By Walter Hickey
A group of biker bar clientele, go-go dancers, country musicians and College of William and Mary students converged atKnuckleheads Roadhouse in Virginia Beach on a rainy Sunday earlier this September to participate in the music video shoot for local revival artist Nigel Holland. This eclectic cast, plied with free alcohol and a wild setting, played the patrons of Western-era saloon for Holland’s new single, “Raise Your Drink and Holler.”
Directed by Stephen Dunford ’10, who was aided by director of photography Zan Gillies ’09, the video tells the story of how a down-on-his-luck businessman (played by CJ Bergin ’11) comes together with a recently single bar patron (played by visiting junior from North Carolina State University Felicity Smith) thanks to front man Holland and his easygoing “grab your favorite filly, and drink yourself silly” philosophy.
“I did a lot of work with Stephen when I was in school,” Gillies said. “We had shot a music video together last year, and he asked me if I wanted to get on board with this. The roles are pretty fluid, but I’m essentially director of photography.”
A series of phone calls from the director was the reason for the prominent William and Mary presence. Bergin had been in a few of Dunford’s club theater projects, and their previous work together led to Bergin’s star role in the video.
“It’s been the single weirdest day of my life,” Bergin said. “There have been clowns, there have been men in barrels, men cross — dressing, go-go dancers, Daisy Duke girls in bikinis — making out — weirdness of all different shapes and colors. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Other College participants included Alec Anderson ’11, Tim Hatton ’11, Megan Behm ’11, Brett Petchenick ’11, Maureen McNabb ’12 and Nathan Sivak ’13. The cast involved dozens of volunteers, and anyone in the bar was also fair game.
The day led some cast members to develop an appreciation for country music.
“This was so incredibly epic. If you weren’t here, you couldn’t understand,” Petchenick, who played an extra in several scenes, said. “I did not understand country music before today, but now I love it.”
The shoot took around 10 hours and involved a cast of dozens of volunteers, lured in by the promise of free drinks all day and the chance to be in an MTV music video. The roles of the primary charactersThe roles of the primary characters in the video were played by theater majors at the College, a local country band called “The Tumbleweed Conneckshun,” bar staff and even a local residential dog trainer who played Axe-toting lumberjack Elmer.
All in all, the cast appeared to have had a lot of fun, and many cast members took a moment to revel in the surrealism of the day.
“We came through those doors and it felt like walking into Narnia,” Hatton, an extra, said. “It’s like some alternate reality bar with goth women wearing bejewled turtle broaches. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t belong to the real world now that I’m in here.”
The rarity of the situation wasn’t lost on Behm, who played a pugnacious biker chick.
“I’m reading Balzac in a biker bar,” Behm said. “A William and Mary student playing a biker chick can only happen to you if you’re an actor. And I get free food, so this is great. And I’m punching Alec Anderson in the face, so you can’t beat that.”
Despite the punch, Anderson said he was still in good spirits.
“[It’s] just an average Sunday,” Anderson said. “Taking it to the face, getting beat up by a biker chick. The life of a working actor.”
Anderson wasn’t the only one gaining on-the-job experience at the shoot.
“I think we’re getting lots of great footage, which is awesome,” Gillies said. “It’s been kind of insane, kind of hectic, but it’s been fun, and before any of us get famous this is what we have to do.”
Most, however, were just there for the fun and within a few hours had embraced the insanity of the shoot.
“I’m really glad I got to be part of this because its one of those days that I’m sure will only happen once in my life,” Smith said. “This is the strangest — one of the strangest — things I’ve ever done.”
Some of the cast felt the effects of the shoot with more intensity than did others.
“I don’t even know who I am anymore,” Sivak, who played an extra, said.
When asked for a quote, McNabb — at this point fully engaged in the craziness and enthusiasm of the filming — suggested that everyone in the scene “Raise up your drink and holler, Yee-Haw!”
“I can’t wait for my MTV debut,” McNabb said.