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HOPE OF DELIVERANCE
STOCKING THE FILM AND VIDEO ARCHIVE
Mark Lewisohn watches two videos in the making
So there I was, in a forest, in November's bitter cold, in the evening dark, in the blustery wind and the persistent rain, waiting for a raven to simmer down and some smoke to waft up. Being Sandwich editor certainly leads one into the strangest of situations.
The occasion: Day One of the four-day shoot for the 'Hope Of Deliverance' video. The date: Tuesday 24 November 1992. The location: Ashdown Forest, in the south of England. The very same Ashdown Forest, indeed, where once romped Winnie The Pooh, where that lovable bear and his friends played Poohsticks on a bridge that still crosses a lazy river, and where Rolling Stone Brian Jones, living in AA Milne's old house, died in 1969. It's a special place alright.
Now, I'd never been to a video shoot before, so 1 arrived, punctually, at the appointed time of 11.00am. Error. The rendezvous was a windswept empty space that doubles as a car park in its spare time. To call the place cold would be a like calling Paul McCartney a fairly famous man.
Any remaining illusion that film-making is a breeze was instantly dispelled when I learned that the crew had already been hard at it since seven, at which point it had been even colder and the autumnal sun had to still to rise. That was when Janine Duvitski - unforgettable as Angie in Mike Leigh's fab TV play Abigail's Party - had done her location stint for the video, portraying a postwoman. Now she was packing up, ready to get into a warm car. Lucky thing.
Blair was the first musician to arrive, at 11.15, followed swiftly by Paul and Linda. In a scene reminiscent of Monty Python ("well if we're filming them, who's filming us?") the Macs' arrival for their video shoot was itself filmed, for a different purpose and by a different camera crew - Aubrey "Po" Powell's, for the TV documentary about the build-up for the New World Tour. (On your screens soon - watch out.)
Before long, Wix, Robbie and finally Hamish had all negotiated their vehicles into the car park too. Work was about to begin for the day, yes? Not on your life. "Hurry up and wait - that's the story of making videos" muttered a sagely Mr McIntosh when he realised - obviously not for the first time in his career - that he'd driven like the clappers on some long and winding roads only to meet an arbitrarily chosen deadline that bore not too strong a resemblance to reality.
Strangely, although everybody was feeling the cold, although hands were clasped tightly around mugs of hot tea, although steamy breath billowed, although there was as much foot-stomping as you'd see at a Status Quo concert (only here it was done in a circulation-encouraging manner), it took quite a while for everyone to realise that holding their conversations aboard one of the available dressing-room-like buses might be, well, warmer. To put it mildly.
Here, Paul and the band got down to the business of selecting their favourite shots from a pile of recently taken publicity pictures. Not a lot else was happening, though, and the time had moved on to 1.40 before something did - we had to drive to the first location, a mile or so down the road. Paul was happy: he found a banjo on the bus and soon began picking out the melody of 'Ram On', to which he and Linda were soon "ooh-wee"-ing along. You can't keep music and the McCartneys separate for long.
Deeper into the forest, at a clearing that serves as an entrance to a cattery, there'd evidently been some activity. About 40 people were milling around, setting up cranes, booms, brollies, cameras, lights and other sundry bits of block and tackle that few know or care to know the names of. Shortly before two o'clock Paul and the band were called for their first scene. Invited to imagine that they were on the road, on tour, they were to exit a bus that had just pulled to a stop and, while yawning and leg stretching, saunter over to an adjacent snack counter for some refreshment.
After four rehearsal takes, and much humorous mugging to the camera, it was time, at last, to expose some film to daylight. Trouble number one. The daylight had decided to disappear, to be replaced by even murkier clouds and even heavier rain. Time-eating solution: set up more lights. Then more trouble. The undergrowth through which the cameras would be filming had decided, unseasonably and wholly unreasonably, to spring up. Solution: order a "volunteer" to beat down the ferns.
All this takes time. Lunch was taken on the hoof. The band did some takes. In one, Robbie improvised the leg-stretching antics by going into a spot of aerobics. In another, Blair - ever the comedian - pretended that he'd trodden in something undesirable.
It wasn't until 3.30 that the crew was ready to begin shooting takes with sound. More trouble: battery failure. Solution: install a new one. Meanwhile, the dark clouds got darker still, the cold colder, the rain heavier. They tried a few more takes.
At 4.40, approaching six hours after our rendezvous time, yet with only a few feet of film in the can, everything was dismantled and re-assembled deep in the forest, among the trees and (as evidenced later by snagged trousers) prickly bracken. Only Paul was required now, so the band stayed on the bus. In the warm. (And the dry.)
For this scene Paul was required to peck over his dark glasses and discover a Celtic stone cross (actually a piece of not-so-ancient polystyrene put down scarcely two minutes before by the Prop Man). A raven was involved too, handled by a fellow called Alex. The black crow had the job of flying upwards, dangerously within eye-pecking distance of the world's most renowned bass player, startling him and emphasising that mysterious doings were afoot.
Two cameras were set up to film this sequence, one from the front, another from the side. Rehearsals first, though -Paul ambles through the forest, as if mystically drawn to the Celtic polystyrene, brushing aside low branches and peering through the swirling fog pumped out by three men with smoke machines.
This was when the wind decided to play games. On the cue of "OK...now, ACTION!" it changed direction, whipping the smoky fog up and to the left of where it was required. Reasoned the director Andy Morahan, if it's doing that, let's put the men dispensing the fog out to the right, so that when the fog blows across to the left it'll come to the correct place. The wind must have heard this. When the smokers pumped out their fog from the right the gale changed direction and gusted to the right. After a few minutes of trying to second guess Mother Nature, Morahan decided to stay put and wait for the wind to subside.
It did, by 5.30, when more takes were tried. But then the raven, in a fit of pique, decided that it was fed up with being a video star. So Paul had to improvise -pretending that he was being startled by a bird which, at that very moment, was probably somewhere much warmer. (And drier.)
At 6.30 the director announced "...and that's a wrap, everyone" and the shoot concluded for the day. Paul and the band stole away into the night, leaving the crew to dismantle the tons of equipment into the wee wee hours. And it was still raining.
I recently saw the finished video. There are two versions, largely identical. Janine Duvitski - the postwoman - is visible for the splittest of split seconds, and only from a later studio shoot, not the chilly 7.00am location one. That scene where the band got off the tour bus? Nowhere to be seen. The raven – blink and you'll miss it. And Paul's scene in the forest lasts for all of 19 seconds in one video and 28 seconds in the other (and that includes some extra bits filmed later).
Eight hours of fiddling about, 40-odd personnel busy busy busy, and all for 19 (or 28) seconds. It brings to mind Charlie Watts' memorable quip when asked how he'd enjoyed the Rolling Stones' first 25 years together. "It's been five years work and 20 years hanging around" he responded, stony faced. Ne'er a truer word, Charlie, ne'er a truer word.