Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Making of the #quakebook video

Like a lot of people shocked by the earthquake and tsunami, but living in Ireland with my Japanese wife Tomomi, I (@Crank_Dub) felt pretty far away and helpless. With limited news coming out for the first few days we were obsessively following the newsfeeds, blogs and Twitter for any snippet of information. It was while doing this that I just happened to see Ourmaninabiko's first tweet, the one where he put his idea for the book out into the ether. I followed his subsequent tweets and it was like seeing little thought bubbles, like watching someone else think out loud.

Not being a writer and feeling that any written contribution I might make would be puerile, inadequate and, at best, semi-literate, I didn't respond to Ourman's request for submissions, but kept a weather eye on proceedings as they developed. Watching Ourman and his growing team of volunteers felt like the worldwide response to the quake, only in microcosm. However, unlike the foreign media who quickly became jaded and moved on, #quakebook stayed with the story.

When Ourman put out a request for translators, I alerted Tomomi and she was delighted that, at last, there was something tangible she could do. When a subsequent request went out for other volunteers, I felt I had to respond, expecting my involvement would be small and pretty limited. But like Silvio Dante in the Soprano's, "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"

During an online brainstorming session on Yammer one of the volunteers suggested making a promotional video and, since video is what I do for a living, I couldn't in all conscience sit there and say nothing. But how could I even begin to promote Quakebook in the manner it deserved and, at the same time, respect the plight of the Japanese people? Like leaving your homework until Sunday night, I put it off for a couple of days, trying to figure out what to do.

It was seeing the amazing photographs taken by Max Hodges when he travelled into some of the affected areas just after the tsunami that clicked with me. I was particularly taken by his photographs of the 'Small Things', people's everyday possessions now lying lost within the all pervasive mud. I contacted him and he very graciously gave permission for them to be used.

The second part of the puzzle was Scala and Kolacny Brothers, the amazing girls choir from Belgium, who recorded a truly heartfelt version of the Kings of Leon song 'Use Somebody'. I uploaded the song to the computer, edited it down to 60 seconds, put it with Max's photographs and, using an adapted Adobe After Effects template, pretty quickly compiled a rough video. I then tried the video with lots of other music and songs but the only piece that was perfect in every way, that made the video more than the sum of its parts, was 'Use Somebody'.

The difficulty was, if I was going to use the song, I would have to get permission. Now we all know that famous bands get pestered constantly by people looking for a piece of them and I didn't want to join that throng. But I figured I wasn't asking for myself. I was borrowing the voices of those who survived the tsunami and asking on their behalf.

The Scala choir were immediately positive:

""We would of course be more than happy to help, but this song is publishing controlled so you would need permission from the publisher".

So, one step forward and two steps back into a world I use to work in. Knowing the music business, I was expecting it to be impossible to even find the right person to talk to, let alone get a response. But two guys, Rob Christensen of Bug Music and Steve Barton of Warner/Chappell publishing, responded quickly and positively. Rob researched who controlled all the bits of the publishing, contacted the Kings of Leon and, with the minimum of fuss, granted Quakebook a worldwide licence for 2 years to make a promotional video in multiple languages to advertise the book. When I thanked him and his company on behalf of Quakebook, he responded

"We’re glad to help out and honestly, the majority of the credit should go to Kings of Leon for being willing to donate their song..."

With the publishing clearance obtained I again contacted Scala and Kolacny Brothers and Glenn Stone of their management team got back to me within a few hours:

"The group is happy to co-operate in a charitable endeavor to support Japanese quake relief."

So a huge vote of thanks to all those who could have been difficult and unhelpful but instead immediately went out of their way to assist the people of Japan at this time. Thank you all so much.



  1. Excellen and well done clearing (c)stuff, but my view stopped at 45 sec(broadband!)Loved the image of the Simson's pencil case, Springfield Nuclear town, ironic or what!
    Keep up the good work Colm and regards to Tomomi's people.