The Multiplicity of Narrative (Or: “Dude! That’s My Chin in A Lumineers Video!”)

I wrote an essay for the last issue of PLGRM Magazine about an afternoon my daughter and I spent as extras on the set of a Lumineers
music video in Los Angeles. It was a fun experience that wore on for much longer than I thought it would and that presented something of a crisis of professional integrity, as remaining on the set into the early evening caused me to be rather late for a wedding rehearsal for which I was the officiant.

Well, the video was released yesterday, and you can view it here (sorry for the ads, but it’s not on YouTube yet).

I’m having a strange reaction to it. I’ve never been an extra for anything before, but I never suffered under any delusions of grandeur about this. So the one second grainy appearance the side of my torso makes at 2:56 is a bonus. More than I expected, really.

The more interesting thing I’m thinking about now is the role we play in stories about which we know next to nothing. If I thought the shoot we participated in was the whole video, boy was I wrong; despite the five hours spent on that set, that shot makes only a passing appearance in the more than four minute production. And if I thought the precocious little girl who got to ride in the car from which the crew was filming was just an extra special extra, I was even more wrong still.

It turns out, the video is something of a tear-jerker story about a girl who’s parents are splitting up. They leave the girl’s dad in the rain during the video’s opening shots, and he never appears again. For the duration of the short film, she watches the world go by out her car window as she and her mom relocate to Los Angeles. It’s sad, sad stuff.

Then the sun comes out, a smile breaks over the girl’s face, he hair blows in the wind, and the whole thing turns into a little resurrection allegory. Who knew?

A video production only makes explicit the reality of our everyday lives and the constant reel of scenes that never get filmed. We’re all part of other peoples’ stories. The people who make passing appearances in your story, the story about an afternoon spent with your daughter brushing elbows with a folk band, those people are actually the centerpiece of a bigger story you’ve never heard.