David Knight - 5th Oct 2009

Black Swan Song is about Athlete frontman Joel Pott's grandfather John, who recently passed away. He was a British paratrooper in WW2 who fought and was badly wounded at the Battle of Arnhem.

Mark Locke has managed an impressionistic but truthful re-creation of that terrifying experience on rather less than war movie-level resources. But this is really about character, not about glorifying battle, and for Mark - who's adept at thought-provoking, life-affirming work as his vids for Misty's Big Adventure and Dinosaur Jr demonstrate - it was a personal journey too, as he explains below.

All proceeds from Black Swan Song - the single's out on 9th November - go the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal, supporting all Armed Forces and their families, including those still making immense sacrifices today.

There's also a short documentary by film-maker Richard Edkins currently being finished, which follows Joel Pott to Arnhem to retrace his Grandpa's footsteps. Richard did some Behind The Scenes filming for the video and the documentary idea grew out of that. Full doc out soon but a there's a short clip on YouTube here.

Mark Locke on the making of the video for Athlete's Black Swan Song

"Black Swan Song's about singer Joel's grandpa, John Pott, who recently passed away in his 80s, and so naturally Joel was keen for the video to be about him too. He has a really fascinating history - an officer in the paratroopers and a key figure in the Battle Of Arnhem in World War 2. Although no-one was sure how to recreate any of this on the budget, which wasn't huge!

"In fact there was more than enough in his grandpa's story for a feature film, let alone a music video, so my first job was to distill it down and take the essence of it - his bravery, the fact that he spent twenty hours wounded, thinking he was going to die, writing a letter etc etc - and make a story out of that.

"I also produced on this occasion, which was pretty stressful at times. I hadn't made a war film before and I was a bit worried it might turn into Apocalypse Now. In fact it did kind of turn into Apocalypse Now in music video terms - we were supposed to have a day and it took a day and a half!

"Casting-wise at one point it looked like Jamie Bell might play the lead, as he's a fan of the band, but we couldn't make his schedule work and in the end we went for talented up-and-coming people, which in a way makes it stronger I think. You instantly believe they're real people rather than thinking, 'Oh yeah, there's 'such and such famous actor' in a music video'.

"It was obviously an emotional project to work on, hugely personal for Joel and also quite personal for me too. My Dad was also in the Paratroopers and died when I was a small boy, although not in action - he fought in Kenya in the early 50s. So I've spent a lot of the last few weeks crying. I was even crying when I wrote the treatment! And I cried loads for the first couple of days of editing, when I first saw the images to the music.

"I just couldn't stop thinking about the sheer amount of people who were killed and injured at that time and all the people who are still getting killed and injured today. All those families ripped apart forever. It doesn't get much heavier than that, does it"


Production CompanyCrossroads Films
DirectorMark Locke
ProducerMark Locke
Director of PhotographySam Brown
EditorStuart Key
ColouristJames Bamford
CastLiam Browne, N
CommissionerRoss Anderson

David Knight - 5th Oct 2009

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