Duran Duran – My childhood heroes. In 1981 I was still at primary school, but even there I had heard of them. They were, as I remember, one of the first bands I’d ever listened to. It wasn’t long after this that Simon Le Bon’s great yacht sailed into my home town and moored at the jetty in the harbour (likely following a yacht race). My father reminded me recently that he’d snapped a photo of me with my brothers standing proudly next to it.
February – A crazy month with lots to do but one very big video on my hands. With a project that started in mid-January and only just completed today, it’s been one hell of a rollercoaster ride. So who in the world doesn’t know who Duran Duran is anyway?
I suppose, apart from the under-five’s, practically no one. After their big sensation in the 80s and although they never went away as such, they’ve just simmered softly in the background for many years. Now they’re back on every show in television this last month, proudly showing off their new, full nine-track album ‘All You Need is Now’ produced by the talented Mark Ronson (In fact Ronson was expected to produce just one or two tracks for the band; he ended up producing the entire album).
So now that Duran Duran had the music, which directors would create music videos to accompany them? I listened to the entire album a number of times and thought I’d settled on the one I’d like to do the most –
‘Leave a Light on’ is a romantic ballad about some gal waiting patiently for her man to come back to her. Ghastly premise, I know – but the melody had me hooked and there was I, singing it loudly to myself in the car. At least I thought it was just me until an apple core hit me squarely on the head from the rear seats. “No, I won’t sing that song again for the 30th time kids, sorry!”
After some deliberation and numerous phone calls, it turned out the light was to be left off after all. Instead it was to be the final track on the album, track number 9. “Can you do dark ballads?” – Of course, I can do anything! ‘Before the Rain’ is the second ballad on the album and the song is pretty dark alright, and slow. But it’s haunting, it’s deep and mysterious. It grabs you.
Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran described my brief like this; ‘I was desperate to do something baroque. One of my favourite composers is Henry Purcell. I sat in the garden and started writing this, and with it came this story about a man surrounded by these ghosts of guilt. He realises he has to keep moving but they will always come with him.’
So that’s my brief. The sinister piece has a deep melodic rhythm and a military drum beat that kicks in for a chorus. I got to work once again and tried to piece together my story for the track. But the more I thought about it, the more bizarre my ideas became for the video. I knew I wanted to stick religiously close to Simon Le Bon’s brief but the story in my head was becoming more impracticable! Consider that realistically, I have little budget to speak of but what emerged from my imagination were unrealistic thoughts of large ballrooms with high society elite dancers, flying people and leering prostitutes…Ambitious, to put it mildly.
You know, at film school, they teach you to be practical about your ideas. Look at your budget and remain consistent within the constraints that it dictates. It other words, don’t ride above your station. But then it all goes wrong. You climb out of film school and land a job at a snazzy commercial production house, get given a crew, PAs, BUDGETS!!! Fantastic, but it spoils you rotten. When you start freelancing it’s hard to put those high-flying ideas back into touch.
So I tried to go back to the drawing board and think of something more… practical. The difficulty is, my brain doesn’t know ‘practical’ – It doesn’t wish to go back to any ‘drawing board.’ No sir, my exorbitant brain already likes the first idea it gave me. Like a spoilt child, it then refuses to come up with anything else as if to say “There, that’s your video – If you don’t like it, leave it!!”
Out of time and no more ideas apart from this one great story (for a £100K budget) in my head, I had a choice. So I picked up the phone and started making calls. That’s what I do when I don’t know what to do. I make calls. If people are switched on to the idea, I’ll ride with it.60 or so people to recruit (it turned out to be 100), half a dozen locations to find, roads to block off, and a heck of a lot of planning, green screen work, and no doubt weeks of post-production. Yes brain, ta very much!
With the green light from all parties, my living room is once again turned into a production office. The story premise is about a guy, feeling the pangs of guilt and ‘crying’ into his whiskey glass at a lonely, local bar. Suddenly this ghostly child spectre appears and takes him on the journey of his life, which includes flying, to the spot where the guy ran him over. Sounds like an elaborate PSA, I know.For this piece, I wanted to use an iconic English actor from the same period Duran Duran were at their height in the 80s. Fortunately for me, veteran actor Michael Redfern, who played the dad in the long running Oxo family TV commercials, lived close by and he was excited to play the protagonist tormented by his troubled past.
His tormentor, a ghost child played by Connor Keeley, is now a seasoned actor himself, having directed him before in a film I made last year. Kids as supernatural beings have always been somewhat of a personal style format for me, I think that always has the potential to make incredibly powerful visual imagery… So at least I was at home with this idea.
Some delightful people chimed in to help me make the production possible (and if I start naming one, I’ll have to name them all!). One by one, they offered their services – Whether it was to help recruiting people, professionals offering their make up and hair services, making costumes or choreography, everyone pulled together. It’s like one huge machine grinding into action!
We shot the primary work over three days and a fourth day for pick ups. Believe me, it was tight. With a budget it would have taken a couple of days more at least. The green screen work was heavy and some of it had to be done again (during production, time constraints had made us rush some of it).It took almost three weeks for post production edit and special FX work. A lot of the work is small details which can only be picked up by watching the video a few times. Like this screenshot from the video of the ballroom that our protagonist falls into. If you click on the image to see it large, you will note the fake signage ‘Duran Duran Live – Henry Purcell’, even footage of the moon has been composited/blended into the shot.
By the end of all this work, I had to start wearing glasses for the first time. Seriously, too much time spent in front of the computer will make the screen go blurry – I don’t recommend it!
At least I’m happy with the end result. It isn’t too bad for a video with no budget. Next time I won’t give in to my brain’s demands too easily!
(For a list of credits, please see the solo page for this video)