KT Cloudbusting -- Kate Bush In Her Own Words

Video Making

The [Early] videos seen on TV in the U.K. were made by Keef MacMillan, a fantastic man who I really enjoy working with, and who's now a good friend. It starts when he comes for three or four hours in an evening, and we sit and talk about what we want to do. So far, at each stage our thinking has been on the same level, which is very good. I tell him what I've got in mind, and he says that that was what he was thinking too. I then show him the routine, and he thinks of different camera angles and possible effects. Then we go into the studio and do it, and each time we've taken a whole day. His camera crew are the most amazing guys, and all work hours of overtime because they want to do it well, which is really unusual.

To start with I sit and listen to the song, and think of the personality who is in it. The easiest was `` The Man With the Child in His Eyes.'' I was sitting listening, trying to figure out who was singing it, and my brother John suggested I do it like that, sitting down. Then all I had to do was think about floor exercises I had done in previous lessons. I had the idea of someone sitting down and telling someone something rather secret, and put in human, rather nervous habits, like pulling hair, rubbing the nose, looking up to heaven, and that sort of thing; trying to characterize it that way. Then when I've listened once, I put the track on again and start moving, keeping on to the end. The ideas come to me with the words, and then I try to refine it. It's hard to get as much variation as I'd like, but that's a lot to do with the fact that I'm not a dancer. When we did the filming on that song, a lot of time was spent on the lighting, which was very complicated, and the perspex box that I sat on to give a floating effect, with lights underneath, got very hot. By the end of the day I had an incredible rivet-mark where I was sitting, which stayed for about four days. Every time I moved, it sounded like sandpaper. I really enjoy doing the videos, but by the end I really ache, and it gets very hot, especially under the thick make-up. But there's a nice tired feeling with a good day's work behind you. It's a real team effort, with everyone really enthusiastic and interested in helping me to enjoy it. (1979, KBC 2)


Do you get self-conscious when you're making a video?

I get very nervous before I do anything. I feel I have to work at songs for days before I start to produce anything interesting. Before I perform, I'm always worried that we didn't spend enough time getting this or that together. (1981, RM)


*You're very into making videos, do you find it easier. I mean it's a completely different sort of medium, really isn't it, making videos?


Is it something you enjoy doing?

Yes. I love doing it. I think the great this is that it's a very growing industry so each time you make a video there's probably new effects around and new techniques.

Are you able to throw in your own ideas, you know. Or does the producer say ``right, kate, you know you'll do this and you'll do this.'' or are you able to say ``well, I fancy doing this?'' do you get quite a bit of freedom.

Yes, I do, I think because of the way I used to work. I always used to work with Keith Macmillan, who was a fantastic director, because it's really the director in videos who keep the direction together. And he was very great, he always used to let me get as involved as I wanted to. And I learnt everything I know from him, really. (1982, Saturday Superstore)


*What's your involvement in a video like that, I mean do you start right at the beginning, do everything yourself?

I always work with a director and you have to use an awful lot of people, obviously. But normally the idea come from me and, because I've written the song, often I've had ideas at an early stage so it's putting them into practice. (1982, The Old Grey Whistle Test)


*Actually when you perform a song there's none of this sort of standing up in front of the mike and just belting it out, it really is quite a work of art. When you're writing songs, kate, do you think always in the back of your mind, ``how is this going to look on a video?"

Not always at the writing stage. And there is a lot of visual ideas, because when you're writing the song you've got to think of the character who's singing the song, who often isn't yourself, and that character will be in a particular situation, either an unhappy one or in a certain room with a certain person. And I think all these things you actually mentally push yourself into to write the song so that you'll be closest to that atmosphere. And when you make a video, often you can't afford to visually do what you have in your mind, so often you'll slightly change it, make it a bit more abstract rather than go through the full thing.

How do you make your videos, kate?

Well, it's quite a long process. It depends on the song, the song really dictates what you have to do with it. Some songs are very simple and other songs almost become little epics, where you've got to section lots of things together. And if you're using other people in the video then you have to get choreography for them and make sure that they look right and they do the right things. And it really is a lot of fun actually, for me it's almost like making a film and I think of it as something very special.

Now you brought some storyboards now today, didn't you?

Yes, I have. [Brings out storyboards] Something that I do for the video's just recently is... in order to let the people that are working on the video know, like the cameraman and all that, I draw these little pictures, I drew these little pictures, I don't know if you can see these. [The pictures are not clear. Scenes from the video are edited in] The video starts off with an eye blinking in time to the music, it's very rough drawings. And the camera moves out and as the camera moves out you see a little boy on my lap. And this is really sort of step by step, almost like a cartoon. (1981, Razzmatazz)


*Making videos is a lot of hard work for me. I don't consider myself a very good actress, but I'm a good dancer, and not a bad singer. (1983, Music Express)


Do you enjoy working in video?

I really do enjoy it very much. It's a bit like my recording experiences: I started off always being interested, and as I kept on working I became more involved. I work out the choreography, the setting, the lighting and the effects. But, out of all the videos I've done, there're really only a couple that I'm very pleased with. Unlike my songs, where I can spend lots of time writing them and working on them in the studio, video has terrible limitations of time and money. (1983, Voc'l)


*Ideally we'll be working with budgets comparable to films which means being able to go on location rather than using studio sets. That'll be a great excuse to get carried away! SHE ALMOST SQUEALS WITH DELIGHT. (1985, The Times)


Now, you have a video e.p. Out [In 1986] called the hair of the hound,'' and it's been at number one in the charts... They must have taken a lot of time to do...

I really wanted to try and make videos that looked like short films this time. I think I've always wanted to do this, but apart from one or two of the previous videos I have not achieved it. I started approaching film directors. I believed that video and film were two very different worlds, and that people who made videos would be less likely to make a pop ``video'' look like a piece of 35mm film.

All the people I approached were very kind but very busy, and I began to realise that unless I was extremely lucky, no one that I wanted would be able to shoot the promo.

I am a big admirer of Terry Gilliam's work - he is a great director. I asked his advice; could he suggest people I could work with who were good. He recommended David Garfath, who had worked as a cameraman for him. The lighting cameraman was Phil Mayheux - who, interestingly, worked on the Max Headroom special, which was superbly lit.

The video [" running up that hill"] took eight weeks: six weeks' training and choreography working with Dyane Gray, and three days shoot, plus editing and various meetings.

" Cloudbusting'' took eight to ten weeks, working with Julian Doyle, who has worked many times with Terry Gilliam. He is multi-talented, and covered many areas of the shoot, with Brian Helighy lighting for the first time - it's hard to believe that it is his first time at lighting.

...Now I noticed you didn't move your lips to the music in three of the videos - or should I call them films?

Well, they were all shot on film, but all eventually were edited on video.

Apart from `` Running Up That Hill,'' which was edited totally in the video suite, the others were edited on film as much as possible: doing all the cuts - except the ones that need special effects: slowing down, speeding up. All this is much quicker (and sometimes cheaper) to do on video, and with promo deadlines video is so convenient. But it does change the quality of the pictures when the film is transferred to video: it somehow loses its depth. But I'm sure in a couple of years the quality will be brilliant. Video is advancing all the time, but for me you can't beat the original quality of film, it's a very ancient form. The advantage of video is being set loose on all the effects, although on the E.P. all except ``Big Sky'' have been approached from a purist film-maker's point of view: very few special effects. We deliberately encouraged this, again trying to emphasise the film aspect. Which has a lot to do with no lip-synch: as soon as a performer is ``singing", they become that performer doing other things while singing. Which is great live, but on film, people acting out events without the lip distractions have more chance of playing a character. I found it very interesting and much more enjoyable. I'm always concerned about the miming being as accurate as possible, and that takes a lot of concentration and makes me behave like a singer. So without the lip-synch I could put much more effort into a character. I felt a little nervous about it in `` Cloudbusting.'' In Running Up That Hill it was different: no lip-synch, but I was trying to act a dancer, and they are facial expressions I know the sensations of. But playing a little boy, and playing opposite Donald Sutherland, I began to wonder if I was going mad, voluntarily putting myself in these situations where I had a ninety percent chance of looking a total absolute idiot! But if anything, Donald made it seem extremely natural, he was just like my Dad. He could make it rain, and I would watch him being taken away. I must say it was an extremely moving experience, burnt strongly into my memory upon the hill with the machine and the wind... (1986, KBC 20)


I notice that you directed two of the videos. Did you enjoy doing that?

It was very interesting and extremely educational. I've had a lot of encouragement from people to get more involved, and it can be difficult sometimes to find directors who are enthusiastic about the amount of involvement I like to put in. I found it took all my time rather than most, and the actual shoots felt very relaxed....

I am extremely lucky to have worked with such a good film crew: Mike Roberts was the cameraman. He's worked on The Killing Fields and The Mission, and Billy Camp was assistant, who organised everyone and everything so efficiently on the days of the shoot that I could almost relax. I used two different lighting men: Hughie Johnson; and Roger Pratt, who again worked with Terry Gilliam. The crew were so receptive, and made a very daunting, expensive task a lot of fun. (1986, KBC 20)


You say that you would like to get more into video - film - mini-films. In what role? Would you like to direct them, or do you want - you know - to take part in them?

No, I've absolutely no idea, and there are - I really do have to sometimes sit and listen to all those voices in me that, um...seem to want to do too many different things sometimes. I mean I really do like the idea of directing, but I don't think it's practical for me to direct and be in something. When I'm performing visually I very much would like to work with a director, because I think it's too difficult to do it all; but the idea of directing is actually a little too far in the future, but is perhaps more attractive than actually performing in front of the camera. [When kate says that she has ``absolutely no idea'' what role she would take in the production of future promotional films, she is not being candid with mr. Myatt. This interview took place in november, 1985. Within another twelve months she had directed and performed in three more promotional films of her own ("hounds of love,'' `` the big sky'' and `` experiment iv.) it's interesting to see kate describe this next step towards total artistic control as though it would be too difficult to try, when in fact she must already have been seriously planning to do just that. - ied] (1985, Homeground)


The problem with my live work was that I had to expose myself in public so much, whereas now I can concentrate on just doing videos for my work. What I really like about videos is that I'm working with film. It gives me a chance to get in there and learn about making films, and it's tremendously useful for me, because one day I might like to make films myself. (1989, Pulse)


For me, what's important is writing songs and it's just incredible how many things spill out of that. How the lyrics, being a singer, and then really by making videos it becomes an extension again of the song. And I suppose I've always been very interested in the visual side of things. I've always loved film, and it just seemed like a natural progression for me to get more and more involved in what I did musically and visually. Because I made the first album, and then I made the videos that went with it. so these are things that I've been doing for years now, and each time I've done them I've become a bit more involved.

I suppose my favorite ones are when it's a story, though, because then it is like making a little film. (1989, VH-1)


Well, it's very difficult making videos. Obviously you want to try and do something different. Everyone is making videos - there's competition out there like probably nothing else. (1989, VH-1)


When I'm directing them I would storyboard them, and then get them drawn up professionally so that other people can understand. Cause otherwise it's like ``Ha ha ha, what's that meant to be.'' ``That's not meant to be me, that looks like a blob.'' And also, just getting camera moves and that across, on a professionally drawn storyboard. Everyone can relate to an image - its such a good way of getting people to understand what you really mean. (1989, VH-1)


One of my favorite people from the movies was Alfred Hitchcock, because for me the guy was a genius. He was completely revolutionary, he was very witty, but witty in a very ``out there'' sense, and I still think people are learning about the film industry from him every time they watch one of his films. Beautiful - it's like the guy had a camera for a pair of eyes.

Well, I wouldn't like to sit here and say ``I feel like I'm emulating Hitchcock", but definitely he's a tremendous influence on me whenever I'm making a video. You know, he's really the ultimate reference point. (1989, VH-1)


My favorite videos are when the song has a story; when it is actually like a story that you could then turn into a little piece of film. Say, like `` Cloudbusting", that's a lot of fun to make. It was a story and it's a matter of telling the story visually. (1989, YTV)


I'd *LOVE* to make a film, even if it's just a short film. It's li back to that story-telling process again, where I'd be able to deal with pictures as well as sound. Putting the two together is such a powerful thing. (1989, YTV)


I do love directing. My favorite is when I don't actually have to be in the video much and I can make it a little film. I haven't been working on that long, but I've really got a group of people now that I would like to work with all the time as a crew. I have a fantastic crew. They're so enthusiastic - it makes it tremendously challenging and quite a moving experience for me to feel all these people working together as a group to make something. It's very different from making records, which is really a more isolated situation. On the film set it's maybe up to forty people. (1990, Option)


My videos are more film-influenced now. When I first started making videos, I was so obviously theatrically and dance-influenced. A lot of that was from Lindsay Kemp and dance teachers with whom I had been working. Gradually the more involved I got in video, the process of making films, the more I've swung around to filmmaking. It's a beautiful discipline, dance, and it can be lovely, but I guess I'm getting far more into filmmaking now. (1990, Option)


Does having complete control over your career become overwhelming sometimes?

Yes, it does, but I think in a way what I'm moving towards - and I don't know if it will work or not, but I feel it's leading me there - is the combination of music and film. I hope that someday - in a few years - I could experiment with making a film. Maybe not a full-length feature, but I would like to work with visuals and music at the same time, because at the moment I'm restricted to visuals - in the context of the videos - to music that already exists, and I'd really like to play with this a lot more. (1989, Reaching Out)


How instrumental are you when it comes to making a video? Do you have quite strong ideas about how your videos are to be seen?

Yes, I do, but I think it's because I really love the whole process of film. I just find it fascinating. Every time I make a video, it gives me an opportunity to learn about it. Like having your own studio. The amount I've learnt about that process is tenfold. And with videos, because I got involved and the people I worked with earlier on really encouraged me, I have learnt a lot about the process over the years, really. (1989, Greater London)


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