Watching James Blunt get “Cold” in North Wales
Behind The Scenes on James Blunts’ new music video
Although Original Outdoors is primarily a training and adventure business, we get asked to help out with all sorts of projects that require our unique combination of skills, experience and connections. A recurring theme is helping out with location scouting, location safety and consultancy for media projects in North Wales.
We took a call from a producer working with international music video and film production company Great Guns to help out with finding locations for their new production – the music video for James Blunt’s new song “Cold”. We launched straight into recommending, shortlisting and then recce-ing locations for them along the coastline of North Wales on Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula.
We were also asked to come up with a plan and a team to keep everybody on the production safe – and as it involved thrashing around in the a (cold, obviously) sea, climbing on a sheer rockface (where bits kept falling off it) and working with a helicopter on a rocky headland – the team had to be good.
We had two days of production to cover at multiple locations, landowners to liaise with and some very Welsh weather to deal with and I relied on the skills of Chris Jackson, Luca Celano, Gav Emmerson and Dilwyn Sanderson-Jones to keep everything running smoothly from our side.
We watched ex-Army songster James Blunt battle through waves, scramble over granite boulders and through dense vegetation and literally sing through a storm on the side of a mountain for the first day, then set up ropes and dislodged some unsafe rocks from a quarry above the beach for the climbing segments.
There is always a lot to keep an eye on for jobs like this – the on-camera star who will happily put himself in harm’s way for the shot, the team immediately behind the camera ( DoP Max, Director Calum, 1st AD George and Producer Dale) plus the rest of the production crew (Sally, James, Tom, Gareth, Zac, Hannah, Sam, Ben, Luke and anyone else I have forgotten) who need to be kept informed about the likely hazards of the non-studio environment we are shooting in.
There is also a balance between keeping everyone safe and making sure that the shoot actually goes ahead – this means working closely with the Director and Assistant Director to ensure they get the shots we needed whilst managing their expectations about what we can do, where we can do it and how we can do it. When the cameras are rolling, the drone is in the air and the international music star is hanging around on a rope on a wet and loose rockface everything needs to happen quickly, smoothly and in a controlled manner.
For the first day Chris and Luca ran things whilst I led a foraging course and then attended a photo shoot for an upcoming collaboration with a brand. For the second day we split the roles between Chris keeping an eye on everyone for the last mountain shots whilst Dilwyn, Luca and Gav setup the quarry face with ropes, anchors and established safe zones for themselves, the crew and anyone else who needed to be there.
For the climbing sequences James needed to be lowered down to a ledge, then climb back up via a greasy traverse and up onto a rib and corner. He was roped on and belayed by Luca and Gav with Dilwyn acting as coordinator between the rope team and myself as we worked with the director to get James into exactly the right place for the cameras and the drone (piloted by our friends Off The Ground). This took several takes, including a sequence where a sizeable chunk of granite detaches from the rockface and crashes down past James’ feet to the rocks below.
Next we needed to get Director of Photography Max Witting down onto the adjacent face to get shots of James climbing on the exposed rib, which was no easy task considering that he would also be holding an incredibly expensive RED camera with the associated lense, filters, monitor and everything else that shouldn’t really be dangled off a rope over a sheer drop. Max did a fantastic job though, and didn’t seemed to be fazed at all by the edge transition over onto a vertical face. Sideways….
So did James Blunt do all of his own stunts? He certainly did – and without even the hint of a raised eyebrow or question about what we asked him to do. You would have had to pay me a substantial sum to clamber around on a loose quarry face in wet, floppy trainers and a pair of tatty old jeans, especially after day and a half of standing around in the rain or lying in the Irish Sea. He is also a thoroughly nice, polite and friendly guy to work with. He took time for a cliff-top photo with us all, listened attentively to all safety briefings and did exactly what Dilwyn, Luca and Gav asked him to when we needed him to.
And then it was all done, and the circus rolled on to their next production and we all went back to living in possibly the finest place in the world – North Wales.