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Header image for article Creative Forces: Paul Dugdale on the Cinematic Capture of Live Music

Creative Forces: Paul Dugdale on the Cinematic Capture of Live Music

In our latest Creative Forces conversation, Jeff Lee sits down with multi Grammy nominated and Emmy, BAFTA, and DGA Award winning director Paul Dugdale who is known for creating outstanding music documentaries, concert films, and global live events with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Adele, Ariana Grande, Harry Styles, Coldplay, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, and Elton John.

Their in-depth conversation covers Dugdale’s approach to capturing live performances, working with artists, when to use new technology (and when not to), collaborating on set, and much more. Here are some highlights:

Paul Dugdale on his early influences and being inspired by his father who was in the business and brought him on jobs as a teen:

“I was so into music at that point, and he was taking me to mostly concerts and big awards shows and stuff that I just completely got the bug at that point. Even before then, he had once asked me when I was a really small kid about imagining a song and what the music video would be like for it. And I remember just being able to answer him instantly, like I had already thought about music in sort of visual terms, really kind of strange.”

Dugdale on his goals when capturing live concerts:

“The intention is to literally embody that stage production and try to maximize, emphasize, all of the best parts of it, and try and translate that to screen. And also to try to capture the relationship between artist and audience in the room…. I think that’s where the magic happens, so to speak, is where you can really show what it feels like to be there, not only what it looks like. That’s my recurring intention, is just to get the absolute maximum out of every show and show what it feels like to be in front of that artist and listing to that music.”

Dugdale on live gigs versus home viewing:

“I think it’s just a different thing. [During COVID, people were saying music streamed without an audience was ‘as good as a gig’.] I definitely don’t think it’s as good as a gig. I love going to see live music. I think it’s totally different. But we’re the next possible best thing.… Whether we can recreate the feeling of being in that room or not, we can certainly show you more. At least we’ve got that going for us…. That’s the most important thing to me, to try and make you feel something at home.”

Dugdale on his career:

“I feel incredibly lucky to do what I do. It’s hard work, but it doesn’t feel like work because it’s so fun. Part of the reason I’m so lucky is that the range of music and the variety of artists that you get to work with is so broad that it just makes things so exciting and interesting for someone as curious as me… [W]orking on these concerts, because each one is different and the music always requires a different dynamic to how we film it and our approach, essentially, it’s a new script every show. It just never gets boring. Long may it continue.”


Watch the full video, above, to hear more about Paul Dugdale’s approach to capturing live musical performances and see some outstanding footage from his projects.

View more of our Creative Forces conversations on Vimeo. Learn about AbelCine's Production Services, or contact us for more information.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Excerpts have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Jeff Lee
Director of Education & Product Specialization, AbelCine

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AbelCine recently supported the live recording of pop sensation Adele’s One Night Only television special, which aired simultaneously on CBS and Paramount+ in November 2021. Directed by Paul Dugdale, who received the DGA award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement (Variety – Specials) the live-to-tape concert special debuted new material from the hit singer’s latest album, 30.