In 2014 I was touring in the US and I decided to make use of the conversion rates (oh how times have changed) and purchase a Canon EOS 600d body and a 50mm lens (I knew not to bother with the kit lens, I bought both for less than $400). Obviously the price reflects the quality and I chose my equipment after borrowing from friends who were also into filmmaking. I knew that they were entry level pieces but with the right hand and lighting you could make something quite special, ‘the best camera is the one that is with you’, to quote Chase Jarvis, a photographer and entrepreneur based in Seattle. Basically it’s not about the equipment, it’s about what you do with it.
So I had the gear and only a small idea of how to work it. I started to apply the best lesson my father taught me; trial and error, ‘make as many mistakes while you can but never make the same mistake twice’. I can’t say that I stick entirely to this principle but I try and apply it to my everyday. Being a life long student is a necessity to staying relevant and how do you get to Carnagie Hall? Practice. Practice. Practice.
Travelling around the USA provided the backdrop to the start of my filmmaking hobby, everything looked like a movie set to me. Half way through my trip I started to consciously think about shots I could use for my already recorded but unreleased (at the time) song ‘Blues Duet’.
I had a film noir look in my imagination and so I started filming streets and bars at night. I really love opportunistic shots, keeping it natural and energetic rather than stale and rehearsed. There are moments that I couldn’t have asked for, because I didn’t know I wanted it until after it had been captured by my camera. For example the bikers who I filmed in Knoxville, TN; I was just filming a stationary beautiful motorbike and then suddenly two bikers drove right round the corner, adding movement to the shot. It was all in and out of focus at the right moments and I felt a sense of satisfaction looking back on the footage immediately afterwards.
The majority of ‘Blues Duet’ was filmed in upstate NY, Nashville and Knoxville in the US, but then I returned home looked at the footage and knew I need something else. I was headed straight on tour to Germany, so I took my camera and filmed myself singing in the car, again all at night, sometimes using street lamps or my phone torch for lighting!
There was one shot that I really wanted and that was of me driving with a view from the rear of the car facing forward. So when I was in Germany, driving in an English car, I knew to make it look authentic I had to flip the shot so it looked like a left hand drive. I was on an equivalent dual carriage way and waited for someone to undertake me, so that eventually when the car was flipped it would look natural and as though I was being overtaken. I really hope I explained that well enough. Nothing is ever too much effort. Without the thought behind that shot it would have been unusable. You wouldn’t have believed it all to be American based and the story would have been lost.
I shot this whole video alone, edited it and graded it myself and even though it was an early attempt at filming I take it as a huge compliment when people ask ‘who directed this music video?’. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with others. I fear people may think otherwise, because I have to do so much myself (simply for financial reasons), but the only way I can explain the satisfaction is equating it to IKEA furniture. If you bought a ready made piece, surely it wouldn’t be as pleasurable as if you’d built it yourself?
Watch the full video here: