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Director Steve Barron about the Billie Jean videoshoot

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Adam Ant to Michael Jackson: Shaping the MTV landscape

29 November 2010 Last updated at 01:08 GMT
By Liam Allen Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Music video director Steve Barron made some of the most groundbreaking promos of the 1980s working with artists including Madonna, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Paul McCartney and David Bowie.

He first made videos for The Jam - including Going Underground, released in March 1980 - before working with The Nolans and on other "very middle-of-the-road stuff" before "the cooler stuff came along".
Steve Barron Steve Barron went on to direct films including Coneheads and Mike Bassett: England Manager

He says that, relatively speaking, video budgets are much smaller than in the 1980s when he would get up to £200,000 to make a promo.

"At the time, what we were doing was harder to do but you didn't have to do a lot to cause a bit of a stir," he says.

"Now, you can get there really quickly, really simply - the machinery is pretty amazing but everyone's seen it in every movie and fantasy films."

He adds: "It's hard to innovate, it's hard to push through so you've really got to come up with the idea."

Barron, now 54, stopped making pop videos in 1991 and went on to direct films including Coneheads and Mike Bassett: England Manager.

Here he remembers the making of Antmusic by Adam and the Ants - released 30 years ago on Monday - Don't You Want Me by the Human League, Billie Jean by Michael Jackson and Money for Nothing by Dire Straits.


Billie Jean - Michael Jackson

He'd seen the Don't You Want Me video - that's why I got the job.

And he wanted something cinematic, as well, and his management said he was really into Peter Pan and could we do something that was a little magical?

I'd had an idea the previous year to do a Midas touch video with everything lighting up so the paving stone idea came from that.

The process was pretty straightforward really; we sent the idea to him and went out to LA and shot the video.

Before we shot it, he had a really nice idea for another little scene within it where mannequins come to life and dance behind him and I thought it was a great idea.

We made the video before the album, Thriller, had come out. It was like five weeks before Billie Jean was going to come out and they wouldn't pay for the extra tailor's dummies and the dancers so we had to can that idea.

Obviously, one month later he got anything he wanted for the rest of his life, but right then he wasn't quite in a position yet to demand what he wanted.

He was a really soft-spoken, sweet guy.

Obviously, he was very curious about everything, he wanted to know what was going on with this and that and how that worked.

Then suddenly… I was operating the camera for it as well and the moment he started to dance in that little chorus, it was just so dynamic, it was breathtaking.

I remember the camera steaming up because it was pretty stunning.

You knew that something special was going to arrive on the scene.

This was one of the first videos by a black artist on MTV.
Source: BBC

Ben S

Ben S

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I read this yesterday. I great piece about by Steve Baron on working with Michael. I wonder if there are any behind the scenes footage of Michael filming Billie Jean. As Michael appeared to film every part of his professional career.



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