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Shooting A Music Video In Our Old Secondary School

I’m not sure if this is our 8th or 9th music video for While She Sleeps, though things rarely change – we’re always on a tight budget, an even tighter deadline, but undoubtedly they are the most resourceful of all projects. The band – particularly my brother Mat always shines through and usually contributes to more pre-production duties than the rest of us together…

This time was no exception, after our very successful last video for ‘Four Walls‘ we decided on a more gritty/punk aesthetic for this. But after so many performance-based videos for the band, primarily because their live performance is such a strength of theirs – the challenge was how to notably differ this video from the rest.

The first thing I always do before evolving a treatment is discuss the meaning of the song with the whole band; not just the lyrics but the overwhelming theme and direction, and how those developed with the music – considering what emotional connection they want a listener to feel in different parts of the song.

From everything the guys told me about Our Legacy it was clear that to compliment the performance and really do the song justice, we needed more than artistic b-reel or a false narrative. As the perfect compliment to the theme and to demonstrate the journey the band had made thus far, we opened up a box of old hard drives (& tapes!) I had stored in a Peli case in my Mum’s loft…

The irony here is that despite myself never picking up a video camera until my early twenties (No romanticised ‘inspired by my grandfathers old SLR…’ personal bio here!) my younger brother Mat spent most of his teenage years making (hilariously stupid) short films & skate edits. Himself, Sav & Sean from the band have been friends since first year of secondary school, meaning there is a lot of footage of their childhood adventures & calamities; and they carried this documentation through into the early years of the band, capturing their first shows (as a 3 piece) in Sheffield, and their first tours around the country and to Europe on old DV camcorders, with a default fisheye adapter ofcourse!

This transitioned seemlessly into when I started travelling with them, and DV quickly became DSLR. I’ve always been militant about archiving, and have pretty much everything they’ve ever shot stored away for an occasion like this. Admittedly, much of it is being saved for a DVD one day!

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We planned to shoot the video on my FS7 with a Ronin I’d borrowed from my friend Danny, and I’d spent most of the prior evening setting it up to work perfectly with the FS7 & Zeiss Super Speeds. Without a Glidecam able to take the weight of the camera rig, which would’ve been my preferred route; the Ronin was the logical choice. Admittedly I could have done with a more-practiced user’s assistance here, but we really didn’t get on well with it when it came to the band performance…

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See above for the definition of Mat’s resourcefulness… With very specific location needs (blackout curtains, easy accessibility for crowd, (some kind of) pre-installed lighting, staging for band…) and a budget that didn’t match our spec, Mat turned his charm on his old music teacher at our secondary school. We knew their drama hall was the perfect venue, and they kindly allowed us to use it. A huge thanks to everyone at Eckington School!

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So that Ronin…

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The stumbling block was inverted mode, it had to be this high for my choice of shots – over the crowd’s shoulder, moving fast around the circular performance – revealing band members between raised fists and heads. On paper it was perfect, but the fiddly calibration (via my iPhone – urgh…) really frustrated me.

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Just as we were ready to go & all seemed well – the Ronin kept flipping out of inverted mode and pointing directly at the floor. It felt like it was setup perfectly before – but as soon as band were in place and we were about to open the doors… it flipped out – literally! I was initially persistent to use it but as band & crowd waited on me to establish my iPhone app connection again, me & Giles made the decision to scrap the rig.

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RULE 1: Always have a backup! 

In this case – it was my A7s + Glidecam XR-4000. A quick setup and we were ready to go…

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The key thing with these kind of shoots is to brief everyone involved on why they’re all here and what we’re aiming to achieve.

It’s easy to just be a ‘spectator’ filmmaker and let whatever happen, whilst documenting it. But the reality is everyone is here for a very specific reason, and the nature of a music video like this means we will do a lot of split takes, and focus on different parts of the room during. As the Director, it’s essential that I explain exactly what I need from everyone. Whilst it’s super cool that everyone has turned up for the shoot – they’ll enjoy it regardless, it’s a waste of time, money & resources if we are not united in our aim for my desired end result.

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The takes were split between handheld FS7 + Glidecam A7s. I lacked a suitable rails rig for the A7S to use the PL mount, so unfortunately had to use the Metabones + Canon 16-35, not ideal but everything came together in the edit.

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Bonus: DV footage behind the scenes of our ‘Crows‘ music video:

https://instagram.com/p/0BffUHBF9o/?taken-by=getdeluxe

Mega thanks to (as usual) Giles, Elliot, Morgan, James, Miller, Ross, Alec, Andrew & all the Sleeps boys for their efforts. Photos by Ryan Chang.