31st December 2017
Vaughan & Anthea & George Michael
Title of film: George Michael, Outside
Director: Vaughan Arnell
One of the best pieces of news in 2017 was the reunion of Vaughan Arnell and Anthea Benton the directing duo who rocked the music video and commercials scene during the mid-80s to mid-90s. Remember Creek, their perfect Levi’s spot? Proving they haven’t lost their mojo 20 years on, their Christmas commercial for House of Fraser was one of the best. While we are all on our fabulous holiday breaks, we thought we'd share some of our favourite Vaughan & Anthea George Michael videos because, well, it’s that time of year to remember loved ones. Happppy New Year everyone.

1.4: Vaughan, you’ve made at least 15 videos with Robbie Williams – that’s a whole other story – out of all the videos you both made for the pop stars of the 80s and 90s let’s focus on George Michael’s to mark his death a year ago. What was the first one you made for him?

Vaughan: Fast Love.

Anthea: That was his first single from the album Older, which was obviously a very pivotal album for him.

It was all wrapped up in wanting the freedom to be who he was. It was after the death of the only proper real big love of his life, Anselmo Feleppa, and you’ve got to imagine that he’d had lots of relationships with women, but it was the first free, liberated relationship, a real falling in love with somebody.

George was obviously a great lyric writer but for years the lyrics had always had a double entendre. He wasn’t completely out then, but he’d been able to verbalise the reality of his feelings in this album.

Vaughan: And then the court case with Sony happened. He looked at everybody’s contract and he just said, ‘This is ridiculous, we’re never going to make money, you’re robbing us.’ So he wanted to have all the music business contracts re-written. He went to court to fight Sony, they won, and then he basically shut down, George thought he was finished. Then Virgin Records’ David Geffen just phoned up Sony and went ‘I’ll buy him off you, because face facts guys, you fucked it, he’s never going to record for you again.’ And they did a behind the doors deal.

Vaughan: You should watch the documentary. (Channel 4).

Anthea: It’s very sad, but it’s hugely important.

Vaughan: George made it himself. Just before he died. It gives you the whole background.

Anthea: Fundamentally, because he felt so trapped himself, inside who he was, he just felt that every artist was a slave. It’s the same thing that Prince did. Enslaved to one record label. Now you look at, say, footballers, once the relationship isn’t working, they’re allowed to move. Music artists aren’t allowed to move, because they basically sign their entire life away. So what George was fighting for was the creative freedom to do the music that he wanted to do. And of course, at that time the record company obviously knew that he was gay, and were thinking, ‘We’re going to lose the female fan base.’ Which couldn’t be further from the fucking truth, as he got even more female fans. So it was all wrapped up in wanting his freedom to be himself.

1.4: From that first video you then shot Spinning the Wheel and then separately Vaughan you shot Outside and Anthea, Jesus and the Child. How did the creative process work with him ?

Vaughan: He kind of always let us do what we wanted. He knew the story and concept but he was more focused on his performance, how he looked, exactly the right angle, he would hardly move his head much, he knew the brand.

Anthea: But I think he was quite into being able to portray something different visually, because he’d been kind of trapped into tall pretty boy pop band thing for so long that he went, ‘I don’t want to do that anymore, I just want to do interesting shit.’ So he was sort of up for anything really at a time when people weren’t so much into doing interesting things.

Vaughan: We’d do our own cut first, and then he would come in and he would know exactly every heartbeat for five hours. Every single frame.

Anthea: He was good at editing, very analytical. I think that comes from sitting at music desks, listening for that clink, that bit of the tambourine – it comes from that mentality.

Vaughan: A real perfectionist.

Anthea: So Vaughn did Outside quite soon after we stopped working together, and that was just after George had been in the entrapment in L.A. That’s what that whole video was about.

Funnily enough the first job we were going to do when we got back together again this year was a George track, a Nile Rodgers remix, and it would’ve been the first track to be issued after he died, which felt really weird.

It unfortunately got a bit complicated because the sort of nuts and bolts of death unfortunately is that there’s currently even yet, no probate, because his sisters are the ones in charge of his estate, and they-

Vaughan: They thought it wasn’t right.

Anthea: They’re very, very proper individuals trying their best to protect his legacy, and I think they just wanted to try and make sure that they’re not doing anything that would be against his wishes. We didn’t want to push it, it was too complicated in the end.