Iconic director Joel Schumacher’s list of best-known films reads as part of the encyclopedia of Great American Films. The 72-year-old New York City native is the artistic brain behind such must-see works as St. Elmo’s Fire, Batman Forever, 8mm, and even cult fare like The Lost Boys.
Over the years, he’s occasionally also dabbled in music videos, where his list of productions is much smaller. Since the ’80s, Schumacher’s directed just three videos: INXS’ “Devil Inside,” Bush’s “Letting the Cables Sleep,” and Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” (naturally, since the latter appeared on the Batman Forever soundtrack). Now, we can add an unexpected fourth entry to the list, with a South Florida connection. Schumacher recently lent his talents to a video for the song “Star Baby” by the New York-London act the Killing Floor, a band fronted by Fort Lauderdale native Marco Argiro.
Followers of the local pop-punk scene of the turn of the millennium will likely remember the Outrights, the outfit Argiro led as a teenager. As a grown-up, he moved to New York to pursue music, first with the mod-inflected, power pop act Le Mood, and more lately with the Killing Floor, a transatlantic band that formed when the members met at a London studio session. Thanks to the kind of social serendipity magic of New York, the bandmates met Schumacher along the way through mutual acquaintances.
“I was with some friends at the Standard in New York, and we were called over to his dinner table and I was introduced to him. From that point on, every time I would see him out at different events, I’d have these chats with him. I was always kind of giving him my songs in the hopes he’d put one in one of his films,” Argiro recalls.
“Then he came to my sister’s clothing store launch in Brooklyn a couple years ago, and the band was there,” he continues. “He met the guys and was so charmed by everyone as a group, he said, ‘How about I make you guys a music video instead?’”
While most would write that off as party-talk flattery, Argiro let the idea marinate over some months as the Killing Floor recorded its recent self-titled full-length album “Star Baby” was one of the last songs to emerge from those recording sessions, but quickly stood out as a potential single thanks to its concise hooks and. Argiro then decided to try to call in a favor.
“I was sitting around with the band and I said, ‘I’m just going to call him.’ So I called him and I actually interrupted him. He was in Canada promoting a film with Nicholas Cage and Nicole Kidman,” he says. “But he took my call and listened to my elevator pitch, and he said, ‘Yes, of course I’d love to do it!’ Things just kind of snowballed from there.”
Despite that marquee name on the project, the Killing Floor was still a band on a small indie label in the States, the Pennsylvania-based Soundmine MusicWorks. As such, it was mostly up to them to raise money for the video via Kickstarter, and then figure out how to get the entire shoot done in a single day.
The band tapped a friend’s production facility, the Rumpus Room, in Red Hook Brooklyn, and Argiro cast and hired the entire crew by himself. “The day before the shoot, everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Our delivery trucks canceled on us so I had to drive a huge lorry full of equipment back and forth over the Manhattan Bridge,” he says.
Still, when Schumacher himself showed up on the appointed day, fresh from a flight back from Poland, the shoot went as smoothly as possible, bolstered by a youthful energy in which the director delighted. “”One of the greatest joys of my life and career is working with young people just as their careers are starting to blossom,” he says. “The talented members of the Killing Floor epitomize everything I love about working with new talents: hunger, energy, passion and a fresh new artistic perspective.”
The resulting video is a slick, four-and-a-half minute production that draws on old entertainment-industry glamour. “It was [Schumacher's] concept all the way. I wanted to let him interpret the song in his own way. He based it on an old Jan Sterling film from the ’50s,” Argiro says, “where the woman is this Hollywood actress who’s just lost and a lonely girl, but puts on this exterior of glamour. He interpreted the lyrics completely different from us, which was fantastic.”
With instrument close-ups, a beautiful woman applying makeup, flash bulbs, and atmospheric cityscapes, it’s got all the hallmarks of a classic clip from the era in which music television still played videos. “It’s funny; we finally have our cliche rock and roll video with a beautiful girl and great images. We didn’t really break the mold or do anything too crazy,” Argiro says. “It’s just a good rock and roll video.”
Watch the video for “Star Baby” below, and listen to more songs from the Killing Floor’s album at tkfmusic.com.