The Skyfall Story

After all of this time, I have released my newest music video titled Skyfall for the people. There is a great story worth telling behind both the audio and video.

Audio

I had just finished my first semester of college at the University of Miami in December of 2012 with perfect grades in my classes. During this time, I was meeting my academic goals such as getting accepted into the Honors Program and reaching out to staff at the medical school in order to obtain a research position. However, I noticed that I completely lost touch with one of my passions, hip-hop, which has been around for many years, on and off.

Once I was well rested, I started searching for instrumentals online like I typically do, and I found one that at the time I thought worked for my style. It was a beat produced by DJ Grumble, but it was only about one verse long. I didn’t hesitate to start writing lyrics, but most of what bled out on the page was heavily influenced by that past semester: schoolwork. I wrote a few more lines and kept practicing the flow over the beat, until I found an instrumental by Ante, a Nevada-based producer, which I thought was one of the best instrumental I’ve ever heard by an online producer.

I switched over all of the lyrics that I had written to the new instrumental, a remix to Adele’s Skyfall, and managed to write two and a half verses of what I consider the greatest lyrics of my life. Every line is cleverly crafted and has a message about the difficulty of pursuing a tough professional track while maintaining a hobby I truly care about. The lyrics were written, but soon I realized that the next step, recording the song, would lead to months of frustration and thoughts of abandoning the song altogether.

There was a brief stint where I reached out to a local singer to accompany me in the recording of the track by having him sing a chorus. He was willing at first, but soon after a couple of events decided against being in the song. I sent him a rough recording of my verses and he wasn’t too fond of it. I reached out to a music engineer that had been in my American Studies class who said he was ready to record our vocals at the recording studio at school. I went to the booking session meeting, where I planned to meet him and book our session, but he didn’t show and the other music engineers told me he was not licensed to use the studio yet. I asked around to the other music engineers and nobody agreed to take me on for a recording session. After all of the time wasted, the talk about recording the song with the singer disappeared and I was stuck with finding a way to record it at my house.

The music engineer I had been in touch with felt bad about not being able to record my song at school, so we made an arrangement for him to drive to my house and engineer a few songs on my Pro Tools system. Unfortunately, Murphy’s law came into play: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” He had come over during Spring Break, but that past week had been particularly stressful for me and caused me to get sick. I didn’t want to cancel the session, because his schedule was very busy at the time. We tried to record a couple of songs together but after he left I knew that none of those recordings would see the light of day. I was running out of options, and finally I gave in. I told myself that I would try to “mix” my songs myself, regardless of my skill level in music engineering, because at the end of the day I was the most reliable. My recording set up can be used anytime and I don’t have to book sessions or make appointments. I call the shots.

I waited a few more weeks until the second semester ended to attempt to record the song at my house, but there was another discouraging problem. My home computer, which is the one that stores all of the recording software, began to randomly start smoking by its fan and we were told that it was very dangerous to keep using the computer. Let me remind you that this computer stored Pro Tools 8, and I didn’t have the disc because I borrowed it from a friend a few years back. The only disc I had was Pro Tools 7, which as you can imagine did not work with my laptop nor our new computer that runs with Windows 8.

I assessed the situation, and I asked my engineer friend if he had Pro Tools version 8 or higher. He had version 8, and he gladly let me borrow it so that I could install it on my computer and make some progress with my track. I almost rolled on the floor laughing hysterically (not really) when I got an error message while trying to install his version of Pro Tools. After a quick Google search, I found out that actually no versions of Pro Tools were compatible with Windows 8 at the time. No Pro Tools at my disposal, so what did I do? Just like when I accepted to mix the songs myself, I accepted the fact that I would have to revert to my older and simpler recording software, Mixcraft 5. This would be the greatest news of the Skyfall experience up until that point, because Mixcraft 5 is very user friendly and easy to use. Good news, finally.

I began to look up tutorials about Mixcraft and how to mix and master recordings using the program. Music engineering is an art, and it takes a lot of studying and experience to be able to mix music properly. I recorded a “demo” version of Skyfall and released it on the Internet prematurely, because to be honest I hated the way it came out. It was extremely rushed but after waiting months to record the song, I was growing impatient. I told myself I’d consider my songs from that point to be “demos” until I’d record them at the studio at school, and this was a way to justify the bad mixing quality. However, I recorded a track called “Two Ways” the next month with my friend Daniel in the room and surprisingly it sounded pretty good. I thought about it, and after re-recording Skyfall, I knew that this was the best and most reliable quality I would get without having to pay for studio time. Even when I listen to these songs today, I am very proud of how the quality came out.

Skyfall was successfully recorded, but then came the question about shooting and releasing a music video for the track. I had just released the “Two Ways” music video and it received positive feedback from my friends. I began to plan out the Skyfall video, cleverly thinking of how to reach viewers with both a symbolic song and video.

Video

I took a few days out of my schedule to plan accordingly, and I had a good idea of how each scene of the music video would go. Originally, the Skyfall video was planned to go like this: the first half of the music video would be at the University of Miami, and the second half would be at the Miller School of Medicine. At the Gables campus, I’d be dressed casually with headphones, Jordans etc. writing in my rap notebook. As the video progressed, I’d be losing the hip-hop attire and slowly make my way to dressing professionally at the medical campus. It would have been a long day of shooting, but I made sure I had everything planned out so that we wouldn’t have to drive back to Miami twice. Little did I know…

It was a rainy day in South Florida on the day we planned to shoot, but Shirley, Katie, and I made the drive down to Coral Gables anyway to shoot the video. I was getting worried because the clouds and rain didn’t seem to stop as we drove more and more south. When we arrived at the campus, I went straight to the parking garage where I normally park and I got stopped by the security officer. He asked what we were doing there during the summer, and I told him we were going to shoot a music video on campus (mistake). He told me to park and talk to the police department to get authorization of the activity. The police department told me to get in contact with Media Relations, and the lady who answered told me that the person who gives authorization was not working that day. She also told me that because the video is not a school project, I would have to submit a proposal to shoot the video on campus and possibly pay a fee.

“Let’s get out of here”, I said. We got in the car and drove out around campus as I was thinking about going back and shooting the video anyway. I called my mom, a wise lady, while parked in front of a Coral Gables home. She told me to go back and shoot the video anyway because we were already in Miami. I gave it some thought, but decided against it. Last thing I want to do is to get in trouble by the campus police and risk getting suspended, arrested, etc.

There I was, driving towards the highway on Miller Drive heading home when suddenly there’s a police officer behind me, lights on and everything, telling me to pull over. I pulled over into a driveway and noticed that there was not just one police officer, but about four all in different cars. I was pretty nervous, and so the first words that came out of my mouth when I lowered the window was “I can explain everything!” He didn’t say a word. I had no idea why he stopped me. I didn’t know whether it was about us trying to shoot the video or about the props in the back seat. “Did you stop me because of the stuff in the back? All of those clothes and equipment were just to shoot a video on campus!” “That’s just a shirt”, he said, with a sarcastic grin on his face. A wave of confusion passed over me at that moment. If that was just a shirt, then why am I being stopped right now? There was a cop by every door except Katie’s. The situation got real.

I told him about why we were in the area and he told me that he had driven past me about four times when I was “parked in the middle of the street” in front of the house calling my mom. It got pretty heated because he hadn’t said much and was trying to corner me. Thoughts were racing through my head: Did he tap into our phone call? How long has he been behind us? How did I never notice him?

Finally he told me that (ironically) there had been a burglary thirty minutes prior to him pulling me over in that same neighborhood by someone with the last name Martinez. What a coincidence huh..? He asked for everyone’s driver’s license and later apologized for pulling us over, insisting that he didn’t violate any of our rights. He asked if my mom’s name was Alina, and this surprised me because I was still convinced he tapped into the phone call. Later, Shirley told me that it’s much more likely that he just checked the license plate and found it was registered under her name. True….

We then kept going home, laughing off what had happened, but I still insisted on having the video happen. I brought up the idea of shooting at the Miami Marine Stadium, an abandoned, closed-off stadium full of graffiti and in front of the bay. It would have made for a great video, but I wasn’t sure how safe it would be and how much trouble we would get into. I didn’t want to be responsible, so after sleeping on the idea, I called it off. Maybe the video won’t ever happen, and I have the worst luck in the world.

An idea that did stick, and I was curious in exploring, was Wynwood Walls, a small tourist attraction near Downtown Miami. Wynwood is an up-and-coming neighborhood, with previously abandoned warehouses, that has begun to be occupied by artists, restaurants, cafés, and lounges. I believe the graffiti on the street walls is legal, and many people come out and take pictures and videos of the galleries and walls. This is all great, but Wynwood still isn’t the safest place to be hanging around, and being next to Liberty City doesn’t make it any better.

After volunteering at the medical campus, I scoped out Wynwood Walls before going there to shoot since it’s only a few blocks away. The address I was going by was the actual “Wynwood Walls”, which is a much more controlled street art gallery. Before finding it, however, I asked for help from two white dudes walking around. They gave me some tips about Wynwood and told me not to worry, as one of them was walking around with his laptop. I parked my car nearby and liked what I saw in terms of how I could picture a video. There was a lot of art to choose from and I hadn’t even walked more than two blocks yet.

Again, my team and I made the trip to Miami, only this time our destination was Wynwood Walls. Good thing Katie had supplied towels and water, because on a hot day in August in South Florida the last thing you want is to be in a music video while getting sweaty. We were working kind of slow that day, probably because we were not familiar with the area and how dangerous it could be. We got some footage near an abandoned warehouse, but we didn’t go inside. We drove to another area of Wynwood, where a police officer saw us and parked by us while we were shooting. I guess he thought it’d be better to prevent violence than to come back after something might have happened. The Wynwood shots were cool, but I trusted Shirley to focus on the camerawork while I focused on trying to get the best takes. After a few hours of shooting, we drove to Coral Gables, where I thought I’d get some footage by a nice park. At this point in the day, I was exhausted and ended up looking unenthused in the takes. Either way, after a long day of shooting, I was sure I’d have enough clips to piece together a video.

A few days later, I sat down at my computer, uploaded the clips, and scrolled though them to see how they had come out. Out of focus!! (It’s okay, Shirley. You would later do a great job.) The clips that I could have argued for not being completely out of focus where those that included the exhausted Camilo. Let’s go to Wynwood one more time guys…except this time, let’s bring a bodyguard.

Enter Kyle, the bodyguard. Kyle is not your typical bodyguard, but his beard and mean mug can scare off some people given the right angle. We went to Wynwood once again, except this time with Kyle, and everything worked out much better. Kyle helped Shirley with shooting the video, and Katie went to a nice coffee shop where she would feel safe. The boys and I even went into the abandoned warehouse and got some cool shots inside. You’d have to watch the video to know what I’m talking about.

A lot of work, time, sweat, blood, and tears (just kidding), went into the making of this song and video. It may not have the best audio quality but I can argue that the lyrics and creative feel of the video make it a great watch to see.

By the way, about a month later, I ended up seeing the cop that stopped me at a 5k race in Coral Gables. I was like “You were the cop who pulled me over! Remember?” He was like “No, I don’t remember.” I told him to forget about it because it may cause unwanted trouble, but he was curious about it. I jogged his memory and we ended up laughing about it together. Good times, good times.

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