As summer slowly slips away into autumn, our minds inevitably linger on the lasting images of the past few months — namely that of a pristine beach setting backdropped by the sound of rolling waves. For those who live on a coast (like the writer of this article), those beach settings are usually by an ocean. But there are many other interpretations of summer; you just have to know where to look to find them. https://player.vimeo.com/video/229048815
Jay Fram’s love letter to Middle America does well to capture this specific vibe — a river-based one, not an ocean-based one. His video “American Summer” has resonated with residents of the country’s heartland because it encapsulates a decidedly different feel than one found in, say, California.
Summer beauty lifestyle images are often centered around a sandy beach setting, and I wanted to create an Ozark version of that imagery. Heat, sun, and skin in a rural state park river setting. Going to the river is a thing in the Midwest — and really much of the U.S. — so I thought it would resonate well, and I think I’ve been proven right. Viewers seem to identify with the feel.
I worked with my friend and creative director Annie Martineau to establish the style and look we wanted. I pulled sample photography, she found samples of clothing, accessories, props, styling. She created a shoot deck with all of those assets, which became the reference guide for the shoot and for Adrienne, who did the shopping. I also ordered a giant inner tube online.
With a video that’s more about “feel” than specific bits of imagery or exact messages, there’s quite a bit of improvisation at work. Add onto that the fact that the subjects were not professional models — just Jay’s friends, mostly — and the entire project strikes all the right chords.
I had some key ideas I wanted to capture, but the rest was absolutely improvised on the fly. I knew I wanted shots half in/half out of the water. One thing I didn’t anticipate was the intensity of the sun. I had a moodier, cloudier feel in mind, but it became very much about sun and water on stone.
We cast talent from a pool of friends, one of whom happened to own a 1964 Impala. They were absolutely fantastic. If you can find non-pro talent who love being photographed, that’s your golden ticket. The key is to actually enjoy being on camera – I think that’s probably the most important factor in being photogenic, more so than being beautiful. Not that our talent wasn’t beautiful. They were. Are.
In about eight hours, the crew had the video and photography needed to tell this story. Like the imagery, the music behind it is original work — and completely befitting of the vibe Jay wanted.
The score of the video is original music by Hayden Molinarolo, who also shot and edited the video. Hayden is just a huge talent. I love how lively and messy and catchy that tune is, how it’s actual rock-n-roll instead of some canned cheerful piece with hand claps. You can sense stock music even if you’re not consciously aware of it, and that sets an emotional frame for the film. Hayden’s piece sounds like an indie band in a garage playing for the joy of it, because that’s what it is. And it lends its raw authenticity to the video.
That departure from cookie cutter work can be found in the underwater shots as well — doubly so because Jay himself had never attempted them before this. Still, this wouldn’t be a work of Americana without some classic fare mixed in.
I love the underwater shots because I had never done those before, and I love the flowing sensuality and movement.
But at a basic level, my favorites are the couple in the car, particularly the shot through the windshield.
That was not my expectation going into the project, but there’s something classically American and sexy about making out in a car.
Finally, the setting itself brought everything together. One of the main themes is that these friends are enjoying their summer at a State Park, not a beach adjoining an ocean. And though the park made for a somewhat difficult place to shoot, Jay and his team made it work in style.
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is a point where the Black River is restricted (shut in) by billion-year-old igneous rock. River-borne sand and gravel cut deeply into the granite, carving deep potholes, chutes, and canyon-like gorges. The place itself, rushing water on stone, deep blue pools, this was the inspiration for the shoot. I wanted to see people in that environment.
Producer: Teresa McAnany
Concept and Creative Direction: Annie Martineau
H&M, Wardrobe: Adrienne Sandusky
DP and Editing: Hayden Molinarolo
Digital Retouching: Glen Gillespie
Talent: Victoria Feldman, Ian Sasek, Theodore Brookins, Zelina Star
Camera Crew: Theo Welling, Izaiah Johnson
See more of Jay’s work at jayfram.com.
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