I had actually wanted this to be my first blog post, but I wanted to post it when the music video was released. It’s been over two months since the music video shoot and they’ve barely released the song last week, and I noticed some pictures were posted on Instagram a few days ago. So, I figured I’ll just do this post now before the details start eluding me. Maybe I’ll use this as my first Throwback Thursday here! Haha
For the past couple of years I haven’t really been doing anything special for my birthday except eating out with my family. Don’t misunderstand; I love spending time with my family, especially if there’s food involved, but sometimes it’s nice to have a change of pace. So this year, when I found out that AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys was having a music video shoot that would also act as a fundraiser for his new charity, Live Together Foundation, on the exact day of my birthday, I just had to jump at the chance to go.
AJ’s charity, Live Together Foundation, is a nonprofit organization that aims to raise money for charities or individuals in need, in hopes of making a difference in the world. Their first fundraiser was actually his music video shoot where people could donate $25, and in return would receive a Live Together Foundation shirt and free MP3 download of one of AJ’s new songs. The cause we were raising money for was for a high school in Pasadena where thousands of dollars worth of instruments were stolen. They have a video up talking all about it on the foundation’s website and you can watch it below. Donors who chose to pick-up their shirt instead of having it shipped to them were given the chance to be in the music video for “Live Together”, the first single off of AJ’s new upcoming solo record. You can guess which one I chose.
Video via: Live Together Foundation
Two days before the shoot, we received our instructions, call-time, and map of the location where the actual music video shoot as going to be. My call-time was at 6:30am. Initially, I thought, “Oh, not too bad.” But that was before I discovered that the location was near Santa Clarita – almost an hour away. Plus, they were only admitting the first 300 people to show up into the shoot. Not wanting to risk it, my friend (who so generously agreed to accompany me to the shoot) and I woke up around 2am and were out the door by about 3:30am. I was so incredibly tired because I was running on only two hours of sleep and it was pretty unfortunate that I couldn’t sleep in on my birthday, but I just kept reminding myself that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I was contributing to a good cause, and that I would be basically spending my birthday with AJ. That helped. Haha
Since it was barely 4am, it was still so dark outside by the time we arrived at Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch. We got a little nervous, too, seeing as we were driving through pitch black hills along a desolate dirt road. It honestly felt like the beginning of a horror movie. After a little mix-up with the security guard, we made a quick stop at Starbucks. Eventually, we figured out that the three parked cars by the gate, near the entrance of the hills, was where we needed to wait. It was the entrance to an empty dirt lot where we were going to park the cars. By this time it was already about 5am, so we tried to get some sleep before the sun started to rise. Didn’t happen. Especially not when it was absolutely freezing! No idea why they told us to come at 6:30am when they didn’t even start checking us in until pass 8am. Ridiculous.
Anyway, Golden Oak Ranch is a common place for movie and music video shoots, and is not open to the general public so we weren’t allowed to take our cell phones or cameras with us. Such a bummer. They checked us in and gave us plain white t-shirts to wear before boarding the shuttles. We were shuttled to the actual shooting location in groups of about 18 from the parking lot, and it was quite the drive there. I didn’t fully realize how large the place was until we were being driven there. There are several areas throughout the ranch, each with a different theme and setting. The area we were using for the shoot was the Business District where there were a lot of buildings that looked like apartments, storefronts, and even a movie theater.
We were stuck in the shuttle for a good ten to fifteen minutes because the director/producer (I’m not completely sure because there were different people telling us what to do) lady told the driver not to let us out until we signed release forms. (Well, more like yelled at the driver and us. It’s a wonder she hadn’t lost her voice by the end of the shoot. She got better throughout the day though; less yelling, which was great and we were very grateful for it.) As we were waiting in the shuttle, we could see AJ and three others in the distance shooting a scene where they were walking through fog, so that kept us preoccupied at least. By the time we finally got to the area where the extras were going to be staying, most of us really had to go to the restroom. We still weren’t sure if we were allowed to disembark the shuttle yet, but those of us who really had to go did anyway and went straight for the port-a-potties. My friend and I were sitting in the last row, so we were the last ones to get off, but just as we were we heard that lady yelling again and quickly scampered back onto the shuttle. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long until we got the all-clear to finally get out. It all worked out though because the moment I stepped off the shuttle, I heard a voice in front of me and when I looked up, there was AJ. He had come to greet us as we were getting out of the shuttle! It was such a wonderful surprise, and caught me off guard so I said, “Oh my god. Hi, AJ!” and gave him a hug. That was my goal for the day: tell AJ it was my birthday that day, and get a hug from him. And I got it without having to tell him! Haha So that was an awesome start to my day.
The building they had us extras stay in was a large, dusty, half-completed area that looked like an apartment building on the outside. The floors were bare – and I mean, bare, as in just concrete, no flooring whatsoever – as were the walls – meaning, there weren’t really walls, just the raw, wooden support beams. They at least had plenty of fold-able chairs for us to sit in and arrange as we pleased. Not the nicest accommodations, but I guess such is the life of an extra? At least we weren’t under the sun, and it wasn’t too cold in there. They eventually gave us chips and cookies to snack on, and a cooler filled with water and soda, and later on we had tacos for lunch.
The first ones who signed in and entered the building were chosen to shoot some scenes walking in pairs or individually. The rest of us watched through the windows. It was really cool to see an actual music video being filmed, and even cooler knowing that we were going to be part of it. We watched them shoot the same scene a couple times: extras were positioned in various areas of the street and once they said “Action!”, the extras would casually walk out with serious looks on their faces, and when they yelled “Cut!” they would be told to “reset” and whole thing would start over again. When we weren’t watching them film through the windows, we were either sitting down talking (met some really awesome fans there), snacking, or just waiting around. Most of us didn’t even get to start shooting until after lunch. Luckily, my friend who has been an extra before, gave me tips on what to pack and what to expect so I was prepared for the long wait. I brought a book to read and my own snacks, and miraculously, I even managed to take a couple short naps while sitting in the chair. I guess I was just that tired.
Throughout the day, AJ randomly stopped by when he wasn’t shooting to talk and hangout with us so that was really awesome of him. His friend Coffey Anderson (who is also in the video with him) even stopped by to sing a few songs on his guitar for us. After singing a couple songs, he just so happened to ask if it was anyone’s birthday that day and my friend Olga – I met her in the BSB fanclub a few years ago, but it was my first time meeting her in person there, which was pretty awesome – pointed me out. Caught off-guard (again, man haha) I tried to hide behind one of the metal support beams, but of course that didn’t work. Coffey asked me to come down (we were standing on the elevated part of the room, while everyone else formed a circle around him while he sang) and stand in front of everybody. I was SO embarrassed and nervous because I don’t do well being the center of attention. They asked me if it really was my birthday and I nodded, feeling really awkward in front of everyone standing in a circle around me. Coffey then had everyone sing happy birthday to me, which was actually pretty cool. I could have done without the second song he sang about getting laid though. What I didn’t know (until Olga told me later) was that someone had recorded the entire thing on their phone. Oh god. Thankfully I haven’t seen that video pop up anywhere. Haha Jojo from KIIS FM also paid us a surprise visit on the set, and spoke with some of the extras.
When it was finally time for all of us to start shooting a scene, the director gathered us all together and walked us over to the intersect where they had the crew set up. There was debris all over the floor (mostly large pieces of broken concrete they smashed with a sledgehammer prior to shooting) burning metal barrels, and fog. They split us up into two large groups, and told to spread out so there was at least enough space for us to stretch our arms out. I was already getting nervous but my friends Jessica and Olga were in the same group as me, so that was comforting. We were behind these taller girls and since we were shorter, the director moved us to the front. There are some benefits to being short, I guess. Haha We were thankful for that though because there were these taller girls in front of us who were being really rude and wanted to form a wall to ensure that they were in the front, even if the ones behind them were clearly shorter. So major thanks to the director!
After giving us general directions, they cued the music and we started to walk. I was trying so hard not to look down as I was walking but I was afraid I was going to trip! Some of the rubble was so large someone could easily trip on it, so I occasionally glanced down trying my best to discreetly avoid those pieces. Thankfully I had minor mishaps throughout the shoot. Our groups eventually met up in the center and combined with AJ’s group, where they were in the front and us behind them. There were a handful of guys who volunteered to be extras too, so most of them were chosen to be the riot police. We faced off with the guys and held that position for a few seconds while the camera panned across us. I had stopped near a fallen chain-link fence, and a few feet to my right was a burning barrel. Oh man, the smoke and heat was bothering my eyes so much but I tired to keep a straight face and not shut my eyes lest the camera caught it. The entire time I was willing the camera to hurry up and for them to call “cut” because I wanted to get away from the heat and smoke already. There were also a couple shots where we were told to hold our right fist up, and some where a small girl would make her way through the crowd of protesters to the front, and meet up with one of the riot policemen.
Once we shot that scene a couple times, we returned to the extras area and just hung out there until we were needed again. They took a smaller group to film another scene, so the rest of us kind of felt left out but some of us got to watch it through the window in the back room. Apparently they wanted to film in the perspective of the protesters this time, so not that many of us were needed for the shot. They eventually called all of us again though, and this time we were shooting in a larger area and spread out into even smaller groups. Our group was all the way in the back at the end of the street, near the trees and that also happened to be where AJ and his group was. Some girls chatted with him from a distance and someone suggested that he take pictures with us (we didn’t have our phones, but he and his friends did). We weren’t expecting him to do it, but then AJ suddenly posed in front of us an his friend (I think it was Zaya?) took a picture. This started a trend and he ended up going to each group to take a group picture with them. Unfortunately, since ours was the first group he wasn’t really near us when the photo was taken, so we look pretty small in the picture. We asked for a redo and he kindly obliged, along with Coffey and his friend Jordan. What was frustrating though was that girls from another group ran into our second picture and one of them blocked me, so you can’t even see me in the picture anymore. Ugh.
When we finally started shooting the scene it was really cool watching the whole thing come together. I was still trying to avoid debris and not trip, but this time I could actually see our group gradually growing as we walked down the street. Protesters came out from around corners, through doors, and down the other streets then merged together behind AJ’s group. We did that scene a couple times, then were told to meet up in the alleyway. AJ took the opportunity to take a huge group photo with everyone, but I have yet to find it anywhere. Then our last shot of the day commenced. I was a little sad it was almost over, but also really relieved because I was cold, exhausted, and hungry.
The last scene we shot was through an alleyway where they had more burning barrels set up, and an old sports car. In small groups, we walked through the alleyway and around the barrels and car. Once we passed the cameras, we went back around to the starting point to shoot it again. During one of the shots, AJ was leaning against the wall on the right side and was holding his hand out to give high-fives to those of us who passed by. One girl even gave him a surprise hug instead. After filming the scene five times or so, most people were asking when would we be done. Understandable because it was past the time they said we would be done shooting (it was almost 7pm at that point) and we were all cold, tired, and hungry. You can imagine how relieved we were when they said it was a wrap. I was sad to leave the set because it was the first music video shoot I’d ever been to, but also relieved that we could finally go home. Before leaving we grabbed our stuff, received our signed Live Together Foundation shirts, then waited in line by the trailers for the shuttles to arrive. Jordan gave us all high-fives as he was leaving and told us we did a great job, and we saw AJ go to his trailer but sadly he didn’t come out. He did wave to us though.
Once we got back to the car I could feel the exhaustion take over. For those last few hours I was probably just running on excitement and adrenaline, but now that it was over all I wanted was to shower and get in my bed. I was supposed to go out to dinner with my family afterwards, but I was just so tired and my feet hurt so we postponed it for the next day. My dad did bring home a mango cake for me and my mom cooked pancit, so I was at least still able to eat with my family on the actual day of my birthday. This was definitely an interesting and amazing experience and I am so thankful I was able to contribute to such a good cause, especially on my birthday. So thank you AJ and everyone involved in the video shoot and the Live Together Foundation. This was definitely a birthday I will never forget.
Below is the song for the music video we shot! I’ll do another post for the actual video when it’s released. You can also check out the Live Together Foundation website and, if you feel so inclined, contribute! There are still shirts available, an MP3 download of this song, and other incentives.
Update: You know how I mentioned that Jojo from KIIS FM was there? Well, I just discovered that he uploaded a short behind-the-scenes video of his visit to the video shoot. Also my friend Jennifer makes an appearance in it!
Until next time,