November 30, 2010
Michael Jackson dreamt of a triumphant return
to showbiz after years of seclusion with the music video of
One More Chance in 2003, only to have the dream turn into his
Michael Jackson dreamt of a triumphant return to showbiz after
years of seclusion with the music video of One More Chance in
2003, only to have the dream turn into his worst nightmare.
Charles Thomson speaks to the performer's colleagues, collaborators
and co-stars about his little-known final music video.
This is Part 3 of a four part feature
Michael Jackson's Comeback
Jackson's Dream Takes Shape
3.Filming of One More Chance
Return Turns into a Nightmare
Filming of One More Chance
On Monday 17th November 2003
a crowd of extras waited in a holding area at the CMX studio.
They knew they were there for a music video, but that was all
they knew. "We auditioned on the Friday and knew we were
going to shoot at the soundstage on Monday," says Ken Yesh,
one of the extras chosen for the shoot. "We went the entire
weekend wondering who the video was for. Then, when we got there,
we signed some papers and on the back page it said 'Michael
Jackson, One More Chance, Sony Productions'. We all just flipped."
"That right there was such a moment," says fellow
extra Juliette Myers. "As we were going down the line we
were cheering because wow, you know, what an iconic moment.
We were going to be a part of something that's history."
But the excitement was short-lived. "When we went into
the soundstage they told us that 'yes, this is a Michael Jackson
video but he will not be here'," says Ken Yesh. "So
we were all pretty disappointed. He had a body double that was
doing all the camera sets and all the arrangements. We thought
that that was all that was going to be there - just a lookalike."
The extras were put in bleachers on the stage in a choral arrangement
while the crew tinkered with the lighting. A few extras were
selected to look into the distance or look amazed and the crew
panned the audience a lot, but the extras spent much of their
time standing around. "If they weren't going to use us
for a scene then they'd take us back out to the waiting area,"
says extra Stephen McClelland. "I remember us waiting outside
while they were trying to set up some of the table things to
get a rough idea."
"Being extras, we started early but we didn't really have
to do much," agrees Juliette Myers. "They'd set us
up, they'd do some lighting and cue the music and we'd stand
and do our part, then we'd cut for a break. There was never
really much work. There was a very free, fun and fancy type
air about the day."
Michael Jackson's Surprise Appearance
Several hours into the shooting day, Michael Jackson, wearing
dark jeans and a white t-shirt, slipped onto the set through
a back door. "When he made his entrance it wasn't anything
grand," says Ken Yesh. "It was kind of on the down
low - really hush-hush. We were onstage at the time so there
were a few whispers of, 'Oh my God, I think that's him!' The
room was pretty dim. The whole ambience was the nightclub scene
so there were some lamps on the tables and the stage lights
were very dim, but he's pretty hard to miss."
"It was like electricity through the air," adds Stephen
McClelland. "Everybody was getting really excited."
"We weren't even prepared for him to come out," says
Juliette Myers. "We were standing in the bleachers and
I was talking to somebody and all of a sudden I heard cheering.
I looked up and he was just there. It's weird how you don't
even realize how powerful he is until he's there. It's like
a presence. I couldn't stop screaming. I tried to be professional
but that didn't work. We were all screaming our heads off. But
he let us have our time. I'm sure he knew that he was going
to have fans so he gave us time to just embrace him and then
we got to work."
Michael Jackson's Dance Moves: Inimitable
The crew had spent much of the day preparing for Jackson's
arrival in order to avoid keeping him waiting once he arrived.
With everything in position and ready to go, Jackson launched
into his first performance almost immediately, meandering around
the nightclub and showcasing his famous dance moves.
"I think they told us he wasn't going to be there because
they wanted to see our responses on film when he started dancing,"
says Ken Yesh, "because when he first came in, it wasn't
five minutes and he jumped right into it. He started going into
the sequences, walking through the tables at the nightclub,
going up to the stage, singing, jumping onto the tables and
onto the chairs - and I was looking at everyone else and their
faces were like mine. It was just disbelief."
"It was amazing," recalls Juliette Myers. "Part
of our reaction was supposed to be shock and awe, but it was
real. We were just like 'Oh my gosh, he's here. This is him
in real life. He's right in front of us'. It was so easy to
be happy and to have the wondrous looks in our eyes. He did
a move standing on a table right in front of us and it was like,
'Wow. There it is. This is what we grew up with'. It made that
reaction and that moment real."
"They had genuine surprise on everyone's face," says
Ken Yesh. "Everyone had a permanent smile across their face.
They couldn't believe it. I think we all understood what it meant.
We were in the presence of one of the best entertainers ever on
the face of the earth. I mean, who has the chance to do something
"It was like seeing Elvis perform live, or the Beatles,"
agrees Steve McClelland. "You've got a legend in front
of you performing. It was magical. All those rumors about him
being past it were, I believe after seeing him, completely unfounded.
He was still perfectly capable. He was truly magic. Truly blessed."
Each time Jackson finished the routine, shooting would pause
while the crew fixed the set for continuity; in each performance
Jackson would kick lamps and wine glasses off of the nightclub
tables. Between takes Jackson would interact occasionally with
the extras, says Stephen McClelland.
MJ: Focused During Shoots, Caring and Concerned During Breaks
"We'd all been standing there for a long time. He'd say
thing like, 'I hope you guys aren't too uncomfortable back there'
because the lights would come up on us and we were standing
really tight together and we couldn't move. Between takes we
had to stay there. So he was just feeling for us a little bit.
When he started to perform he was very focused but then he would
go back to being just casual. He'd say things to us like, 'I
hope you all liked that one'. He was being funny, witty."
Mostly, though, Jackson kept to himself. "He was kind of
separate," says Juliette Myers. "I think he was just
really shy. I remember there was direction that he was very shy
so they didn't want us to look directly in his face."
"I was extremely surprised at how humble he was,"
adds Ken Yesh. "But when the camera started rolling and
the music was on, it was like electricity. The guy was completely
amazing. He would do the same dance sequence five or six times,
"Michael was soft spoken and kept to himself," confirms
a crew member. "But when the cameras started rolling he
just became Michael Jackson instantaneously. The moves and the
walking and everything, it was just Michael Jackson through
and through. It was amazing. I remember him jumping up on a
table and doing a spin at one point and his hands went up in
the air and it was just 100% pure Michael Jackson. I'll never
forget that memory."
After performing the routine five or six times across roughly
three hours, Michael Jackson made his exit. "He was really
sweet with all the extras," says a crew member. "When
he was leaving he said a great big goodbye to them and thanked
them for all their hard work. He was such a gentleman."
"He didn't just scurry out," says Juliette Myers.
"He respectfully said thank you. I don't even know what
he was thanking us for, though." She laughs. "He was
the star. We were just backdrop."
Jackson was scheduled to return the following day to film frontal
shots and close-ups. "Our intention was to shoot from behind
Michael towards the audience and then, to save money on all the
audience members, the following day we would flip around and shoot
Michael's close-ups," says a crew member. "So pretty
much everything we got on the first day was head to toe and shot
either in profile or from behind, with the audience in the background."
The day's rushes showed Jackson on good form, leaping energetically
from table to table, running around the club and looking genuinely
happy as he high-fived the crowd. He paid subtle homage to older
videos; a shot in which he pulled his jacket down over his shoulders
before the excited audience was reminiscent of the Dirty Diana
music video while his kicking the table decorations as he danced
called to mind his controversial short film for Black or White.
At the end of each take Jackson had nodded and bowed to the audience,
turned his back on the stage - an enormous grin on his face -
and walked out of frame. This shot would serve as the end of the
music video and the moment was loaded with connotations. Jackson
turning his back on the stage, and on his audience, was symbolic
of his intention to leave the music world behind and embark on
a brand new career path. Perhaps smiling with as much relief as
happiness, he was also turning his back on his final music video
for Sony and, he thought, walking away from the contract that
he so desperately wanted out of. In essence, he was turning his
back on his old career and walking away from it, ready to follow
the dream that had been snatched from him ten years previously.
Michael Jackson was finally going to make movies.
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