Using Music in Videos, an Interview with Filmmaker Jeremy Summer

Toro y Moi’s music video, “Ordinary Pleasure” — produced by Little Moving Pictures.

Little Moving Pictures creates and produces everything from commercial advertisement to film & TV. And everything they make sounds great too.

From the disco-inspired studio captured in the one million viewed music video they produced for Toro y Moi to the melancholic comedy about a young dad reeling from a broken marriage (How It’s Goin’ ) — Little Moving Pictures is taking off visually and musically. To find out more about what they’re up to and their approach for using music in videos, we caught up with studios’ co-founder Jeremy Summer.

Jeremy Summer and daughter California Summer on the set of  How It’s Goin’

Jeremy Summer and daughter California Summer on the set of How It’s Goin’

Marmoset: Hey Jeremy, can you tell us what drew you to produce How It's Goin'?

Summer: When people ask me why we make the music videos and short films we do at Little Moving Pictures, my simplest answer is that we do those things because we said we would.

Working at an agency, everyone always has these side hustle ideas but they rarely get executed—a pitch comes up or a big campaign or whatever—it’s hard to carve the time when you’re working for someone else, where as here we can come up with an idea and do it without asking anyone’s permission.

How It’s Goin’ actually started a few years ago on 4/20/2016—I asked one of our collaborators Noe Chavez to come to golden gate park on 4/20 and shoot some portraits—we made this thing and put it out the next day. I had an idea for setting a story inside of it, something we’d film guerrilla style with the built in production value of thousands of extras—my first idea was a catholic nun traveling from Europe who accidentally comes across the 4/20 gathering and has a transcendent experience.

But my friends 26 Aries (directors Irene Chin & Kurt Vincent) came back with the script for what eventually became How It’s Goin’ and had their friend Steve Talley (the lead actor) attached. It’s the first scripted narrative thing we’ve done—think of it as our student film. We just wanted to try to do something new and thought that the novelty of making a film inside an actual event could result in something unique.

M: At what point do you guys sit down to talk about music the films or videos you create?

Summer: Music is a big deal to us across all of our projects and over the years we’ve developed a lot of relationships both with music houses like Marmoset and with labels/licensing entities. Earlier cuts of How It’s Goin' had a lot of different things happening musically that are very different than the final cut.

On this one, it really all came together toward the end. We brought on our friend Anthony Ferraro to do the original score bits—he plays keys in Toro Y Moi, we had just done a music video together for their single “Ordinary Pleasure”—and he nailed it in three-four days between tours; we wanted some warm Fender Rhodes stuff that helped connect the scenes and carry the picture, we are so happy with what he did for us.

M: What are some of the bigger challenges for filmmakers when it comes to creating music for their film?

Summer: One of the biggest challenges was finding a great piece of authentic sounding reggae music. Our rough cut had a great dub track from Trojan Records and even though we have a connection to the folks that license for that label, our timeline and budget weren’t going to work.

We looked at some stock libraries and were extremely disappointed with the “reggae” options. We were so thrilled when looking through Marmoset’s roster to come across the Dwayne Ellis song—in addition to having the sound we were looking for, it also had lyrics that tied in nicely with what the character is going through in the film and it sounds authentically Jamaican/vintage which is what we were going for.

We were playing around with a bunch of ideas for the song that ends the film and runs over the credits and had been listening to a lot of SF bands—Girls, Kelley Stoltz and Sonny & The Sunsets and came across "Children of the Beehive” which has lyrics and a feeling that ties back to the film in such a special way it’s almost as though it was written into the script.

I think the music we ended up with is a huge part of the quality of the end product—without the score and especially the songs, I don’t think it would have gotten the attention that it’s getting (Vimeo Staff Pick!).

M: What's something that really sets Little Moving Pictures apart?

Summer: I think the volume and quality of stuff we’re doing outside of advertising is something that differentiates us — though of course we have lots of peers we admire who are doing something similar — and the kinds of teams we can spin up without having to have everyone on a “roster” or a contract.

We also have a focus on post-production that I think might be a bit unique even amongst full service production companies, the editor is essentially a creative director on our projects from the moment we get a brief, not just there when we edit.

Little Moving Pictures’ mascot, Beatrix

Little Moving Pictures’ mascot, Beatrix

Because we’re so small (three of us full-time) and our over head is so low as a result, we get to be selective about the projects we take on so most of the work we’re doing is stuff we’re genuinely happy to be doing whether its for brands or for fun—either the budget is there and we can treat our crews properly/pay promptly and put on a good show for our clients or the creative is something that we’re excited enough about that we can rally the troops and make it happen regardless of budget.

Our hope is that eventually the passion projects and branded content will start to intersect more- feature length documentaries for brands, music videos that are sponsored, that sort of thing.

Also, my dog Beatrix. No one else has a Beatrix.

M: Your studios create everything from music videos to ad campaigns — what's the type of creative project that you're always excited to dig into?

Summer: We’re so lucky to do a blend of work for brands and work for ourselves. Aside from paying the bills (thanks brands!), working on commercials and branded content has helped us develop relationships with the directors we collaborate with and also the crew community and folks who are instrumental post production partners—colorists, sound mixers, music houses etc.

We leverage those relationships when it comes time to do the music videos and short films— people are down to lend their craft for little to no money on those things because we keep them busy and treat them well when we’re working for brands. Doing the music videos and short films is almost a gift to ourselves. It becomes material we can use to market Little Moving Pictures but in a lot of ways, we do art simply for the sake of doing it—and to learn and grow from the experience.

We love making commercials (especially when the budgets/timelines are reasonable), but there’s nothing like getting all our friends together to make some art.


Read more on Little Moving Pictures and watch Vimeo Staff Pick short film, How It’s Goin’ by clicking here. Then head over here to check out more of their films.