CHATHAM TWP. — Bruce May describes his music in four words.
“It’s old-fart rock,” he said.
It takes only half as many words to describe the music video he made with longtime friend Andy Tubbesing: a winner.
The two recently earned the prize for Best Micro-Film at the 2011 Appalachian Film Festival in Huntington, W.Va., for their four-minute video: “Another Day in (Retired) Paradise.”
The competition is open to filmmakers who live in the 13-state Appalachian region. A micro-film — not to be confused with the microfilm at the library — is a film that’s less than five minutes long.
Here’s what the judges said about “Another Day”: “(It’s) a whimsical, fantastic feast for the eyes and ears, combining animation and live action with a ’60s ‘Laugh-In’ feel to it. It is one man telling the world he is retired and is doing OK with it.”
Quite a coup for a couple of guys who first met in Miss Bouga’s fourth-grade class at Ridge-Brook Elementary in Parma and got together last summer to make a video just for fun.
“We were delighted just to find out it was going to be judged,” said May, 56. “It’s nice to find out someone else likes it besides your wife and kids.”
May is a retired English teacher and media specialist who taught at Buckeye and North Royalton for a total of 32 years.
He played drums already, but when he retired, May decided to take guitar lessons. His interest in making music has blossomed into five CDs of original songs, with a sixth on the way.
“Some people bowl. I give my friends stuff to listen to,” May said.
When he wanted to turn one of his songs into a music video, he called on Tubbesing, a Westfield Township resident.
Tubbesing, also 56, is a graphic designer who teaches at Cuyahoga Community College. He has experience in animation and does special effects for locally produced films.
“Another Day in (Retired) Paradise” stars May and his song of the same name. It was filmed on weekends in and around May’s Chatham Township home — with cameos by his wife Joy, daughter Claire, and cat Nike — named after the missile, not the shoe, for his mousing prowess.
May’s tune is sweet and clever, like a Smothers Brothers song. The live action is often comical and the animation bright and playful, giving it the feel of a Saturday-morning kids show. It’s filled with little visual rewards for those who pay close attention — like May’s ever-changing hats and a Chippewa Lake Park poster hanging in the background.
The film tells the story of a typical day in the good life of retirement — May riding a big pink bicycle under a smiling orange sun, napping barefoot on the porch, enjoying a little snack of Oreos dunked in a mug of beer, listening sympathetically to his wife’s stories of workplace aggravation when she gets home at the end of the day.
Those were the images May had in his head while writing the lyrics, which the two scripted and storyboarded.
Tubbesing’s vision was to avoid the lip-syncing and jittery camera shots that dominate videos today, in favor of simply telling a warm and funny story.
“My whole idea is: Whatever everyone else is doing right now, do the other thing, even if you don’t want to,” Tubbesing said.
They used no fancy equipment — a Mac computer, widely available software, and an off-the-shelf camera. May played all the instruments — guitar, piano, bass, drums — and put the music together using Apple’s GarageBand.
It was a do-it-yourself project all the way. To get Nike the cat to chase a leaf across the yard, they tugged the leaf through the grass on fishing line. To get the shot of May riding his bike, he pedaled in front of a white screen so Tubbesing could add the animated background later. The beer and the Oreos … well, of course, they had to practice that scene a lot to get it just right.
Completing the film and sharing it with family and friends was the real reward, but they sent the video to the festival on the hunch it might be different enough to pique the judges’ interest. It was a good hunch.
Tubbesing and May received a modest cash prize and a hand-blown glass apple for a trophy — the Appy Award. They’ll use the money to recoup the entry fee and perhaps put the rest toward entering a few more competitions.
Otherwise, it’s back to the good life — at least for May. As he sings in the final lines of the song:
I know I got it made in the shade / But don’t forget for 30 years I slaved. / Now my life is pretty good times twice. / It’s just another day in paradise.
Contact John Gladden at firstname.lastname@example.org.