As I’ve been prepping this new version of the timeline, I’ve kept stumbling across things I didn’t have time to finish in the moment.
Here’s a “lost blog” I wrote during Ghost Stories, but never had the time to edit and upload.
Poor old Matt Whitecross! Every time his phone rings and shows Chris’s name on the screen his heart must simultaneously jump and sink.
He’s been making videos for the band since their very first one – and seemingly each time, it all gets more chaotic and crazy. Good think he’s one of the most irrepressibly upbeat and creative people on the planet.
So here we are making a last-minute video for A Sky Full of Stars in Sydney Australia. The plan seems to extend little beyond “lets get loads of people out in the street, then walk down the pavement in one-man-band outfits – we can do it all in one shot, you just walk backwards in front of us”. Things have been fleshed out somewhat by a superb props department and small crew, but that’s largely what’s happening.
The call went out yesterday via the modern-day Bat-Signal of Twitter. The streets have been rammed since 7.30 and the police are trying to keep the throng in order and traffic moving. We’re inside a pub that acts as the base for operations and there’s a problem.
With great public interest comes media attention, which in Australia, has been known to be a problem in the past. At the pub doors, the swarm of lenses outside strongly resembles the undead in a zombie flick. For some inside, it’s no less unpleasant. The problem isn’t simply having their photo taken. Nobody objects to that. Problem is though, that these guys are some of the most – what words to use? perhaps the most *committed to their job* of any in the world. They’ll stop at very little to get a better shot than the next guy.
The local police chief tells us that he’ll politely ask them to stand on the other side of the road so as not to be in shot and spoil the video, but in all reality, there’s no law that means they’ll have to. So realistically, as soon as they see Chris, they’ll be all over him – whether they’re completely in the way or not.
There’s another even more worrying possibility. Photos of well known folks make money. Photos of well known folks losing it and lashing out at photographers make even more money. If you’re the guy that the celeb in question has lost the plot with, you’ll get the best shot while they’re launching towards you in full rage. This gives you a photo so valuable it’s probably worth actually being antagonistic and trying to make it happen. Hey – who knows, if you manage to upset someone enough, maybe they’ll do something you can sue them for?
Now far be it from me to say that anyone in this noble profession would goad anyone to breaking point just for a buck. But – y’know, it isn’t beyond the realms of imagination. The mood in the pub becomes very much “under siege”. Chris, clearly bears the most pressure here. No matter what reassurances everyone offers that “it’ll be ok”, it’s him that has to face the small percentage chance that it might not be – and it’s him that could end up in serious trouble if things get unpleasant.
As the conversation gets darker and more concerned, news comes over the walkie talkies that there’s been a ‘fender bender’ at the bottom of the street due to all the crowds and disruption. People try to laugh it off, but nobody’s eye-rolls and laughter ring true.
“Maybe this song just won’t have a video? Perhaps we should just let it go and call it off?”. People are trying to remain enthusiastic and optimistic, but the air is filled with the strong realisation that this may not have been a great idea after all.
Ever the rock, Will Champion speaks up. “What we have to do is negotiate. If we give them what they want – let them get the best shots possible while we pace out the street once – then we can ask them to let us shoot without them getting in the way.”
It seems simple enough. It only takes one of them to break the promise though, for all of them to follow suit and we’re back to complete chaos and ultra-heightened tension. It’s discussed at length. The fact that the video clearly has the potential to be great means it’s deemed worth trying. Chris (whose guitar strap is peppered with the little “love” badges that have been a fixture of late) suggests that they have to “smother the problem with love”. To this end, a smothering-love envoy of Arlene and Mandi from management is dispatched unto the fray. Let’s not forget that negotiation and people skills are core competencies for this pair. Guile and feminine whiles doubtless did no harm, either.
They come back with promises of agreement. There’s nothing for it but to get out there and see what happens. The mood is hopeful, but still tense. Will’s one-man-band outfit has a comedy clown horn and he gives it a honk. It becomes a lightning rod for all the nerves and at last there is genuine laughter. This is then followed by an observation that the outfits are very reminiscent of Ghostbusters suits. This leads to the band trooping for the door playing the theme.
It’s predictably full-on, but it’s way way better than anyone could have hoped. There’s still a scrum of cameras, but even on this ‘free run’ they’re keeping out of the way of the official cameraman (who has chosen a tiny compact camera that pales somewhat amusingly by comparison). It’s immediately clear that this isn’t just not going to be a disaster, but it’s going to be completely brilliant.
The first walkthrough finishes and we head back up to the pub. One particularly insistent pap has chased Chris for the last stretch and has a camera mere inches from his face and is doing the “chikkeetchikkeetchikeeet” rapid-fire thing. It’s pretty obnoxious to say the least. In previous times this may have gone very badly wrong. It still has the potential to do so today. Chris turns and looks slightly baffled, then smiles. “What do you need, man? How can I help you?” Now it’s the pap’s turn to look nonplussed. He takes another shot or two as Chris reaches down, unpins a “Love” button with one hand, pressing it into the guy’s palm with a handshake. The other arm reaches out to pat his shoulder. One problem smothered with love. What’s next?
Time for the ‘keeper’. The real full walk to the stage in the tiny square that will make up the video. The vibe is elated as the media scrum behave angelically throughout and the reason everyone’s here becomes the focus once again. They work their way through the final chorus of the song perched on the tiny platform in the square. I’m stood on a trashcan with my arm around a lamppost taking in the scene.
Chris has been introducing the songs on the record recently as being about going through some of your darkest times and overcoming everything to come back stronger and happier. A Sky Full of Stars is the big payoff of the piece in that sense – the huge rush of “y’know… it’s gonna be ok!”. How fitting then, that the mood whilst filming the video matches this so perfectly.
All that darkness and worry, all that dread of possible outcomes – replaced by a burst of euphoria and celebration impossible not to be swept up in. The beaming smiles are genuine, the laughter and joy all an unaffected display.
What a great result all round.
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