|ON LOCATION||February 1998|
|On Location - The making of the 'Stalker' promo|
Of all the tools that are required today in the marketing
and promotion of an artist's product, the promotional video is certainly
one of the most powerful. Careers have been made and broken on the strength
of them and in this age of visual as well as audio entertainment, the
promo can be vital in raising and sustaining the profile of an artist.
Consequently, conceiving and filming the video can prove to be one of
the most stressful and demanding tasks and yet, at the same time, an
extremely creative and fulfilling project for all involved.
Pam Smith : Head of Video at Mute Records:
'Stalker' is obviously a track whose very title conjures up an immediate
and definite image. The mood of the song is clearly defined from the
opening sequence and Alan was adamant that the film should reflect its
atmosphere without degenerating into the macabre. A successful end result
would exploit the uncomfortable elements of the track whilst perhaps
throwing some new light on its narrative.
After some consideration, Pam sent Alan the showreel for a young and upcoming director, Alex Coburn.
"Every week I see about 20 different film makers, from different
production companies. Alex came to see me about a year ago when he was
still at college and I thought 'there's some real talent here'. He recently
sent me a show-reel after he'd been taken on by a very good production
company and I just thought the timing was right. He is young and fresh
and he loved the track - which is really, really important. I just had
the feeling that with Alex we were on to a good thing!"
Alex Coburn: Director:
Once commissioned, Alex sent his 'treatment' to Alan. The over-riding style and narrative of the promo was outlined thus:
|Edgy, dark, noir-ish with muted flat neon
colours picking up on the style of the previous video ('Drifting') and
the artwork for the singles and album. Fast-paced and dynamic, blurred
and scratchy; Use bits of old scratched film, some words / images possibly
scratched into black leader and inserted to create a feeling of unease.
White scratches over some colour frames. Semi-fish eye lens will create
impression of a peep-hole slightly distorting the image. Addition of a
mask over the lens will create the black circular frame - this will give
a threatening POV type style. I envisage most shots being filmed quite
tight, apart from certain establishing shots of the city (New York) and
the hotel room (which should be red and warm with a touch of madness,
compared to the cold threat of the city).
The main female role for 'Stalker' is played by Connie Chiu, a Chinese Albino with violet eyes who has appeared in several promos before:
Isobel Conroy : Producer:
|Alex agreed: "There was definitely an element of chaos in New York - when I found myself on the streets of downtown Brooklyn at 4a.m, I must admit I started to wonder how we ever got there and what the hell I was doing."|
Back in London, the hunt was on to find an appropriate location in which to shoot the hotel scenes. Eventually, they settled on the recently closed 'Clarendon Court Hotel' on the Edgware Road in London.
DAY OF THE SHOOT
On the day of the shoot, the crew had been busy since 7.30 am and, amongst the half empty beer cans, had managed to set up the main bedroom scene in one of the more habitable rooms. By the time Alan and Doug arrived, 4 hours later, filming was well underway and in spite of the cold, everyone seemed in good spirits. When not required on set, most people sat huddled around a motley collection of fan heaters bemoaning the fact that Alan always chooses derelict buildings with no heating for his promos!
"It isn't really unusual to be doing this kind of maverick filming,"
said Isobel when I asked her if she'd rather be working with The Spice
Girls, "You sometimes get more of a sense of achievement when you
work like this with limited creature comforts. It's actually more exciting
than being in the lap of luxury - then again I'd still rather be filming
in the Bahamas!"
|Douglas McCarthy :
"When Alan originally asked me to write the lyrics for 'Stalker', I had a decision to make - whether to be the victim or the perpetrator. Even though I recognised that the track shouldn't be a one sided power trip, I decided it would be much more fun to be the perpetrator and to feel the injustice of not being allowed to do what you want to do.... i.e. mercilessly stalk young women and make their lives a living hell! That's the wonderful thing about writing, you can really indulge your wildest fantasies. My wife gets really upset, actually.
When it came to filming the promo, I actually found it enjoyable assuming a role like this and, apart from the fact that my fingernails were too clean and had to be 'blackened' by the make-up artist, I slipped into character without too much effort."
Alex added: "It couldn't have been that easy for Doug to know
that he would never be seen properly but I'd been told that he'd be
up for anything. He did extremely well in acting through his hands which
is not an easy thing to do."
Eventually, the off - line editing procedure can begin.
This is one of the most exciting stages as the structure of the film
begins to emerge. Alan spent some time in the editing suite to see how
the overall picture was developing, knowing that at this stage it is
not uncommon to find that a director's original vision may have changed
quite dramatically. Sometimes, during the editing process, you find
that what may be great footage simply just doesn't work in the way it
was originally conceived. A good director must be bold enough to deal
with this eventuality, be prepared to omit certain shots or even re-think
his overall scheme.
Says Alex: "It's like making music, a large part of the process
is completely instinctive. People seem to think that a director has
all the answers. For me it is the absolute opposite - I have all the
questions and what the process involves is pushing, exploring ideas,
listening to people's responses to those ideas and then going with my
(go to A Files - collaborators
for more information on Douglas McCarthy)
The 'Stalker' promo is available for online / offline viewing in various formats: