It was chilly last Thursday afternoon, when Maddy German sat down at the piano in her east Jackson front yard and began to play the opening notes of her song “Baby Ask.”
Dressed only in ethereal white tulle and a white leotard, German was oblivious to the 50-degree temperatures; all she felt was elation as cameras rolled and her long-planned music video began filming.
What will amount to a nearly 4-minute video has been more than six months in the planning. After about 12 weeks of postproduction, German aims to premiere the video on YouTube and Vimeo and is shooting to host a viewing party at a Jackson venue in mid-January.
German — who with her band performs locally as Maddy and the Groove Spots — said she wrote “Baby Ask” two winters ago for her former boyfriend.
“The song was originally inspired by my then-boyfriend getting hurt skiing,” German said. “He injured his back and needed help with things. It was the first time he had ever needed help from me, so that was my inspiration.”
She said that later, when she was going through their breakup, the song evolved and she really wanted to make a video about “one’s relationship with self.”
“During the preproduction stages of this video I was on the phone with a friend asking questions about the breakup,” German said, “and she told me, ‘But you already know the answers so why are you asking?’
“She said that it’s OK to ask for help from friends, but until you are able to ask yourself for help, none can come,” she said.
“Baby Ask” is musically stylistic, German said.
“It’s a mix between the influence of my classical music background, an Elton John-like piano rock thing, and a little Western barroom lick,” she said. “That’s the main lick, and it finishes with classical piano.”
German has played the song at a couple of venues around town and at a JacksonHoleLive concert, and has gotten positive feedback on her heartfelt musical creation.
The drive to make a video is more than just her desire to bring the emotional tune to visual life, however. It is a collaborative effort with more than a dozen artists and creative people who call Jackson home.
“It’s a very collaborative project, especially for young artists — like me — in the early stages of their careers, “ German told the News&Guide.
“It’s been an interesting journey for me as an artist, and it’s about manifesting more than one person’s vision,” she said. “It’s allowing others to shine. I’ve tried to build on their skills and interests so that they can use this film to show others their skills.”
Working on a limited budget — the Center of Wonder gave her $500 to get the project started — German has enlisted the help and talents of friends, including her roommate, Kayla Arend, a valley filmmaker and director.
“Maddy had been kicking around the idea of making a music video,” Arend said, “and it wasn’t until recently that she pitched me about the song and asked me to direct.”
“She has been doing the producing aspects, getting a crew, securing a location and all the rest,” she said, “and my main job is to communicate what Maddy wants in terms of the final product, along with my personal creative input.”
Arend said they are taking what’s going on in both their brains and putting it into film.
Some of the other talent on Thursday included Jackson Hole High School senior Noelle Huser, a nine-year veteran of Dancers’ Workshop and the featured dancer in the video.
Huser’s role is that of what German called the darker side of oneself.
“The two characters in the video are the two sides of self: the lighter side and the darker side,” German said.
“When the darker side of yourself springs up, it is not something you should punish or get rid of, but rather you should embrace it and learn from it.”
German’s costume is white and flowing; Noelle’s costume is jet black, with a menacing mask topped with horns.
The 17-year-old had never met German before. She said it was Luke Zender — the film’s choreographer and one of her Dancers’ Workshop teachers — who approached her about appearing in the video.
Noelle said she had danced in another music video this past summer for her friend Otto Wieters and his band Head to Head, and was excited to perform in another one.
“Video adds a whole other element to dance,” Noelle said. “Choreographically, it’s different work with video.”
She said she wanted to be involved in the project to be inspired by a lot of different artists.
“There’s Maddy, there’s Luke, the producers, the costume people … all the different artists getting together to make this video for Maddy,” she said. “I’m being inspired by great, creative people.”
While the first day of shooting took place in German’s yard, the remaining three days were filmed last weekend at Lost Creek Ranch, 30 miles north of Jackson.
“The Halpin family who owns Lost Creek Ranch was incredibly generous in allowing us to film there,” German said.
Professional wrangler Kari Hall also donated her time teaching German how to ride a horse for a segment in which her character chases a mustang.
Everyone involved in creating German’s music video has done so gratis, but the singer-songwriter hopes to raise more money to be able to compensate the cast and crew for the time and talent.
“This song, this video is not about me anymore,” German said. “It’s about the team.”
As her lyrics tell it: “I’ll reach within to pull you out; I’ll do my best to show you how this is your day.”