MusicMusic Features

Kovasckitz Brothers Capture Magic of the Mundane in Home Movies Music Sessions

New video series features living room performances from NC artists

Victoria Victoria sits on the couch in a living room setting while someone points a camera at her and a boom mic hangs suspended above while filming Home Movies Music Sessions with Kovasckitz Brothers
Behind the scenes of Home Movies Music Sessions with Victoria Victoria. (Photo courtesy of Kovasckitz Brothers)

In today’s media landscape, intimacy has built up a bit of market value. TikTok sells us a window into someone’s daily minute moments, X documents our diaristic (and diarrheic) thoughts in short form, Uber lets us ride in other people’s cars, and Airbnb lets us briefly live in other people’s homes. 

As consumers, we appear famished for intimacy, and corporations are eager to feed us bit by pre-packaged bit. Home Movies Music Sessions, a new music video series from the NC-based filmmaking trio Kovasckitz Brothers, challenges this trend. 

The series comprises 12 episodes thus far, each one featuring a three-song set from a different North Carolina musician, and each one filmed in the musician’s home using only a camcorder, sparse lighting, and a boom mic to transport viewers from the content grind of the grid into the lingering intimacy of a living-room performance. 

The first dozen episodes, nine of which are currently available for viewing on YouTube with a new release each Friday, spotlight eight Charlotte artists and two each from Winston-Salem and Boone. 

Charlotte musicians featured in the series include tré ahmad, Low Groves, Te’Jani Inuwa, Nia J and Emily Sage.

Each video averages around 10 minutes, interspersed with short interview clips in which artists muse on their formative musical memories, among other topics. 

Rudy Kovasckitz, the lead filmmaker on the project, was inspired to explore camcorder filmmaking while he was going through his family archives. As a Christmas gift to his mother in 2022, he digitized parts of his family’s VHS home movie collection onto a thumb drive to make them easily accessible. 

During the process, Kovasckitz encountered a shot of his mother nursing one of his siblings in their living room, playing the dulcimer with her one free hand, while his dad and brother played with Legos in a corner of the room. The shot lingered on this moment, the ordinary nature of it spoke to Kovasckitz.   

While most people would consider this a waste of film from a production standpoint, the beauty of the scene struck him immediately. 

“What if I can try to capture that essence?” Kovasckitz asked himself, as he recalled in a recent talk with Queen City Nerve. “This is an extremely boring and honest shot of your living room, where you are; this is what your life looks like.” 

He began to tease out the idea of shooting a series of music videos that focus on the soft ordinariness that can be lost in the spectacle of live performance. The idea began as a way to create speculative work between contracted gigs, but after testing out the idea on his childhood friend, Charlotte musician Te’Jani, Kovasckitz decided to extend the idea into a series. 

With creative marketing assistance from his brother, Judson, Rudy began contacting artists. The brothers sought musicians who could trust them enough to grant access to their personal space before there was ever any proof of concept, brand or following for the project.

They didn’t care what genre the artists came from or the size of the artist’s following. Instead, they sought out folks who, as Rudy put it, “are genuinely expressing themselves with a commitment to honesty through their music.” 

Each taping followed the creative needs of the artist and the space. For example, tré ahmad’s episode was shot in the singer’s bedroom, with purple ambient lighting on the wall behind them — a color important to their self-expression. 

In the video, ahmad leans over a mic engulfed in the filter, perched on the edge of their bed while singing to a track playing from their computer. The style of the shoot lends itself to ahmad’s role as “Bedroom Popstar,” a title they bestowed upon their 2021 debut LP

The style of the shoot makes the viewer feel as if they’re planted in the room next to ahmad as the camera lopes, ambling in and out of closeups. 

The technique is intentional, as Kovasckitz had to curb some of his filmmaking instincts to retain what he calls the “honesty” of the series. 

“I can’t change it and manipulate it in the way that I would want to normally as a creator,” he said. 

A guitarist performs sitting on the edge of a couch at his home with his family in the background.
John Lucas performs at his home with his family in the background. (Photo courtesy of Kovasckitz Brothers)

He intentionally mimicked his uncle’s shots from some of the VHS videos that he converted for his mom. He lit the space to feel unlit and miked it in a way that would feel unmiked, he said. 

This effect is particularly evident in the series’ debut episode featuring Victoria Victoria, during which the Winston-Salem singer/songwriter croons softly over a piano in her living room on an overcast day. 

Watching the episode, one is encouraged to lose sight of the fact that they’re watching a video. The viewer could be wrapped up in a blanket, enveloped in the rapture of a spontaneous living room performance — a moment of time that slips away as abruptly as it arrives. 

While in some ways the series is obviously a curated production, it begs the viewer to forget that it’s a production at all.  

Kovasckitz said that, in the interest of sticking to the home-video style, he would sometimes miss aspects of the scene that he would otherwise think were most important from a filmmaking perspective. He would intentionally remain unfamiliar with the songs that the artists were singing so that he could film according to what he felt in the moment. 

“If everyone does what they need to and we hit it on our first one, then we move on to the second song,” he explained of the process. 

His unfamiliarity with many of the tracks he recorded added to the feel of a spontaneous living room performance. 

For example, in Nia J’s performance of her single “GWHF,” featured in Episode 7, Kovasckitz zooms in and out on her gesturing hands, rapidly zooming out when the clear passion of her performance crescendos. “Missing the hits,” as he called it, allowed for the style and substance to remain in the moment. 

Above all, however, the Home Video Music Series is about highlighting the talent of North Carolina’s musicians. 

“Both from the fans of these artists and the people who are getting newly introduced, it’s a nice opportunity to feel like you’ve met them,” Kovasckitz told Queen City Nerve. 

In addition to helping grow the artists’ respective fan bases, Kovascitz worked with Sage to draw up contract agreements that help artists maintain rights to the performances. Some artists, like ahmad, have even opted to release the recordings on streaming platforms. 

Finding himself deeply inspired by these sessions, Kovascitz said he is looking to grow the series from the initial 12 episodes. The brothers will continue to expand the project, staying true to two rules: The performance must be shot on VHS tape and it has to be filmed in the residence of the artist. 

Behind the scenes of Home Movies Music Sessions. (Photo courtesy of Kovasckitz Brothers)

With a growing list of interest from artists who have seen the series, the team wants to ensure they continue to select artists who honestly engage themselves in their music, Kovascitz said.

While intimacy produced through nostalgia can be a cheap trick that makes one hearken to the good ol’ days that really never were, it’s the integrity of the Kovascitzes’ approach that pushes this series beyond just another gimmick. 

While the series undoubtedly is a production of authenticity and nostalgia, it disallows the viewer from leaving with some valorous conception of the camcorder as a marker of the “real” and thus a view into the artists’ own performances. 

Instead, Kovasckitz is careful to operate more as a facilitator than a curator. He labors to create opportunities for artists to be what they are rather than produce who they want people to see. 

Many of the interview shorts capture candid moments in which artists look down and catch themselves giggling about some silly adolescent musical obsession or look on dolefully as they recount how music got them through tough times. It’s profoundly ordinary and profoundly human.

Instead of serving as just another documentary of performance, the series is about who the artists are as much as what they do. It begs us to slow down and see the humanity of those brave enough to share themselves. 

Home Movies Music Sessions ask us to linger in the intimacy of the ordinary and to appreciate those who document it. 

Episode 10 of Home Movies Music Session, featuring singer/songwriter and producer Ike Byers, aka BEKI, is set to release on Friday, March 15 on YouTube and the Kovasckitz Brothers website.

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