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13 November 2014

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You are in: Hampshire > People > Your Stories > Thrilled to have worked with Jacko

Bob Paynter from Yarmouth filmed music video Thriller

Bob's retired from filming the stars now

Thrilled to have worked with Jacko

After the untimely death of the King of Pop, Bob Paynter from Yarmouth remembers filming Michael Jackson's music video for Thriller, which went on to become one of the greatest ever made.

Back in 1983, cameraman Bob Paynter was asked to film the music video for Thriller.

The offer came from Hollywood director John Landis, who had taken on the project after Michael Jackson had seen John's film American Werewolf in London and asked him to re-create it for one of his records.

Bob's notes on Michael Jackson

Bob's notes on Jackson 25 years later

Bob, now 81 and living at Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, didn't know who Michael Jackson was at the time, but he'd previously worked with John Landis on films such as Trading Places, and enjoyed their partnership, so took the job. 


Bob first met Michael in the Betty Reynolds rehearsal rooms in Los Angeles rehearsing the famous dance routine for Thriller - in full make-up and prosthetics.  He remembers: "Michael seemed shy with a quiet disposition, but his dancing was electrifying and had to be seen to be believed.  He was just so talented."

"He was very pleasant and polite - asking me about my family and the other films I had made.  Michael was a real movie buff and absolutely loved Disney films."

After the rehearsals those working on the video went back to Michael's house where Bob got a full tour and was very impressed with the fairytale decor and atmosphere.

"Working with Michael had a profound effect on me. I've filmed many icons but none made me want to write down my memories of meeting them like he did."

Bob Paynter - Director of Photography for music video Thriller

He was not impressed however with Jacko's bedroom, which he says was: "untidy, full of loads of souvenirs he'd collected through his career and had a huge pet boa constrictor in the corner!"

Bob laughs at the memories of John Landis being made to hold the snake and of them all watching a Chevy Chase film together on Michael's projector.

The 14-minute video Bob ended up filming for Thriller is regarded by MTV as the greatest music video of all-time.  In fact the popularity of the video sent the album back to number one in the album chart.

The mini-film won two Grammy Awards and The Guinness World Records also lists Thriller as the "most successful music video."

Bob says: "I'm proud to have worked on Thriller - but I'm never totally happy with my work.  I can always find things that I would have done differently."

Not only did he film the memorable video - he was also an extra in it.  In the cinema scenes Bob sat next to Michael and actress, Ola Ray - who played his girlfriend on screen.  The director, John Landis, gave Bob the job of making Ola act more scared!

Bob Paynter was an extra in the Thriller video

Bob is the white-haired man left of MJ

Life in film

Bob retired to the Isle of Wight 16 years ago.  Having visited his brother-in-law on the island, Bob and his late wife, Marjorie, fell in love with the Isle of Wight and sailing on the Solent - so they made the move and bought a boat.

He remembers his days as a cameraman fondly: "Everything was fun - even the rotten times were fun looking back on them now." Bob describes how he loved the challenges in his job: "So many problems are thrown at you when you're filming.  But there was always an answer - it was just a matter of finding it."

He got into the film industry by accident.  As a 15-year-old boy scout he helped out on a propaganda film made by the Ministry of Information during World War II.  His scout leader thought he'd could do well and helped him get a job at the Crown Film Unit.

Bob went on to run errands for the Colonial Film Unit and it was only when a cameraman became ill and he offered to take his place that Bob got a taste for filming.

Bob reading his notes about his meeting with Michael Jackson

Bob reading his notes about meeting MJ

The rest is history as they say.  Bob is very modest: "People got to know me more and more and I just took every opportunity I was offered."

"I'm the luckiest person I know - my whole career has been a case of me being in the right place at the right time.  I'm pretty famous I suppose, but thankfully no-one recognises me."

Through his work, Bob was familiar with meeting stars, and had filmed icons such as Burt Lancaster, Marlon Brando, and Sophia Loren.  But it was his experience with Michael Jackson that made a real impact.

He says: "It was the only time I worked with someone that made me want to write down my thoughts about him and the effect he had on me.  As soon as I got back to my hotel room I wrote eight pages on my opinion of MJ! And I still have those notes to this day." 

last updated: 30/06/2009 at 12:44
created: 26/06/2009

You are in: Hampshire > People > Your Stories > Thrilled to have worked with Jacko

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