Wednesday, 6 November 2013

James Harker - Swanbourne

I made a music video for James Harker , to promote his new lovely album Anecdote, available here. You may remember James as the man whose stomach exploded during the filming of Alien: The Easter Edition. This isn't like that.

Watch the film


Main Singer Pianist Awesome Mega Guy In Real Life: James Harker

Violinist In The Video But Not In Real Life: Sarah Barker

Guitarist For The Video But Not In Real Life: Georgina Lee

Banjoist/Backup Singer For The Video Who's In SixToes In Real Life: David Greenep 

Bass Guitarist For The Video But Not In Real Life: Simon Maeder

Guy Who Produced The Song In Real Life But In The Video Is Just Reading A Book And Tapping His Foot: Nikhil Datta

Guy Who Did A Lot of the Sound Design/Guitar Playing/Backup Singing In Real Life But Couldn't Make It To The Shoot: James Hyde (not present)

Angry Sixties-Style Guy Writing Stuff Who Wrote The Poem The Song Is Based On In Real Life: Jonathan Kerridge-Phipps

Laughy Lady Who Hangs Out With Neil Gaiman In Real Life: Niamh Walsh

Laughy Man Who Got A Bit Tipsy On The Wine We Kept Giving Out But Had A Good Time I Think In Real Life: Ed Duncan-Smith

Nice Guy Who I Didn't Give Enough To Do Sorry Jack In Real Life: Jack Boteler

Guy Who Filmed It And Did The Lights And Stuff In Real Life: Geoff Geroyc

Lady Who Came Along To Help Out And Maybe Be An Extra But Ended Up Filming Some Bits and Being An A.D. Because She's Kate Shenton, She's An Actual Filmmaker In Real Life, She Made On Tenter Hooks, Don't Patronise Her With Bit Parts: Kate Shenton

Guy Who Directed It And Edited It And Filmed Some Bits And Wrote A Blog: Will Tribble


From personal experience modern music videos generally falls into two categories: ones where the performers have very little/no money but are up for doing anything interesting, and ones where the performers have money but are mainly concerned with looking "cool" and making it look forgettably similar to other videos they like. 

James Harker is one of the first group. But for a long time I've had trouble with understanding what you can actually do with no money and everybody only having time to work on it for a day (I still do). So we'd meet up, plan something out, get really excited about an idea, then would gradually work out that there's no possible way we could make it without befriending an eccentric billionaire. I have an absolutely beautiful video idea for one of his songs, that I was hoping me and Geoff could make ourselves, but that I'm now ready to accept could only be made for £10,000 if a full crew was willing to spend at least a solid working month making it. Hey James, I don't think I've told you that yet. Sorry you had to hear this way. 

James got fed up with this. He saved up, planned out his own video, got a cast together, and hired out a nice location called the Vintage Emporium Cafe in Brick Lane to shoot it in. Funnily enough, when we met up in the cafe and he told us his idea about one person starting a song on the piano in the corner and everyone around him suddenly picking up instruments and joining in, that actually happened in real life. It was awesome. 

We only had four hours to make the video, including setup time, and we wanted to do some quite specific things rather than just have a general performance. I can't draw well, so our storyboards were a mix of photos and crude top-down diagrams I'd drawn based on an equally crude floorplan I'd made of the location: 

Dunno if it was the best way to do it, but it was a quick way of semi-choreographing a video where lots of things were supposed to be happening in the same place. I need to relearn Google SketchUp. If you thought I was making up the bit about an impromptu band coming together and playing as we talked, you can see the trombonist and double bass player in a couple of these pictures. 

The cast were people we knew. Some of the instrumentalists, like Georgina and David, don't actually play in the song, but were nice enough to come along anyway. We had free wine.

We used a mixture of hired film kit, that had the wrong plugs and didn't work, and kit we'd borrowed from the Sutton Film Makers film club, that didn't and did. The Sutton Film Makers are an important part of my life and through them I have met both George Burt and my girlfriend, so they're pretty brilliant. Go along sometime. 

It was a rush, and thankfully Kate Shenton (who we've known since Old Times) was smart enough to realise that what we needed was an AD to push us along and make sure we weren't spending an hour filming excessive close ups of fingers on a piano when we should be filming stuff happening, so that was good. There was a whole chunk of semi-story we had that we didn't really have time to film and in retrospect didn't make any sense, so we cut it. Then James came along and stood over me while I did the edit to make sure I finished it on time and didn't get caught up in fiddly details. 

In terms of the colouring I thought it was a bit too red when we filmed it, so I de-red-ified it in post, then everyone said they sort of liked it when it was a bit red and thought that made it look warm and comforting, so I put some red back in again. Then when it went online Geoff called me just to say he thought it was all too red. Eh. 

It was a fun night, and after the shoot Kate took us to a pub she knew nearby with a name I've forgotten which served bottles of Ska Steel Toed Boot Stout, which is great because I had it a few years ago and thought it was one of the nicest beers I've ever had and I've been looking for more ever since. While I was talking about this Kate was smoking an electronic cigarette with a flashing blue tip and telling me the best way to make films is to make one big feature film and then take it to Cannes and get people interested in you, which is something I've heard before, but also I've seen lots of young filmmakers who make features and it feels like they just get caught up in it for years, and don't necessarily do well at the end of it, sometimes they never finish it, or they get embarrassed about it and move on with their lives, but I don't know really. They're probably doing better than I think. It's not like I'm in a position to judge, and I've got lots of stuff that needs finishing and other stuff I'm embarrassed I even started. But this film turned out alright I think.

Here's a few more pictures of the Vintage Emporium.

- Will (in real life).

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