Emily Mae Winters: ‘Filming ‘Down By The Salley Gardens’

Emily Mae Winters: ‘Filming ‘Down By The Salley Gardens’

We pretty much started with a blank canvas with this video; Emily’s only initial guidance was that she wanted more of a concept video than just a straight performance.

When I listened to Emily’s version of Down by the Salley Gardens, a traditional Irish song based on a poem by W.B.Yeats, the immediate picture that sprung to mind was Emily walking dramatically in slow-motion through a rugged Irish landscape….kind of Clannad/Bono ‘In A Lifetime’ from 1985 (I’ve actually recently realised, somewhat worryingly, that most of my reference points come from the 80’s; they do say you never culturally progress from your teenage years).

Anyway, aside from being obviously cliched, that idea was totally over-budget, unless we could find somewhere local that would visually pass for rural Ireland.  That got me thinking though, that we could flip it on its head and shoot something that was polar opposite; something in an urban environment, somewhere that you wouldn’t obviously associate with this track.

Still mulling this over, I was out driving with Scott and Lauren in the car and I put Emily’s album on for them to have a listen to the track.  Scott, who’s the redwood family film-buff (pick any film made in the last thirty years and he’s probably seen it) suggested the opening sequence.  That led to the idea of contrasting the place Emily was in against a place that she was daydreaming about….

With a basic premise for the video, I pitched it to Emily and she completely got it.  I just didn’t know how to end it though, other than I thought Emily needed to see something that connected with the place she’d been daydreaming about.  Emily then came up with the idea of linking to the poem that the song was based on…in the video she’d see a book on the shelf that contained the poem.

So then we kind of had our storyboard.  I wrote it up the next day, my rough notes are shown below.  Some people draw their storyboards; my drawing is pretty bad so I prefer to write them.  Excuse the scruffy writing btw, I wrote this in my book while I was on a train heading into London:

(Actually it’s got bugger all to do with the train.  My writing is always this bad)


Reviewing the final product against this original storyboard, it’s pretty close.  There are a couple of things that changed.  In the opening sequence after we show Emily standing in the street we cut back to a close-up rather than the mid-length shot I originally envisaged; I just thought it looked better.  Also in post we decided to add the final shot of Emily walking away in the yellow dress…it seemed a stronger finish that what was on the original storyboard.  But apart from that, we pretty much shot as per the original idea.

From there it was a case of working out the shoot plan, basically listing out the shots/sequences we needed at each location in order to build the story board.  Again, some people work without a shoot plan.  I really can\’t do that; I just have so much going on in my head that I’d forget important stuff, so I like to work from a plan.  Lauren came along to help me as well which is great…even just for a second opinion on framing.

The video is here:

We shot the video about two months later than we originally planned. Due to a day of torrential summer rain and the fact we needed to shoot outdoors, we had to reschedule from our first date back in July.  Trying to synch diaries with musicians is really hard ‘cos they’re always doing something, but we eventually fixed on a day in September.

Emily was awesome to work with. She totally bought into what we were trying to create, plus she can actually act which is a significant advantage given that my directing is so bad!  Also, Emily took the process seriously…but not too seriously, which is exactly how I like to work.  In fact we spent most of the day in stitches laughing…

(We also grabbed a few images while we were shooting to use as promo for the video)

Really happy with how this video turned out.  The fact it got premiered on fruk, my favourite folkie website, is a Brucey bonus.  Check out the rest of Emily’s album below…

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