Nominated for 2006 CMA Video of the Year

By Tom Roland


Brooks & Dunn photo courtesy of Arista Nashville


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October 16, 2006--Brooks & Dunn’s "Believe," with its overt discussion of faith, is such a strong song on its own that an accompanying video could have easily distracted the viewer from the real message. That made Ronnie Dunn particularly skeptical going in.

"More times than not, an involved story line treatment looks good on paper but seldom makes it onto the screen," Ronnie writes via e-mail. "The reality is that you have a little over three minutes, in most cases, to shoot a mini-movie. It seldom happens."

Directors Robert Deaton and George Flanigen IV followed the narrative closely, and instead of damaging the song’s impact, they actually took it to another level.

"Believe" is, of course, the tale of a young man who comes face to face with questions of mortality when he discovers that a childhood mentor, "ol’ man Wrigley," has died. Their relationship takes on deeper meaning through the use of photographs in the video. The old man shows wallet pictures of his departed wife and children to the young boy, who—after Wrigley’s passing—has pictures of his friend on the wall in his dorm room. It strengthens the bond between the two as old man Wrigley ultimately provides his "student" with some emotional knowledge that the kid needs when Wrigley himself dies.

Adding even more dimension to the piece, Wrigley is African-American. Ronnie Dunn hadn’t envisioned that possibility when he wrote "Believe" with Craig Wiseman, although the gospel textures in the final recording might have hinted at it. Deaton and Flanigen both arrived at that cultural idea separately, and when they cast Edward Richbourg in the role, the video cut across numerous social boundaries.

"This gentleman stood out so much," Flanigen notes. "He was just one of those people that when he smiled, you smiled back, and you just felt like he was a mentor, you just felt like he had a heart of gold, you just felt like he was salt of the earth."

That was particularly important for the "Believe" video, because the lyrics indicated a small-town community. Thus, Deaton Flanigen infused the story with run-of-the-mill events—conversations on a porch swing, tossing rocks and working on a car engine.

The salt-of-the-earth theme also carried through into the funeral scene, a setting that could have made the video a bit hokey if handled incorrectly.

"We wanted it to be a mix of what we would expect in a small-town community," Flanigen says. "There’d be whites, blacks, there would be a lot of the older people because that’s who he would’ve known—and then just a spattering of younger people, but not many. And it wouldn’t be a big funeral, because what happens a lot of times, people get older and they out-live their friends and family."

In that setting, the depth of Wrigley’s instruction became what Dunn calls the boy’s "moment of truth."

"At that moment," Dunn says, "it hit him how important that faith that the old man had talked about was going to be."

Before the song or the Hillbilly Deluxe album were released, Kix Brooks said repeatedly that "Believe" was a major piece of work, and he always made the point that it was Ronnie's accomplishment. Backing up that stance, Kix stayed in the background when the performance scenes were shot in a soybean field in Adams, Tennessee, during October 2005. In fact, the owner held off harvesting the crops until the video was complete, allowing them to get the full rural effect.

In the end, the video connected well with viewers, and with Country Music Association voters. Deaton Flanigen now have seven Video of the Year nominations from the CMA. This year’s award will be handed out November 6 in Nashville.