Movie mojo | Music Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

Movie mojo 

Mel Melton's making a music video with the help of community college film students

As fireworks rolled over many North Carolina towns Sunday night, Mel Melton was doing what he had done the night before: resting. Melton's brother had arrived a day earlier from Colorado, but a small welcoming party had been scrapped after Melton turned in early, exhausted from an eight-hour shift on Saturday.

Melton is a blues musician, a fierce harmonica player and an accomplished songwriter. He doesn't turn in long days at the office. His work involves late-night convocations spent stageside, preaching the New Orleans-bred tunes he cooked up after spending years on the road with slide guitar maestro Sonny Landreth, Zachary Richard and the late Clifton "King of Zydeco" Chenier.

But Saturday was different, even though it was at his preferred local haunt, Hillsborough's Blue Bayou Club. Melton--the University of North Carolina creative writing student turned Louisiana harmonica man turned award-winning Chicago chef turned local Zydeco-meets-jazz 'n' blues bandleader--is making a music video. And he's the first to admit it's been exhausting.

"That shit's harder than playing a gig," moans Melton on the afternoon of July 4 from his Yanceyville home. "We had to play the songs three or four different times...and they had to get over five hours of film to make a five-minute video."

Michael Corbett, director of the film and video department at Piedmont Community College, said shoots can be tough. "We teach our students that workdays in film are typically twelve hours long, and a lot of them are doing pretty exhausting work," says Corbett. Melton, he says, wasn't exactly climbing or lifting Saturday, though. "I guess I had him standing up a lot."

Melton studied creative writing at both the University of South Carolina and North Carolina, but admits he hasn't done a lot with it--songwriting excepted--since his college days. He's kept a daily journal throughout much of his life, though, recording stories alongside lyrical and musical ideas, from the road and from the stage.

Melton showed those journals to Fetzer Mills (writer and editor for Inside North Carolina Politics) after catering a party for him a few years ago. Mills insisted that vignettes from Melton's life were good enough for the screen. The idea stuck with both writers until Clifton Chenier--the subject of many Melton recollections--died, relinquishing the "King of Zydeco" throne and leaving it surrounded by what Melton calls "a really silly" controversy. Mills and Melton began work on a script entitled The King of the Bayou, a Richard III-inspired take on the tale of Chenier's life and death, ending with his son--Texas hornman and former Melton collaborator C.J. Chenier--returning to claim the top spot in his father's band.

"I read Mel's script, and it intrigued me. Then I saw his band a few times, and I really enjoyed their music," says Corbett. "It's this unique mixture of the cultures of South Louisiana, New Orleans and the blues, and it's just different from other things you hear now."

Nearly a year ago, Corbett approached Melton, telling him that for the next year's Summer Film Institute--a skills-building program which costs in-state students just over $100 for an intensive, four-week session--he hoped to run a music video clinic in which one of Melton's originals would get a full treatment.

Melton's wife, Mary, who works at the college, helped locate grant money and equipment for the program. Six months later, the project was given the green light, and Melton penned "Papa Mojo."

Corbett and 15 students have spent the past five weeks preparing the shoot, finalizing the script (in which Melton plays a voodoo spell-casting musician who attempts to use the craft to get two women into bed) and building the sets.

In addition to a shoot at Blue Bayou, Corbett's students have also been learning their way around Carolina Pinnacle Studios, a 55,000 square foot, seven-building movie studio in Yanceyville that includes an authentic antebellum estate on 300 acres.

Melton spent Friday shooting with Corbett in Yanceyville, followed by a long day shooting on location on the Blue Bayou stage. After recuperating Sunday, Melton and Corbett headed back into the Yanceyville studio to finish the shoot.

"The students can now team up to make edits on the film, and, during the last couple of days, Mel will come in and pick which video will represent the band," says Corbett, who will enter the video in film festivals across the state later this year.

Melton, who says "Papa Mojo" will be the title track for his upcoming album with The Wicked Mojos, is excited about the chance the video stands in the festivals, too.

"To just get this handed to me--a video that would have cost $100,000 to have made--and to have it marketed this way in these film school competitions is just incredible," Melton says. "I'm really lucky." EndBlock

  • Mel Melton's making a music video with the help of community college film students

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Music Feature



Twitter Activity

Comments

There is nothing like Sam Beam. A poet with delicious depth and imagery that makes every song a never-ending mystery. …

by keyA on Sam Beam's Iron & Wine moves to Durham, another stop along his Southern journey (Music Feature)

From Missouri... we rocked them out here. They were such a big part of my life. There were more... Soundgarden, …

by Terry Cowden on Cry of Love vocalist Kelly Holland died depressed, but not alone (Music Feature)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

There is nothing like Sam Beam. A poet with delicious depth and imagery that makes every song a never-ending mystery. …

by keyA on Sam Beam's Iron & Wine moves to Durham, another stop along his Southern journey (Music Feature)

From Missouri... we rocked them out here. They were such a big part of my life. There were more... Soundgarden, …

by Terry Cowden on Cry of Love vocalist Kelly Holland died depressed, but not alone (Music Feature)

Well, Dexter isn't quite up on his facts concerning The Phantom. The Phantom was the stage name/persona of my cousin, …

by Gary Gaydos on The whole rock-star idol thing ain't so big for Dexter Romweber (Music Feature)

I'm not sure people realize how much talent is squished into the Hot @ Nights trio. All 3, Matt, Chris …

by Remo on From the Mountain Goats to The Hot at Nights, Matt Douglas Might Be the Triangle's Busiest Musician (Music Feature)

Time was when you went to a show and got a t-shirt that you could wear around and brag about …

by Markus Alexander on Streaming Didn't Kill the Music Industry. Major Labels Did. (Music Feature)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation