Unseen footage from Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” short film shoot emerges online

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Unseen footage from behind the scenes of Michael Jackson’s 1983 “Billie Jean” short film shoot has emerged online.

The footage, which hit YouTube and began circulating among Jackson fans today, was originally uploaded discreetly to Vimeo three weeks ago (see here).

Jackson can be seen performing some of the famous scenes from the final version of the “Billie Jean” short film, as well as some that were not included. The film’s director, Steve Barron, who has directed videos for the likes of David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac and Madonna, also makes brief appearances in the footage.

Barron scored the “Billie Jean” job after Jackson had seen his recent video for “Don’t You Want Me” by Human League.

“Michael Jackson’s manager said that Michael wanted the video to be magical, that he’d seen ‘Don’t You Want Me,’ and he liked the cinematic look and that whole vibe,” Barron told reporter Rupert Hawksley for a recent write-up featured in The Telegraph. “Michael wanted this to be a piece of a film, as opposed to a music video with a story.”

Barron recalls that when he got Jackson’s invitation to shoot the film, he wasn’t going to take the job. It was his then heavily pregnant wife who persuaded him to do it.

Despite Barron being allocated $50,000 to shoot “Billie Jean” – more than double budget he’d ever been given before – the project was shot on 16mm film, rather than Barron’s preferred 35mm, due to budget constraints.

The budget, namely Jackson’s record label’s (CBS) refusal cough up an additional $5,000, is also the reason that a special dance scene conceived by Jackson was never shot.

Barron recalls, “when it came to the scene with the camera store, with the cameras all firing off, triggering his energy, triggering the Midas Touch again, Michael said he had this idea. ‘What about if one of the other stores in the street is a tailor shop with some mannequins in the window. When I go past it, before or after the camera store, how about the mannequins come to life, and they jump out behind me and they dance with me?’ I absolutely loved it, I thought it was an amazing concept, it enhanced everything. It was right on concept, right on story and just a genius idea.”

“After that meeting I got onto my producer and said, ‘Michael has come up with a great idea. We need to change that store, the third one along or whatever, we need to get some mannequins in, get some dancers in, do rehearsals. We need to get a choreographer, a costume designer, and I need a couple of hours more to shoot this in a certain way, because this will be after the first dance.'”

“My producer worked out that this would cost $5,000 dollars more and CBS said no,” continues Barron. “They said, ‘No, we’re not paying you a penny more, we’ve told you, you’ve got $50,000 dollars and that’s it.'”

“To not do that good idea was disappointing,” says Barron. “It’s like the missing scene that I’d have loved to have actually shot. I think it would have made the video better.”

Although he was never able to bring the dancing mannequins scene to life, Barron said the dance scene that did appear in the short film, where Jackson dances down a path made of light-up tiles – the only part of the video that Jackson himself came up with – was a surreal, extraordinary moment for him.

“The only part I wrote in the piece was, I said, Just give me a section where I can dance a little,” recalled Jackson in a 1999 interview with MTV. “Because he said, ‘No dancing in the whole piece.’ So I said, Just give me one little moment.”

“As the chorus approached, he started moving his leg,” recalls Barron, “and then the chorus hit and he sprung into this dance that was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It was just extraordinary, instinctive. He pulled it all together and turned it into what we saw.”

“I heated up,” he adds. “I definitely heated up off the energy that he was giving off. The camera literally steamed up – the eyepiece steamed up – because of my heat from what I was seeing. He almost disappeared into a mist through the lens, which made it even more like a totally surreal moment.”

Click here to read the full transcript of Barron’s chat with The Telegraph.

View the newly unearthed footage from behind the scenes of “Billie Jean” short film shoot below:

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