Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre is not your typical music video set, and walking around on a cold and rainy Monday in January, no one would guess that Swim Deep – one of Birmingham’s hottest new bands, were shooting a music video there.
I heard about the shoot via a tweet on the band’s Twitter page, inviting fans to be in their music video – in this way, social media has definitely brought fans closer to the artists they love. This is one of the advantages of following smaller bands just starting out, as rare opportunities like this disappear as a band and their fan base grows. I persuaded a uni friend to come with me and we rocked up a few days later, naïvely expecting the shopping centre to be transformed into a huge film set straight out of Hollywood.
The reality was different, as the shopping centre looked as normal, so we went on a search to find any sign of a camera or other young people who looked like Swim Deep fans. What does a Swim Deep fan even look like? We had no idea, but we eventually found some, along with the band themselves, in an empty shop which had been converted into the production base.
Embarrassingly, we had walked straight past them, despite Austin Williams (lead singer) and Zachary Robinson (drums) standing chatting in the window in full view. Trying not to be obviously star struck, and suppressing the urge to turn into crazy fans more akin to those of One Direction, we signed in with the production team and sat about waiting to be called into action.
…and waited some more.
The thing about video shoots, for those not in the know, is there’s a whole lot of waiting around for something to happen. When we were finally called up, we still didn’t have a clue what the video was about. The next lesson we learnt, after the waiting game, was to be prepared to do whatever random, potentially embarrassing task was needed! Our first scene involved Austin being pushed around in a trolley by the rest of Swim Deep, with fans jumping in to ruffle his hair, or in my case (in a second of instantly regretted madness) kiss him on the cheek before running away. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t make the final cut.
After the trolley scene, we all lined up to be shot individually (and just to be clear, I’m talking filming here, and not firing squad) and pulled happy and sad faces as directed by the production team, as well as singing some of the lines to the song. Fortunately, for the world at large, those parts were dubbed over in the final cut. Our last job was to dance around Zachary as he drummed in the middle of a walkway in the shopping centre, surrounded by the production crew and a bunch of bemused locals.
Not knowing if we’d be needed anymore, we went back to the base where the band invited us in. They were really friendly and appreciative that we’d all waited around so much to be part of their video. This was the best part of the day – getting to hang out with our favourite band and chat with them as if we did this sort of stuff everyday. We even got to be part of Austin’s 21st birthday celebrations as the rest of the band and the crew presented him with a surprise birthday cake.
The waiting didn’t stop with the end of filming, as we now had to wait to see the final video! It was exciting to see which bits they included and which ended up on the cutting room floor. Especially as on the day, we had taken part in seemingly random things which didn’t appear to be connected or have a storyline. It was great to see the final video which saw Swim Deep having fun in the shopping centre, interspersed with shots of fans and a few lucky members of the public who had stumbled across the set.
Even though we were both on screen for barely a second altogether, it didn’t stop us from capturing screen shots and spamming Facebook with the music video link. After all, it’s not everyday you get to be in one!
It was an amazing experience and since the shoot Swim Deep have deservedly got a lot bigger, and it’s doubtful another opportunity like this will come about. For all aspiring music video actors, keep an eye out on your favourite band’s Twitter or Facebook, because you never know when they might just need you!