Blue and white smoke engulfs dark green leaves, deep within a forest. Scene. Smokey red lights illuminate the timeworn bricks of a musty underground grotto. Scene. A vintage yellow sports coupe crashes inside a weathered warehouse. Scene. Sort of. In the midst of all this, colourful pop singer Danny Dymond lip synchs, dances and sweats. It’s been a long day. Up at sunrise, dead by sunset. Three sets, two dancers, a camera crew, an assistant, and one anxious stylist hired to act as three. Me? I’m here to observe the behind the scenes workings of a music video…in Hamilton.

Since relocating to the “Steel City” during the height of he COVID pandemic, Dymond chose Hamilton for ease and simplicity. The last time I was here I was also on assignment, working for a magazine which as since shuttered publication. Not much has changed. Today, I am brought back to the city during the day (instead of reporting on its queer nightlife like last time), and notice that Hamilton is not, as most Torontonians have been led to believe, that ugly.

Dymond’s concept for his second professional video, to support his new single “What Do You Want”, has him swerving in and out of sections of a dream, a fantasy in three parts. The first is to take place outdoors under a waterfall…in Hamilton.

Dream Of Nature

“Hamilton has the most water falls in North America,” Dymond informs me as we take a break between locations and scarf back pizza and cold drinks in a park outside a Starbucks which, because of COVID, is still is not allowed to have guests sit inside.

I smile at this fact bestowed upon me but don’t fully believe it. To my surprise, as I Google it later, the city known for producing sixty percent of Canada’s steel, actually has more than 100 water falls. According to the Smithsonian, Hamilton is not just the waterfall capital of North America but of the entire world.

To physically prepare for this busy day of shooting three scenes, Dymond goes three weeks without alcohol, and caps this dry period off with a three day juice cleanse. He looks fresh, yet stressed.

“It was really tough for me drop some weight but I wanted to feel confident in my performance and keep up with the dancers. They’re both professionals. With studios closed because of COVID, and me not being able to do live shows, I have kind of put my fitness of the back burner.”

Arriving at the first waterfall they find the area teaming with COVID shut-ins desperate to escape the confines of their domiciles on this sunny summer day. The backup location, Sherman Falls, forces them to reconsider their idea all together. The risk of damage to their equipment is too great, so off to the hilly woods they trek. Still outdoors, this part of the dream sequence, no longer about blue water falling, is anchored with blue smoke rising. This pivot, a slight change in artistic direction paired with a wardrobe of white, still works to create the dreamlike quality they have originally set out to capture.

“The start of the day was a bit tricky,” Dymond says after the shoot. “There were a lot of last minute changes, but with all of the collaborations everything worked out. We had a lot of great people [who] had a lot of ideas that helped the project.”

One of those helping move the project along is choreographer, Christos Tsiantoulas who also appears in the video, along with Stella Medley as Dymond’s two dancers. Tsiantoulas is a force to watch, having recently leant his creative ideas and energetic movements to other local rising artists including Drag Race Canada Season One contestant, Tynomi Banks and singer Dani Doucette.

(ABOVE: Behind the scenes, deep in the grotto)

“I could have executed (the choreography) better,” he admits. “We learned it very quickly during a ninety minute rehearsal. But I think the dancers will make it look really good. I’d rather focus on performing for the camera and expressing emotion than being super technical (with the choreography). When I perform live I don’t do as much choreo anyways because I want to be able to vocally push. Not everyone can be Lady Gaga.”

Dark Of Dream

Perhaps to take some of the pressure off Dymond, the dance steps are adjusted and amped up in the moment, as the shoot unfolds. Tsiantoulas shouts encouraging direction to dancer Medley, from out of camera view.

“Arch your back!” ,“Yes!”, “More!”, “Make the wall want it!”

Manning a mighty black RED camera, cinematographer Paul Maxwell is also aiding in the process. He knows his equipment. It’s like an extension on his mind and he advises Dymond, Tsiantoulas and Medley of the best possible framing for each sequence and at times even suggests that they limit their movements in order to better capture the overall mood of specific sections of the video.

Existing between physical movements and digital recording is editor and drone operator James Forrester, stylist Arthur Szewczyk, and production assistant Nicole Jansen. Jansen who earlier drove me to the set is also charged with the audio playback needed for each take. The song itself is down-tempo but dance, base-heavy but made light. The incorporation of wind-like atmospheric elements and a repeating five keyboard popping echo pings helps the dream narrative of both the song and the video.

Forrester has filmed, edited and created videos  for almost every drag artist in Toronto, used his drone to film parts of todays forest scene. The plan is to have him also film some of the indoor scenes with his other camera, but at the last minute he shies away from the option. “I saw the other guy’s equipment and I didn’t even bother to take mine out,” he says to me. Perhaps size does matter. He, like me, ends up observing the rest of the shoot from the sidelines.

Szewczyk, triple tasked with hair, makeup and wardrobe, seems anxious to keep the day on track. Downstairs in the basement of this industrial warehouse, we wait in the dark, damp, grotto-like environment, lightly lit with four light strips laid along the ground. While tightly gripping Dymond’s next outfit change (a dark leather trench coat) in one hand, Szewczyk blurts out through his clenched jaw, “You guys should be practicing,” during a camera lens change. They are, but perhaps not enough for him. I figure he has a hot date lined up later.


Dream Of Past

The final scene is shot up on the ground floor of this same warehouse, underneath its 80 foot arched slatted wood roof. I’m not sure how much of the height will actually make it into the video as most of this sequence is focused around a prized prop, a vintage mustard yellow 1972 Buick Skylark, placed centre stage. Matching the old coup’s new paint job, Danny and the dancers pop in bright reds, orange and yellows. The lighting grid is moved from underneath to above while a smoke machine helps create the colourful quality of this part of the dream, the final fantasy.

On its way into the warehouse though the Buick, which had just been repaired, crashes into an interior column. Hood damaged. Fender bent. Paint job ruined. But with some smart camera angles, no one will be the wiser. Except for Philip Crozier, the owner of the car who drove (and crashed) it onto the set.

(ABOVE: Behind the scenes, beep, beep)

As the lights are dismantled, as the camera is boxed away, as the outfits are bagged, as the damaged car is towed away on a flat bed truck, as the dancers replenish their fluids, Dymond smiles.

“It’s a strange time,” he says after taking a long gulp from his water bottle. “With the pandemic ending, I’m applying to school, changing jobs. This time has given me time to think about my singing career. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be doing this. Singing. I truly just wanted to get this video out. I feel though that we are finally out of the woods.”

Cue the smoke bombs.

Danny Dymond’s video for “What Do You Want” can be watched on YouTube or So Fierce Music

Rolyn Chambers
(Rolyn Chambers is freelance writer and columnist. His book, “The Boy Who Brought Down A Bathhouse”, based on real events, is available through Amazon)

About the Author

Jamaican born Rolyn Chambers grew up in the suburbs of Mississauga, before attending Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD). In 2001, he began his Deep Dish column with fab Magazine, which ran for a full decade, allowing him to interview everyone from clubbers and promoters, to celebrities and politicians. Deep Dish has now been resurrected once again here in theBUZZ. Chambers is also the author of, The Boy Who Brought Down A Bathhouse, self-published by himself via YumEee! Communications. IG @rahrahrolyn