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Rebecca McNamee on Her Award-Nominated Music Video Journey

The California Music Video & Film Awards celebrate some of the year's most exciting and creative music videos, music, musicians, artists, films, and directors globally. Rebecca McNamee, a NIDA scholarship recipient, funded by the Andrew Cameron AM and Cathy Cameron Scholarship, and who has just finished her Master of Fine Arts in Directing, and her team directed and designed  a music video for the emerging Australian artist Oshua's song Veins, as part of the national triple j Unearthed competition. The video has earned 5 award nominations including the The Spotlight Award for Rebecca.

Can you please talk us through what the song and video is about?

The song Veins was created by Perth-based hip-hop artist Oshua. The song is a commentary on how he sees himself in the world and his understanding of how the world sees him. Being of Chinese descent, born in South Africa, and now living in Perth, his music is very popular in the US, and many people have trouble categorising him and his sound. At first, this worried him, but now he simply presents himself as he is, without apology; and the lyrics of this song speak to this: "You pull my soul out my veins. It won’t apologise." The music video reflects these themes too, as an unknown force chases Oshua, which at first he tries to fight off. Eventually, he realizes he has to turn and face the unknown and own who he is.

How did you collaborate with Oshua to understand his vision and incorporate it into the video?

Oshua and I had many discussions about the meaning behind his work, to both of us it was really important that we make the audience feel Oshua’s frustrations around his identity.

Oshua and Rebecca McNamee

Oshua and Rebecca McNamee ( NIDA Master of Fine Arts in Directing, 2023).

Can you share the inspiration behind the concept for this music video?

The music video is inspired by classic action and sci-fi movies. There are a number of homages to great films; we love it when the audience notices them! I also tapped into the Corecore aesthetic from TikTok with flashing visuals that capture Oshua’s emotions via literal interpretations of his lyrics. These images are often on screen for less than 0.2 of a second.

Can you elaborate on the selection of locations, set and costume design, and overall aesthetic choices for the video?

The dark action film is a subgenre of the larger action genre. Knowing we had dystopian themes, we wanted it to feel gritty but also cinematic. We chose Cockatoo Island as the location because it offered us multiple looks without having to travel long distances. The costume design by Paris Burrows (NIDA Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design for Performance, 2023) was highly textured, providing visual depth. She also used reflective surfaces to bounce the light we had off the costumes, making it feel futuristic.

Rebecca, Oshua and Paris

Rebecca McNamee, hip-hop artist Oshua, and Paris Burrows (NIDA Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design for Performance, 2023).

What were the main challenges you faced during the filming of this music video, and how did you overcome them?

This was a pretty challenge-free shoot! Everyone was well-prepped on what we needed to do and the limited time we had to do it in. The team was excellent, with the heads of department recruiting enthusiastic and action-driven crews. Probably the greatest challenge was getting to Cockatoo Island. We had to take all our film gear, our own power, and all our food on the ferry! But, as the saying goes, many hands make light work, so with the excellent coordination of our 1st AD, we all met at the ferry wharf and carried all our gear over. A big thanks to Sydney Ferries for helping us out with that! This also meant we had to be super organised as there was no leaving the island to get something if we forgot it!

What techniques or visual effects did you employ to enhance the storytelling in the music video?

We used a robot arm to get a number of tricky shots, specifically the clone shot at the end of the music video. This scene was played with only one actor but was shot over and over and compiled in post-production. This technology allowed us to lean into the idea that Oshua is feeling overwhelmed by his own identity without having to employ a large cast of people.

Rebecca McNamee on the set

Rebecca McNamee ( NIDA Master of Fine Arts in Directing, 2023)  filming the music video Veins. Cockatoo Island, Sydney.

In your opinion, what makes a music video successful, and how do you ensure that your work stands out in a crowded visual landscape?

Bringing something to screen that hasn’t been seen in this landscape before. When I pitched my idea to Rage, they were very supportive but also flagged that the audience wouldn’t compare this music video to other music videos but to action and super-hero films, and that to be successful we had to produce something of that quality. Whilst that feedback was confronting for such a low-budget shoot, it also was inspiring. The idea of elevating a music video to equate with a film was what we set out to do, and it’s what we achieved.

How did you’re training at Nida help prepare you for the project?  

My time at NIDA really drilled into me the importance of layered storytelling. Storytelling doesn’t have to be linear or narrative or even, as is the case with music videos, dependent on dialogue, but it does have to be there in all the themes, imagery and emotion of a piece. If an action, item or image didn’t elevate the story we were trying to tell, then we would ask ourselves if we really needed it, or if there was a better option. Those mirco details are what make a piece like this so satisfying for the audience.

How your NIDA scholarship help you during your studies?

The scholarship provided me with creative freedom as it allowed me to focus on my studies without having to juggle multiple part time jobs which can inadvertently become the priority and take you away from what you are trying to learn and create.

Veins has earned nominations in five categories: Best Male Solo Artist; Best Hip Hop; Best Action or Adventure; Best Sci-Fi Horror or Fantasy; and The Spotlight Award (Rebecca McNamee).

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