I woke up to a quiet Sunday morning ready to watch the show Narcos from my bed, and never leave.
I rolled over and took my phone off airplane mode. As the emails and texts started flowing in, one of them stood out from the others:
"Any way you could be available this morning to shoot video near airplanes today? Talib asked me to ask this. Thanks!"
The note was from the manager of American rapper Talib Kweli. And the video was for his friend NIKO.
I tried to process what they needed, and whether or not I was ready to get out of bed so quickly. I asked why they needed airplanes.
"NIKO mentions a 747 in his new song, so we'd like to have one in the video. And an exotic car if you can get one," his manager responded.
I was confused. Wouldn't Talib have his own jet? I'm just a government employee living off small paychecks. But if exotic cars and jets is what they asked for, I wasn't about to make excuses.
Photo of NIKO by AJ Lee
"I'm on it," I said, getting out of bed and struggling to piece together my equipment.
Ten minutes later, I was on the phone with Salt Lake City International's PR department, requesting access to film a music video on the ramp of their airport.
"We are liable if anything happens, so we'll need to run this by a few departments," they told me.
I wasn't prepared to wait on other departments. We needed results, not excuses. Talib's crew was leaving Salt Lake City later today, so we had to move fast. I started calling local airports, air museums, private jet companies, and even the Air Force base nearby.
No luck. Better start working on the order for one exotic car.
I texted and DM'd anyone in Salt Lake City with a car worth turning a head for, but with the foot of snow we got the previous night, none of them would make it out of their driveways. I guess it was up to me, and Harambae (the name of my now ice covered Mustang).
My team showed up at my house, and we jumped in the muscle car to speed down to the airport and search for a good place to shoot. My idea was to setup at the end of a runway, so we can at least get a 747 taking off.
"How much longer?" Talib's team was messaging me.
"We're working on it; police are helping," I replied.
We had pulled up to a location that was restricted, and ran into some patrol cars. Instead of trying to be unseen, I approached one of the squad cars as my friend in the passenger seat looked at me like I was out of my mind.
"Excuse me, officer," I said as he rolled down his window, "we're trying to shoot a music video where airplanes are taking off. Would you know a good spot?"
Photo of Will Collette taken at Talib's concert by AJ Lee
He gave me this, "is this for real" look.
"Uhhhh you could try this parking lot just off the freeway over there. Should be off airport property," he said as he made a thousand foot stare through my face.
"Thanks!" I rolled up my window and sped off. We texted Talib and NIKO, "found the spot. Dropping a pin soon."
We pulled up to the parking lot, which was half plowed and full of cars, with the other half empty and covered in six inches of snow.
"Hey, how's it going?" I asked the parking attendant. "We're shooting a music video and wanted to borrow the other half of your lot. Would you mind if we did some donuts and filmed jets from over there?"
I didn't have any faith in that pitch. It sounded too dangerous.
"I don't really care as long as no one gets hurt. Do your thing, kid."
Photo of NIKO by AJ Lee
The golden ticket. We were in.
I dropped a pin, and within 15 minutes, a group of cars, with a large GMC SUV, pulled up behind my Mustang on the blanket of snow. It looked like the last scene of Four Brothers, where the gang meets out on the ice to drop that evil dude down a hole.
Car doors open, people get out, and they start throwing on large, dark coats. The back window of the SUV rolls down halfway as Talib looks out, "let's do this quick, but be safe," he said.
The window rolls back up as I stare at my own reflection in the now closed window.
Word. Here I am, the whitest kid in America, about to shoot a music video for one of the greatest legends in hip-hop with no story in mind, no shot ideas, a suited up Mustang, and a parking lot.
You could say I was born for irony. Just gotta make sure I don't let the Mustang slide into any of the cars parked nearby watching. The SUV had to be close to play the music for NIKO, so I had to Ken Block my way in between the SUV and the rapper, while maintaining a perfect circle at a high speed.
"Ready?" I asked my team, who were leaning their cameras in as close as they could get to NIKO.
"Ready." They said.
I hit the gas to the Mustang, with NIKO's friend, Elsha, riding shotgun. The brand new tires slung snow straight into the air, but without the car going anywhere.
I turned off traction control, put it in reverse, rolled off the packed snow beneath my tires, shifted into drive, and slammed on the gas. With the force of 375 horsies (if your car has more, I do not care), we were thrown forward as Elsha yelled out, "oh shiiiit."
We shot the gap between NIKO and the SUV, and I turned the wheels hard left. Pushing the gas in hard bursts, we kept a flawless drift going. After about a half dozen circles, we stopped and got out.
Even in the snow, the tires were smoking hot, and the pipes were melting snow with plenty of steam.
Not only did this look pretty insane on camera, but we had jets landing above us the whole time. Somehow, we pieced together a music video.
The guys were all impressed.
Photo by AJ Lee
NIKO was laughing, looking back at us finishing off the rubber tread in my tires. They never last long on my car, anyway.
Everyone shook hands, and with that, Talib and his crew were on to the next city. Hopefully remembering Salt Lake as one worth visiting again.
I know we didn't get a private jet or an exotic car like we would have liked, but that's not how you set a reputation.
It's about focusing on what you can accomplish, and attacking problems as if there aren't any limits. Admitting that the weather was too bad, or why getting an airplane was impossible would have sent the message that we don't produce results.
Even with both of these challenges, we leveraged the snow to do donuts, and thought outside the box to get airplanes in the shot.
"Things are fluid in this world," using the words of Talib here, "and if you don't remain fluid, you get lost in the sauce."
If you're curious about the video, look up "Will Collette" on YouTube. I'll be either dropping it there, or promoting it on Instagram (@billco).