As it is almost five years since we lost Michael, Jonathan ‘Sugarfoot’ Moffett, as kindly sent us, via Paula Katsikas, his insight on working with Michael on the ‘This Is It’ shows.
The memories wallpaper my mind. Thoughts of what should have been and feelings of what could have been. Mostly good, some confusing. Reflections and glimpses of MJ and I, and our careers intertwined. Moving pictures and scenes play in the theatre of my mind, of the ‘Collective of Us,’ including the brothers and those of ‘This Is It.’ Haven’t seen the film in quite a while having put it away after viewing it about six times in various movie theaters in and around the country! Many times with many friends by special request invitations, as they sought and expressed to honour me, and my achievements in it and celebrate it. Saw it a few times on my own after the private screening at Sony Pictures Studios and before its Premiere at Nokia Center in downtown Los Angeles, just across the street from the Staples Center, the last day of rehearsals and his life here on Earth. Ironic isn’t it and yes, I am most proud of it! As it is hard and difficult to let that time go, for it was and became a “Milestone Marker Point” in my life and career!
The first time I viewed it at Sony, I didn’t know what to expect. Nor how I would react to it, and various scenes in it, for it was a time of great confusion, mixed emotions, questionable expectations, on, and for a film made from what was suppose to be, as we were told, would be Michael’s home movies and it was only early rehearsals as we were just learning things and getting things together and still in fruition stage. So how could they, how can they say they have a Film, a Movie, a Cinematic Motion Picture Film from such bits and pieces of raw rehearsal Footage?
Well, I’ll tell you. It was by way apparently of geniuses, of top quality technician experts at Sony Pictures, the carefully selected and chosen music and sound professionals who mixed and enhanced the sound recordings and the selected creative team and staff Michael had, in creating this show, ‘This Is It!’
It was refreshing and renewing overall, to see just how we go about and went about preparing for a tour on this…of such a magnitude. “To Step Back from the Painting” so to speak! Like from a painter’s point of view in the midst of his or her work, of his, of her masterpiece. It was interesting to view and see, even the processes I wasn’t privy to witness and be a part of before in previous tours with Michael and how he selected his other personnel, with his selection process of his dancers, as seen in the audition and evaluation process scenes of the film. It was fascinating indeed to see and feel the excitement of the magnitude of the sheer number of the all amazing and talented dancers who all put out their best to be the one and land the gig, to be the one chosen by Michael and his team, THE chance of a lifetime shot!
I was also amazed at this world of artistry and creation of such an amazing scale, at the elements of creativity that was involved in the visualizing, imagination and developing of the exciting aspects of the production themes, thrills and highlights and to have been included in the show to be ‘This Is It.’ I was amazed at the brilliant conceptualizations of what would excite an audience to the Thrill Factor! Some things known to Michael’s elementals of his shows, some things familiar, but then, several things not! The fire and the flames, the oversized bed and seduction scene for ‘Dirty Diana,’ the lighted costumes to be worn, the amazing infinity of soldiers in the video scenes of the 3 D ‘They Don’tCare About Us,’ the 3 D aspect of the all new ‘Thriller’ video, the 3 D aspect of the all new ‘Earth Song’ and ‘Smooth Criminal’ video and how they shot those videos, each one, with its own amazing and astonishing visual feels to them. As individual stand alone pieces, also as a collective of elements, in what was meant to become, ‘The Greatest Show On Earth!’
It was interesting to see and hear how we, the Band and Singers came together as a unit in learning, playing, rehearsing and performing the songs together of course, even with the all or mostly new arrangements we were doing. I could play those songs in my sleep. I’m so familiar with them for they are a greater part of the song book of my life! But, to see and hear them learned and rehearsed from a different perspective other than behind the drum kit (as I can’t see myself from the front when I’m in the back, playing from behind my kit!) LOL! To have that view now, during the creative process, was very enlightening, interesting and exhilarating for me to witness! So, hmmm that’s what I look like huh?! Gotta loose some weight! (LOL…Ok! I’m a bit, analytical) But who isn’t? Well, you get the point! It’s different for me to see at that stage of development and it was interesting for me to see, and to hear the band, ‘us’ and how much we learned, constructed and pulled together in a short matter of just five weeks collectively. It, to me, demonstrated what with dedication, concentration, great efforts and determination, true professionals are capable of when put to the test.
I’m very proud of this Band. We, individuals and our collective, seldom being said due to internal subdues in humility, I must this time say, I’m proud of myself! For there was a lot of pressure put on us each and every day of rehearsals learning and re-learning the songs while un-learning what you just the day before was told, was the last and final version of each song we were working on during that day! Undoing what you were told to lock in your mind and memory each day and you, we had to be quick about it too, each and every song we rehearsed for the show! It’s certainly a test for one’s mental faculties, fleet of thoughts, memory retention and quick deletion abilities. But, I, we were blessed with each other in that band and we got it done for Michael as that was important to us, individually and as a whole. This showed in the film and though these arrangement learning methods are pretty much standard in and for a Tour’s development, in cutting down the show’s running time period in total of the length of the show itself, it was quite more demanding, frequent, and tedious in this particular show’s tour’s prep, with the short amount of time we had left to complete it’s entirety of presentation. I, for one, stand proud of us!
But for there to be an us, there had to be a him, and he, Michael, demonstrated just who was in charge and where most of the creative aspect of his shows came from and who they emanated from. It was him! ‘This Is It’ showed and demonstrated Michael’s directive input into his presentations of artistry, creativity and demand for excellence in delivering his signature brand to his beloved fans. Along with Kenny Ortega, Travis Payne and Michael Beardan his ideas could flourish. Their contributions to and around them brought out the best in what could be done, if it could be done! To watch him and hear him on screen, guide things through, on development of ideas, execution and the timing of elements of his show, other than band rehearsals which were normal for me, was intriguing and fascinating, even for me. For you have to remember, I, a band member, was not privy to, or part of his process of dancers selection, video productions and presentations, and production elements to and in the shows, costume designs and approvals, nor special effects inclusions and implementations. Those are and were things outside of my duties as a band member and were done, chosen and decided before or around our rehearsal schedules that I was involved in. So for me it was just as exciting as to others, to see and experience, when I first viewed ‘This Is It’ at the Sony Studio Lot’s Screening Room. A thrill to see and witness from this side of the stage and spectrum.
In the many years since the 2001 Michael Jackson ‘30th Anniversary Special’ televised event in New York City at Madison Square Garden, which was a long time ago from 2009, I could see and it was evident that with all that he had been through and gone through, persevered through and survived through, Michael Jackson still had it! Yet sadly enough though, it was his long time fear, and reservation to and in misplacement of trust in some people and especially adults like this doctor, who he entrusted with his life, that would eventually prove him and his long time fears just and true and unfortunately prove this, in his very tragic undoing. This causing us all now to be celebrating an anniversary of his passing and his unfinished work instead of his remaining living presence and works, while still on this Earth.
God Bless You, King of Music. You’re an Icon never to be forgotten! Lord Bless my friend, and Brother In Heart, Michael Jackson! Let his Music, Artistry, Legend and Legacy live on, eternal!
I for one, miss you so…
Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffet
‘YOUR Drummer’… Still!