Lens Whacking Byron Bay (via Ruislip)

Sunny beaches are hard to come by in London, it’s mainly brick and mortar and the odd smattering of grass, dappled with lashings of water that fall from skies. So when I was charged with Directing a music video around sunkissed Byron Bay, I had a bit of a creative challenge on my hands…

I was contacted by Simon Brenner, a founder member of the band Talk Talk who was getting back into producing music under the name Thinking Stream. The track is a breezy summer tune sung by a young vocalist Josh Hassell and was recorded in Konk Studios in Crouch End, North London. Konk used to be The Kinks private studio, back in the early 70’s; in fact as I walked in there was an envelope on the matt addressed to “Ray Davies”. It’s a beautiful studio that is one of those places completely hidden away to the outside world save a small sign outside, inside and underground it is sprawling and spacious. Woody tones, different levels, a massive mixing desk and adjustable lights were all around, which is a nice change from most studios which are quite dingy. I shot Josh recording his vocals, Martin on percussion instruments with various people joining in on the chorus’s.

I needed some actual footage of Byron Bay to chop in to provide a smidgen of authenticity, so I found a filmmaker based in Australia (thank you Twitter) Terry to shoot some footage around there. Crashing waves, surfers, beach bums, and a street band were some of the things that Terry and his assistant Rod filmed, really looked amazing in slow motion. After a lot of chopping and changing of dates due to the weather forecasts (utterly pointless things) we finally settled on a weekend when it was going to be blazingly hot. As it turned out Terry and Rod, would be shooting on the same day as us just in a different timezone, so just as our Australia unit wrapped, the London unit picked up the baton to continue the shoot!

The budget didn’t stretch to flying us all out to Byron sadly, so we found a beach closer to home in the most unlikeliest of places, Ruislip. Yes, pick yourself off the floor, someone built a beach in Ruislip, I’m not sure that it’s indigenous to Ruislip or what the thinking was behind building it. It looks a bit like the island from Lost, lots of woodland, benches, a lake which you weren’t allowed into, a beach with a jungle gym on it, in the blazing hot 26 degree heat it looked amazing. It also provided us with many challenges, people, in particular (screaming) kids enjoying the sunshine (the cheek of it), and dogs, lots of dogs, noisy dogs that brazenly flouted the ‘no going in the lake’ rule.

Ably assisted by my good friend and long time collaborator Sam on second camera, we shot a number of set pieces including a gathering of people, Josh and his friends, enjoying the sunshine, chilling out and drinking copious amounts of Sugar Caine as detailed in the song. Sugar Caine smells like feet. It also tastes like feet. I wouldn’t advise you to drink Sugar Caine. It’s like feet. It’s no coincidence that the Sugar Caine shots got cut from the final video. I’ll stop talking about Sugar Caine now…. and feet.

Everyone knows that evocative journeys to far away places involve jumping in a VW Van, so we rented an amazing baby blue VW Campervan provided by Steve at SnailTrail. These things really sell themselves on screen and off, with plenty to shoot around it’s an easy visual shorthand for adventure. It also gets really hard to breathe on a sunny day if you close all the windows and doors in order to record audio inside unfettered by the sound of building work outside. This is a thing we found out.

I’ve wanted to use the technique of lens whacking/free lensing for a long time in a project, to those not familiar it probably sounds a bit needlessly violent, but it’s really quite gentle. It involves taking the lens off the camera and holding it precariously with your thumb and forefinger rocking it back and forth towards the camera in such a way that it adjusts focus and allows extra light into the sensor creating light leaks, perfect aesthetic for this. You’ll see in the BTS film I am huddled like a hunchback into the camera looking through the LCD viewfinder whilst clutching the camera and lens closely (mainly because I was terrified of dropping both in the sand), but it really requires the camera to become your second eye. I seemed to get a good handle on it and it worked for a lot of the shots with the sunshine allowing an extraordinary amount of light in, the parts with the group around the VW van look particularly beautiful. There’s more on this technique on this definitive blogpost.We ended the day with Sam hanging precariously out the window of my car as we chased Steve’s van around a large nearby roundabout several times over, gaining some good ‘van in motion’ shots, whilst managing to generally piss everyone off who was unfortunate enough to drive behind us. Especially the guy in the souped up 1920’s car who did a mean line in revving his engine. Well done you. With the shots in the bag, we closed on a superb day of shooting. I’m really pleased that Josh and Simon’s friends and family who came down to fill out the scenes, got stuck in to whatever I threw at them (mainly running) and enjoyed themselves. Here’s some behind the scenes of the London leg of the shoot!

Wrap Time: 6pm-ish, pretty much on time
Wrap Photos: 1, in front of the VW Van of course, oh wait 2 Sam and I posed gratuitously in front of the van in order to get a picture for social media
Half Time Food: seem to remember a tesco wrap and a snickers bar…
Cast or Crew Injuries/Deaths: 0, though Sam got a bit sunburnt
People Running in a DDM Film: 2

Byron Bay will be released on 6th July 2014 and can be preordered on iTunes here. Here’s the final video!

Thinking Stream
Josh Hassell- male vocalist
Terry King - Brisbane based Filmmaker
Snail Trail- VW Camper Van Hire and Campervan Sales

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