Rave News Room (RNR) has tracked down Ravensbourne alumni David Spearing to share what it was like working with Madonna, his life at Ravensbourne, and the secrets to his success.
Where is home for you?
I grew up in Hampshire – In a small village just outside of Portsmouth. There are lots of fields and farms.
Were there any early indications that film-making was your future?
I persuaded my mum to order me a Digital 8 Video Camera from one of her catalogues when I was quite young and Ispent about 3 years paying it off with my paper round money; I loved that camera. I used to make all kinds of videos; me and my friends skating, making our own version of Jackass, and filming fight scenes – I used to do Taekwondo. It was great, as it meant I was always filming and editing from an early age.
How did you like your time at Ravensbourne?
Ravensbourne was a great part of my life, which I really loved. It’s there that I really learnt about the work it takes to move projects from pre-production to getting it finished.
There was also a great resource of equipment at the university and that’s what really helped me. I used to constantly hire kit out and make my own projects with friends of mine that were in bands. Also, as most of the lecturers had industry experience it really gave me a clear idea of what to expect when I entered the professional world.
And, life after Ravensbourne?
In the last four years since I left Ravensbourne I have travelled to places like Brazil, Japan, America and all over Europe making tour films. I’ve directed three concert films, a major label music video and also worked with other artists like Madonna, Plan B, Wretch 32. I created over 500 videos for McFly’s award winning subscription website and also won an award for best use of video for my work on McFly’s last tour.
You’ve travelled a lot after university, where was your favourite place?
I’d always wanted to visit Japan, especially Tokyo, and in 2011 I went for a weeklong tour in Japan with McFly. That’s
been my favourite place. We had a few days off and it was a small tour with a small crew so, pretty much, just the band and me enjoyed the city together. It led to a nice intimate tour documentary too, very chilled and fun.
Completely opposite to that, Brazil is an incredible place to visit. McFly are huge there and they had recently played a couple of shows to crowds of over 50,000 people. It’s like Beatlemania when we visit so it’s good fun to film. The fans go crazy, camping outside hotels 24/7 and chasing our cars.
How did you get involved with McFly?
Liz Lee, a fellow Ravensbourne classmate of mine, got hired as an assistant at JJ Stereo after university. They had done a lot of work with McFly in the past and had been asked by the band to find them a new Director/Cameraman. Liz was asked to put a list of ten directors together and she put me down as a contender. I went for an interview, had a little trial run with the band, they liked my work and I was hired. I’ve worked with them for almost three years now creating exclusive content for their website and following them on tour around the world.
What can you say about the benefits of networking while studying?
Networking is very important. I actually got my work with McFly by staying in contact with people from my class. You always hear “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and that’s very true. Making contacts at university is just as important as making them in the professional world. Contacts lead to opportunities and that’s when what you know comes into play; you just have to prove you work hard and produce good work.
Apart from McFly, who else have you worked with?
I helped film Madonna’s recent show in Paris and it was great fun. She’s a real professional and works really hard and it was really nice to observe all of that during rehearsals. I can understand why she is so big because she works very hard and is ruthless when it comes to attention to detail and putting on a good show.
It’s great working with lots of varied artists from McFly to Madonna to Plan B and Wretch 32 because it challenges me as a filmmaker to adapt my work and fit with different genres. It’s a good challenge.
What are the perks of being on tour with McFly?
Touring is by far the most fun part of working with a band. We get to travel all over the world, like a big family. One huge travelling circus.
How did you get the ‘Love is Easy’ gig?
I have a great relationship with McFly now and they really trust what I do, so when it came to shooting their new music video, they wanted me to direct it. We were on tour in LA and all sat together in one of their hotel rooms writing up loads of ideas and concepts and acting them out to the band’s manager. Everyone loved the idea so I was commissioned. Me and my friend Sam (a producer) set up our own production company and we made the video. That was quite a lot of pressure for my first major label video.
Tell us a bit about the filming?
We filmed it at the Battersea Arts Centre, which funnily enough is where I used to hang out when I was making films for free for local Art Galleries after university.The video was all shot in one day, after one rehearsal and choreography session. We shot it on the lovely Arri Alexa camera with our amazing Steadicam Op, James, who also went to Ravensbourne.
And, the concept behind the video?
The basic concept was for a ‘one shot’ type music video in which the band recreate some of their career highlights in a DIY theatre show. The new single is from their best of album, so it was the perfect time to get nostalgic and reference their career. It was quite a big task, which involved a lot of careful planning as well as an amazing design team who built the entire set and all the props.
Lets get back to Ravensbourne, what work placements did you do while you were there?
I did a project directing a film for a small village in West Sussex whilst at university. I was quite out of my depth but it was an invaluable experience. It was a group of amateur theatre players who had a lottery fund to make a short drama film. It gained a bit of press attention and had a few days of screening in the local cinema.
It’s nice to take on projects like that whilst studying. You have your safety net but you get to try out a bit of real world experience.
Any advice for students/graduates wanting to get into this field?
The most important thing is to just keep making projects. Initiate them yourself, help out on others projects, make films for free; anything you can do to learn and perfect your craft. Apart from that, just work extremely hard. An old lecturer of mine once told me that if you want to be a filmmaker you will. And I held on to that for years; if you never give up, you’ll never fail.
What has been your favourite project to date and why?
I think my favourite project is the music video I just directed for McFly. It was the culmination of almost three years proving myself as a director, as a hard worker, then being given the opportunity to make my first major project for the label. Big budget, big pressure, lots of stress! But it all paid off and I’m very happy with it.
McFly are on tour in April/May next year so I’m in the early stages of discussing ideas with the band about another big tour and live concert film.
Who would you like to work with in the future?
I’d love to work with some of my favourite bands, Arcade Fire, Sigur Ros or Coldplay. It would be quite surreal to have been a fan for years then suddenly get to work with them on a professional level.
If you hadn’t of become a film maker what career would you of gone for?
When I was younger I wanted to be fighter pilot, stuntman or Taekwondo instructor. So, if I didn’t become a filmmaker I’d like to think I’d be a fighter pilot who was also a part-time stuntman.
If you woke up and found out you won the lottery, what would you do?
I’d buy a nice apartment in London, overlooking the Thames. I’d give some money to my parents and sister. Then probably buy some cameras and an office. Save the rest probably… Is that quite boring?