It’s 2.30 am on a Friday in late November 2010. I’m standing on a pedestrian bridge that spans Mancunian Way, otherwise known as the A57, which forms a major part of the Manchester-Salford Inner Ring Road.
It is bitterly cold. The kind of cold that creeps into your bones and doesn’t leave. Daniel is wearing a woolen balaclava that leaves only his eyes and mouth exposed. A cigarette - the first of many that will be smoked over the course of the day - protrudes from the lowest hole. We drink coffee from polystyrene cups and eat bananas that aren’t nearly ripe enough. The rind is waxy. It seems that in this age of sanitized perfection, supermarkets only want to sell the most immature fruit. As Daniel often points out, bananas are supposed to have bruises.
None of us have been up for very long. It was 1.45 am when the van picked us up from the Etap hotel, an unfeeling blue and grey block located on Trafford Road, opposite the old docks, which closed in the early 1980s and were later re-branded as the Salford Quays after a multi-million pound urban regeneration project. Eighteen pounds a night. All the rooms have bunk-beds. The hotel is popular with kids from Greater Manchester because after a night out in the city it is often cheaper to stay there than to get a cab home. The reception was mobbed with wide-eyed young people battered on pingers. As we were leaving a bloke that looked like a squaddie called me a queer.
The actor Johnny Harris stands alone on the footbridge, leaning against the railings, making his preparations. He swigs from a can of Kaliber, gargles and then spits it out. Finally after an hour and a half we’re almost ready to turn over. Lee and I push the mag-liner to the far end of the bridge and wait. Busted Tescos shopping trolleys are easier to control. A few minutes pass before a huddle of Gore-Tex clad figures emerge from the gloom. Soon we can make out the steadicam operator as he takes shuffling steps backwards, led by the grip and the focus puller who jockey for position. Daniel is caught amidst the cluster holding a clamshell hardwired into the camera - the shot is too long to allow for a radio-signaled monitor. Johnny follows, walking fast. Occasionally he cries out. They keep coming towards us. Fuck. Lee and I scramble the mag-liner further back to avoid a collision. The camera cuts. Someone shouts for an end-board. Back to ones. They re-set to go again. But this time it’s the reverse so we have to cart the mag-liner to the opposite end of the bridge. Pure Keystone Kops.
At sunrise we are by a canal lined with warehouses. The water has started to freeze. By now the steadicam operator is fucked. He sits out a couple of takes. We’re forced to go hand-held. Lol skates around and nearly loses his footing. It’s sketchy as hell.
Midday. We arrive at Manchester Pets to shoot an interior scene. Daniel tells me that at one point the shop was forced to close for a few months after poor hygiene standards had resulted in the the death of many of the animals. Despite the refurbishments it’s still a depressing place. Entering the aviary room is like stepping into a psittacine nightmare. A spectacular red macaw with blue and yellow trimmings stands on a perch, its beak clamped onto one of the cage bars. Using its neck as leverage, the bird beats its wings - flap flap flap - which although clipped, cause its body to smash into the cage walls, from side to side, over and over. Feathers from its plumage fly everywhere. The screaming is relentless. Eventually one of the employees takes it out back somewhere.
Next door there’s a William Hill. I’m reminded of the lyrics from my favourite Hard Skin song:
'William Hill is fuckin' skill, betting on the dogs down Gypsy Hill,
Pissed my giro up the wall because I’m a cunt, a cunt, a cunt, a cunt, a cunt, cunt.’
The sky is clear blue. I’m outside loafing about on the pavement eating sweets. A tricked out Honda pulls up. A youth in Jordan basketball shorts gets out and nips into the bookies. Thirty seconds later he re-appears tenderly leading an old man by the arm. The old man looks tired, his eyes are wet. A damp, crumpled sports jacket hangs off his starved shoulders. The kid opens the passenger door for him and they get in the car and drive off.
By the afternoon shit is starting to swim. Aeroplane legs. Dry coffee mouth. We pass a run-down sex shop. I think it was on Bolton Road.
The doorway is covered by little net curtains. A sign in the adjacent window bears the following notice:
Silagra. Cialis. Levitra. Generic boom boom. Most of the crew are now drinking Red Bull. It occurs to me that Red Bull smells a little bit like puke.
Prang-o-clock. Why the fuck do we do this? It’s an interesting question. Making videos is hard and very often thankless. But I always come back to the same answer.
We do it because we love it.
In the late 90s the British Skateboard brand Heroin caused an uproar when it released a T-shirt with the following logo:
'If you don't skate, don't wear our fucking clothes.'
I feel similarly protective of video making. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. There are literally a million better ways to make a living. And if you think being a video director is a ‘cool’ lifestyle choice then the Antville comments section is probably the place for you.
But if you love it, put on some thermals and I’ll see you at 2.00 am.
You can watch the video for The Shoes ‘Stay The Same’ on Daniel’s showreel here. Or on our vimeo page.
On the day that the video dropped on daily motion Johnny Harris tweeted a link to it.
'Daniel Wolfe and Somesuch are good folk on the way up…'