Writing a short film about The Beatles is one of the scariest things I’ve ever been asked to do. I had a little panic attack that involved standing up, then sitting down, then standing back up again, over and over until my flat mate got sick of it and told me to stop. These guys are seriously important to me, they always have been. They mean an awful lot to pretty much everyone I know. I have had serious bonding moments with complete strangers over a shared love of The Beatles.
At a certain point once I had stabilized my breathing and managed to stand still for a whole 5 minutes I realized this was the point. To make a film about the importance of The Beatles I had to talk about how much they mean to one person and that person might as well be me. Suddenly realizing that I had just written my self into a film about The Beatles I started panicking again.
From here the script came quite quickly. I had a bit of a poke about on the internet to find some Beatles-y illustrators to work on the job with me. Pretty quickly though I realized that I had to make sure I was working with my friends on this one. I wanted to make something personal and full of love so the whole process needed to be very personal.
To keep things as simple and clear as possible I made my animatic, which is a story board timed out to music, using simple stick figures. My intention was to update them with more involved drawings at a later date once my friends and I had figured out a style.
Each of the four songs that I used was written by a different Beatle. I don’t talk about the individual importance of each of the members of the band in the script. They all bring quite different personalities to the table and this comes across in the broad range of emotional experience you can have when you listen to them. Hopefully this comes across through the music and the changes in mood without actually being discussed in my film.
So I made my little preview film and sent it off to my friends at Music Matters. A little while later I hear back that it’s going ahead. Then I hear that Paul and Ringo were quite taken with the stick figures and I go back to having panic attacks. It hadn’t occurred to me that Beatles were actually going to look at the film, let alone give me feedback. Really useful feedback at that.
I had started thinking that there was a lot to be said for the funny looking stick figures but wasn’t sure if I had the balls to suggest that that was how I intended to make the final film. If Paul and Ringo dig it though I thought, then it’s on.
For the dreamy part of the film I was still really keen to use my talented friends. I like the idea of stick figures dreaming of being drawn properly. It was a bit of an international crew. Giles Dill and Darren Turner were in London doodling characters and I was hanging out in Australia at the time with Rick Mereki and Ross Paxman who were drawing the dreamy BG’s. Jason Mildren who did the typography for the Dream Sequence was also in Oz. Being an ace typographer Jason might be keen to distance him self from my decision to use Helvetica for the rest of the film. It’s simplicity and familiarity felt right though.
I didn’t really direct the crew all that much. There was a brief of course but I love their natural styles and wanted them to draw in a way that was personal and not overly dictated.
Disaster struck when Rick got offered the dream job of getting flown all over the world to make a (now very well known) travel film. His schedule was ridiculous and I thought there was no chance of me getting any drawing out of him. It turns out though that Rick is an absolute trooper and he drew for me on every flight between every country.
All the crew wherever they were in the world put in a lot of love. My buddy Hana Davis helped me to cut it all out and I was relieved when I slapped Giles and Darren’s stuff on top of Ricks and Ross’ and it came up looking tops. Massively relieved. I had made the right choice in getting my friends in and letting them do as they please.
So pleased was I with my buddies at this point that I drew them all and popped them in for the Hey Jude sing along at the end. All those guys are my friends. Apart from Bill Murray I just couldn’t resist putting him in there for no good reason. It might seem a little self-indulgent something like that but it was in line with my philosophy for making the film. Make it personal and fill it with love. It’s a pretty good way to approach life in general I think and The Beatles wrote a song or two that suggest they might agree.