Dir. Jason Goldwatch on Filming Dilated Peoples at the World Trade Center on 9/7/2001
Filmmaker Jason Goldwatch shared the story behind shooting the music video for the 2001 Dilated Peoples hit single “Worst Comes To Worst” off their album Expansion Team (Capitol Records). The song, produced by The Alchemist, was already getting a lot of play when it became a bit of an anthem after the events of September 11th, as its theme of perseverance struck a chord in many.
The video features iconic shots of the towers just days before they fell, and the label later asked that they be edited out of the scene where Dilated, Alchemist, and Guru are pictured walking over the Brooklyn Bridge. Okayplayer created the website for the album and staff videographer BKyle was on set to capture behind-the-scenes that day, so the project hits close to home for many of us.
Read Jason’s personal account below and leave a comment to share stories of your own.
I was 25 when my fam Dilated Peoples tasked me with directing the music video for their single “Worst Comes To Worst.” The idea of combining scenes from both coasts was pertinent at the time, especially for Dilated and myself. Even though we’re from Cali, some of our favorite writers, musicians, friends and family for that matter were from NY. The Coast vs. Coast beef of years past was just so stupid to us. It seemed so contrived. So the thought was to put out a video that would connect the two coasts seamlessly, both with locations and cameos from all area crew.
Dilated agreed. We shot first in Hollywood on September 2nd, 2001 around Sunset Blvd. and mostly the areas near the Capitol Records building. The shoot went smooth as butter, L.A. is always gorgeous in September, and the song was a completely infectious good vibe track… life was beautiful.
A day later, we flew out and scouted locations in New York City. There was a hole in the treatment during Rakaa’s first verse, and the way the video was structured, we just knew it needed to be shot in NYC somewhere…
“I got worldwide family all over the Earth. And I worry ’bout ’em all for whatever it’s worth. From the birth to the hearse, through streets the guns burst, words I disperse are here to free minds, and if mine are needy, I need to feed mine…”
I though the WTC was a perfect backdrop for those words and a very iconic NY image. So we got the permits we needed and planned for filming at the World Trade Center on Sept 7th, 2001.
We set up at the base of the towers. While we were framing and lighting, I walked over to one of the buildings and leaned against it with my chest. I looked up, all the way into the sky — which looked like fucking miles — perfectly straight, an unwavering monolith. The buildings were arguably the hallmark of Western imperialism. I mean, that’s why we were there shooting. Regardless of the symbolism, something else struck me. These two towers were just such a monument to human accomplishment. Standing at the foot of these enormous structures, I imagined into the future what it would be like to wander through a post-apocalyptic NY marsh and come upon these gigantic towers, still standing tall. I thought to myself, humans are such amazing creatures.
Back on set, the guy we hired to be our “agent in dark clothes with ear piece” didn’t show. So I ended up grabbing a guy who was chillin’ by the fountain between the towers. He looked so NY, worked on the 78th floor for the South Tower, and was on his lunch break. He already had on a dark suit and had been watching the production for a good half hour, so we fitted him with an ear piece from a PA’s walkie talkie, got a signature, and cast him in the video. He was so stoked and “couldn’t believe his luck,” he told me, noting that he’d been an extra once before and always wanted to be in movies. He was late going back to work, but I needed a few more takes, and he stayed for us, we exchanged emails, and phone numbers to keep him up to speed once the video was finished.
September 11th, I was back in Venice, California. I had been editing in my crib late into the night before, and left my AVID running, the two towers in frame left up on the screen. I WILL NEVER FORGET THAT. My most shattering moment on September 11th was being woken up by consistent phone calls and strange sounding messages from upstairs. I heard my mom sobbing and telling me to turn on the television, my dad just repeating my name over and over, like I wasn’t picking up the phone on purpose. Eventually I headed up stairs, walking by my edit, glancing at the towers on my screens for a split second. The words GROUND ZERO, hadn’t entered my consciousness yet, but I was a few moments away. I turned on the TV. Every single channel had burning towers.
I’ll never forget sitting at my edit looking at the shots of the towers from a few days before, perfect, stoic, unbreakable. I was stunned. The TV playing them crumbling into dust, the reporters voices seeming so distant. It was completely mind shattering, I keep flashing back to the cold granite on my chest as I leaned up against the building, and the guy on the 78th floor (whom we never heard from again), and the real armed security guard on site who was screaming at some kids for playing in the fountain… imagine if we had shot the video a mere four days later.
WCTW my peoples come first. – Dilated Peoples