Today, I awoke to see the sad news that the Artist Formerly Known as Prince had passed away. To be honest, I was never a big fan of his music. I was into a different genre. However, I do play guitar now and then, and sometimes consider myself a musician, so I could appreciate Prince’s talent. When I was young, my sister loved Prince. I remember countless days that my sister would be sitting in front of the TV watching Purple Rain (or St. Elmo’s Fire… but that is a different story). And to be honest, even people like me still sang along to songs like 1999, Little Red Corvette, Raspberry Beret, and countless others (we just didn’t do it in public… or admit to it… until now).
I had the pleasure to work with Prince on several projects over the years. Although we only ever briefly spoke once, I will always remember Prince as the courteous, quiet, and kind gentleman that I spoke with that one time. Our conversation wasn’t really anything worth repeating. It was just casual chit chat. We had been using a pair of 20k’s to light him, and I was sitting over by our distro box to make sure we didn’t set anything on fire. This put me on the other side of the stage from all of the rest of the crew. While setting up for the next shot, Prince wanted to get away from the hot lights, and probably all the people as well, so he headed over to where I was.
I’ll admit I wasn’t to happy about seeing him walking toward me. Not because of who he was, but because the crew had gotten the “don’t talk to Prince, don’t bother Prince” speech before shooting, and that always makes for some uncomfortable silence when the talent actually walks over to you. No one wants to speak first, so everyone sits there. But this wasn’t like that. Prince walked over and just started chatting. I am pretty sure Prince started talking only because he knew of the impending “uncomfortable silence” if he didn’t say anything. I liked my job too much to strike up a conversation with the talent… So unless he wanted to sit there in silence, he needed to instigate the conversation, and he was aware of that.
I don’t think anyone saw Prince and I talking. We were out of view of everyone else, and that really is the only reason he came over to where I was anyway, to get out of view of everyone else. If someone had seen us, I am sure I would have been scolded for talking to the talent…
I worked on the Super Bowl set up for Prince’s half time show, but Prince was no where around that time. I was out in some parking lot in Thousand Oaks trying to figure out how to make those huge pieces of silk shoot up into the air. (How many fans would have to be rigged into the truss, and more to my part, how to power them). After I finished figuring out the power, we had to figure out how to light the silk. then, the whole contraption was loaded onto a truck, and the next time I saw it was on TV with the rest of the world.
The other two times I worked with Prince he was there. That was the music video’s for Chocolate Box, and Crimson and Clover. Both video’s were directed by the insanely talented P.R. Brown.
When we shot Chocolate Box, it was a 2 day gig. The first day we shot Q-Tip, and the girl. The second day we were supposed to shoot Prince all day. We showed up and started setting up (much later in the day then you would expect, because apparently Prince didn’t do “early”). Right around when we had everything set up to start shooting, we learned that Prince had an important meeting to attend, and wouldn’t be to set for a few hours. We had to wait for him (on the clock of course). When Prince did show up (earlier then the rescheduled time), he was a complete professional. We had scheduled all day to shoot Prince’s angles, and it took us a couple hours. Prince never missed a beat, never missed a cue. He was on top of his game.
Anyone who has worked on music videos before knows how odd it is to shoot the talent out in a couple hours. Music video’s (in many cases) tend to be a test of endurance for both crew and talent. I personally did several 20+ hour music video shoots in my career, and I have heard tales of a certain music video shoot in the LA subway that ran 36 hours straight.
Now we have all seen no budget shoots that take no time because no one wants to waste their time, but this wasn’t the case. On both music videos I did with Prince, he performed flawlessly, quickly and precisely. We nailed the takes, and were done. Prince was a true professional.
So even though I was never a huge fan, and we only ever talked once, I am truly saddened by the loss of Prince. He was a music icon. A talent, and good person.
Today is a sad day in music. This is what it sounds like when Doves Cry.