Great songs tell a story. Great music videos bring them to life.
Music videos have the challenge of taking a song and building an entire world around it — one that lives and breathes and stands completely on its own. This is exactly what director and producer Kevin Hanley did with the video for "Mary Ann and One Eyed Dan" by Shovels & Rope.
Breathing life into an assortment of stuffed animals from Finkelstein's Center, a local toy business owned by Michelle Jewell, the video tells the story of two people falling in love in a universe populated by octopus chefs and feline wedding guests. In the video, One-Eyed Dan is battle-scarred and fresh back from the service when he meets a waitress named Mary Ann. The two quickly marry after connecting at a diner. Dan still has nightmares from the war, but in Mary Ann he's found a new life, one where he can push away the pain of his past. The cast of characters and overall look of the video may be playful, but the real human emotions that it conveys are what make it so special.
"We thought it was hilarious, but also a little heart wrenching, like when Dan has a bad dream and Mary Ann wipes his tears away, and when they get married and the Finklesteins are crying at the wedding," says Cary Ann Hearst, one half of the husband-and-wife team that makes up Shovels & Rope. "Maybe it was because we were pregnant at the time, but it made us laugh and cry. It was just so pretty."
Hearst says that she and her husband Michael Trent only had two simple requests when it came to the video: They asked to not be the main focus and that it be as silly as possible. The couple does make an appearance in the video as they perform a concert in front of a crowd of animated dolls. Plastered at the back of the stage are posters for other acts — just a few of the many subtle touches hidden throughout the video to reward sharp-eyed viewers with an appreciation for artists from Charleston and beyond.
Anne Chandler assisted Hanley with the camera work during the filming of the video and says working with Shovels & Rope was a pleasure even though conditions were less than ideal.
"We green-screened Cary Ann and Michael in the studio I have. The air conditioner broke that day and she was pregnant and it was hot," says Chandler. "We were working as fast as we could because it was pretty nasty, but they were great sports."
According to Chandler, the video for "Mary Ann and One-Eyed Dan" was the first time that she and Hanley had attempted a stop-motion project. She credits Hanley as the creative force behind the project and says that he built everything in the video, except the stuffed animals, in his guest room. The video credits include other local talents like glass painter Jason Petitpain, handletterer Cara Levy, and script supervisor Aldo Littlejohn.
"I think that Shovels & Rope has a line in one of their songs, 'Making something out of nothing,' and that's what we were doing," says Chandler.
Hanley's work has continued to use the Finkelstein puppets. His creative agency, The Business Company, is currently seeking financing to complete a pilot episode of a new children's show titled "Fink Center." The show will be narrated by Hearst, who believes that if anyone deserves recognition for his or her work, it's ShoRo's friend and former roadie, Hanley.
"Kevin deserves awards that don't even exist. I'm gonna start making up superlatives for him," says Hearst. "I wish he'd come back on the road, but he's served his time. He's the best. Never a dull moment."