Chain Reaction director Patrick Kiely shares his memories
Chain Reaction has been remastered and upscaled to HD on the official Steps YouTube channel, to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary. The best copy of the video available came from an old analogue tape format known as Beta SP so the editor had to clean up “sparkling” (a type of analogue distortion) shot-by-shot before upscaling the video to HD. The result was clear enough that you could see significant dust from the original film, so that was cleaned up too.
To celebrate this iconic video, director Patrick Kiely – who also created three music videos for the A*Teens as well as the legendary Chain Reaction – has shared his memories of making the video on the official Steps YouTube channel. GenSTEPS is pleased to share a longer extract of this interview today. Patrick spoke to reporter Chris Fox from his home in Los Angeles via video call.
CHRIS FOX: How did you come to work with Steps?
PATRICK KIELY: I was working at a production company and pitched a concept for Steps and Chain Reaction. They really liked the idea of working with me. Up to that point I’d been doing a lot of beauty work with female artists or pop bands. I think initially that’s what they responded to. The second half of the video was more my wheelhouse in terms of style and look. They looked stunning and that was part of my pitch originally: when we go into this dance world and see your performance, let’s just make you look absolutely amazing and flawless.
Who came up with the hospital concept for the video?
Originally H had this idea of going into an operating theatre. I said: “How can we do an operating theatre of some sort and then transfer into a world of dance?” It was sort of like we were sending them off into a Chain Reaction heaven of some sort. H is not feeling well and goes into theatre and Faye pushes a big light into the camera… and that’s where we go off into this dance world that is all Steps, with blue panels that represented maybe like clouds… and an ethereal feeling of another world.
So… Steps died during the operation?!
(Patrick laughs) I don’t know if they died or… I think it was maybe like they just transported to another world.
The first half of the video is made up of two continuous takes. What was it like filming that?
I can’t remember how many times we did that first take but it was probably six or seven times, maybe more, just to get it all working. We had a problem in the hallway, the camera kept getting jostled as we tried to go around them in this thin hallway. We constantly would get a minute and a half into the song and there would be a goof!
The biggest challenge about getting one single take with the camera moving all the way through the scene was that if there was a mistake at some point and we were running out of time, we would have to cut away to a backup shot. So, we shot a wheel on the gurney as our “just in case we have to cut away” shot. Fortunately we never used it.
You also shot footage of the ambulance driving around Greenwich, what was that for?
This would have been our opening shot as the song started, we’d see the ambulance pull up into the hospital and then pull H out of it – but what happened was it broke with the idea of a single shot and we really wanted the video from the beginning to that mid-point to be one shot.
Were you happy with how the video turned out?
I was very happy with how it turned out in the end. It was a lot of fun with the drum players in the foreground hitting all the beats of the track. Ironically, we had to turn it around in like three or four days. It was a ridiculous turnaround! We shot it over two days and I was editing the very next morning. It was on air like four or five days later. It was really quick, one week of production, editorial and on air.
I think the concept is of its time and some of the execution is of its time but I also think that it’s timeless. Steps music is timeless in a lot of ways. We captured who they were at that time.
What do you think of the remastered video on YouTube?
I love how it looks in HD. It looks like anything you could shoot now in HD, I’m very impressed with it.
What was it like working with Steps?
Steps were great to work with. Really nice. They were also joking around all the time when we were shooting. They had such a fun attitude and approach to everything. The behind-the-scenes video on YouTube shows a lot of that.
Do you still make music videos now?
After Chain Reaction, I worked with H & Claire and did a couple of videos with them. Now I create mostly commercial content and work with clients such as Disney Channel here in the US, and social media campaigns too.