This is going to be a rushed post, because I get the feeling that if I don’t pull the trigger on it fast, I won’t pull the trigger on it at all.
Recently – through tragic circumstances that would make anyone think about the unflinching passage of time, memory and mortality – I reconnected with an old university friend on Facebook.
(Any time I reconnect with someone on Facebook from a very long time ago, it makes me think about memory, time and dying. I am not the person Friends Reunited was invented for.)
SO ANYWAY, that got me thinking. And then a new acquaintance from Twitter – take a bow, Rachael Burns, who is now ancient at thirty years old – was gifted with a lovely collection of vinyl, among which where some albums by the Cocteau Twins.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Cocteaus in the last couple of weeks – eight straight hours of Sigur Ros while chasing down a deadline recently got me thinking a lot about the benefits of ambient, emotional music with nebulous lyrics – and the combination of all these things made me ask this old university chum whether any of the videos we did for our Media course still existed somewhere.
I skipped ahead a bit there. One of our big group projects at uni was to produce a music video. I may be misremembering some of what follows, but I feel the need to share it before I show you what I’m going to show you.
The remit was to make a music video to accompany a song of our own choosing. We had access to pretty up-to-date technology, which at the time were these bulky video cameras – that had a few in-camera filters and effects that were pretty basic by contemporary standards, but addictive as hell, as you’re about to see – modern editing equipment – which at the time meant VHS I think – and we had zero budget.
As I recall, I pushed for the Cocteau Twins, because I loved the Cocteau Twins – I have vague memories of subjecting the group to a battery of songs for tone, most of which were totally unsuitable – and as a group we decided on a music video with a narrative. Both of these things were totally out of step with what the other groups were doing, we would later find. Everybody’s work looked pretty good, but ours was the most swoony, pretty, least heavy song, and the most visceral and horrible video. I have memories of Metallica to swishy shots of autumn trees, and then our melodic scenes of death and destruction.
I felt pretty good about the early stages of the project. I’d got a decent amount of input on the song, and the story – areas I was confident in – but we had to decide on someone to go in front of the camera, and nobody wanted to. I think I may have been out of the room when it was decided that I’d be the central protagonist.
I can’t act. After three years of podcasting, I can still barely deliver a pre-scripted line. I didn’t have a very good self-image at the time, so couldn’t be objective about how I looked on camera, but then maybe that was true of most twenty-year-old media students at the time.
That’s the preamble, which I’ve included because I feel the need to apologise for every damn thing I’ve ever done, and offer CONTEXT. The truth is this was a successful project by most metrics, but I can’t get over how weird it feels seeing myself centre stage at that age, and how much the means of production have dated.
Other useful notes:
- It was all filmed in central Southampton and Bitterne Triangle, mostly in the parks opposite what is now Southampton Solent University, but also in the alleyway near the back of Primark.
- The make-up effects were entirely provided by McDonalds, which used to be around the corner from our alleyway location.
- The story, in case it isn’t clear, is that the protagonist lost his girlfriend in horribly tragic circumstances, and is torn up that the last time he saw her they argued. He is drifting around, sullen as fuck and disoriented. People keep disrupting his day, and he has dark fantasies about violent responses. This was that nebulous period on the cusp of the eighties and nineties, pre-irony – girlfriends were always dying, leaving trails of revenge and regret.
- Yes, he does get himself straightened out in a church at the end. Pre-irony, remember? That church is on my way home from work now. I don’t think we asked for permission to film in there.
- The bits in daylight are supposed to be real. The bits at night are the fantasy. We decided that this wasn’t a clear enough visual motif, so someone decided that the protagonist should wear different clothes in each, which meant jacket off in one, jacket on in the other. Someone decided that the bits shot at night in Autumn should be the bits where I was in a tee-shirt. That someone wasn’t me.
- I’m also dismayed to see that the boyfriend/girlfriend bits aren’t as prominent in the cut as I remembered. This is upsetting because a) the happy-couple bits got quite cool and intense and b) because my video-girlfriend felt weird slapping me – I know, right? – I had to get her real-life wound up at me, so when she slapped me on camera, she really slapped me. It seems unfair that our method acting and my pain didn’t quite make it in properly (it probably looked shit).
- Yes, I know, I was dreamy. I don’t understand how I never saw it before. Sigh.
So, yeah. Time to post this, I guess. Remember, kids: never let other people humiliate you. The only person you should allow to humiliate you is you.