Sound & Vision Volume 1: Anna Copa Cabanna and Alex Lee Moyer

The Greeks have at least four different ways of expressing “love”. They saw it fit to make the distinction between expressing your devotion for you mom, and the pizza you just put in your mouth. But I speak English, and presumably so do you, and presumably-er, you throw around the word at least eighty times a day because it can literally describe anything from slight affection to that thing that goes wrong that makes for great poetry.

The caliber of my love can be determined the following way: written or verbal italicization. So, when I say I love this video, I mean, I love it. In fact I would go so far as to say I love it, “love” being italicized, bolded, and underlined.

Anna Copa Cabanna is a New York City downtown legend. She was the original go-go dancing-in-a-leotard-at-dive-bars Queen. When I first saw her in action on the bartop at Motor City in animal print and strappy metallic heels, my mental jukebox started playing “Rebel Girl” and I welled up with the same excitement I had watching my favorite cartoon heroine as a little girl. She’s She-Ra meets Poison Ivy. She is sparkles and lightning bolts.

As I got to know Anna, the more I loved her. I was so psyched to be a part of her self-written and self-choreographed 70’s era variety show. It was such an intoxicating and hilarious homage to all the things she loves. It would swoop from a Xanadu-inspired dance routine to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” on the xylophone in lullaby style (yet side-splittingly funny), and it all just made fucking sense. It was a Pee Wee’s Playhouse fragmented dreamworld for adults. You’d have to be absolutely no fun not to love it.

Watching Anna prepare for these shows taught me so much about doing shit for yourself, and finding ways around obstacles, especially financial ones. She was meticulous about every aspect, from the dance practices to band rehearsals to the props and costumes. I actually couldn’t believe how much this one woman would take on, while still working long shifts and still going out to support her friends’ creative endeavors.

This Anna Copa Cabanna theme, while short, was as exciting as watching Dorothy step out in Technicolor. She, and director Alex Moyer perfectly capture the essence that is Anna, without compromise. It reminded me of those early 80’s videos like Siouxsie’s “Arabian Knights” or Kate Bush’s “Babooshka” meets The Monkees. I decided I needed to get the story, in their words. I think it only further proves my point – all you need is some ideas, inspiration, and some friends to barter with!

Anna Copa Cabanna’s Sound & Vision A to Z

I always wanted to make a TV version of my Variety Show THE ANNA COPA CABANNA SHOW (at Joe’s Pub) since it was inspired by old shows I loved on TV – Solid Gold, The Carol Burnett Show, The Dean Martin Comedy Hour, The Muppet Show, etc… but I was always intimidated by how much it would COST. I also wondered if I could find the RIGHT people to work with since I always assume only 5 friends and one crazy old guy in Tompkins Sq. Park will get my show. And could it translate the way I wanted it to?

One day, my talented friend Alex Lee Moyer came to me and said she was thinking my show needed to be on TV. Alex was working at an editing house so she had resources, co-workers – Mike Debbie and Chris Besecker – who wanted to do something new and “fun”, and she had seen my show a few times and LIKED it. Alex really UNDERSTOOD my references, humor, look, vibe, ideas. Once we started chatting about it, it made total sense to work with her and everything fell into place really quickly and easily. She rounded up a few cameramen, an old taxi cab, and a friend who lived in a loft with a green screen. I brought 2 dancers, props, about 15 costume changes and an extensive shot list.

We decided to start with the OPENING. A classic old style MONTAGE opening sequence of me being SILLY, dancing, roller skating, being chased by aliens, falling over, dealing with dog poo…all the usual stuff. I sent her tons of YouTube links. The Banana Splits, The Monkees…Opening Sequence GOLD. We actually shot it all in one day in May on an unusually FREEZING COLD day so it was tough running around in leotards but it was SO FUN, too. Changing costumes in cars, coming up with new ideas on the spot, making the camera guy laugh. The whole day was incredible. Both Alex and I had such a SOLID idea of what we wanted so the set ups and takes were fast. We laughed and laughed all day and I bought everyone pizza at the end (and used it in the video too). We definitely benefited from people volunteering their time and talent. From my experience, people in the business will help you if you have something fresh and exciting to bring to them. It’s not always about money- THANK GOD. We had a blast and I absolutely love the video.

Soon after, I had another live show and realized the work would look great as a stand alone MUSIC VIDEO for my theme song and I could show it at Joe’s Pub. The leftover footage also worked well as a sweet weird little piece of Art and Magic. I actually really love it. Alex edited both of these SO quickly and understood what I wanted so clearly that I hardly made ANY changes to the original edits. Alex got an amazing animator involved and the rest is history. The 2 videos that came out of this one day of shooting remain my favorite videos I have made. I really can’t be more grateful to everyone involved. Especially Alex. When what you see in your head actually becomes reality on a screen, it’s so wonderful. The video is super fun, silly, colorful, crazy. I love it.

Alex Lee Moyer‘s A to Z

Anna and I had wanted to do a comedy variety pilot a la Carol Burnette, Dame Edna etc. – part sketch comedy, interviews, live performances.  We whipped this up on spec to try and drum up support for the show. Of course, then I moved to LA and we never finished it sadly.  This is the theme song to the show that never happened.

I worked at a production company at the time and I had access to all kinds of stuff, and free help from nerdy dudes who wanted to watch Anna dance around in a bathing suit.  I didn’t shoot it – our friends Chris Besecker and Mike Debbie did. Anna has shot a couple more things with them recently.

I had a friend that lived in that warehouse space where they used to do THE SHANK (memories) over by McCarren park.  Someone loaned us a green screen and we shot a bunch of stuff there.  Anna recorded the song with the MG5.  It all just kind of fell into place.

Nearly all the videos I’ve done happen on no budget.  I’m working on a stop motion video with Geneva Jacuzzi right now – we have even less resources then I had for Anna’s thing and it still looks amazing.  All you really need is a camera. Greenscreens are always awesome.  And I guess having eight years of editing experience helps too…

In celebration of my good friend Jason Somma’s beautiful show the last two nights at the Park Avenue Armory, I’d like to leave you with the video he made for my previous band featuring Anna Copa Cabanna.

Azar Swan “Lovely Day” official ANALOG music video from Jason Akira Somma on Vimeo.

One thought on “Sound & Vision Volume 1: Anna Copa Cabanna and Alex Lee Moyer

Comments are closed.