close-up performance with lips and hands. The 12- to 16-hour production days weren’t without challenges.
“Number one would be heat—[recorded] in a mansion without air conditioning and dancers perspiring a lot,” said Rose.
“I’d say also with the number of performers they had to do in a short amount of time. They had to move at a crazy fast pace without compromising the quality. It was like a speed marathon,” said Masoud.
“My glam squad was incredible. Abbi-Rose worked so hard bringing my vision to life with her incredible make-up skills and directing her team,” said Bevan.
The music video, directed by Roger Ingraham, features husband and wife Cirque du Soleil members Bernard Hazen and Alison Fraser and their daughter Naomi; Andrea Harvey and Sebastian Serra from the Orlando Ballet; and the Close Up Experience dancers. It debuted on Huffington Post Aug. 12, 2015.
“In general, we didn’t know how we’d be able to get all the performers in to the mood of the video with such a short rehearsal period,” said Masoud. “Once they looked the part they acted and felt the part. Hair and make-up and costumes were integral in helping them make that transformation to becoming vampire.”
See the full video below, along with an exclusive behind-the-scenes look.