Making it rain for Liv Dawson: Behind the music video? Grit, passion
Persistent showers. Overcast. Drizzle. Thunderstorms.
In London, 2012 had the perfect conditions for shooting a music video about perpetual rain. On Tuesday, the 8th of May, forecasts predicted the maximum rainfall in a week drenched in the stuff, so I scheduled my exterior rain shots for this day.
“Nothing can go wrong!” cried the little voice of optimism the relentless downpour had yet to quash. Or can it…?
Hair, makeup, stylist, runners and actress turned up at the crack of dawn at my flat. With a tight budget and quick turnaround needed, all helped out of favours and the love of making films; I’m indebted to them all.
All I had to do was direct the action, point a camera and command the rain clouds to produce millimeter upon millimeter of Hollywood-class rain. The sky was overcast when the day began, but I had a sneaking suspicion I annoyed somebody upstairs, as the clouds appeared to be clearing. I hid my fear behind a fake smile and began the briefing as our actress, Gina, had her hair done by Lille. I could tell everyone was a little nervous, but no one said anything – there was no time left to shoot these scenes and they were seminal to the film.
I eyed the cupboard in the corner of the room. There, I had stored a 30 meter hosepipe I bought the day before with attached sprinkler head (please don’t make me have to use that!).
Phil (the runner) was on weather watch. Our plan was that the moment it rains, we were to rush out and start shooting, no matter what state the makeup is at – it would be washed off in the end, anyway.
“I can see the sun coming through” I heard, as I turned solemnly to the cupboard and resided myself to the fact that we were going to be faking the rain with a sprinkler and a watering can. I prayed that the pastmasters of Hollywood had taught me well.
Runners became rainmakers (which, to be honest, I always thought they would, as I’m an eternal pessimist, always preparing for the worst). We had Phil in the bush with a telescopic shower, redirecting it blindly by direction from me and Lizzie up a ladder pouring a watering can from a great height to create the depth in the rain.
We soaked everything visible in frame: walls, pavement, my next door neighbor who was quizzically snooping. While we had shade from a passing cloud we had the right lighting conditions to fake it in post so I called, “Action.”
We only had the time for the piddley cloud to pass to get the take – “ACTION RAIN!”
Water erupted from bush — Phil in the background and Lizzie cascaded the water just above my head, millimeters from the lens. It actually looked pretty good, and probably picked up the drops better than real rain would have. No time to be smug, though. The clouds passed quickly – “CAMERA SPEED, ACTION GINA!”
We rattled out the shots, waiting between shots for the clouds to flatten the light. They were getting fewer and it shaped up to be one of the sunniest days of the year. I had a small heart attack, I think, but kept it to myself — as I felt it would lower morale and put people off their sandwiches.
After lunch the sky was cloudless and blue. Direct sunlight causes high contrast light, which would have been impossible to fake as an overcast rainy day. The only patch of shade was across my road in the shadow of a house. Would the hose reach? It was going to have to! We stretched the hose across the road, water pressure dropping with every inch. Luckily, my street was quiet, or at least I thought it was, till I witnessed the school run. The pathetic trickle of low pressure water ejected from the sprinkler was further hampered by the consistent hose squashing from kid filled 4x4s.
Laura the stylist stepped up as an excellent traffic warden and we managed to keep shooting. Pages of script were torn up and mockingly scattered into the air to fall like raindrops. But like any director, I had to roll with the punches and change the script to suit what I had.
Gina was unceremoniously drenched while repeating the same takes over and over until every rain drop landed on queue.
Gina soldiered on and I started to notice she was shivering uncontrollably and couldn’t really move any of the muscles of her face to produce the expression I wanted. “CUT!” That’s a wrap. I hoped we had enough for the edit – I just couldn’t kill my actress.
I don’t like to let out the secret that all but one shot of rain is fake, but it does provide some insight into what we overcame to make this film, working within tight budgets and looming deadlines. And this was only the first shoot day! Bring on, jelly flipflops, clouds of flour, innumerous broken eggs and a 20-hour shoot.
Editor’s note: Chris Scott is an output editor for Getty Images and produced this music video for the up-and-coming artist Liv Dawson’s single, “Here’s That Rainy Day.” Special thanks to Assignment Editor Hannah Marlin who produced the accompanying photo shoot for Liv and Getty Images photographer Gareth Cattermole who photographed her. Take a look at the finished video here: