The article below originally appeared in the Web UK Magazine, late 2016, by Tim Sidwell
‘The Making Of FEAR’ can definitely be regarded as a companion piece to ‘Unconventional’, the feature length documentary that tells the story of the 2015 Marillion Weekend. In fact, the first whispers of the subject matter of some of the material on the new album were revealed when h and I went for a visit to Aynho Park, the location of the band interviews for ‘Unconventional’, not long following last year’s Weekenders. Over lunch he described his ideas for ‘The New Kings’, ‘The Leavers’ and for a song that never made the final reckoning.
FEAR overlapped our work on ‘Unconventional’ and whilst filming some of the rehearsals for last year’s weekends we were lucky enough to hear some of the jamming before the band went through the material for the shows. It wasn’t until later on in the year though that we began to become involved in the visual side of the new album.
First on the agenda was the filming of the green screen material for Simon Ward’s film for ‘The New Kings’. Jeremy Mason and I orchestrated a shoot at Fleetwood Film Studios to capture the three actors who were to be magically transported into Simon’s vision of the song through fine art. It was the studio where we had also shot the live action elements of the films for the Marbles night at Port Zelande.
A weekend at Real World Studios in February was when we first heard the results of the band’s creative endeavour. Peter Gabriel’s studio is in a lovely corner of the English countryside and is certainly a conducive space in which to produce inspiring work. Over the two days filming we captured interviews for the ‘Making of FEAR’ and a performance clip of Living in FEAR, at the time with a different arrangement and a little longer than the final song.
At Real World the band had also committed to adding ‘White Paper’ to the new record, and it was there that the song gelled and came together. With Simon busy creating the visual wizardry for ‘El Dorado’, ‘The Leavers’ and ‘The New Kings’, I was passed the baton to pull together the visuals for the new song.
Simon’s challenge has been to create films that are mainly intended to be used in the live shows, but they also need to stand up as watchable pieces of work in their own right. This is a difficult and delicate job as the films shouldn’t be too intricate and obtrusive otherwise they would detract from the performance of the music. They are just one part of the gig and need to work alongside the lighting design and what the band are doing on stage. In this sense they are not music promos in the MTV sense, but almost textural works.
The film for ‘White Paper’ needed to achieve the same objective. As the song had been added fairly late in the day there was no time for a bespoke shoot. So, footage libraries were scoured for suitable and inspiring footage that would be in visual sympathy to h’s lyrics which touch on an inner madness, a frustration of lost love and the acceptance of ageing. At least that was my interpretation of the song. As he says in the ‘Making of’, part of the beauty of the films was for him to see how other people saw the world through his words.
The last piece of filming for FEAR were the interviews that Jeremy and I filmed at Racket in the days following the band’s return from the South American tour in May. These illuminating chats became the narrative backbone of the ‘Making of’ documentary. Combined with the films for the songs, behind the scenes footage at Racket and Real World and the music itself, the documentary seeks to explain the process of creating FEAR, the creativity involved and the immense pride that h, Mark, Ian, Steve and Pete have in their latest work.
Little by little we are building a fascinating visual record of Marillion’s career. From all the concert films through to the EPKs for the last three albums and now two significant documentaries in ‘Unconventional’ and ‘The Making of FEAR’, the aim is to create a growing visual history of the band that itself is as warm and as heartfelt as the music it makes. To be able to work for a band that ‘gets’ this and is fully supportive of these efforts is an amazing thing indeed.