Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage: Filming ‘I Met A Man’

Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage: Filming ‘I Met A Man’

Shooting the ‘I Met A Man’ video

One of the things I was definitely looking forward to for this year was the chance to work on another project with my buddies Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage.  After having had a great time filming The Fall in 2016 and Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key last year, when I heard Hannah & Ben were working on a new album for this year I was quietly hoping we’d get the opportunity to do something again.

Filming aside, I loved Hannah and Ben’s 2016 album Before The Sun.  It was one of the reasons I was initially stoked about working with them.  The album had this kind of warmth about it; I played it on repeat for weeks, it kept me sane on many a long commute.  The prospect of a new Hannah and Ben album appearing this year was exciting.  So when Ben messaged me one late evening in March saying “Album with H is done… feel free to take a listen” and included a link to the album, I knew that was it; I’d be up for the next hour listening to it.

I messaged Ben back a couple of days later; “Mate, your album….honestly I don’t know what to say…I thought your last album sounded amazing…this one is just ridiculous!”  I told Ben the tracks that I particularly loved.  One of them was a song called ‘I Met A Man’; it was the second track on the album and immediately leapt out when I listened to it.  Hannah has a freakin’ amazing voice and on the first track she just soars.  With this track however, it sounded completely different.  Listening to ‘I Met A Man’, it felt like Hannah was sitting across the table from me, chatting over a cup of coffee and telling me this story.  It was compelling listening.  I knew straight away that if there was a chance of doing a video for this album, this is the track I wanted to do.

Roll forward eight weeks and I was on the A14 heading towards Cambridge, meeting up with Hannah and Ben to do some filming for ‘I Met A Man’.

Shortly after feeding back to Ben about the album, I’d pitched an initial idea for the video.  A few days later I got an email from him:

We’re up for doing I Met A Man but can we throw a (very) different concept for it at you to consider?! Something very simple in high levels of detail that provokes thought….

Hannah suggested a woman digging a hole…

– Just digging…
– Different angles and details of her, her hands, her tools, mud on her face, stones, her silhouette…
– Some ultra close ups of the nature around her.
A real exercise in detail… And in planting the question… Is she looking for something? Burying something? Something of her own? Planting something? etc…

Ok….it was admittedly a bit left field from my original thinking (H&B are into mysterious shit – check out their new album cover!), but the more I thought about the idea, the more I liked it…

We’d need a place and someone to do the digging.  Ben suggested approaching Zulfiya Wilde (the wife of musician Dan Wilde).  I knew Dan and Zulfiya having done some photos for Dan a couple of years ago; Zulfiya is a great photographer herself and I could definitely picture her in the ‘crazy woman digging a hole’ role(!),  so I agreed she’d be great if she was up for it.  Luckily for us, Zulfiya agreed to do it.

When I got to Cambridge it was a warm balmy morning and Ben had arranged access to some private land for us to film in.  It was slightly hazardous due to free-roaming chickens(!), but other than that it was cool.  Hannah lent Zulfiya this amazing vintage wedding dress to wear for the shoot with the instructions ‘Don’t worry about getting it muddy!’

I ran through a quick storyboard to check I was seeing what Hannah and Ben were seeing:

(I know my drawing is pretty bad by the way…but sometimes even a bad drawing can achieve better results than trying to explain verbally what you’re seeing in your head).

The sun was threatening to come out and by the time we started filming was peaking out from behind the clouds’; we had to use a diffusion panel for the first few clips of Zulfiya to tame it a bit.  Luckily it stayed pretty overcast for the next couple of hours which gave us some nice light for filming the digging scenes.

Zulfiya was fantastic to work with; she took direction well and really got into the role…in fact she was slightly frightening wielding that shovel!  Dan later posted on social media “Zulfiya is a little bit too good at digging holes, and whilst wearing a wedding dress too. Makes me slightly uncomfortable to be honest!”

We didn’t make Zulfiya actually dig the whole thing herself, Ben and Dan chipped in and moved quite a bit of the earth.  Nonetheless, Zulfiya got seriously stuck into the part…I felt slightly guilty as we all stood round saying ‘looks great but can you dig some more?  Can you get your hands into it?’!

The clip at the end where she sees the guy standing there was Ben’s idea (it’s actually Dan in the shot).  The ending is deliberately vague in keeping with the rest of the video; the objective is to make the viewer think.  I do actually know what the digging signifies, but I don’t want to spoil it for you so you’ll have to come to your own conclusion 🙂

Having wrapped up the digging scenes, it was such a beautiful day that Dan suggested going and fetching the barbecue.  As tempting as that sounded, I knew we’d never move if we started eating/drinking and we still had some footage to film elsewhere.  I wanted some performance footage to intersperse with the digging narrative.

It’s a symbol of the bat-shit crazy weather we had this spring that by the time we got to the second location, the temperature had plummeted and we were wearing hats and coats.  I wanted to get some footage of the guitar parts that Ben and Hannah were playing on the track but I also wanted it ‘hands only’.  Having them not actually appear in the video just added to the whole abstractness of the thing….

(Zulfiya took the photos above)

So once we had a couple of guitar takes that was pretty much the shoot in the bag.  Back at base I spent a fair amount of time deliberating over the colour grading but in the end was really happy with the look.  In fact I’m really happy with the video; it was privilege to work with such a great track and with such creatively talented people.

I can’t recommend Hannah & Ben’s album ‘Awake’ strongly enough; it’s a fantastic piece of work.  You can get hold of a copy here.

A couple of weeks ago I got to go and watch Hannah and Ben perform at the Musician in Leicester.  They’re as good live as they are on record…

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