By Michael Metzner
Raph and I knew straight away that this was going to be one of those phone calls that turns your life upside down. A client had just booked us to produce / direct an intimate, acoustic gig by Justin Bieber, in front of 100 fans, for VEVO USA. The live clips were to be showcased on VEVO in the weeks leading up to his forth-coming album release. We had a solitary week to pull it all together.
It was one of those weeks when there‘s no time to sleep, and if there is time, then there’s no use trying, because you’re too stressed out to get any. A mad scramble to secure a location. Clandestine meetings in hotel lobbies with Bieber’s management, who girls covertly snapped photos of, whilst pretending to have lunch with their parents. A nation wide search for camera kits, dolly’s, jibs and steadicams, in a week when Melbourne seemed to be hosting every major event imaginable. The improbable challenge of designing a set, getting it approved, and then actually building it, within five working days.
But perhaps most of the work we did that week was spent on ensuring that no one actually found out whom we were in fact filming. The last time Bieber was rumoured to be playing a gig like this in Melbourne, his ‘True Belibers’ did thousands of dollars damage to Docklands Studio in an attempt to get a piece of him.
Before we knew it, the whirlwind was suddenly over, and we were staring blankly at a wall of monitors in the OB van. It was that relative calmness derived from having nothing left to do, as there’s no time left to do it. The set looked truly ‘beautiful’, the cameras were cutting like butter, and the final piece of the puzzle was Bieber himself.
And so we waited. A black Hummer arrived, an entourage spilt out – but no Bieber. We waited some more. A black 4WD arrived, once again more entourage – but no Bieber. Having stared at the ‘beautiful’ set for 45-minutes on the OB van monitors, it was starting to lose some of its sheen, when suddenly a black Merc pulled up next to us. A skinny kid slid out and was quickly ushered inside. We waited some more.
Raph managed to text me through updates from inside the inner sanctum; ‘smaller than I expected … complaining about a sore throat from last night’s gig … not going on.’ Although the set seemed to have lost even more of its sheen, all I could now focus on was the agitated fans on the edge of frame. As a wave of exhaustion came over me, I got lost in imagery of the floor manager making the announcement before being torn apart, limb-by-limb, and devoured by ‘The True Beliebers’. I was jolted from my menacing thoughts by the floor manager himself, still very much alive, announcing in a fluster that Bieber was walking on to set. The cameras started rolling, but in their panic, none of the operators seemed to be able to frame up the man of the moment, until someone on the two-ways calmly pointed out … ‘it’s the small scrawny bloke in the front.’
Although threatened by instant eviction, his adoring Melbourne fans couldn’t control their irrepressible desire to scream, as their idol finally launched into his first track. Eviction was futile, for with the first verse, it was plain for all to hear, that Bieber’s voice was in fact shot, and not a frame of this ‘beautiful set’, would ever see the light of day. I returned to my dark thoughts, as images began to reformulate in my weary head of the ‘True Belibers’ rising menacingly from their seats, stumbling on to the stage, and tearing their beloved idol apart limb by limb.