A film for the song Paul - Part 1: Whilst recording songs for my album, 'Me and my Martin', my engineer, Doug Sturrock suggested I make a video for You Tube. This first film was for the album opener, 'My mum, Alzheimer's and the Care Home'. We filmed it on the stage, upstairs at the Stables.
This got me thinking and I started to develop visual ideas for some of the other songs on the album. My key intention was that each video needed to be different and distinctive and in doing help tell the story of the song. Budgets were also a major consideration, as I don't really have any!
Tony Sinnett and I are both members of the Lewes Wanderers Cycling Club and through the Club's Forum I'd been made aware of Tony's work in the marionette field. Having looked at some examples of his craftwork, I had the initial idea of making a music video for my song Paul.
I approached Tony in early November 2012 with the idea of making a film featuring two of his puppets. After a couple of emails and a meeting (in a pub), Tony, very generously agreed to do the project, with the one proviso that his paid work (an essential for all) would mean that we'd be looking at late January or February for filming. Plus, as an added complication he was also moving home and workshop at the end of the year!
Preparation: I naively thought Tony would have two stock puppets to take the roles, but he said he'd need to build two bespoke characters. I agreed to build the sets and sort out any props and produce a storyboard. I wanted the Paul puppet to have a jacket and sent Tony a pic showing colour and design. We selected an old blue cycling jersey from Tony's box of fabrics and from this bit of old lycra he tailored the required jacket. When I worked with the homeless in Brighton, we used to get green, handmade (by the inmates of HMP Lewes) blankets to hand out to those living on the streets - so, for our film, a bit of green felt took the part.
I asked another cycling friend, Richard Meed (a wiz with the lathe) to make some wine bottles and I popped down to his workshop and with his help built the bench that would be a key prop in the film.
Richard also provided me with the strips of wood (and a snazzy tool that cut 45 degree angles) which I used to make the cross and frame the door. Sticking with the cycling theme, Mike Anton is one of the best photographers around and for many years has provided me with great photos of our club cyclists in racing action. I'd seen his photo of Eastbourne pier on his website and asked Mike, if I could use it as the beach backdrop. He sent me a multi-meg version on a datastick.
Backdrops: I used to work with Andy & Claire at Eastbourne and they printed the magazine for the Lewes Wanderers for seven years, along with a whole raft of other stuff for both my cycling and music projects. Amongst their machinery is a printer that can produce 34" wide prints of any length. First up we printed the pier shot, which Andy glued to a white plastic board. I'd used a single image of a bit of red brick wall to build a scale picture of a large plain wall. We printed two of these. I'd also created an image of the door at 10 Downing Street - this was printed to scale and mounted on the ubiquitous white plastic board.
Improvised boxes were built and decorated to go behind the cross (lined with tin foil) and inside the door (complete with red carpet) - both were to be lit using a cycling headlight with a coloured filter. The bench, two bottles & the cross were stained (wood preserve from the shed) and the door was framed in white (paint from the shed). A bag of gravel from the DIY store and some nice pebbles, all with holes through them were selected for the beach. The pavement was more whiteboard, covered in polystyrene, painted and finished with copious amounts of ash from my fireplace and sealed with PVA glue.
A film for the song Paul - Part 2: 26/02/13 - Everything was ready, I loaded up the car with all the sets and paraphernalia and headed off to collect Raven Kaliana at 8:30am on route to Tony's studio.
Raven was to be the essential second puppeteer, allowing us to get the full interaction between the two characters.
Filming: We decided to film all the scenes featuring the Red Wall with Cross backdrop first, before re-dressing the set and shooting the Red Wall with Door shots. This allowed us to leave the same floor in place for both backgrounds. We then rebuilt the stage to hold the larger Pier background and added gravel & pebbles to create the beach.
The downside of shooting the scenes out of order, is it involved Tony having to take the jacket off Paul and then put it back on for some of the beach shots. This involved Tony removing Paul's hands and strings from his shoulders to get the jacket off and then refitting said hands & strings!
Tony set-up the camera & lights; framed and focused each shot and between the three of us we worked through the storyboard
I had a great day: Controlling and fading lights up-and-down: Focusing and switching the camera on-and-off: Playing the song at the relevant place, so the actors could hit their marks: And I even got to hold the puppets feet still for some of the close-ups. Looking back, I'm very impressed with how Tony & Raven captured each scene as I'd envisaged them.
After the shoot, Tony took some photos of the two puppets sitting on my old Martin guitar for use in the titles shot. I produced the film titles & credits. Tony edited up the footage and produced the final film. I posted the finished video up on You Tube at nearly midnight on 4/03/13.
The song: For my album, Me and my Martin I'd looked for real subjects that inspired me to write about them, and by doing so I am trying to tell the tale, whilst making pertinent comment and observations.
I'd wanted to write the Paul song for a long time, as the true story of Paul had had quite a deep impact on me and my views. Sometimes, it takes forever to write the songs, but this one was comparatively easy to compose and I completed the lyric and tune in a single day.
I'm not a very political animal and do not preach answers to the questions that interest me, but I do try and tell the story and ask the listener to think about answers.
For some real background info on why I wrote this song, please see my Homelessness page.
I really enjoyed the filming process and must thank Tony for producing this extraordinary film and in making it, helping me to tell the story of Paul.
First and foremost to Tony Sinnett for building two wonderful puppets and making the film.
Raven Kaliana for her excellent work as second puppitier, encouragement and attention to detail.
Andy & Claire at Eastbourne for all their support and help with printing and set building.
Richard Meed for bottles and help with building the bench.
Mike Anton for the letting me use his fabulous photo of Eastbourne pier.
And thanks to Charlie Middleton for taking the photo of me on the actual bench in Brighton on a cold October night.
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