This story does not begin with the release of my latest music video. It does not begin in the summer of 2019 when the video was filmed. It doesn’t even begin in the early spring of that year, when the costume preparation began.
This story begins in 2014, in a small second-hand shop in the Netherlands. Guess a story had to start there sometime.
I have always been a connoisseur of strange fashion choices. Since my earliest years I have taken great pleasure in wearing things that are hideous, outlandish, inappropriate or desperately unfashionable. Sometimes it’s even all of the above.
On this particular day I was out shopping with my mother and we happened upon a wedding dress and I tried it on.
It was beautiful. I loved it.
My mother also loved it, but sensibly decided that buying her 14 year old daughter a wedding dress just because she thought it was pretty was not a good idea and so she told me to put it back.
A few days later, as I was cycling home from school, I went into that same shop.
The dress was 90 euro. I got 5 euro pocket money a week and the shopkeeper agreed to allow me to pay it off weekly, with a small downpayment. So every week, for the next three months, I went in and handed over my pocket money and then, at last, I cycled home with my prize.
I have carted this dress around with me for over a decade now. It has lived in wardrobes and under beds. It has broken two vacuum pack bags and has started many many conversations. And always I was asked the same question.
“But what are you going to do with it?”
And my answer would be that I didn’t know yet, but it would come to me.
And then it did.
Clearly this dress was meant to be a fairy costume. The skirt is covered in leaf shapes, the bodice has embroidered flowers, it was perfect.
Of course this meant I had to invent some reason to need a fairy costume and thus The Faerie Court was born.
All I really wanted to do was turn the dress into a fairy dress. To this end I enlisted the help of two of my friends. One to lend me a bathtub to dye the dress green in, and one to help me make the costume.
I say help. At this point I must give full credit to the wonderful Szemira for not only making the faerie queen costume, but also the kings mask, crown, the queens crown, and providing me with all the bits I would need to make the other two costumes at short notice.
So with the costumes started I just needed some music. Can’t have a music video without music after all. It just so happened that I was learning Carolans “The Faerie Queen” on the harp at the time, and I have always loved the tune “King of the Faeries”, so I put the two together and had my set.
And then there was the tour.
Although I had been planning to make this costume for LITERALLY A DECADE, I still managed to time it for the middle of the insanely tiring Around Ireland In 80 Tunes tour, thus leaving myself very little time and energy to work on it in the run-up to filming.
I had, however, learned a few things from the Andrew McNair video the year before so this year I had a storyboard and I had a recording of the music BEFORE I started filming. Never mind that the storyboard was thrown out before we started and I discovered some major technical difficulties in listening to the recording while also being filmed, an attempt was at least made at planning.
The technical difficulties are boring, mostly they were due to me not having a portable speaker, and we’ll leave them at that. The storyboard, on the other hand…
The video that you see today is radically different than the video I had originally envisaged. In the original the Faerie Queen would arrive seated elegantly sidesaddle on a horse, lead by one single courtier. The King was stately and the changeover between the two royals smooth and regal. The problems ensued immediately.
For starters, the saddle.
Horses could be procured. Emma, as the Queen, does actually know how to ride. The issue lay in the saddle. Turns out side-saddles are rare, expensive, and the horse has to be specially trained to wear one and my purveyor of horses for film did not have such a horse.
I suggested Emma ride bareback. Emma vetoed this suggestion on grounds of health and safety and how on earth would she managed to get on to the horse, sideways, with no saddle, in a large and cumbersome dress. And so the horse idea was abandoned
Then my casting took a blow. My friend, who had been cast as the faerie courtier, was suddenly starting a new job on the same week as filming and couldn’t make it up. Thankfully I had a whole battalion of family on hand and my cousin Mandy sprang to my aid. At the same time as all of this, though, we had visitors. Friends of the family were staying for the summer and their little girl, Izzy, was bored and feeling a little left out, so I decided that it would be lovely to have a little flower fairy as well.
So we’d had a change of cast, an addition of a fairy, a removal of a horse. The addition of Izzy also meant that I had to make an entirely new costume out of all the spare parts I had, which needed to be done alongside the touring as the day of filming was literally two days after Emma and I wrapped up the August leg of the tour.
It was a busy week.
Despite it all, and with some help in the costume department, filming day arrived and everything was ready. Mostly.
The music was recorded (the night before filming, in my granny’s kitchen), the costumes were finished (only one or two things fell off on the day), the throne was built (courtesy of two flower shops in Enniskillen who literally loaned me nearly £200 worth of fake flowers for no better argument than “I’m filming a video and I need them, please may I borrow them for a few days?”) and the sets were, if not actually set, at least ready to be set.
The shoot for Andrew McNair is all a bit of a blur by now. I think it was all a bit of a blur even then. The weeks leading up to it had been so busy that I was exhausted before we even started filming and the whole day was just one long adrenalin rush. But I had professionals. Alfie and his lighting technician who told us where to put things and where to stand and all I had to do was tell them what I wanted to see and make sure all of my actors where accounted for.
Filming “The Faerie Court”, while in theory less complex with less locations and no horse, was a far more challenging shoot for me personally. The actors arrived, the make-up started, and then I suddenly had to start calling the shots.
As in the camera shots.
I will readily admit that I know almost nothing about film-making. I find it fascinating but as to the technical side of how to actually make a shot work? I had also had to change the storyboard a few times due to the various casting changes and then had to throw out my whole idea as soon as we put Wayne into costume, so most of the direction was absolutely made up on the fly.
Now, I feel like I need to quantify that last statement.
In my original plan the king of the faeries was meant to be quite a stately and regal character. He would stride through the woods with purpose, exuding kingly grace and control. He would seat himself beside his queen and watch the music. It was Puc of the woods, Mandy’s second character, who was meant to provide the main drive of the story. And then we put Wayne into the costume, and handed him the stick with bells which we affectionately dubbed ‘the faerie bothering stick’ and realised that regal and stately was just not on the cards.
I am a big believer in going with the flow and working to people’s strengths and Wayne just has such wonderful comedic timing and energy and so the faerie king went from being a regal monarch to the playful autumnal creature that he is.
Our youngest faerie, Izzy, had never acted as such and never in a setting like this and was suffering from nerves and shyness which could have made filming very tricky, but once again my cast came to the rescue as Mandy is, aside from being a very good actress, also a drama teacher for all age groups.
Having a good team around you really makes or breaks a project and I honestly couldn’t have wished for a better team than the one I had. Filming actually went smoothly the whole day. There were the occasional pauses for me to think up what should happen next, and a break for lunch of course, but we started filming at about 9am and we wrapped at 4pm.
Of course the end of filming is never the end of a project. There was still a tour to finish and the video would need editing and the release needed to be planned out properly. Big projects always seem to leave litters of smaller projects behind them, all considerably less glamorous than the main event. So I will leave you here with my favourite thing to come out of this project. My favourite family photo ever.
I do believe in faeries. Do you?