Once In A Lifetime
“Well, how did I get here?” That line from the Talking Heads song was on a constant loop in my head that beautifully sunny June day. Indeed, it had been less than four days before that I was even aware of British Whale, here I was, on my way to a West London studio, about to be part of Mr Justin Hawkins first solo video shoot.
After checking in, I proceeded into the dark realms of the studio. No one really knew the premise of the video, only told to dress up like they were going to a darts match, and speculation was confirmed when to the left was a well-lit stage, complete with “BW” sign, huge darts, a winner’s cup, and various other trappings of a match. Only when I’d found a spot to stand did I realise that Justin was also atop, practicing his throwing techniques against the hushed backdrop of the focused crowd. Those that had arrived on time were provided with various bits by wardrobe, which included dowdy shirts, loads of costume jewellery, and funky hats. Since there no one was filming yet, I took a walk outside, where I saw Dan and Richie at the reception desk. And upon returning, I’d seen that not only were the full band there, various friends and family were also taking part. Phil Taylor the darts champion, was also present, along with his own group of fans. And the ultimate coup, the Mael brothers were also there.
After a bit of meeting and greeting between family, friends, and fans, the lot of us were corralled outdoors for Health & Safety reasons as more equipment would be put into place. It was to be the first of many times where everyone looked as if they were all part of some family reunion. Those from the boards were soon escorted out of the sun into an adjacent studio, where everyone got to know each other’s names, both screen and real. The make-up artists came to touch up our faces, but mostly we just waited to get the call back.
Once that came, we were back in the main studio and took our places at the dressed and complete tables. Some of us, however, were re-directed to a new table in front, which flanked the Friends & Family table on one side, while Phil Taylor’s fans occupied the table on the other side.
The first scene to be shot was the bit where Russell Mael mimes “Flying, domestic flying” and introduces Justin then Phil. We were on instructions to cheer madly for The Hawk, but even more so for The Power. After a couple run-throughs, we were ready to roll. Scene 1, Take 1, the clapperboard went, but as the guy with it ran out of scene, so did the cord, causing the mic to fly out of Russell’s hand, yellow rubber ball no longer sat on top but rolling across the stage. Somewhat amusing start to the day.
Perhaps because of the heat and lack of air circulating, or the overwhelming of the senses due to so many of Justin’s inner circle being there, the shooting sequence became somewhat of a blur to me. In regards to that, I will point out highlights as per sequence in video:
First audience scan: One of the last shots of the day. Considering that we were hot, tired, and had had a few to drink, I think the audience came out looking remarkably fresh and enthusiastic.
Justin walking in with bodyguards: Audience didn’t participate, so can’t confirm when it was shot.
Russell introducing the players: Covered above. The growling sequence was filmed separately just after the intro scene, and after several takes it’s a shame that the audio to it was off, because Justin’s growling became increasingly silly. He also seemed quite proud of the gaudy jewellery required to wear.
“Game ON!”: Also one of the last shots of the day. As was “Bullseye!”
General darts playing: Happened at various, indistinct times.
Electronic scoreboard manipulation: Early in day.
Streaker scene: Nick Abrahams was quite comfortable to strip for this vital shot, but dismissed an audience-wide request to go the Full Monty. First shot failed as the Flasher’s flash didn’t go off.
Close-up shots of Phil, then Justin: Later in day, using a white reflector that nearly blinded me because of where I sat.
Anticipated audience: Shot toward end of day. This is where the director asked us to show off our acting skills. I’ll be waiting for Equity’s call.
Bullseye: Justin’s very first attempt for this shot landed him one, however, the camera angle wasn’t right, so he had to do it again. After a couple falters, he managed to do two more bullseye’s in a row. Skillful lad! During a break in filming, Russell had a go as well, and despite the impression he gave of never handling a dart in his life, he also landed a bullseye after a few shots.
Enthusiastic applause: Filmed early in the day. Full of real enthusiasm, naturally.
Confetti and winner’s cup bit: Don’t remember this at all. Must’ve been when the majority of us left.
To give the impression of a smoke-filled room, a special machine was enlisted to add the atmosphere, but that meant that the doors and curtains all had to remain closed, which made the room incredibly warm and stuffy. This led to copious amounts of alcohol being ingested by the Friends & Family table, and increasing merry spirits from the occupants, particularly when someone managed to break the lamp on their table, or when the last crowd scene was filmed and a group of them nearly fell over like dominoes. It also led to a community spirit to break loose when Ed gave me a bag of ice, then orange juice, to share amongst the tables. Break times were an added relief, if only to be able to go out into the fresh air again. The buffet spread both times was substantial and varied, and because we were all in the car park of the studio, there was a family-reunion BBQ feel to these times, especially as everyone seemed to mingle about with everyone else. We all had to collect our own food, and most ate outside on the benches. Justin was the only one who didn’t participate, assumingly because he was busy shooting various scenes, and I felt quite bad for him. Still, towards the end of the day after constantly working, he was very kind to sign autographs and pose for photos during a break in filming. What a professional.
To break the boredom of setting up shots, Charlotte began making, then selling, sculptures made out of Styrofoam cups and pens. She wouldn’t accept anything less than £1 and made a tidy little profit. Other boredom busters were the odd statements coming from the Friends & Family table, the most memorable from Mrs Hawkins commenting when the female wardrobe assistant had to pull Russell’s shirt down by unzipping his trousers, and she shouted “I wish I had your job, love!” which goes down as my favourite quote of the day.
Cringeworthy moment? Just before a shot, the one and only mobile phone to go off. A deeply embarrassed Sue apologised to everyone.
At long last, sometime after 11pm, the director announced it was a wrap. It had been a wonderfully memorable day that I didn’t really want to end, despite the heat and exhaustion, so after 11+ long hours, it was time to re-join the real world once again. After goodbyes and thanks to various people, I started the long journey home by walking back towards the Tube station. Even though I had felt like I had lived in a whole other world for just a day, the people and streets of London were still there. Same as it ever was.