See "Turn Up the Tips" and more of Austin Susman's videos on his YouTube channel, AustinSusmanProd.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- According to George Washington High School senior Caitlin Moore, the idea came to her friend, filmmaker Austin Susman, two nights ago.
"He sends me a text at like midnight and says he and [our friend] Daniel have an idea for a video they want to do," she said.
The idea was a music video to help promote the Turn Up the Tips campaign, a local grassroots effort asking people who dine out to tip area restaurant workers a little more than usual to make up for wages lost when businesses were closed during the water crisis.
"My father [Tom Susman of TSG Consulting] is helping out with the main Turn Up the Tips campaign, so we thought it'd be fun to give a shout out to that," said Susman, who's also a GW senior.
For her part, Moore got involved because "I'm used to them having crazy ideas, and this seemed like a fun thing to do to support a good cause.
"People haven't been able to work," she said. "We want to help them out, get them some good tips."
Susman said he and Calwell, a student in the collaborative program at West Virginia State University, came up with the idea together. Both teens are actors who met in the local theater community about 10 years ago. Susman also is a filmmaker, while Calwell is into music. They frequently collaborate on video projects.
This particular video is about a minute-and-a-half long and features music by Calwell and lyrics by Susman. It was their second music video, their first original song composition and a whirlwind project.
"From the time we had the idea to do the song and video to the final cut of the video was about 24 hours," Susman said.
The video was shot over the course of about four hours at Magic Island on Charleston's West Side. It mainly features Calwell walking and dancing while singing the song. Susman and Moore appear on the choruses to provide backup singing and dancing.
Susman directed, with assistant direction from Moore.
Moore said the most difficult thing about the shoot was the spontaneity of it all.
"[We were] coming up with ideas as it was happening," she said. "We were filming different things, trying different things to see how they would work out but also would create something that looked cohesive."
Susman recalled a bit of ingenuity they used when they encountered sound problems.
"I didn't think to bring any speakers," he said. "The track was prerecorded. We had the song on my phone, and at one point, Caitlin is holding my iPhone up to a megaphone, and we're walking backwards as Daniel's walking towards the camera."
He also noted one particular scene they ended up cutting: "We shot a scene where Daniel had a bottle of water, and he was drinking through a black Twizzler straw."
In the end, he's satisfied with the result.
"I really liked it," he said of the video. "I remember when we finally wrapped production, we knew it was going to be really good or really cheesy awful. I think it turned out really well."
All three of the teens have their water back, though Susman said he's still sticking to drinking bottled water for now. They weren't economically affected by restaurant closings, either, but they know people who are.
"I have a lot of friends who work as waitresses or hostesses, where their salary is determined on an hourly basis," Moore said. "Everybody is suffering because of it."
After the shoot, the trio went out to eat and did what the campaign suggested -- they turned up their tip. And they hope their video will encourage others to do the same.
"The video's great, but it doesn't mean much if people aren't going out and turning up the tips," Susman said.
Reach Amy Robinson at flips...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4881.
Lyrics to "Turn Up the Tips"
(Written by Austin Susman)
Turning on the tap,
Smell that licorice water.
It's time to pull together,
West Virginia sons and daughters.