Peek Behind the Scenes of Forest Veil's Video for 'Harem'

Vortex Music Magazine

Let music video director Chelsea Smith tell you about the process of documenting ritual art on film for the haunting, psychedelic folk singer Forest Veil.

The concept of a ritual art project was new to me when Monica Metzler of Forest Veil first approached me with the idea for her latest music video. How does one document a performed ritual and turn it into watchable art?

Months later in the woods of Corvallis under the waning summer sun, I found myself searching for an answer to the question with my camera. The arc of the story follows a swirling coven of dancing women who embark on a ritual of emotional release, vulnerability and primal encounter. Appropriately, a full moon was rising.

From the beginning we wanted the project to be produced entirely by women. The “Harem” moniker felt apropos as we assembled a five-woman production crew and team of over 15 dancers led by choreographer Rebekah Stiles. The shoot unfolded as a collaborative effort where all voices and ideas were equally heard—unusual in the production process when efficiency and tradition typically dictates hierarchy.

But this project was not traditional. With a healthy contingent of our performers coming from the Portland chapter of the pagan-based group Moon Church, the communal and ritualistic aspect came naturally to them. Other dancers, who hailed from The Broken Planetarium theater company, ensured the movement was artful to the eye. As the daytime dancing scenes descended into night, the ritual aspect became more pronounced, as if we were traveling deeper into the collective psyche of our group. With the limitations of our costumes and props and the daylight fading, we knew we had to do our final group scene in one ambitious take. There was no turning back once the ritual was in motion. The performers locked hands and the chanting began.

From the snow-white purity of vulnerable innocence to the mud-flinging growls reminiscent of our primordial beginnings, we sought to capture naturalistic elements reflecting on the mystery of creative feminine essence. The ritual performed that day was a unique experience, and the music video is another, seeking to provide a small window into the wild unknown that lives in every forest and in every heart.

Watch Forest Veil's ritualized art experience, featuring Johanna Warren and captured by director Chelsea Smith, below, and find the song on her latest album 'Zoolights,' which is out now on Spirit House Records. Then catch the two labelmates—Forest Veil and Johanna Warren—at Turn! Turn! Turn! on Monday, April 3.

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