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Top Tips for Guerrilla Filming on Public Transport

23/05/2016 11:47 | Updated 23 May 2016

I have been eager to make a music video for my song Tube Ride of Shame for a while, but was determined to wait until I could be sure it would be done properly - AKA professionally - and not by me making a stumbling selfie video amongst confused commuters. I was lucky enough to meet director Alex Antonio and camereaman Shaun Best from Third Iris Films when their producer Mark Richardson, an old school friend of mine, asked me to appear in one of their sketches. We all got on famously, became big fans of each other's work, and began to chat about how we could make the Tube Ride of Shame a visual reality.

Here it is:

The main obstacle we faced was filming on the tube without having 'official permission' to do so. A licence is required to shoot in certain public places, and if you are caught without one then, at best, you will get moved on and at worst you'll be fined on the spot. So, how did we make it work?

Here are Alex the director's top five tips for not getting caught, and achieving the best results when 'guerrilla' (run-and-gun) filming on the tube:

1. Get there early.

My sister (who was helping out on the shoot) was genuinely hurt when I made her get up at 6am on a Sunday. We had to be at Charing Cross when the fewest people would be around, so we all met in the 24-hour MacDonalds by the station at 7am (where some of the scariest people I have ever seen in my life were wildly trying to get their hands on egg McMuffins). There, we set up, captured our first shot and talked through the plan, before heading underground.

One of our worries was that there might be police at the station, because of the recent heightened security concerns, which would render our harmless filming mission totally impossible. Thankfully, there were no police on the tube, because it turned out they were all in the 24-hour MacDonalds (eight of them, to be exact) keeping an eye on the scariest, hungriest people I have ever seen in my life. (And also grabbing themselves an egg McMuffin).

2. Keep the equipment to a minimum

This is so as not to draw attention to yourselves. If you have a tripod and it touches the ground, this is the point at which it legally become a 'shoot', and things get a bit more complicated. If you have a handheld camera, you can possibly 'blag' that you were just taking a photo. (Cue acting skills). Generally, it's important to be subtle.

We rented a steadicam, which was essential in helping us capture the long shot of me doing the 'walk of shame'. Alex chose Charing Cross when scouting because there is a fantastically photogenic tunnel, so long and winding that we managed to get a shot of the whole song on just one journey. Poor Shaun the cameraman had very tired arms after holding the equipment up at arms-length throughout this - you certainly need a strong crew when guerrilla filming!

3. Speed is of the essence.

"We have to get this in one take". It was fortunate that the one take went smoothly, because once we had the shot, we jumped straight onto the tube and set off for the next location - gone as quickly as we had appeared! All our shots on the tube were like this: get there, shoot, get it in one, and then get going. It's amazing how much you step up your performance when you know you absolutely cannot muck it up! And quite the adrenaline rush, at one point I saw a guard walking towards us from the far end of a platform, and for the first time ever I vaguely felt what it was like to be in a zombie apocalypse film, "RUN! Quick! To the District line - and safety!"

4. Be.. oh.. so.. quiet

We were lucky in that, because it was a music video, we didn't need to capture any sound on the underground (I imagine it is very hard to be inconspicuous with a boom mic). Alex says normally you would blast out a song when making a music video, to make lip syncing as easy as possible for the performer. But in the spirit of subtlety, we kept it to headphones - and I sang along very quietly. I feel I managed this well, as someone who constantly has trouble suppressing the urge to sing loudly and enthusiastically in public places.

5. Stay positive.

Alex advises: "in most shoots, you can control the environment: lighting, sound, extras etc. When guerrilla filming you can control almost nothing. Having a tight plan is obviously important, but you also need to be able to change and adapt so that if you can't get the shot you originally wanted you can quickly work out another way of getting what you need. Stay positive and collaborative and a new idea will soon make itself known."

For example, when we finally reached the end of the District Line and the end of our tube ride of shame, only to find the station café closed for Sunday... we all changed track and headed back to Alex's house for a much needed cup of tea.

See the fruits of Tamar and the crew's efforts here in Tube Ride of Shame here!

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