January 31, 2023

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Mary McCartney ‘If These Walls Could Sing’ directed by Abbey Road Doc

4 min read

The names “Abbey Road Studios” and “McCartney” are so intertwined as to be almost synonymous. The studio on the now universally known Abbey Road in North London, where Paul McCartney and his bandmates recorded most of their albums, eventually named their seventh after the street (the studio, still known as EMI Recording Studios, was later renamed in honor of the album).

Now a new McCartney is making its mark on the scene. Photographer-turned-filmmaker Mary McCartney, who also happens to be Paul’s eldest daughter, makes her feature directorial debut with a new documentary, “If These Walls Could Sing,” which drops Jan. 6 on Disney+.

McCartney (pictured above with Ringo Starr, his father Paul and Elton John at the UK premiere of Doc) diversity To discuss his filmmaking moves at the iconic studio, his earliest memories of Abbey Road and whether he has more film projects for the future.

When did you start working on this project?

I started working on it in lockdown a few years ago. I was invited by John Batsek, an amazing Oscar-winning documentary-maker who did “Searching Sugarman” and “One Day in September,” to name just a few. And he emailed me out of the blue and said, “Have you thought about directing a documentary?” And I said, “Yes.” And then he sent me through the idea.

How did it transition from photography to film?

Surprisingly, it felt quite natural. Because when I do lighting in my photography, in my portrait work, I’ve always used more continuous lighting, which is used in film. I am not a flash person. And because when I shoot portraits it’s kind of constant lighting, which creates a nice space for someone to feel – to feel – comfortable, so that it’s collaborative, and I get something from them that maybe they didn’t give before: a look or Feelings It’s about those unknown little, fairy-dust moments that I didn’t plan for. And so I approached the interview the same way for the documentary. I did as much as I could at Abbey Road Studios, so when people came to do interviews they were in the environment and it reminded them more of their time here.

Did you do all the interviews yourself?

yes

That’s a lot.

Yes, it’s a lot. Because interviewing is an art form in itself. But in a way, this is where my portrait experience comes in. It’s interviewing without speaking, as encouraging as it is, but it’s interviewing someone in a weird way through a portrait. But it was nerve racking because I was making sure it was lit properly, checking the frame and then doing the interview. And the interviews were so important in this documentary because there’s actually a surprising lack of archive footage. Because recording in the studio – I didn’t think [this] And I grew up in recording studios – the etiquette is you don’t really take pictures and film, because it’s a safe game for musicians. So you don’t think, “Oh, somebody has a camera,” you’re literally just focusing on making music. So there aren’t a lot of photoshoots inside the recording process. So it was really dependent on getting good interviews.

And people aren’t just saying “Oh, I love Abbey Road, it’s great.” It should give each person their perspective. So each person I interviewed was there for a different reason. Elton John and Jimmy Page were there to talk about their experiences as session musicians. And then John Williams […] Abbey Road has talked a lot about the film score. So that’s his chapter. And then my dad and Ringo were there to talk about the Beatles.

Sir Paul McCartney, at Studio 2 Abbey Road, from ‘If These Walls Could Sing’ (courtesy of Disney+)
Credit: Mary McCartney (Courtesy of Disney+)

You pretty much grew up at Abbey Road Studios. What is your earliest memory of the place?

My first memory is of my mum and dad, they were recording here with Wings. I grew up around the corner, so we used to come in, walk around [until] They had a break, come and see them. So I remember going to the canteen and having a snack and when you walked into the reception, they had this big gallery of pictures of artists who had recorded here.

When did you realize how iconic the studio was?

When I realized how iconic it was, coming from outside and always seeing people, always, on Christmas day, every single day, somebody is making a pilgrimage here. But also, literally every time I walk in, it feels magical. Feels good. Coming here feels healthy, I feel inspired. And Neil Rogers said it [in the documentary], musicians are superstitious. And he’s like, when people come here, it makes you want to up your game a little bit. You truly feel like you are in a world class place with amazing professional people.

When did you tell your father you were making a documentary about the studio?

I told him about it after I agreed and signed. I was with him at the weekend, and I was like, “I’m going to do this documentary about Abbey Road called ‘If These Walls Could Sing'” and I remember him saying, “Oh, I like that title.” And it was good because You could see he was interested and he was really helpful, just giving me little information and when I wanted to see him he said, “How’s that documentary going? What’s going on?” He was a pretty proud dad when I was interviewing him, in the middle he looked at me and was like, “This is my daughter directing me.”

Are you planning to conduct more?

I’ve definitely got the bug for directing documentaries, I really have to put my head down and think about what’s next.

This interview has been edited and condensed for space and clarity.

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