It’s back to school time, and we’re preparing for this semester in two ways. Firstly, we’re getting ready for MUSIC VIDEO TIME MACHINE: Back To School Edition at Fifth Estate in Brooklyn this Friday (Sept. 11) where we’ll be playing old “school” videos of the 70s 80s and 90s all night. Secondly, we present this special behind-the-scenes feature about one of the 80s greatest school-set music clips, Britny Fox’s “Girlschool” video. Playing upon one of the most tried and true male fantasies, the naughty schoolgirl, the band shows its true devotion with a performance seemingly hidden behind a strange disappearing wall, but then revealed, sparking a full-scale student dance riot, complete with flipping hair and detention-worthy dance moves.
Lucky for us, Britny Fox bassist Billy Childs remembers that shoot, and we spoke with him as his band continues to pump out the riff rock and tour the globe. (We also found some b-roll video footage on the web!)
What do you recall from walking onto the set? Was this your first big video, or had you done any previously?
We had already done “Long Way to Love,” that was a pretty big shoot, so we kind of knew what to expect. “Girlschool”was inside a huge warehouse. That’s where the schoolroom and the stage were both built, and “Long Way” was outside, so “Girlschool” maybe felt bigger because of that. Maybe it just was, but I remember going there and seeing the schoolroom, the staging, and all the girls — who I think were already filming scenes — and I may not remember it correctly so maybe not, but that was really interesting to me. I had no idea how they were going to shoot it so that surprised me, just how much work had gone into building all that, plus the “special effects” of us being behind the blackboard wall. I still don’t know how they did that, but we were really there. The wall of the room was there, we could see them but they couldn’t see us and then the lights would go on us, then they could see us. Some kind of cloth or something. I still don’t get it to this day! Very interesting though, the hugeness of a video shoot is probably a lot more than most people realize, I know they were much bigger than I imagined at the time.
When you see the video, what moments from filming that day stand out in your memory?
Well, as I said, how big it was just overwhelmed most of my thoughts. We could tell it was going to be good and probably successful, especially after our first one had done so well. That in itself was pretty sobering for a guy like me, who never really thought I’d be in that position in the first place. Video shoots are very long days for a band, in between takes we were doing photo shoots, interviews, etc. With all that in mind, we didn’t have as much time as you might expect to soak it all in. I remember that as a very hectic day with very little down time to just hang and watch. I also remember the girls! I haven’t ever seen that many very hot girls in one place, at one time, I can tell you that. The teacher was actually the first “Sarah Conner” that Arnold shoots in the first Terminator, so that was very cool. And I also remember that damn wall, and trying to figure out how that thing worked. Anybody reading this that knows how that shit works, feel free to mail me and let me know. I’m serious.
It’s pretty funny seeing the guys getting their makeup done along with the girls. Was it a long process getting makeup and hair done at that time?
Speaking for myself, but probably the other 3 as well, we had been doing that “hair and makeup” shit ourselves for 2-3 years at that point and were pretty used to it. When we did the big shoots or videos they always brought in pros for that, but they did us weird and I think we were more comfortable doing it ourselves. For example, I’m a real blonde and as such have very light, almost invisible facial hair and eyebrows. The first thing the pros would do to me was start coloring them brown so you could see them better. To me, it made me look like a wolfman or something, I never dug that kind of shit, it looked too different than what I was used to seeing, so i just said “fuck it, I’ll do it myself”. The hair too, they just made me look weird, and after doing that shit every night for years myself, would just fall back to that. Only would take me 20 minutes to go from normal to “that guy”. I used to tell my girlfriend at the time, “Christ, you take 2 hours to get ready! I used to do all that shit and shave too, and it only takes 20 minutes!” Scenes of us with the girls were just photo ops, no real makeup and hair for us there. We just wanted to check it out. We were all very curious, as you could imagine.
Did the director give you any direction on performance?
No, not really. For us it was just a performance video, meaning we just do what we do when we play live. They had a few ideas for when we were in the schoolroom, but pretty minimal.
Did the band know the schoolgirls beforehand? Were they actresses & models & dancers? And of course, was there a post-video party?
No, we didn’t know any of them. They were all three would be my guess. Some had their moms with them, they were probably like 16-22 in age, and sadly, no post production party. I think everyone was pretty beat by that time anyway.
What did you think the first time you saw the finished video?
I thought it looked great and would do well, I think we were all very happy with it. Also had a feeling some as yet unknown chick named Britney would use the idea, as well as our name, but not for a very long time. (Kidding, obviously, though it did happen….)
What do you recall from shooting the “Long Way To Love” video? It looks like it was shot in a junkyard.
It was shot in a big, closed plant of some kind about 2 hours from L.A. They used to use it a lot for post apocalyptic kind of shit. Some of the first Robocop was shot there, few other things as well. That was our first “big” video so that seemed really huge to me. Many cameras, crew, tracks, etc. Nigel Dick directed that one I believe. Something neat that I remember was I saw this big black guy just hanging out, helping anybody with anything, etc, and he looked familiar to me and seemed very autonomous, not connected to any of the other workers. I thought about it a bit and realized it was Forest Whitaker! He hadn’t done a lot at that time but we knew him from a couple things because we’re movie freaks in Britny, so we introduced ourselves and asked why he was there. He was very cool, and told us he wanted to learn as much about directing as he could. Looking at how big he got after that, I can only assume that video launched his career! (Just kidding again)
You can check out Britny Fox music and tour dates at their website.