Oxford-based filmmaker James Quayle is a Digital Film Production graduate from the University of Gloucestershire. During the week he is based in London where he is a floor runner on the BBC drama ‘Holby City’ but, since December 2011, he has been spending each weekend shooting and editing a music video for the Birmingham-based band, Clockwork Orange.
The collaboration came about when singer/songwriter, Andy Stanton, answered an ad from James in the Oxford Film & Video Makers newsletter in which he said that he was interested in developing his showreel to include music videos and was looking for artistes to work with. With strong narratives to their tracks which they felt would make for highly visual moving images, the band had been keen to move into the medium and Andy knew that James was the right man for the job when he viewed his previous work The Taxidermist, a short horror film about a young couple who are stalked in the woods by a man with an extremely dangerous and unpleasant hobby. Says Andy: “We were blown away when we saw The Taxidermist. The quality of the filming was excellent but it was the sense of eeriness and the build up of the terror and suspense that most grabbed our attention. I know a lot of rising filmmakers make horror films but this really was in a class of it’s own. There is quite an air of menace to our music and I knew immediately that James would get that and bring it to any work we did together.” James was equally impressed. ”I had wanted to start making music videos for a while and was excited when Andy approached me to do one for Clockwork Orange. I feel music videos allow you to be a little more creative and I loved the possibilities the song offered,” he says.
Andy, a keen film fan, was adamant about one thing: he didn’t want just another cheesy video of a bunch of guys on a stage, strumming their guitars. ”I wanted it to be a film in it’s own right”, he says. Numerous emails and one meeting over coffee later, and James presented Andy with the first draft of a script for the Clockwork Orange track ‘Talking in Your Sleep’.
“James had asked me to tell him what the lyrics were about. I explained it came from a news report I heard when I was in LA, about a young guy who had just shot some of his classmates. It was the classic voices in his head that told him to do it, talking to him in his sleep, and for some reason it really affected me and I ended up writing a song about it. It’s very dark, and has quite a tense build-up. We both knew it would look great on screen and James had lots of ideas about how to make it atmospheric. You have to bear in mind that this is a music promo so, from a practical point of view, it can’t contain material which will restrict its exposure in any way, so we needed to tell the story without it being too violent or explicit, but also in a way that captured the mood. We both agreed that the film should be shot in black and white, and that we’d make use of shadows and the interplay of light.” James nods, adding: “I really wanted to give the music video a super 8 look, with scratches, dust and flicker which I felt would help enhance the unnerving tone to the song.”
Originally, the band didn’t plan to appear in the video themselves, however James had other ideas. “I thought from the beginning that the video should be a mixture of narrative and the band performing,” he says. “I wrote a short narrative which I felt summed up the main themes of hearing voices and and the tormenting and killing of an innocent victim. I was adamant the band should be in the video and felt they should be depicted in a low key setting to keep with the dark themes.” Together they decided that Clockwork Orange should make brief, cameo appearances, with actors playing the two main characters.
The shooting took place at two locations. The band shoot was at the band’s regular recording studios, Rich Bitch in Selly Oak, Birmingham, also used by such artistes as Black Sabbath, Slade, ELO, The Charlatans, Nigel Kennedy & Steel Pulse. James says :”When I saw pictures of Rich Bitch studios recording stage I thought it would be perfect, it reminded me of a dark back street venue for late night gigs.” “The owner, Rob, was really supportive.” says Andy. ” He blacked off all the mirrors for us, brought in some extra lights, even lent us a guitar strap when mine broke”. Although the band are used to performing – they’ve previously headlined The Cavern in Liverpool and played support to Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley, Steve Norman & John Keeble – making a video and taking direction was something completely different. ”You still get quite self-conscious when there is a camera pointing straight at you, but James is very calm, unflappable, and knows how to put you at ease and how to get what he wants from you for the shots he needs. He’s full of so many ideas. He asked if we had a dreamcatcher we could bring to the shoot. James uses a DSLR camera for shooting, and he shot some of it through the strings of the dreamcatcher. Later, when we saw the finished piece, he’d also used it at a key moment in pacing the editing.”
The second shoot came two weeks later at Abingdon Abbey, a reputedly haunted Benedictine Monastery in Oxfordshire. The video’s narrative features a tormented young man, plagued by the voices in his head, and the frightened young woman he stalks. These roles went to Nicholas Anscombe, who James had previously worked with for his short Helium, produced for the Virgin Media Shorts, and Italia Conti-trained actress, Sophie Hill. ”Nick is very, very disturbing in the role.” says Andy. “There is a moment where he sits down next to Sophie and just ever-so-slowly turns his head towards her that is absolutely spine-chilling. And Sophie has a very classical quality to her, timeless. They both give amazing performances.”
“I thought Nicholas would be perfect for the role having worked with him previously. Sophie contacted me after I posted a casting call and I was pleased to have her on board. Both are talented and committed actors who I hope to work with again in the future”, says James. ”I had wanted to shoot at Abingdon Abbey for a while but hadn’t found the right project. It has an eerie feel and look to it which I felt was perfect – but what sold it to me was it’s large gallery upstairs, which has a fantastic soft look as natural light pours through these long covered windows and an old, mysterious physique with crooked beams holding up a rustic wooden ceiling above an uneven wooden planked floor.”
With all of the footage in the can, James worked throughout December into the New Year to edit the final video. Andy says: “He sent us a teaser trailer first, to show us the look and feel. It was only about a minute long but the opening scene, and then to see Baz – our band member ! – playing in this amazingly shot piece of film was unbelievable. I was dancing round the room when I saw it.”
The final five-and-a-half-minute video has received nearly 1,000 views between YouTube and Vimeo in it’s first week. ”The reaction has been incredible”, says Andy. ”No one can quite believe how stunningly professional it looks. We’re all very, very proud of the video and we very much hope to work with James again in the future.”
Clockwork Orange’s sublime sound – guitar-based with moody, atmospheric electro – is by turn powerful, poignant, sometimes menacing but always with killer hooks. Their spine-tingling and highly visual video for ‘Talking in Your Sleep’, with it’s creepy narrative, demonstrates a deep understanding of their craft, blending a perfect union of sound and vision.
“I thoroughly enjoyed working with the band and would love to make another video with them,” James tells us, adding: “I can’t quite believe how many views the video has had already!”
You heard it here first, folks … watch this space …
James Quayle is currently working on a new short film Shooting Star with friend and producing partner Jonathan Wooloff. Synopsis: “When a person dies their spirit passes to heaven as a shooting star, so when tragedy strikes young astronomer Benjamin Hardwick, he puts his hope in the writings of D.C. Golding and waits to see his beloved wife Marie-Anne pass over as a shooting star.” They are currently looking for cast and crew.
Clockwork Orange are currently in rehearsal for live dates to accompany the release of their forthcoming album.
Clockwork Orange are: Andy Stanton, Dean Herbert, Andy Murchington, Baz Masters & Lois Easthope. The single, ‘Talking in Your Sleep” is available on iTunes, Amazon & other good online music stores.
Feature Inteview by Jean Lynch