On the advent of Status Quo frontman Francis Rossi’s new solo album – with Hannah Rickard – ‘We Talk Too Much‘ (Scheduled release 15th March 2019) I’d like to share a little background on the video promo for Faded Memory, the first single from his second solo album One Step at a Time.
I confess that from the first time I heard the album, I had hoped the promo would be for the gorgeous title track. Francis sounded very vulnerable on that song. I rather presumptuously began sketching out some ideas for ‘One Step at a Time‘. Rather than featuring a band, we would film Francis alone – logistically simpler and increasing that vulnerability suggested by the song. Now where could we get a lot of stairs? The London Underground! We would simply follow Francis busking on the tube, lots of nice shots of him going up and down escalators, large galleries. Or perhaps we could do it at night when its deserted? It all seemed creatively promising and though there would naturally be location fees involved, London Underground didn’t have any problems with the idea.
But rehearsal schedules for Francis’ upcoming solo gigs determined that the promo would have to be shot at Pinewood studios, on the small process stage at the end of an avenue that abuts the massive 007 soundstage. The studio area was still reasonably large but, undressed, it frankly looked a bit rough (for promo purposes).
I decide that one way of turning this to our advantage might be to cast shadows of ladders, stepladders and stairs against the large back wall, creating a background for Francis to be filmed against in stark black & white. The chains that hang from studio ceilings would also add to the look. As it happens, record company pluggers have determined that first single is to be Faded Memory, a more upbeat (even jaunty) song.
Back to the drawing board. Sort of.
To give the promo ‘theme’, I decide the best thing to do is stand Francis forward a long way from the backing musicians. With the use of light panels, and an anamorphic lens, this will tend to blur the background – a simple metaphor for ‘faded memory’. To emphasise this, I decide we will try some more ambitious shots: specifically a ‘contra zoom’ or ‘dolly zoom’. A great example of this, as I wrote in the proposal, was ‘Roy Schneider in Jaws – he’s sitting on the beach during a shark attack and the background suddenly stretches away from him’. I hadn’t realised just how difficult it would be to get that effect!
Despite Francis’ good humour, I didn’t think the promo should be too ‘jokey’. In the proposal I suggest one possible moment where Francis appears to forget the song, dons glasses and scans lyric sheet. His son Nick, playing guitar in the backing band: ‘looks to camera, nodding towards his Dad and tapping his head as if to say “Poor old sod.” But Francis thinks it may look too much like he and Rick in a Quo video, and he’s right – this should be a Francis Rossi solo performance.
The shoot is scheduled for Monday, 1st March, 2010, and my crew is there before Francis and other musicians arrive – to film GV’s of the band perhaps to be used in an EPK or even a documentary. [They weren’t but EPK interview is here]. It’s fairly loud as the band begin rehearsing their upcoming live set and we film a little of the rehearsals.
We have already laid out track for the cameras and positioned light panels so when midday arrives, we’re ready stop start filming. All goes fairly smoothly and Francis seems relaxed. The zoom shots are not quite as dramatic as I’d hoped, but there simply wasn’t the time to be able to perfect them. Dollying in the camera, while pulling focus and trying to keep foreground subject in roughly same proportion takes a great deal more time than we had.
There was one other shot I would have loved to do: and that was film through the hole in Francis’s battered green telecaster and then pass through it to reveal the guitar and the wider shot of Francis & the set. DoP Robin Fox looked at me as though I was a lunatic. Ah, well. On the pretext of sussing out the shot, at least I did get to don and play that green Tele. And that had been an ambition for a long time!
I later got the opportunity to film Francis at his first ever London solo gig which I will blog about soon…
Thanks also to editor David Hughes who recently directed the feature film Of Gods And Warriors.
Other examples of my work can be seen at johnkeelingmedia.myprofile.com