Music Video: Karen Black — <I>Royal Jelly</I>
July 20, 2021

Music Video: Karen Black — Royal Jelly

Matt Sklar of Strike Anywhere ( directed a haunting new music video for Karen Black’s Royal Jelly. The video is the third and final single from “Dreaming of You (1971-1976)”, a Cass McCombs-compiled and co-produced collection of original songs by the late actress, who appeared in Nashville, The Great Gatsby and Five Easy Pieces, for which she was nominated for an Oscar.

During the height of the pandemic, musician McCombs asked Sklar to create a video for “Royal Jelly”, recorded by his close friend and frequent musical collaborator, Black. While the bulk of the album’s material is from the 1970s, “Royal Jelly” is a 2012 collaboration sung by Black and featuring music and lyrics by McCombs.

After her death in 2013, McCombs and Black’s husband Stephen Eckelberry unearthed boxes of old recordings, along with film footage. They knew they had to do something with the material. Sklar was given the previously-unseen footage and asked to simply edit it into a montage. After listening to “Royal Jelly”, he decided to give the song a full visual treatment. 

“The footage was in so many different formats and looks,” he recalls. “I wanted to unify it to aesthetically evoke the sense of Karen performing for us, like she is singing without singing.” 

Working with cinematographer Jack Caswell, Sklar projected the footage onto practical surfaces, where it was captured again.

“Driving around northeast LA during quarantine, I kept looking around the neighborhood at different worn and tattered walls, rocky walls of hills, old mattresses, metal junk, plywood and other trash...and thinking, ‘Oh, I could project onto that.’”
Other textures include Sklar’s own shower, a kiddie pool, and a pile of lacy dresses he found at Goodwill. Sklar then shot footage of McCombs playing the guitar part, projecting footage of bees all over him to make it feel like he is immersed in the energy of warm honey.

Imagery was captured using a Red Dragon camera. The archive footage was projected using a portable unit from XGIMI. 

“It's so small and light,” he says of the Amazon purchase. “I couldn't believe how bright it was. We could hand-held it and move it around to make it feel warpy and weird. For the water textures we projected onto a screen angled above a kiddie pool, which we painted black, so that when we shot the camera at the water, we were getting a perfect mirror-like reflection of the image above. Other than a couple of trippy effects that were already in the footage I received, there [are] no VFX in the piece other than crossfades.”

The video was edited by Sklar in Adobe Premiere and finished in DaVinci Resolve. Archival footage was shot by Aaron Brown and Stephen Eckleberry. Samantha Polan served as producer for Strike Anywhere.