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Q&A: The Princeton Footnotes

The Princeton Footnotes are one of Princeton’s four all-male a cappella groups. Their YouTube music video for their rendition of “Uptown Funk” has reached over 25,000 views in the first week after its release. Street sat down with Footnotes president Peter Xing ’16, filming director Nonny Okwelogu ’15 of Princeton Film Productions, music director Casey Kolb ’15 and member Jacob Schatz ’15 to get the stories behind the making of this video.

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Daily Princetonian: What was the inspiration behind the video? Why did you choose “Uptown Funk”?

Jacob Schatz: It was the first song that we felt we needed to sing. We really wanted to arrange the song and perform it.

Casey Kolb: It’s rare to find a song that you think you can really pull off. Not too cheesy, not too poppy. It has good quality, good rhythm and good drive.

Peter Xing: I also thought the song resonates who we are as a group. It shows the quirky nature of Footnotes. My roommate thought — the first time he heard it, he thought of us.

JS: A lot of my friends arrived at this song too. They were saying, “Footnotes have to do this.”

DP: How did the collaborations with dance groups come about?

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JS: During winter break as I was starting up the arrangement, I contacted Chris and Peter and I was like whoa — cool idea that may not actually work: Why don’t we have BAC, BodyHype and diSiac all dance to a different section. And Chris and Peter were like that sounds like a lot of work, but if they’re all really down and want to do it then let’s at least see if we can. So I reached out to them … at first, everyone was really excited, but it turned out that BAC didn’t really have enough time.

PX: We divided up parts of the song and gave [each group] segments.

JS: We had to get them the recording of the song way early so that they could rehearse and choreograph to the song.

DP: Where did the recording take place and how was it done?

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CK: Mostly in my dorm room with a single microphone. Since we don’t have equipment that recording studios have, we had to do with limited resources.

PX: All parts were individually recorded by each member.

DP: Who was involved in the filming process?

Nonny Okwelogu: Me and two other people, Eric Hayes and Sydney King. Both helped out and I did the latter half of the process and editing. I have made trailers for BAC Dance for the last two years. I also had experience as a screenwriter for the Princeton Film Productions.

DP: Have you guys been involved in making something like this before?

CK: We tried a bunch of times to make it happen. But it was the first time actually creating something and finishing a product.

JS: Last time we tried something like this, the person with the footage disappeared. After that experience, we were hesitant to try it again.

DP: Could you tell me more about what happened last time?

CK: So it was the same kind of process: We recorded all the stuff, we got to the filming session, then we did the whole thing and got all the footage, and then a week later the guy just wouldn't respond.

JS: He wasn’t responding to the president — any of us. He ended up taking I think at least a semester off, and he wasn’t on campus. It just entirely fell through.

CK: It was supposed to be the song for Skyfall. We were trying to get it out at the time when it was most popular. By the time we considered reshooting, it was already a year later and the song was no longer popular.

JS: It was very frustrating. I think it did scare us out of doing anything full-scale for a while.

NO: But that's all over now!

JS: Yeah, Nonny’s got our back.

DP: During the overall production, what were the most difficult parts? What were your favorite parts?

PX: There were a lot of difficult parts. One of the most difficult parts was looking at the footage afterwards because we just happened to have so much to work with ... It was difficult to decide which shots we should work with…. Nonny was great [in] that she put up with all our random decisions.

JS: Yeah, I think the editing process was the most difficult. We didn’t have any technical experience, and Nonny had to do all that…. It was pretty difficult just trying to organize our vision. My favorite part was definitely singing it all together — day after day, having people get excited and get involved.

PX: My favorite part was uploading the video — ’cause I run the YouTube account, and I originally wanted to get the video out even earlier. But I was worried ... because it was the first time we are doing something on this scale in a long time, and on top of that we were incorporating various student groups, and by the end everyone had heard about it ... and I was just hoping that we could deliver.

CK: It was actually the first time I have ever done something full-scale, a capella, in terms of recording. Figuring out how to mix them and make the sound right for YouTube was probably the most difficult. I’m with Peter in that the best part was probably actually submitting it to YouTube and putting the music up on Spotify and iTunes.

NO: I guess the hardest part is ... editing is very technical and takes a lot of time. I got down to the frame and even if it is a slightest bit off, I wouldn’t be pleased with it; you guys wouldn’t be pleased with it. The best part was definitely getting to the set the first day. All the gears were in motion, BodyHype was in these colorful clothes, sun was shining down, and everything worked out well.

DP: Do you have any plans for a future video? Any other styles you want to try?

PX: I’m very optimistic since we just got this one out. It’s been my vision to produce more high-quality videos. I think it is definitely something we can do because we’ve proven it to ourselves. Maybe not in terms of this scale of collaboration, but at least within the Footnotes ... we definitely want to keep doing it.

CK: We’re starting to learn that YouTube is a way for us to expand ourselves beyond the Princeton community — expand our image to the public in a good way.

JS: It is also pretty cool that it was an entirely student-run project. It is professional-grade, it sounds incredible, it looks incredible without any professional help. Nonny and Casey made it look professional and sound professional.

PX: The get-out is that we were proud of the arts community at Princeton. It is just the beginning, and we have a lot more planned, hopefully with other groups as well in the future.

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