When filmmaker Marcus Haney visited Seattle in June, he intended to shoot a music video for British band Bear’s Den’s new song “Elysium.” But the end product was much more heartbreaking than anyone could have imagined.
The song’s reflective lyrics (“Brother, don’t grow up Just hope that age does not erase all that you’ve seen Don’t let bitterness become you Your only hopes are within you”) spurred Haney to set the video in Seattle, where his younger brother, Turner, attends Seattle Pacific University.
“I wanted to capture elements of that transitional experience with my brother,” Haney told NPR. “I wanted to film him and his real friends doing actual things that they normally do.”
The video starts out as a documentation of carefree college kids but turns tragic midway through – when art and life overlap.
Shortly after Haney began filming, a gunman injured three students and killed one on Seattle Pacific’s campus. The student who died was Turner’s friend and dorm-mate Paul Lee.
Haney says Turner and his friends were hesitant to return to filming, which he stood behind, ready to return to the band and apologize he couldn’t finish the project in light of the tragedy.
“There was no speaking of the music video for that time. But the song itself ripped through them – the lyrics resonated with them,” Haney, 26, of Arcadia, California, tells PEOPLE. “They said, ‘Think about what we could do if we use this for good, for Paul.’ Once it became something for Paul, that’s when it became what got everyone to want to complete it.”
The song’s poignant lyrics come to life heartbreakingly in the now-completed video, and Haney says filming provided his brother and his friends a respite, as well as an outlet for their grief.
“It’s still so fresh – it’s really raw,” he says. “In a lot of ways, the video helped those kids a lot. They all told me it was very helpful and cathartic.”
While Haney says the band’s reaction was positive, it’s more than a music video: They’ve also been raising awareness of the tragedy, as well as for the Paul Lee Foundation, which was founded in the wake of the shooting.
“It’s a really horrific thing, but to somehow take away the good essences that came out of it the companionship, the love that I experienced in that dorm was flooring to me,” he says. “To see those kids come together the way they did was just really touching. That’s the biggest thing I take away from it – being able to capture some essence of that and spread onto others was the most important part for me.”