The Paul McCartney Project

Filming of “Waterfalls” promotional video

June 1980 • Posted in “A day in the life


From The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After The Break-Up 1970-2001:

Featuring production again from Keef & Co., Paul shoots a promotional film for the song ‘Waterfalls’ on a specially built set in the middle of Wandsworth Common, with additional scenes being shot in a disused aircraft hangar. To assist with the taping, Paul obtains one and a half tons of polystyrene, and an eight-foot Polar bear called Olaf, hired from Chipperfield’s Circus. After numerous re-edits of the sequences, a total of six different promotional films are prepared, but only version three will be screened on shows such as Meet Paul McCartney […]

From Club Sandwich N°20, 1980:

From the outset, this production was to be an epic! Not just in terms of length or indeed technical wizardry, (like ‘Coming Up’), but as a series of set pieces each requiring meticulous setting up and shooting… There are only four shots in the whole clip — Count them!

Water was used as the link between each shot. This not only gave a literal interpretation of the lyrics but also provided a clever way of introducing each new set. In order to achieve this water effect at the various locations, special portable fountains were designed and constructed for ‘Waterfalls’.

The video starts with Paul playing the piano in what appears to be a pretty country cottage but is, in fact, a studio set in the middle of Wandsworth! What seemed to be a simple shot as the camera goes through the open window, was the result of a complicated and much rehearsed set of manoeuvres. As the camera moves in towards the open window, the entire cottage wall comes apart enabling the camera to move into the room. As Paul moves from the piano, the fountains burst into view to provide the first ‘waterfall’ background.

As the waters disappear an arctic wasteland is revealed. This again is a set, complete with an enormous painted backdrop measuring 150′ x 65 ‘ No mean feat with a paintbrush! When the set building was completed, to add that final touch of authenticity, a real live polar bear was cast in the supporting role at Paul’s request! Although “Olaf” had been trained to perform in a circus, every safety precaution had to be taken and rigidly enforced as Paul was singing on the set very close to the bear. It took ten days to build and light this set and this scene ends with more fountains which dissolve into the next location. Each set required something extra and this one was no exception. A fire engine was needed to pump water from a lake in the gardens, over a hill, to the shooting site 500 yards away, for the next watery background. This shot starts with Paul walking down an avenue with a castle in the background. The camera ‘tracks’ (that is, it is pushed along on rails like a train) for 120 feet with Paul. He then steps onto a Carousel which was brought in specifically for this shot and is not a permanent feature of the gardens.

As Paul steps off the carousel, the fountains appear once more and we are transported back with him into the country cottage. He walks back to the piano and finishes the song. Obviously the cottage walls had to return to their original position as the camera passed back out through the window, and once again, a lot of rehearsing was required. The song is now over, Paul gets up and closes the window, leaving the cottage in darkness.

Last updated on August 12, 2020

The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After The Break-Up 1970-2001

"An updated edition of the best-seller. The story of what happened to the band members, their families and friends after the 1970 break-up is brought right up to date. A fascinating and meticulous piece of Beatles scholarship."

We owe a lot to Keith Badman for the creation of those pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - a day to day chronology of what happened to the four Beatles after the break-up and how their stories intertwined together!


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