The Paul McCartney Project

Filming of “Real Love” promotional video

Began October 4, 1995 • Posted in “A day in the life

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From The Beatles Monthly, N°239, March 1996:

The video for ‘Real Love’ was much less reliant on special effects than ‘Free As A Bird’. It’s a documentary-style collage, for which co-director Kevin Godley edited together location footage and 60s archive clips, plus Anthology director Geoff Wonfor’s footage of the three Beatles in McCartney’s Sussex studio.

What I set out to achieve was more personal to the band, whereas I think that ‘Free As A Bird’, good though it is, comes over as one man’s vision of the Beatles,” says Godley, who was invited by Neil Aspinall to collaborate
with Wonfor on the video. “It turned out that Geoff was so snowed under with the workload involved in putting the Anthology together that he needed someone to take the reins of this video whilst retaining some involvement.

Ironically, until he visited Liverpool’s Beatles Shop in early October to buy props during the location work, Godley was
completely unaware that ‘Real Love’ had already been released as the opening track on the 1988 Imagine movie soundtrack album. He explains: “Someone said, ‘It’s already on a video – the Imagine documentary’. I immediately
thought that maybe John was singing it in the movie, and that there might be some footage. But, of course, it’s only used behind the opening credits. It’s quite different to the new Beatles version. The chords are different, the
metre’s different and the lyrics aren’t the same.

Shooting moved from Liverpool, where the beautiful piano scenes were shot around the Mersey and the Liver Building, to London on October 11th. It was then that I witnessed (and unwittingly appeared in!) the filming of the Abbey Road crossing after visiting the studio’s Penthouse Suite to interview Geoff Emerick. The slow-motion contemporary portraits of Paul, George and Ringo were filmed on 35mm cameras at 500 frames per second, an idea influenced by Yoko Ono’s art film, Smile, which was shot at around 3,000 frames per second. Godley says: “I suddenly remembered seeing this extraordinary film. It was basically John smiling for 55 minutes. It was as if John was looking out from the past, from the other side, back at us. And this whole semi-conscious idea of resurrection and stuff floating up came from there.

At the beginning of ‘Real Love’, an interesting effect was applied in post-production to reveal ‘broken’ portraits of the three members as they are today. Godley explains: “Just as an experiment, we thought we’d try a piece of footage from the ‘A Day In The Life’ promo, and it worked rather well. We kept using the same bit of footage, backing it up and using
slightly different areas of footage to cut new holes to reveal tho next face. We made a composite, Iike a poster destroying itself.

Finding footage of Lennon mouthing the words ‘real’ and ‘love’ was, Godley says, a way of including him in the contemporary recording session sequences. “But,” he is quick to point out, “our Naffometer wasn’t ringing, Iike
it could do if you brought dead people into live situations. There is always a tastelessness factor which can project very bad messages. I don’t think this video does that.

Godley says that although Geoff Wonfor was invited to film the ‘Real Love’ recording sessions at McCartney’s East Sussex studio, it wasn’t for any specific purpose: “lt was a discreet fly on the wall thing. They didn’t want to be lit or be aware of the cameras. They just told Geoff to take along a tape machine and a Betacam and gather some footage. I suppose everybody appreciated what a momentous occasion it was, and thought that it should be covered on video.

Editing on ‘Real Love’ was carried out in a number of suites around London, beginning at Crowe in Shepherds Bush, opposite the Apple Productions offices where the Anthology TV programmes were being assembled. “If we needed access to any of the archive material at Apple,” Godley explains, “we could literally pop over the road and borrow it. We started the editing with the idea of combining the faces, using the film as the key, then we worked out the sequence of events for the rising piano and began to introduce the sessions footage, inserting specific things like the rising medals.

Because of the tight secrecy around the project, Godley was not given a complete version of the finished track during editing. As a former member of 10cc, he privately overdubbed his own voice in place of the absent vocal lines for reference purposes. “When the guys looked at my rough edit, they were listening to John, Paul, George, Ringo
and Kev!
” Iaughs Godley. “Apparently, Derek Taylor said something like, ‘George is in good voice, they’ve brought him up in the mix’. Little knowing! But when we did finally get the finished track, it was slightly faster than what we had been working to. They had obviously varispeeded it up and that gave us a few last-minute problems.

Godley, who has previously directed videos for Paul (including ‘Only Love Remains’ and ‘C’Mon People’) and George (‘When We Was Fab’), describes working for the Beatles and Apple as “demanding” and adds: “They push for the best and if you’ve fucked up, you find out pretty quickly“. He was obviously well prepared for their criticisms of his rough
edit. “I think it took us just over a week to do a rough cut that was up to standard and their comments were interesting. Paul was happy with most things apart from a couple of shots and Ringo felt that the portraits should be smiling a little more. The criticism was pretty constructive, it wasn’t at all ego-trippy.

Probably the nicest thing about the video is that you actually get to see these guys working in the studio together for the first time in over 25 years, even though it’s just a few glimpses. That’s definitely one of the more positive attributes.

Last updated on September 19, 2020

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