As the official photographer for the Americana UK Association’s awards, conference, and showcase festival, there was near-constant photography from 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday until 3:00 a.m. on Friday, then editing from 6:30 a.m. onward. So, when Liv Austen asked if I’d take behind-the-scenes photos at her video shoot that weekend, the answer was:
Liv Austen’s smart. She knows I can’t resist free food, interesting photography and Liv Austen. So that’s how I ended up at The Borderline eating croissants, half-delirious through sleep deprivation. Austen wasn’t in any better shape. Worse, really, because she couldn’t even eat the damn croissants! She’d been at most of the AMA UK events too, including performing at the songwriting workshop, then after that marathon week she’d got sick. She later recalled: “I was very ill the day of the shoot, so I was living on painkillers and water mostly. I’m glad I didn’t have to sing for real!”
Consummate professional and bloody good actress that she is, she powered through so most of the friends and fans that had gathered to appear in the video were none the wiser. These shots were just one second apart.
Not that singing live would ever have been an option – the equipment wasn’t even plugged in!
The premise of the shoot was simple but effective. They would be capturing live footage of Liv and her band performing Don’t Regret A Single One, to be interspersed in the edit with pick-up shots of Austen in that trippy lit corridor at The Borderline and a city scene.
Given the early start, a decent crowd had assembled: it turns out that plenty of people can’t resist free food and Liv Austen!
Through the magic of editing, this was made to look like a sold-out concert.
Music videos are notorious for being long drawn out affairs so it was impressive that the crowd scenes were captured in just a handful of takes. The dedication of the fans was to thank for that.
Although Austen was lip-syncing to match the recorded mix, the song was blared out through the venue’s sound system so they really were dancing in earnest. Their enthusiasm was much appreciated: “I genuinely got so much energy from the crowd, the fact that they gave the same intensity every time we ran through the song really inspired me, and I was so grateful and humbled. I really mean that.”
Check out my time-lapse video which captures a sense of the energy in the room.
Having earned a reward, the crowd retreated to the breakfast buffet for more food and a sneaky Bloody Mary or two!
Unfortunately for Austen, her break was much shorter; just enough time to touch up the hair and make-up.
Guitarist Jon Wright didn’t get much of a break at all as he had two crucial jobs: straightening up the coat and serving the coffee!
They were pretty mundane tasks for someone who is *clearly* a superhero…
Then Austen and the band ran through the song again for the close-ups. The director’s suggestion to perform to a sped up version had the band laughing as they tried to keep up with super-fast chord changes, but Austen was scarily good at the lip-syncing right from the start:
That would have zapped anyone’s energy, let alone someone who was sick, so *of course* the production team needed close-up footage of Austen alone. Surely now the fatigue would show? Nope. Classic Liv.
These particular moments didn’t make the cut, for some reason! [This might be why they don’t let me make music videos. Yet.]
Still, there was plenty of evidence on the day that they had more than enough great footage.
::drum roll:: Here’s the Don’t Regret A Single One video in all its glory. What do you think?
Sure, it’s no The Next Time but she can’t play all the instruments and stare at tea in *every* video. Apart from anything, she doesn’t have enough different yellow clothes…
We caught up to discuss the DRASO (this is what the cool kids call Don’t Regret A Single One) video shoot, music videos in general, and Austen’s guest role in the BAFTA winning Channel 4/AMC show HUM∀NS (when we were both feeling a bit more human ourselves!)
We got the most important question out of the way first: “No, the coat was not heavy! I still have it in my closet.”
In classic Austen style, her next comment was pure gold: “I find it hard to like most music videos, I really do!” Well, this interview about music videos really took a turn! It turns out she has the same high standards for videos – her own and others – evidenced elsewhere in her career. “One that stands out is Carrie Underwood’s Something In The Water, I think it’s really gorgeous. Also the interactive video for Material by Ward Thomas, I loooved that!”
As with her musical taste (remember our Hanson interview?), it’s not just country and Americana that inspires her. She soon got in touch with an updated answer to favourite music video: “EVERY K-POP VIDEO EVER. Oh my lord, they are so colourful and the production values areamazing, that is now my new inspiration!”
She’s generally wary of music videos for a reason: “they are super hard to get right, which is why I need to be so involved in my own videos.” She also touched on why it’s a different kind of acting role. There’s more creative control but also more responsibility: “I have the last say when it comes to my videos. I’m the one who has to be happy with the result.”
“When you are hired as an actor, especially as I was on Humans, a guest role for one episode, you have to listen to the direction very carefully and make sure your performance fits in with the tone of the show and that you are giving the creators what they want.”
Still dealing with the fact that Austen’s an accomplished actress as well as a singer? Let me blow your mind then; you’ve probably seen her several times. This impressive giffgaff short was shown in cinemas and had 7 million views online.
She also starred in this Thorntons Christmas commercial last year. 15 takes of the chocolate scene…
So, any preference between music videos and and other acting work? Her answer was typically Austen: “I love doing both!”
That’s just as well because given the pace of the music industry, she’s since filmed her third video in just nine months. “Shooting DRASO was really fun but luckily I was feeling better when we shot the video for my new single, Window Shopping. I can’t wait for people to see that. It will be out soon!”
Liv Austen’s new single, Window Shopping, is due out on July 20, with her debut album to follow soon after. In the meantime, you can catch her live at The Pheasantry in Chelsea on August 11.
Like what you see? There are more photos of the Don’t Regret A Single One video shoot over on Flickr. Please follow me there, and here:
Want more photos? Try my travel, nature and street photography website, Out To The Streets!