In two days, I had the amazing experience of not only shooting behind the scenes footage of the historic Billy Joel concert, I also got to shoot interviews with Steven Tyler, Garth Brooks, Tony Bennett, Don Henley, John Mayer, Roger Daltrey and John Mellencamp. Then I followed Paul McCartney from the greenroom on one end of Shea Stadium to the opposite end where the stage was. It was pretty cool.
On the day of the concert(s) I heard there may be some guest artists invited by Billy to sing a song or two. It was really cool to hear exactly who was coming—and how many of them.
As much as I wanted to shoot each personality’s interview with a different setup, it was logistically impossible—so we had a single setup for everyone. Plus, with us running around the stadium all day, it was too hectic of a situation to even think about setting up something different when we only had a few moments notice that the next celeb was on his way to be interviewed.
There was only one room in all of Shea Stadium that we were able to shoot the interviews in, which was a small room that led to the Mets’ locker room. It was a small, boring, white-walled, virtually unfurnished room with a conference table and some chairs. As a bonus feature, the air-conditioning unit for that area of the stadium was behind door number two! Ah, the rumble of an industrial air-conditioner directly behind the door is absolutely perfect for getting good clean audio. Thanks to a great sound guy and some digital audio cleanup in post, we managed to get usable audio.
Only a few of the interviews ended up in the final cut of the film. I have to say that Garth Brooks wins for most humility and best impression of a good guy. On the opposite end, it seemed like Don Henley couldn’t have cared less about anything or anyone that day. John Mayer was the most fun and personable. Steven Tyler was the most intimidating, but he was really nice. Tony Bennett wins for being Tony Bennett.
Jon Moe was the photographer for those days and we had to use the same space for stills and video. He brought a gray seamless backdrop and we had our hot lights and his strobes overlapping each other. As soon as we got the video interview done, I’d turn off my lights and he’d fire up his and take some stills. The only time this tripped me up was when the modeling light of Jon’s Octodome was left on during Tony Bennett’s interview without any of us noticing and gave me a fill light that I really didn’t want. I noticed it a few moments after we started but it was too late to do anything about it. Oh well, it didn’t end up in the film anyway. Phew! I still love you, Jon.
It was an incredible time. Granted, it was the pinnacle moment of what the entire film was about so it, naturally, was amazing. There were over 50,000 people at this concert—each of the two! Being in that stadium with all those people looking at one guy on stage was unforgettable. Looking up at the people in the seats is literally indescribable. I mean, look at this:
The seating in the stands that you see in this photo is less than half of what’s there. Crazy!