Remote Directing at its best
Faced with the issues of enforced quarantine in making his video for Marcus Mumford’s version of You’ll Never Walk Alone, Nicolas Jack Davies turned to Zoom – possibly before most of us had heard of it – and pioneered some principles of the current phase of remote directing. Crucially the end result, with Mumford performing with Reuben James from their respective homes, has real emotional impact.
Mumford’s recording of the classic song – best known for its associations with Liverpool FC – preceded the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, and its purpose was always to support causes close to his heart: The Grenfell Trust and War Child UK. But the fact that Mumford and James had to rig up the camera set-up themselves, as per the directions of Davies and DoP Edgar Dubrovskiy, certainly adds another layer of purpose to the project.
It was also made feasible by Davies’ longstanding relationship with Mumford, that goes back to the very early days of Mumford & Sons, and resumed last year after a long hiatus with the music video for Blind Leading The Blind, from the band’s recent album Delta. Dubrovskiy also worked on that video, as did editor Liam Bachler, who does a fine job here with the ebb and flow of the creative process, where the usual separation of ‘BTS’ and ‘video’ disappears.
NICOLAS JACK DAVIES:
My big thing was to just be transparent about the process.
“Such a great song of course, a true standard. On first hearing Marcus’ version I thought it was really great – because it wasn’t overblown or overwrought, I thought he got it just right. And it’s obviously super important right now to get that kind of thing right. It was powerful, soulful and totally respectful.
“Having a longstanding relationship with an artist, as a director, is great at times because random opportunities like this can come from out of nowhere. Obviously five weeks later – we’ve seen all the Zoom call, self-shot videos and commercials. But back then (feels like an age!) it was like ‘how the f**k are we going to do this without it being totally crap?!’. We needed to film in Devon and Birmingham, at the same time and couldn’t obviously use any crew.
“Edgar [Dubrovskiy] came up with the multicam idea, as would be easier to set them up at his house and sanitise them and box them up with colour-coded numbers on, so that the artists could follow a simple plan of set up. My big thing was to just be transparent about the process – see the other cameras in shot and make it feel DIY. And tonally the key was to have the lightness of the setting up and communication between locations counterbalanced by the weight and integrity of the performance. Would’ve been rubbish for it all to be too emotionally down. I hope it hits harder because there’s a balance.
“As a director/ film-maker/ whatever it felt good to do something in touch with these strange times that can go some way to help the affiliated charities. That’s a privilege.”
This piece was published in Promonews on 24 April 2020. Read the interview here.