BWW Interview: Bandits on the Run & Lane Halperin Talk LOVE IN THE UNDERGROUND Film
To dig deeper into Bandits on the Run's "Love in the Underground" short film, which stars Broadway veterans Jason Gotay and Michael Hartung, we sat down to talk with the band members and the video's choreographer Lane Halperin. We dive into what inspired the spirited and heartfelt song, the visually appealing and romantic choreography, and more. Keep reading to get the inside scoop on this whimsical, heart-warming video that is sure to bring a smile to your face.
What inspired the song?
Bandits on the Run: The song is inspired by the real-life story of how two of us (Adrian Blake Enscoe and Sydney Torin Shepherd) met in the subway system in NYC. Adrian was busking on the platform, and the two of them struck up a conversation. The meeting became a cosmic connection that shifted the course of their lives. It sounds dramatic, but it's true!
Sydney and Regina were best friends from college, and when Regina moved to NYC a few months after Adrian and Sydney met, the three of them instantly realized they had found a remarkable musical alchemy in one another. Thus, Bandits was born.
So, the song is not only inspired by a true love story, but it's also a testament to how a whole new community and world can blossom before your very eyes just from one chance meeting.
What inspired filming both the uptempo and ballad version in one video?
Bandits on the Run: We had been playing the uptempo version for years, and we were lucky enough to record the studio version at the iconic Electric Lady Studios. The piano Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper used to record "Shallow" was just chillin' right there in the studio, and our producer William Garret offhandedly mentioned, "Wouldn't it be cool if y'all did a piano version of this song?" Then, our imaginations went wild!
We loved the idea of taking the lyrics and melodic ideas of a song and completely changing the arrangement to see how that would affect the meaning of the song. What was at first just an experiment ended up becoming a much loved second version. We wanted to make a film to reflect just how drastically one song could be transformed not only musically, but storytelling/choreography/acting/cinematography-wise. The whole shebang. We couldn't be happier with how it turned out.
What are the key differences between writing and performing your own music compared to performing someone else's music in a musical?
Bandits on the Run: Bandits formed as a way to have ownership over our own art and as an outlet for us to express our own thoughts, ideas, stories, and emotions through our own voices. When singing someone else's music, you have to bring your own experiences to the table to make the song your own. Writing your own songs cuts out that middle step, for better or for worse.
Sometimes having that level of closeness to something makes it extremely vulnerable and difficult to perform. If you're a bit removed from the material, there's the potential to bring insight that maybe the writer hadn't initially intended, and it elevates the song even more. On the other hand, if you write your own song, you can tailor it specifically to your own voice, strengths, and skills. And, to the specific strengths and skills of your writing/performance partners. When you sing your own songs long enough, they start to feel like covers. Then, you get the best of both worlds! It just takes time.
Shifting gears, the dance in the video is gorgeous. How did you decide on the choreographic language for the video?
Lane Halperin: I wanted the choreography to feel as human and pedestrian as possible, so that we earned the larger dance section towards the end of Side A. I wanted the movement direction of the entire film to be seamless, not knowing when the "dance" begins or ends. We played a lot with the ways we touch when a relationship is brand new, and the tension that we either give into or shy away from. Hesitation to trust and fearless abandon were the two major concepts we began exploring and were the root of the characters' development.
What are the key differences between choreographing for the stage and for music videos?
Lane Halperin: Scale! When choreographing for the stage you have to see the big picture. Your audience will have much more to take in and many more places for their eyes to go. Therefore, you have to be a bit louder and bolder with your choreography for it to read from the back row or balcony. In film, you can almost tell the audience what to notice - big or small - through camera direction. You also have the fun challenge of working with the camera as a third dance partner, moving in rhythm to compliment the feel of the work.
As this video spans locations what was the biggest challenge setting the choreography for the film?
Lane Halperin: The subway. There are so many moving parts, literally, that were completely out of our control. We never knew when the train would arrive, when the doors would open and close and who would be getting on or off. Being open and flexible to all of the elements we couldn't control was key, and Jason and Michael were nothing short of incredible at juggling it all.
What is your favorite moment in the film and why?
Sydney Torin Shepherd (Bandits on the Run): I love everything! I know I'm biased, but my favorite moment, I think, is near the end of Side B, right after Jason and Michael's reprise of their dance. Michael puts his head on Jason's shoulder and then Jason slowly puts his hand behind Michael's head. It's such a moment of trust and tells the arc of the story so well, taking their relationship from this flirty fluttery exciting place to a level of deep intimacy. It's so brilliantly acted by Jason and Michael. I still get teary seeing this moment after watching this film maybe 30 times.
Adrian Blake Enscoe (Bandits on the Run): Definite favorite moment: In Side A, when our lovers stand face to face on the moving train and the train goes from traveling underground to above ground, there is this schwoopy light effect as the music gets tense and quiet for the A-Side's bridge. This moment took a lot of technical planning that really paid off, merging with the choreography to make for a beautiful emotional storytelling moment. It gives me chills every time.
Regina Strayhorn (Bandits on the Run): Oh my gosh, I love everything as well! I think it's a tie for me between when Michael and Jason see each other for the first time, and the very last moment of the film when they finally kiss. When they first meet, you can see all the moments of excitement mixed with hesitation. Jason and Michael portray that so well, and the choreography does a fantastic job in telling that story. Then, at the end, when they let all the doubt go and finally kiss, it's pure magic.
Lane Halperin: The moment when Jason and Michael finally meet on the subway car face-to-face and the train emerges into light is definitely my favorite moment. My Co-Director - and partner - Luke Slattery and I had written that moment in the script from day one, and seeing it work out the way we had envisioned was breathtaking.
What do you hope people take away from the final film?
Bandits on the Run: We made this film as a celebration of love, of New York City, of being unafraid to open your heart and find your people, and of finding magic in unexpected places. We hope the film inspires people to reach out to each other, to stay open to cosmic chance, and support and care for one another through everything from the mundane and everyday world to when things get whacky and weird. That's especially important in a time like this.
Lane Halperin: The answer to that question has evolved to say the least. I hope it gives people hope for a brighter tomorrow, and that finding love can happen anywhere, anytime, if we remain open to it. Life always has a way of working out in the end, so I would hope people walk away feeling a sense of excitement in the uncertainty of it all. If we knew all the answers, there would be no story to tell.
Watch the video below:
For more information about Bandits on the Run please click here.