A note on ReOrchestrated by Dan Smith

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We always felt there was a potentially interesting story to tell with ReOrchestrated. Not out of a sense of jumped up self-importance, but just because we were so excited to have pulled off these massive, collaborative gigs with all these incredible classical and gospel musicians, despite having been told it was a weird and unnecessary thing to do at almost every turn. 

When the opportunity to make this film arose, my immediate thoughts were of the many, many music documentaries out there - good and bad. In my mind, there wasn’t anything in our experience that felt especially unique. But the filmmakers—directors Toby L and Tom Middleton and producer Josh Connelly—wanted to delve into what exactly it was that drove us, as a band, to go well out of our way to put on these complex shows with little to no rehearsal time. 

We had a few pretty frank and brutal chats about how to create a film that would stand out and say something. None of us wanted to just tell the well-told, familiar arc of a band’s career, and we were keen to make something that could be interesting to people who didn’t know (or didn’t care) about Bastille. The idea of a moderately successful band doing some unusual shows and pulling them off isn’t exactly laced with nail-biting tension and world-changing drama. However, we did feel that—done right—we could try to give an insight into a creative process and the layers of self-doubt that come with it. 

Our friend Tom Middleton (who at the time was one of the roommates of Kyle, our keyboard player) came along with us on one of our first ever tours to make a short film for his film school final project. And after that he basically never left. Over the years he has shot footage of us across countless tours and festivals around the world, studio sessions, TV appearances, rehearsals and all the many things we’ve been fortunate enough to do along the way. Because Tom’s a close friend, he’s had access to basically everything that’s happened to us (a lot of which will hopefully never ever ever see the light of day), but we’d never really thought about where most of the footage would end up. We were really keen, however, for Tom to shoot as much as possible in and around the ReOrchestrated tour and gigs because we knew they felt special. We just needed to figure out what to do with it. 

In order to make a more interesting film - not just a concert or tour film - it made sense to work with people who had some distance and didn’t know the history of our band or of the ReOrchestrated concept. We had the opportunity to make this film with Toby L, who had the benefit of not knowing us, and Tom—who probably knows us too well—as co-directors. We turned everything over to them to find the story to tell. We entrusted them and then almost completely removed ourselves from the process.

There are so many people involved on shows like these: all of our touring crew, the musicians, the singers, everyone involved in booking, promoting and putting the shows. Of course there’s no way that the filmmakers could show it all. A tour like this involves a huge amount of big characters, many of whom probably deserve documentaries of their own, and although it’s strange to see some people and some moments unrepresented, I imagine it’ll always feel like that if you try to represent such a big sprawling project in a film that’s just over an hour long. 

We were very fortunate to work on this project with the incredible editor Grace Eyre, who is based in Australia. She was able to do her editing in Australian working hours and then every evening hand over to her team in London who’d work through her nighttime - taking advantage of the timezones and lockdowns to edit, in just a few months, a film that would have otherwise have taken maybe a year to pull together. We also had our live front of house sound engineer Paul "Coop" Cooper do the audio mixing of the live songs from the film, because there’s no one that knows the ins and outs of what happened with the audio on stage with all those musicians better than him.

Early on in the process Tom and Toby made the decision to interview us all separately—to divide and conquer—something we’d never really done before. They had challenged us to be as open and honest as possible when talking not only about the ReOrchestrated shows, but about our career in general. I think in talking to each of us in isolation they were able to dig into our individual perspectives, fears and insecurities and lead us to speak about things we’d never said before on camera - or sometimes even to each other. I don’t know that any of us expected the level of honesty in the film, and when we saw the first cut together in a socially distanced screening in Soho last year we were slightly taken aback at the approach they’d taken. Seeing ourselves being so open on a big screen felt strange and different, but we were impressed by the story they’d told. Being able to summarise the arc of our career so far, represent the ReOrchestrated story and show some of the music involved felt like a vindication of everybody’s hard work, and was very surreal thing to watch in the midst of a worldwide lockdown. 

This documentary started as a film about our odd little ReOrchestrated project, and along the way turned into a film about the realities of being in a band. I’m so happy it exists as a testament to the amazing musicianship of the people we were lucky enough to play alongside on some of those incredible stages, but I mainly hope that it’s an interesting insight into the joys and challenges of creativity - which is hopefully something that people will find interesting whether you’re a fan of (our) music or not.

Dan x