Jump to content

Interview: Paul Dugdale talks about working with the band


Recommended Posts


Multiple Grammy nominated Paul Dugdale is one of the world's leading pop culture directors, responsible for creating critically acclaimed, pioneering concert films, music documentaries and global live events. He studied at Central Saint Martins School of Art in London. His passion for music and film has led him to write and direct documentaries and concert movies for some of the world's biggest artists including; Coldplay, Paul McCartney, U2, The Rolling Stones, Green Day, Taylor Swift, Adele, Shawn Mendes, Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran & The Prodigy.

To mark the release of the band's latest album and the launch of their tour, we spoke with #PaulDugdale the director of Live 2012Ghost Stories Live 2014Everyday Life LiveHigher Power (Extraterrestrial Transmission) and the newly released People Of The Pride.

Hello Paul, thanks for giving us the opportunity to do this interview.
You’ve known the band for a long time now, can you tell us how you met them ?

I first met the band near the start of the Mylo Xyloto tour when we were getting ready to make our first film for them- Live 2012. We were backstage at a show which I think was in the US but it’s a bit of a blur!

What was your first thought about them ?

I’ve been a fan since Parachutes so it was a real thrill to meet them, and it’s always so great when artists you like are warm and welcoming, which Coldplay certainly were.

You are the director of the ‘Live 2012’ from the Mylo Xyloto tour for wich you received a Grammy Award nomination. How did you get involved in this adventure ?

At that stage of my directing career I was pretty new, so I had to work hard to show the band that we could deliver a project of that scale. We did a bunch of tests and mood boards and treatments, and at that stage we were also mapping out the potential structure of the film- song locations etc etc. Phil and the band had to put quite a lot of trust in what we would do because I didn’t have the body of work I do now. I’m really grateful for that chance and the trust they put in me. It was a landmark project for me, and I’m lucky that most of the projects together that have followed have been landmarks too.  

Being on tour with the band must have been a pretty special experience. Tell us how you felt it ?

The Mylo Xyloto tour shows really were extraordinary. I think it was the first time that anyone had used the wrist bands to light up the audience on a tour like that, so every show felt completely amazing. Huge venues, and really excited crowds. I loved it. Traveling with a tour party like that, and the excitement of being whisked away from shows in convoy and police escorts. It was like being parachuted into a tour band dream for a few weeks. It felt like such an amazing chapter to capture. Technicolour.

One of the best moment of this film is probably Paradise at the Stade de France. How did you capture all this energy ? It must be hard to know what to capture and when, to make the best out of it ? 

No it was easy! The shows looked so good with all the colour and graffiti. What I love about Coldplay shows is that they can switch between every emotion. There is so much emotional texture to the set where one song the crowd is moshing like a hard rock show to God put a Smile or People of the Pride, and then next it might be a really emotional ballad with people in tears. Seeing how the crowd react is what makes my job easy, because a big part of what I want to do is capture that relationship, and the energy between the band and the crowd. Also, when you spend time on a tour like we did for that project because we were shooting sections of documentary, it really helps you to learn the show in very fine detail, so by the time we were in Paris I had a really good sense of where to be in the right places at the right time during the show to capture it well.

You’ve been at the Stade de France and at La Cigale, in Paris. In your opinion, Coldplay plays better in a smaller venue like La Cigale or in big stadiums like Stade de France ? And which one do you like the most ?

Well they are one of those rare artists where of course they have songs to suit both. It’s interesting actually- I think in the smaller shows the music becomes more of a focus which is so great, but seeing a Coldplay show now is so much more than just music- it’s an experience isn’t it. Everything they strive to do in terms of production and the spectacle aspect of it is really mind blowing, and everything is done to enhance the music, so I think for me- it feels like the stadium shows really allow them to push beyond the music and into something that really feels like you have had a human experience, and been part of something communal and special and intimate even though you have shared it with 80000 other people. Of course you can achieve that through the music at the smaller shows too but to do it and feel it on such a big scale is really awe inspiring.

You travelled with the band for several months and many concerts on this Mylo Xylo Tour. Who chose these particular locations for each song, and why ?

When we made the film  we really wanted to give people the sense of movement and travel, and never staying in the same place for too long. The idea of a journey and a sense of being on an adventure where you don’t quite know what is going to happen next is exciting to watch. I plotted the structure of the film, and it was important to us that we made sure that we either had a bit of documentary or moved to a new location every couple of songs, so things were constantly evolving.


What’s your favorite part of the tour/shoot ?

I think my favourite part of the tour was being on stage behind the piano as Chris played the start of Fix You, and just looking out and seeing 70000 people singing. It’s giving me chills even now just thinking about it. So emotional and wonderful. I feel very lucky to still get to have experiences like that, and I can remember it so clearly.

Let’s talk about Ghost Stories. You directed the Ghost Stories Live film in Los Angeles, and received a Grammy Award nomination too. How did you handle the filming, since it was a totally secret gig with only a small audiance ?

I really loved the Ghost Stories film.  I think it was actually fairly easy to handle the secrecy of the shows because we were on a studio complex so it wasn’t like there were lots of people around or other people who could leak it to the public, so I think it always felt fairly simple and secure for my point of view.



Did the band asked specific things, or did they let you a full freedom ?

Where Live 2012 was a document of an existing tour, Ghost Stories we built together from scratch. One of the things that made that project such a huge thrill for me was getting to truly creatively collaborate with the band and the team in making the show. What’s great about that was that the film was the tour, and the tour was the film, so it meant that a lot of the creative decisions were done with the cameras and the capture in mind. It meant we could really make something very bespoke and special. I wouldn’t describe it as full freedom- and I don’t think full freedom would have been the right thing for the project. Collaborating this closely means the project really has the bands DNA running through it. It’s an extension of them and their record, so the result is so much more personal than if I had ‘full freedom’.

We had meetings to discuss it all every week for a couple of months. Sitting around a table at The Bakery with Phil, Misty and the band and really discussing the detail of every aspect of it. For a film maker like me, that’s as good as it gets in terms of creating something that so completely represents a record, and the only other time that has happened so closely was with the Jordan broadcast of Everyday Life.

About Everyday Life. You directed the live in Jordan for the launch of the album. How has this place been chosen, The Amman Citadel (Jabal al-Qal’a), and why not another place ?

There were actually a few other locations discussed. We looked at a bunch of places before we settled on The Amman Citadel. What was important about the location was that it was in a geographical position where there was a meeting of people. Amman is believed to be one of the oldest cities in the world. One of the first places in the world where people gathered on that scale. It was a location chosen for that unity.


Playing live for this type of event must have caused a lot of pressure, given every problem that can come. Did you get some difficulties during the gig ?

Haha yes there was actually. It was a live global broadcast so there are SO many things that could potentially go wrong. I was positioned in a tent with my team and I had radio comms to the camera team. I was able to direct the camera team over the radio headsets, and the associate director is calling the music in beats and bars for the camera team to precisely time their movements to the music. For about 90 seconds, while we were live to the world our communications system failed. No ones fault- literally a technical problem. So for a while the camera team had no idea what we were asking of them. Luckily we had rehearsed and the team we had are some of the best in the world, so on screen you can’t tell. Perhaps the only clue is that during one of the songs you see one of our team in the back of a shot slowly crawl over to a camera man to try to communicate a message to him from me. It was a little nerve racking in the moment, because you don’t know how long the problem will last, but you just have to stay cool, and pivot to the problem. It was resolved quickly and I’m lucky to work with such brilliant people who can find solutions to technical problems like that really fast and stay cool under that pressure. Reacting to unexpected changes is a big part of my job. Live music is spontaneous and exciting, and I love the fact that anything can happen. It’s all part of the thrill and even with the best team and equipment, sometimes technical surprises like that can’t be avoided.


How long have you all been planning this day for ?

I think about 6 months. We visited the band while they were recording which was a huge thrill, so we got to hear about the music and the concepts really early on. That’s one of the best things about my job, getting so close to the creative process of the music. Its magic.

We can imagine that for this kind of events there’s a lot of discussion between you and the band (and the people they work with). Do they change their mind a lot during the creation process or do they stick to the plan ?

I always see these projects as an evolution of ideas over time. Ideas evolve, and yes- some of those ideas can evolve and change, but its all part of the process. Often its really essential to be open to making changes, because until you can actually see things in front of you or how a filmed sequence might work in real life, you can’t always imagine it perfectly every time. The over all vision normally stays the same, its just small details that can change.

Would you say that, in overall, the band is satisfied with the final outcome of projects or do they ask for last minute changes or adjustments ?

I think you’d have to ask them! What’s great about my relationship with this band is that because the process is often so collaborative, in most instances we have developed and discussed ideas together already, so by the time something is finished it is a representation of our shared vision. We do make small adjustments of course but mostly just small things.

For ‘Higher Power’, how did you find yourself involved ?

For ‘Higher Power’- ‘Extraterrestrial Transmission’ we were working with the band shooting in London and they wanted to release a performance video at the same time as the music. The idea for the video came together pretty fast- I think we talked about it on a Sunday and shot it on the Tuesday 2 days later.

Did the band have a specific idea of how the video should be ? Or did you take the time to show them several ideas and then work around them all together ?

The basis of the idea came from the band. They wanted to shoot a performance, and place these hologram dancers in a ‘normal’ looking setting and suggested the car park. We then developed the ideas and the approach to how we would do it, discussed it with Phil and the band and then did it. The process was all very fast, but it made making it really fun, and we had to be pretty bold in our decisions. Committing to shooting a one shot performance where we never lose sight of the band is quite brave because there’s no way you can save it if something goes wrong by cutting away to something else. It was really fun and spontaneous and of course the bands incredible performance really makes it.

It is the very first time the band includes dancers in a video, and what’s more, hologram dancers. We know that because of the pandemic, the dancers could not travel to participate to the shooting, but who came up with the holograms idea ?

The band and Phil. I know Chris found the Ambiguous Dance Company. They are amazing.

For Glastonbury Festival, the shooting took place days before the actual show, how did this shooting go under the rain at Worthy Farm ? Do you agree with the saying ‘Without rain, it’s not really Glastonbury ».

We recorded the band about 20 hours before the start of the broadcast, so it was a very fast turn around and my team worked through the night to place it into the film. I personally really loved the rain. It must have been tough conditions to perform in, and our team and all the cameras and kit were completely exposed to the elements too, but yes- it’s not Glastonbury without a little bit of rain. On the day we filmed them we also had a severe weather warning for high wind too, but luckily by that time of night it had died down.

Since the launch of this new era, you are omnipresent with the band. Is there any hope that you could direct more videos or even, why not, a DVD ?

I think you will have to ask them! I feel very lucky to work with this band. I feel like having a 10 year relationship with an artist like this enables you to make really strong work too because there’s such a shorthand between us, and there’s an expectation and shared values for how the projects should be. I think we share an ambition in wanting to always do something new and push things forward, be pioneering and explore new territory, plus there is an enormous amount of trust between us which is wonderful.


For every Coldplay project you’ve been involved with, you’ve had to work with the band’s scenographer and artistic director Misty Buckley. Can you please tell us more about this collaboration ? Would you say that most times, you shared the same vision ?

I love Misty and love working with her. What it wonderful is that when we were in our early 20’s we used to work on the same projects together. I was a camera assistant and she was a design assistant and suddenly I would be crouched on the floor of a stage holding a cable for a camera during rehearsals while she painted a bit of the stage or dressed the stage and we would say hi. We literally emerged from the same world, so working with her now and seeing her as one of the best in the world at what she does is such a thrill. It’s always a brilliant collaboration.

Does she show up with moodboards and very specific ideas and you then have to adjust to them, or do you work together from the start in order to render high-quality images ?

It really varies. Sometimes her ideas are fully formed and all I need to do is work out how best to capture them. Other times, for example for Everyday Life, we literally started on the same day. We turned up and had a meeting together with Phil and both asked a lot of questions both trying to get our heads around what incredible direction the band were headed in next.


Does Phil Harvey, friend, artistic director and 5th member of the band have specific requests during shootings ?

Yes very much so. He is closely involved in every aspect.

Let's talk about People Of The Pride, what is the story behind this music video?

It’s a video that shares the themes of the lyrics of the song. We shot the band in Seattle and it was fun to do a really hard cut to reflect the mood of the music.

Why didn't you choose only the cartoons to carry the music video, and incorporate parts of the live performance of the song? Was this the first choice or a decision taken along the way?

The combination of animation and live capture was Phil and the band’s idea. From our point of view, the bands performance of the track is always so wild, and Sooner’s lighting is so stark and aggressive that it meant the way they present the song on stage is so effective at communicating the sentiment of the lyrics.

What is your favorite Coldplay song ?

I’m going to totally cheat on this- it varies between PolitikHurts Like HeavenGravityO (Fly on)ArabesqueLife is for Living...

Last but not least, thank you so much Paul for replying to all my questions. It was a real pleasure to talk about everything you’ve done with and for the band.


🇫🇷 & 🇬🇧 👉 https://bit.ly/itw-pauldugdale


Edited by coldplay12
  • Like 2
  • Love 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...