©2011 A Coffee Films production
Directed and produced by Steve Piper
Featuring Burning Shapes (Toby Uffindell-Phillips, Dave Tonkinsmith, Andy White, Steve Martin), Pickle, Twiglet and the song Drop ©2011 Friendly Tribe
Thanks to Martin and Sue at Maidstone Model Engineering Society, Cheryl, Gelli, Ed, Kat and Tony
I'd known the guys from Burning Shapes for some time, we had worked together on various things when they were performing as Sound Sanctuary and when their new identity and album came together we all agreed to work on a range of music video projects to accompany the singles and promo work they were doing.
Talking through the first day's shoot
The concept for Drop started off as a literal interpretation of the main chorus lyric "I'm holding onto one thing I don't wanna drop"; it just made me think of an egg and spoon race. From there things quickly ballooned, we wanted more than just a single concept music video so I worked out a little introductory story and plotted out just how far we could take the egg and spoon race itself.
With very little in the way of a budget available it was a guerilla filmmaking affair when we came to shoot. The model train sequence was set up with the local Maidstone Model Engineering Society for a small donation (who were wonderful people more than happy to let us take control of their much loved and very expensive little steam trains!) but everything else was going to have to happen without location permissions.
The Steves inbetween shots
Knowing we needed small and light cameras to get in and out quickly meant we needed to go for something fairly consumer in style, and with all the sideways motion using a modern HD camera with progressive scan would have given us a ton of skew artefacts. I decided to go with my old Sony DV camera and gave it some extra wide angle by gaffer taping two wide angle adaptors to it which, surprisingly, worked reasonably well. Shooting the music video in black and white with the lower res also matched up nicely to the graphic style of the band at the time who were using a lot of monochrome photography shot on grainy fast films. The crew needed to be small for the same reason so most of the time it was just me and the four band members.
Most of the intro was shot around everyone's home towns of Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone in Kent, with a highlight being the chicken shoot with Toby which was just plain funny, and the kitchen shop with Steve. The shop was a very small three-aisle store where we had to get the shot in the bag without the three staff members noticing we were doing it; even a small camera can be difficult to hide in such a small space. I was trying to direct Steve with whispers and hand signals and every minute or so we had to act fascinated in collanders when a staff member came round the corner. Most of the rest was straightforward egg and spooning stuff in public parks and high streets, there was a lot of running round the woods in Kent, surprisingly little cheating keeping the eggs on the spoons and after a few days of that we headed off for London.
Into the woods for egg and spoon racing
I drew up a long list of major sightseeing destinations and interesting looking locations which were free to get into, and we started well with tube stations and even the Tate Modern pretty easy to get shots at with the high standard of egg and spoon racing also maintained. Things started to go pear shaped when we hit the British Library only to find it closed for refurbishment, Trafalgar Square to find it rammed with football supporters, then the National Gallery where the security guards figured we looked shifty from the start and shuffled round the entire place trying to look nonchalant behind us. Things finally wound up when, inevitably, we finally got booted from our fourth tube station of the day.
The final shoot of the music video was the "mountain" at the end, I had visualised something epic like the Scottish Highlands and a sweeping helicopter shot but had to get creative within the budget. Many hours spent gazing over Ordnance Survey maps and Google Earth finally led me to this fantastically steep hill near the Channel Tunnel which had a little used B road sweeping past it on a higher hill half a mile away for the camera. It was freezing cold on the day with a strong wind coming in off the Channel and the guys were stuck out there doing repeat takes in summer clothes having to communicate via a lousy mobile signal. I never got the shot as I really wanted it but hanging out the side window of a car with a hand held camera fully zoomed in high wind was never quite going to match a helicopter and gimble...
The edit came together pretty cleanly, DV being a simple joy to put through almost any PC system, the biggest hassle was getting a nice conversion to put online. All told, it was an exhausting music video shoot of almost a week that seemed to exclusively involve a lot of running around, but it also felt a lot like the really old days at Coffee Films when we first formed; a lot of fun and almost none of the things films get bogged down in like equipment, script revisions and financing issues. We just grabbed a camera and went and shot stuff, I recommend it to anyone who hasn't done it for a while.