Sam Markus and Jen Thorington of Idyllwild rang in the New Year with sights and sound reminiscent of Great Britain’s music scene nearly 40 years ago — and with a coveted prize from the California Film Awards 2017 competition.
The directing duo, known by last names only, raked in the Gold award for their music video “30 Cents,” created for 19-year-old Eli Raybon, a new wave, ’80s-influenced, electro–pop sensation, who is making the rounds of L.A.’s nightclubs.
Music Blog Revue described the video as, “…better than most movies you’ll see.”
Raybon’s single is considered top-notch: “Music that sounds like … Billboard’s top 100,” according to Revue.
Some reviewers see shades of David Bowie in Raybon’s “odd noodling of a stylophone.”
Others see hints of The Smiths and Morrissey of Britain’s 1980s independent music scene.
Noisey/VICE, Buzzbands LA, The Deli, Paste Magazine, OC Weekly and other well-known media brands worldwide have taken note of Raybon.
That level of ink and pixels comes after many long hours put into ensuring that the artist stands out from the crowd. Markus Thorington acts as Raybon’s publicist through their public relations firm, Working Brilliantly.
“Our work is to connect him and other clients like Trevor [Hall], an Idyllwild Arts graduate, with journalists,” Thorington said.
“What we do is hand-select a press list from more than 6,000 world-wide contacts that fits the sound of the album that we’re working.
“We solidify a compelling angle for the artist and then sink our teeth in and come up with a visual vehicle that we think is going to help get the song farther along than it would go by itself,” Thorington added.
“The work is really gratifying,” Markus said.
In Raybon’s case, the hook, “I want to go back where everything made sense, even if it costs me twenty–three bucks and 30 cents,” and “I had a dream I had lost my mind,” are the scaffolding for the spy thriller-themed video.
The two-day video shoot took place at Idyllwild hotspots including The Fort, Grand Idyllwild Lodge, Tommy’s Kitchen, Idyology and The Break (Lawler Lodge).
“We didn’t have much time,” Markus said, “and the locations were so generous to let us in and shoot … everyone was so supportive.”
For three-and-a-half minutes, a kelly-green-outfitted Raybon and a cast of Idyllwild residents drive, bike and walk in reverse to throbbing, high-energy, synthesized pop melodies — before he stumbles into a restaurant-bar and a neon-yellow masked robber.
“Once we start working with an artist and we become intimately familiar with their sound and who he is, we get inspired by the music,” Markus said.
“We’ll do it all--from concept to completion: write, storyboard, produce, edit, color correct and finalize everything in-house in Idyllwild,” Markus added.
The Markus Thorington win at the San Diego-based competition places the partnership squarely within the ranks of contemporary, cutting-edge American and foreign independent films and writers, notably directors Dodo Banyak and Bill Wisneski.
Banyak was honored for the short biopic, “Flowers and Roots …,” about internationally acclaimed Czech-American poet, playwright and author James Ragan.
Ragan headed USC’s Professional Writing Program for 25 years, was a screenwriter for Paramount Pictures, and is a Pulitzer Prize nominee and three-time Fulbright scholar.
Wisneski’s 2016 win for “Joshua Tree: Threatened Wonderland” concerns threats to the trees from air pollution, fires and global warming. “Scientists believe the majority of Joshua Trees may be gone in less than 100 years,” Wisneski said.
The California Film Awards recognize the high-quality work of filmmakers like Markus Thorington, and Banyak and Wisneski.
The competition was “inundated with thousands of submissions,” Markus said, including entries from Canada, Germany, France, Ireland, Australia and Bangladesh.
Of the music videos submitted, 20 received prizes ranging from Grand to Silver. “30 Cents” was one of six receiving the Gold.
“We were very excited when we got the award and it’s really cool to be involved,” Markus said.
The competition, now in its ninth year, also accepts screenplays, short and feature-length films, student work, animation, TV pilots and more.
“30 Cents” is an official selection in the Indie Memphis Film Fest, “one of the biggest music-centric film festivals — about the size of South by Southwest in Austin, Texas,” Markus said.
It is a winner at the Los Angeles Film Awards, an official nominee for the best music video at the Paris Art and Music Awards, and an official selection of the UK Music Festival. It has been pre-selected for the 2018 Washington Film Festival.
Later in January, “30 Cents” will premiere at the Irvine International Film Festival.
Raybon’s PR team is deeply embedded in the highly competitive Hollywood entertainment industry. “We have our hands pretty heavily into music and film,” Thorington said.
“We’ve done everything from building websites to creating graphic materials and CD covers, and we’re writing and pitching music to TV and film and selling it for ‘synth’ purposes,” she added.
In 2009, Markus and Thorington moved from L.A. to get away from the city and to be together around nature — to get inspired.
Markus was already sold on Idyllwild’s lifestyle and creative culture as an Idyllwild Arts film graduate, after which the New Mexico native studied at the School of the Visual Arts in NY. As a musician, he co-writes songs with Trevor Hall and The Rosewood Thieves, and composes for TV and film.
“Plus, we’re [band mates in] The Morning Birds,” Thorington, a Torrance native, said.
The former hair stylist and makeup artist spent 15 years in the industry, travelling internationally and doing jobs for Prince, the Pussycat Dolls, the Tyra Banks Show and The View.
“About two weeks after we moved here, we found out we were going to have a baby and that’s how it all began,” she said.
“We’re extremely grateful for …the recognition, assistance, and support — anything that we receive from anywhere. Our personal philosophy is when you receive … and express deep and sincere gratitude, you open channels for more to come to you.”
View “30 Cents” below.