July 14th: first meeting
I'd just driven home after a three day shoot in London when, out of the blue, I received a call from Gareth and Ross - my mates at Cube recording. They've been working with former Kasabian frontman, Tom Meighan and wondered if I'd be interested in making a video for Tom's next single, 'Shout It Out'; I tell them I'd love to. At this point I'm already thinking about making a mini film as opposed to a performance video. I immediately begin working on a treatment. The idea - a kind of voyage of self rediscovery - came together over a couple of days and, once Tom and his team were happy with it, I began scouting out locations and putting a team together. The turnaround time was pretty tight: from writing the treatment to delivering the final edit took about a month.
August 6th: 1st shoot day
This video would not be what it is without The St Merryn Posse: Ross, Munch, Phil, Malc, Lara, Diana, Jo, Paul and Tom R all took on various roles throughout the project, generously donating their time to stand in a dusty old cinema or chase a rock star on a runway in the middle of the night. I can't thank them enough.
As for Mr. Meighan, it should be said that he was an absolute trouper throughout and never gave less than 110% (even after hours of running, being manhandled and nearly being set on fire.)
We all gathered at mine in the late afternoon before heading over to the old cinema building. Our first set up was the interrogation scene where Tom is held captive, watching himself on screen (the on screen footage being the first thing we shot.)
I knew from watching Tom in some of the Kasabian videos that he would be totally believable on camera and I really love what he does in these early scenes in the video. Munch, Ross and Malc were spot on as the intimidating captors; everyone instantly understood the tone of the scene, pitching in ideas for choreographing the movement, etc.
Once it was dark enough, we drove up to the runway for the next set up: Tom being pursued by himself. The Pontiac came to us via Munch and courtesy of his mate Russel of Creeky Classics; the video does not fully capture that gorgeous vehicle in all its retro-badass beauty. Next time, Russel!
We spent what must've been several hours chasing Tom around the airfield. Ross and Phil were flying a drone above us while Malc drove his car with me in the back, trying to hold the camera steady while yelling at Tom to run. All good, clean, harmless fun.
Then I remembered we were shooting the next day as well.
August 7th: 2nd shoot day
Day 2 was at The Dead Famous Liquor Lounge in Newquay where Tom and his band would mime to the track in front of an invited audience. Danae from the Dead Famous and Katrina - Tom's manager - had coordinated a callout on Facebook for an audience for the shoot. It was a blisteringly hot day and when I arrived Mawgan and Martyn were already setting up camera and lighting equipment. The room had to be totally blacked out so, Mawgan - main man at Purple Knif films - and I started hanging the heavy blackout curtains. As Tom and the band drifted in we sent them upstairs to see Hannah - a brilliant make up artist that I'd first met a few years ago.
Now, organising a group of children is probably easier than organising a group of musicians (and I say this with all respect and as a musician myself.) Eventually, though, we managed to get everyone in position at the same time. We had limited time to capture the band without the audience knowing that, once the crowd were in position, we would not be able to get close to Tom and the band.
As the musicians were grabbing something to eat the invited audience began to file in and, with Danae's help, I started directing people to various positions around the room until we had the band surrounded. Before the first take I asked everyone to give as much energy as they possibly could and, from the start, they were amazing: the room just exploded. The combination of Tom and the band's performance and the audience reacting was so exciting. In between takes, Tom was the perfect frontman, charming and serenading the audience.
I cannot stress the importance of planning something like this but, it all went surprisingly smoothly thanks to the hard work of everyone involved: Mawgan, Martyn, Hannah, Danae, Ian, the Dead Famous staff, Ross and especially Tom, the band and the audience. Their energy and enthusiasm combined was off the charts and it really comes across in the footage.
August 9th: third shoot day
It was Tom's last day with us and we had two set ups to shoot. The first was a scene of a group of teenage boys playing football. Tom and Vik, Gareth from Cube, Katrina plus the boys and their parents all convened at my place in the early evening before we trekked out into a local field. The boys were really great: I explained the scene to them and they nailed the action perfectly (not bad for a group of young, first-time actors!)
My one regret with this scene is that I didn't allow myself enough time to get the shots I needed. In fact, the two main things that have stayed with me from this project are (1) don't rush or allow yourself to be rushed and (2) don't stop 'til you get The Shot.
The St Merryn Posse arrived as the boys and their parents were leaving and we began preparing the second set up. This would be the opening sequence of the video. Right from when I first heard the track, I felt we needed to open with something impactful, disorientating and perhaps even a bit shocking. I felt it needed to take place "out of time" in an era of witch-hunts and angry mobs with flaming torches. Lara magically transformed some old coffee sacks into angry mob attire while Munch, Ross, Phil and Malc got busy with the paraffin. The guys were brilliant, stomping around angrily and dragging Tom around the garden in the dead of night (we won't mention the wigs.)
10th August: pick up shots
A couple of days later I felt I needed a few more close ups of the car. Munch still had the Pontiac sitting in his driveway so, I took some lights and the smoke machine over there and, with Munch's help, got the shots I needed. My "Ben Gardner reshoot" moment.
After several weeks of editing and being immersed in that strange World of angry mobs and men in masks, I delivered the video. It's great to see it out in the World and being enjoyed. Having worked alone on so many projects in the past, the experience really showed me the value in working with a team. I can't wait to do another one.
'Shout It Out' available here. Video stills by Tam Johnstone.