Michael Jackson´s ´One More Chance´ — A Dream that Turned into a Nightmare — Part 3/4

  by Charles Thomson on sawfnews.com

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 worst nightmare.

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

1. Engineering Michael Jackson's Comeback

2. Michael Jackson's Dream Takes Shape

3.Filming of One More Chance

4. Dream 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 like that?" "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, flawlessly."

"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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