about a month and a half ago, i received a text from emily skahan – a good friend and one third of montreal-based folk band, motel raphael (little city’s favourite girl band): “emma! we’re looking for pretty girls to be ghost ladies in our music video for our song ‘ghosts’! are you interested?” caught somewhere between flattery and anxiety, i considered the request. on the one hand, it was so nice of her to think of me, but on the other hand, i’m the most awkward person ever…even more so on camera (a rare but generally always hilariously unfortunate occurrence). i text back: “as long as you don’t expect me to do anything other than stand in the background looking awkward and uncomfortable.” emily replies that “all you have to do is be gorgeous and an ice cold bitch” – perfect. “i’m already both those things! count me in!”
listen to motel raphael’s ghosts while you read!
weeks pass with no word from the band. i pretend to have forgotten about the shoot. i tell no one about it, wishing it into oblivion for the sheer fact that i hate anything to do with being “watched” – public speaking, raising my hand in class, openly talking in meetings at the office, debates, drama class, presentations….all hold a very special place in hell, as far as i’m concerned. it turns out, i hadn’t been overlooked and a quick message from band member maya malkin informs me that the shoot would take place at a loft in NDG during the evening a couple saturdays ago. i reassure myself that i will just be confident, and probably drunk, and that it will all work out. in the days preceding the shoot, i tell myself that the shoot will be an adventure, all in the name of journalism. i practice my best “bitch face” in the mirror, quickly realizing that my bitch face is just my normal face. i consider telling the girls i won’t be able to make it, but in the end, decide that i’ll look back on it as my “being brave” moment (a la garance dore). i repeat this to myself as i exit the metro on the evening of the shoot, chain smoking half a pack of cigarettes on the two minute walk to the location.
i find the loft; a huge, beautiful space belonging to the shoot’s director (fellow concordian and a former client of mine at a small resto i used to work in downtown montreal), AJ korkidakis. the room is full of beautifully made up ghosts, and professional looking theatre types. i bend to untie my boots and end up tripping over the dozens of pairs of shoes, hopping around to find my balance before deciding that crouching is a better choice. everyone is staring at me. off to a great start. i pop over to wardrobe – maya and the orange-haired costume girl agree on the dress i had brought as a back-up look (a cheap, gauzy thing i had bought from forever 21 for my halloween costume), before sending me to have my make up done. somehow, of the 20-something ghosts present, i was the only one who looked ridiculous. i’m not even saying that in an ‘i want compliments’ way, i just honestly looked ridiculous – maybe i’m not used to wearing that much make up, and i also wasn’t aware that i was supposed to pre-apply mascara, but i kept my mouth shut and went to watch the filming.
above photos copyright eu jun lee
the plot circles around the same focus as the song itself (you can listen to it here): boy meets girl. boy and girl fall in love. girl hallucinates boy’s ex-girlfriends trying to steal her man. isn’t that always the way? those bitches. i really loved watching the filming. AJ and his camera man sebastian give incredible direction, the likes of which are really lost on me (to be frank), but that i’ve come to recognize through close ties to concordia’s theatre department. everyone seemed to speak this entirely different language, and take after take, instead of getting frustrated, everyone gathers to work on a solution, taking into consideration how said character “feels” or what their reaction will be. it was all very grounded in the kinds of clichés you often run into about acting – and the personas very much came to life in that way. just in case you detect some sarcasm, i’m being totally serious. actors know their shit.
above photo copyright eu jun lee
there was only maybe three of us that weren’t professional actors or models in some way or another. the extent of my acting abilities is that once i had heard that you’re supposed to mouth the word “watermelon” when you’re being filmed in the background, so that it looks like you’re talking. i watch as the other ghosts stand around, effortlessly feigning small talk (or perhaps it was real small talk?) while the scenes are in motion. unfortunately for me, i suck at actual small talk as well. i get called to my first scene, in which i, for some reason, wear a scarf as a shawl and carry a beaded purse. i feel like a proper asshole. the ghost in my first scene has ice white hair and a gorgeous accent – i try to tell her about the watermelon thing. she has no idea what i’m talking about. sigh. after a couple hours, i’m a bit more comfortable in my surroundings, and i’ve been chatting with some of the other ghosts. a ghost named natasha takes pity on me in my next scene, and we chat about musicals, tv shows and movies. as usual, i am pretty awkward but luckily the scene involves a big drama with the female lead, kayleigh choiniere, who shoves past us to pursue the male lead, alex weiner. we are told to give her the eyes. i’m a natural, of course.
photo copyright eu jun lee
we wait around for the final scene, which is a mock concert with the band squashed into a corner decorated with christmas lights and the stolen motel raphael sign, and it looked amazing. as i sit around with all the other girls, i realize that i had, against my will or even my knowledge, been treating them like my own ghosts – as i tend to do when i’m nervous. they are, after all, just people. and very kind ones at that. (in a fairy tale, this would be called the moral of the story) finally, after what seems like hours of waiting (this is why i could never be an actor – too impatient!) we get ready to film the last scene. i take up my spot on the stairs with a few other girls to (awkwardly) bob along to the music (we were instructed not to dance) (lucky for me, that would have been a whole other level) before AJ finally made the obligatory “that’s a wrap!” call. full disclosure, he actually said “all extras are wrapped!” but you know, i embellish.
it was definitely an experience, to say the least. i stepped out of my comfort zone for a night and i can genuinely say i had a great time. despite all my inhibitions, i’m really glad i went. even though i don’t think it’s something i would try again, my “being brave” act is something i’ll always remember. or, you know, be forced to remember once the shots of me mouthing ‘watermelon’ at a confused extra goes viral on youtube.
you can view more behind the scenes images in eu jun lee’s photo album, right here.
listen to “ghosts” on soundcloud.
don’t forget to check out my interview with the band, right this way.