Here’s the beautiful and eerie clip for Tom Woodward’s White Roses.
Tom first played me the song on his balcony overlooking the Queanbeyan river. He had some ideas, including shooting at the nearby suspension bridge. I had a long-incubating ambition to showcase Queanbeyan on film, so I suggested we expand our focus.
Queanbeyan is a brilliant place for filming, and unique in the area. For example, unlike Quangers, Canberra has no traditional Australian pubs, a result of prohibition in the ACT until 1928 (Queanbeyan has, ahem, four). Nowhere around has as much character, and certainly not as many old-school, iconic motel signs (I showed extreme restraint only including one). It was the perfect sleepy town for filming a wistful country song.
Having grown up in Struggletown, I wanted to capture some personally significant places, like the Crawford Centre (where Dad and I would have coffee and cheese toasties), and the Karabar Shopping Mall (the bleak grey cube which housed the payphone I’d call privately from in the pre-mobile era). Ironically, the place that got me thinking I should document Q-town – the dilapidated but still running Chinese takeaway across from my house – fell off our shooting schedule. I’ll find a way to work it into something soon.
Tom and I began shooting at 6am on Easter Monday. As the sun dawned, we had the main street to ourselves. We moved quickly and covered a range of locations, capitalising on the early morning light. Our last location was the suspension bridge – I hadn’t realised how difficult it might be to shoot on it (it wasn’t Sorcerer-bad, but it bounced with every step), and we were surprised by the volume of foot traffic. Still, it became the centrepiece of the video.
Rather than trying to make the stop-motion footage smooth, I gave it a measured, photo-like feel. Tom said he tried not to blink, but I kept in the takes where he did – your mind thinks it’s a photo, making each blink surreal.
The bridge was also the site of a bloody murder a few years ago. While it’s not referenced in the clip, it adds weight to the violence and resignation within the lyrics.
While the lyrics are poignant, the music itself is upbeat. The video had to encapsulate both sides. Tom and I acknowledged it would be easy for the clip to become too earnest. The latter half of our day was spent filming in the studio. His delivery to camera, and his dancing, gives an energy that spares it from being morose. He’s a natural performer and his rakish charm shines through. The contrast between the two sets of footage makes the clip for me.
Perhaps it’s the timeless nature of Tom’s songs, but several of his previous film clips are also in black and white. We had shot in colour (to capture the ‘magic hour’ hues that time of morning), but when editing, I soon switched to black and white. Black and white is amazing in its versatility – it can make footage seem gritty, or in this case, dream-like.
Working with Tom was a joy and I imagine we will do more in the future.