Billy Bragg’s Funky Little Choir

A week ago today I drove down to Lulworth Castle to film The Funky Little Choir performing Billy Bragg’s “Milkman of Human Kindness” for Camp Bestival.

Currently (at 7pm on Saturday 16th February) it has 5,470 views on YouTube and 57 likes.
It’s a project I’m very proud to have been a part of but it very nearly didn’t happen for me.

The Funky Little Choir’s choir master, Sandie Elkins, got in touch with me 5 days before the shoot.
That left me with 4 days to sort out all camera and audio kit, transportation, shooting schedule and personal schedule, as it was Chinese New Year on the same weekend and I was meant to be going home to spend the New Year with my family.

4 days seems adequate if you don’t have a fulltime job to contend with, so really I had 4 evenings to sort all logistics.

Lulworth Castle closed just for us

Looking back on it, I’m not sure why I ever had to spend a single second reconsidering my answer from a resounding “YES” because it really was one of the nicest filming jobs I’ve done so far.

I’ve filmed three choirs now and as three is the common number of repetitions to verify an experiment, in terms of school anyway, I feel as if I can safely say that I love filming them. There’s an incredible feeling that I can only describe as a sort of euphoria that occurs when I’m in the presence of choirs.
When the collective sound of their voices takes me completely out of my working mindset and draws my whole being into their performance, these moments stay with me long after the filming is finished.

Thumbs up for the day

Lulworth Castle is a beautiful location.
I, of course, did the obligatory “Welcome to my crib” invitation upon climbing up the stairs to the main front door.

"Welcome to my crib"
However Lulworth Castle is also quite a dimly-lit setting, especially for cameras. With the help of the castle manager, Paul, we managed to get hold of a few extra lights to lift the choir a bit, although I would’ve liked to have lit them more.

Without the choir

In charge of lighting and cinematography is my ever-reliable and incredibly talented partner, Natalie Lloyd.
I used to wonder what it felt like for directors to find a DoP who they had a complete trust in, but now I think I understand.
It’s just a shame that she doesn’t want to be a professional DoP; I might start a petition.

Natalie Lloyd observing her handywork

I also brought along one of the hardest working sound ops I’ve ever met, Tom Oswin.
Being legally blind, it’s always a wonder how he manages to fiddle around with tiny screws when putting the batteries in his fostex, but his ears are in incredible condition.
As this was for Camp Bestival, I really wanted to nail the audio and ensure it would capture the full sound of the entire choir.
I’m sure we can all agree that Tom did a fantastic job.

Tom Oswin being the best sound op

Now, I really must say a huge thank you to The Funky Little Choir themselves.
I brought along 3 cameras, but in order to get all the angles and ensure maximum coverage of the choir, we had to do several takes.
I was genuinely concerned for the condition of their throats and voices by the last take, but they all powered on through and kept a smile on their faces. Really, a terrific bunch of talented individuals!

And finally, a massive massive thank you to Sandie Elkins, the choir master.
If you take a listen to Billy Bragg’s original version of the song, you’ll quickly come to realise that it’s not the easiest song to transcribe for a choir. But my oh my, what an amazing job Sandie’s done!

Sandie was actually my old singing teacher when I was at Bournemouth University, and it was her who gave me confidence in my own singing voice.
It just goes to show that you can never fully guess what opportunities may come your way due to the people you’ve met.
And this really was an awesome opportunity for me.

Sandie Elkins being an incredible human being

So if you have 4 minutes to spare, please head on over and watch the video on YouTube.
Not for me, but because the choir and Sandie deserve the recognition.

Well done Camp Bestival for picking such a great talent and despite the tight timeframe of making it live on Valentine’s Day, going through with it and making it happen.

Filming makes me happy

2 Responses to “Billy Bragg’s Funky Little Choir”
  1. Lorna Rees says:

    This is such a lovely blog and you did an outstanding job! Well done! X

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