Late last year I heard the tragic news that Sasha had passed away. I had met Sasha through a good friend of mine James when I filmed and edited a promotional film for their band "Soulshine" in 2014. James and Sasha had been dating, and in 2015 I photographed their wedding in London. Only a year later, I heard the news from James on Facebook that Sasha was no longer with us. She had lost her life to cancer at the age of only 36.
After what must have been a very tough Christmas for James, I heard from him early in 2017 that he was putting on a tribute night in memory of Sasha. Friends and family would join together and perform songs remember Sasha and her love of music. James asked if I would film the event. I was honoured, and immediately said yes and made sure I was free. James wasn't sure what he wanted as a final video, but he just knew he wanted something to take away from the night. I told him to leave it to me and made sure he didn't need to think about the filming. He had enough to think about with the rest of the organisation.
The night took place at he Rivoli Ballroom Club in London which is the only intact 1950s Ballroom left in London. It was an amazing venue for the night. I knew there was set to be some speeches throughout the night so I made sure I was recording sound directly from the sound desk onto my Zoom H4n audio recorder. I was becoming aware of the responsibility that was on my shoulders for making sure the evening was captured in the best way possible. I set up my two Canon 5D Mark ii cameras. One was mainly to be used as a static wide with a 16-35mm lens. This would be near me at all times so I could make adjustments. On the other camera I fitted my 70-200mm f2.8 which was used for the majority of shots. This lens allowed me to get a good range of shots of the bands performing. I was grateful of my lightweight set up which allowed me to move around near the stage and capture all the performers as well as the crowd who were all friends and family and a very important part of the night.
As the evening began, there was a real sense of celebration, and I knew that although it was going to be a very emotional occasion, it would also be one full of joy. The love of music and fun and friendship was there to be seen everywhere you looked. More and more immensely talented people took to the stage. These were all friends of Sasha's and people she had met through music. I kept shooting song after song filling my memory cards with shots of different instruments and faces of those performing and the crowd enjoying the music.
The speeches were extremely heartfelt and added a poignancy amongst the uplifting, soulful music and struck a chord with everybody. Towards the end of the night both James, and Sasha's mother sang a couple of more emotional songs. I shed a tear watching, but knew I needed to keep focussed to capture the moment. This was not easy!
Creating the right edit was extremely important for me. I wanted to show the journey that was so evident on the night that went from celebration, through to the reality of why everyone was there on that night to pay tribute to Sasha. When I sent the edit to James I was very nervous. I was happy with how it had come together and felt that it had hit the mark. It meant so much to me, but I knew that to him it would be so important that this was right. When he came back and said how happy he was with it I was so glad and felt like I had achieved the objective of creating a film that would be a meaningful tool in people's memories of Sasha.
I had no idea what James wanted to do with film. I believed it was just to be used for personal use, and that's what I had in mind when I was putting it together. James did however share it online, and I hope with all my heart that it did the night justice and that it will provide a good memory for people for years to come.