Interviews & Articles


"Musical Chairs"
"Keef" MacMillan
March 7, 1979

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Musical Chairs

Date: Wed, 4 Dec 1991 02:12:07 -0800
From: rhill@pnet01.cts.com (Ronald Hill)
Subject: Musical Chairs - "Keef" MacMillan, BBC 2 TV, March 7, 1979

31. Musical Chairs: Kate's appearance on the news magazine report about Keith "Keef" MacMillan's work, including the making of the Wow video, BBC 2 TV, March 7, 1979. This brief film focuses equally of MacMillan, Kate's experience during the making of the video, and the topical subject of the rise of a then-new phenomenon: the promotional music-video. Kate predicts a great future for the laser-video-disk, before the home video-cassette market had yet taken off. Her early prediction may well prove ultimately accurate, however. This clip includes footage of MacMillan directing the "flying" special-effect which involved connecting Kate to wires and hoisting her in the air; as well as one or two brief shots of Kate rehearsing the lip-synch.

[Transcribed by Ron Hill. Above note by IED]

A: We'd like to tell you about a young man called Keith MacMillan, who makes video promotions for groups and singers.

[Scenes of setting up video]

A: We filmed him in the chilly surroundings of Wilton's [??? spelling] Music Hall in the East End of London. Keith MacMillan was working with Kate Bush. He's also worked with Blonde, David Essex, Abba, and countless others, but he and Kate Bush get on particularly well together. When we arrived, Keith MacMillan was stringing her up for a new sequence for "Wow" her new single.

[Scene of Kate being hoisted into mid-air for filming.]

K: [In air] Wooo! [Everybody laughs] Oh, that's great! Oh, lovely!

A: Kate told us how they set to work inventing a new video promotion.

K: Well normally I have a routine that I work out, like I sort of form a character, if you like, for that particular song. And then we always get together, like a week before we film, and just and chat. And he comes up with ideas and I do. And we just work together and he's just so inspiring, he's great.

KEEF: I started in the business as a photographer and sleeve designer. About 1968 I started, I used to photo and design album sleeve covers and I did that for seven or eight years. I got a bit fed up doing that because I'd done basically over a thousand by then and I was just basically a little bored with it. And [I] really thought that the up and coming thing was film and specifically video tape for the music business.

One of my early successes and one I'm quite proud of was one I did for Kate Bush which I'll show you a little of. This was "Wuthering Heights".

[The video is played]

KEEF: The record company loved that one and so did the broadcast companies that the record company gave it to. So, suddenly, really from that point onward I was asked to do more complex and more exciting type of tapes. And I think that particular tape illustrated that song very well and people, I think, became aware that you could make the visuals flow with the music and illustrate the song in a more pictorial way then had been done before. Before it had been fairly straight forward.

[A Blondie video is shown]

KEEF: Well I started making video promotional films two years and up till now I think we're nearing our three-hundredth production. I do seem to work very hard at the moment, I've been doing two or three a week. The problem is, as you've probably gathered, is keeping the ideas coming. But in this particular aspect I'm very lucky because basically I get the ideas from the music itself and from the artists and from their performance. The lyrics obviously help, but I tend not to be to literal on that, I try and just basically get the flavor right.

[Scene of Kate in the air again]

KEEF: At the moment there isn't a direct market for these [videos] selling to the public, in this country. I mean, my whole production company is geared up to providing a service to the record companies to do what we do, make promotional film. In America now, they've started marketing the video disk. And the first few video disks [players] that came off the production lines in January were immediately snapped up, as were all the actual disks themselves. So I think there's... in the future there's going to be a huge market for music-video disks, where, instead of buying an ordinary album, you buy your video disk, which gives you better hi-fi. So you've got better hi-fi stereo sound, with the option of visuals, if you want them.

K: I think they have the most incredible potential, and I think people will buy them, yes. The only thing that I wonder about is boredom, because I think when you play a record again and again, if the visuals aren't abstract enough or stunning enough, they could become very tedious. But then again, people can always switch them off. But I think it will be very exciting, I think a lot of revolutionary things will come up.

[More scenes of the video being made]

KEEF: I tend to shoot video tape rather then film, for a number of reasons. The "Wuthering Heights" clip that you saw, we set it up on a monday morning, we shot it in the afternoon, we edited all night, and it was ready for Top Of The Pops the next morning. Well, if you'd done that on film, I think it would've taken about six months of opticals in the lab to get to that stage. On video tape we can act very fast, the record companies like that because if a record breaks in the charts they phone me up and say, "Keef, we're sending a motorcycle over with this record, can you do it tomorrow?" If I'm free, I say yes. I listen to the music overnight, we set the production up overnight, we do it, we shoot it, we edit it. In twenty-four hours you can have a complete finished production.

[Shot of Kate being made up for video and smoking! More shots of video being made.]

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