As owner of Mankato’s True Facade Pictures, Ryan Sturgis is accustomed to being on the road for his job — more often than not traveling to Los Angeles to meet up with high-profile musicians.
“We were doing short documentary projects and music videos that led me out to LA,” Sturgis said.
The film-producing company, which started in 2012, had worked over the years with Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, Mick Fleetwood and Rob Shanahan (Ringo Starr’s photographer), just to name a few. The work had put Sturgis on the road at least two-thirds of his time and he spent the remaining third editing from home.
But, much like the rest of the world, his routine came to a halt.
“And, of course, because of COVID-19, it abruptly stopped in March, so really I haven’t done anything for awhile,” he said. Though, during that time, he homeschooled his daughter.
Then he received a call from a band that he had been working for, The Empty Hearts. The group, which consists of band members from the Cars, Blondie and The Romantics, reached out to Sturgis in May to start on a new project, a music video.
The Empty Hearts already had contracted with Sturgis to produce their music late last summer for their latest album. Typically a band promotes its album through tours and promotional videos.
“Of course, plans changed drastically and (they) held off on releasing the album,” he said. “So what happened, they called me during quarantine.”
Instead of the promotional tour, the band decided to go with some sort of music video. The Empty Hearts asked Sturgis if he’d be available to produce something remotely.
“I got really excited,” he said. Not only had this given him the opportunity to work with the band during a time when he hadn’t been working since March, but the band had given him a lot of creative control.
The music video for the song “The World Has Gone Insane” released in early July. Sturgis began the project in May — perfect timing as his daughter was just wrapping up school. He listened to the song religiously for a week, making a bullet list of ideas and concepts in his handy tool, Google Docs.
The 3½-minute video goes through images of tribulation and hope. The song, Sturgis said, had been released at a time where everyone can relate to it, even though the song had been written more than a year ago.
“It was during a tough time and I think we all felt a new level of crazy, insane feeling.”
The chorus: “Tell me, can’t you see? The world has sure gone crazy/ The world has gone insane/ Everywhere it’s on TV/ This chaos is affecting you and me.”
Taking those lyrics, Sturgis made a connection through references that most would know or could relate to, dating back to the early ‘70s to present.
Images of presidents, dictators, pop culture from movies to podcasts and music, news clippings, images of the world in fire and pollution, and the current unrest of George Floyd’s killing.
“Really, the main foundation of our video is the imbalances that we have in culture, most of which comes from the power provided to people through money,” he said.
However, toward the end of the video, Sturgis adds images of hope. A slight nod to John Lennon’s “Imagine,” the world healing, Ted Talks and young environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
“I decided it was going to be very important to leave viewers with a sense of hope,” he said. “There are many, many things that we’re doing to counteract this insanity.”
His focus wasn’t to just highlight all the things that may be going on wrong now but what the world at large is doing to get back on track.
He explains the process of creating the video as also being a cathartic experience. The opportunity allowed him to not only share his own emotions but also the heightened state of emotion in the world in an artistic platform.
“It was just an honest experience for me, and that’s always a plus in your work or in life,” he said. “I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to have it all kind of pour out.”
The video has been featured in Rolling Stone magazine along with American Songwriters magazine.
Sturgis had been ecstatic the video and song would be shared with those subscribers who truly love music — he found out about the Rolling Stone write-up the day before it was published.
“It’s good to know that we’re connecting with the real fans out there, the real music lovers.”
He hopes, though, for anyone watching the video that it also would be entertaining for them with some of the cultural references — like those from the ‘90s, which he said was a formative decade for him.
“At the very least, I hope it’s fun to watch over and over again,” he said. “I hope that it can be a benefit to the audience as well because it certainly was for me.”
Sturgis will continue to work with The Empty Hearts’ album “The Second Album,” producing another three or four music videos for them. The full album releases Aug. 28.
Ultimately, he hopes to work for them as long as possible. The group members already have had incredible, successful careers, he said. They are natural collaborators. In many ways, Sturgis said, their group is a labor of love.
“And to be a part of that is really amazing because it’s very much an artistic collaboration.”