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13th September 2015
Turn up the lights
Title of film: Hurts, Lights
Director: Dawn Shadforth
Production Company: Sonny
We ask director Dawn Shadforth about how she captured the insanely brilliant chemistry of two strangers getting caned on the dance floor in her new video for Hurts

This is your second film with Hurts and it couldn’t be more different from the first, Wonderful Life, which was razor-sharp clean-cut and tightly stylized.  This film for their track, Lights, on the other hand is a portrayal of a couple connecting and getting fabulously, utterly trashed.  It’s way looser and wilder and we love it so much more.

Thank you. Lights is a very different track and lyrically and musically suggested something different.  I really love both tracks but, Lights I LOVED, it’s really disco and lush, that mix of melancholia and euphoria always gets me.

How would you describe this changing creative relationship you have with Hurts’ Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson?

Both experiences were very collaborative.  Five years ago when I shot Wonderful Life I was pregnant and vomiting into a bucket while we were shooting.  I remember the process being quite painful but I always liked the video a lot, especially the shot of Theo with the girl sitting next to him and the sort of silent dialogue between them.  They had a very specific idea that time.

This time I’d say now they are more involved in the detail, but also more trusting in a director at the same time.  They are very film literate and Theo contributes massively with ideas and references and was pretty much a creative partner in the process once I had come up with a treatment.

We were in tune with what we envisioned the piece to be, so the collaboration worked out really well and was a lot of fun.   They were very committed to making this video in the way they wanted to and I really appreciated the opportunity that the project presented, to work with decent prep time, and with creative freedom is so rare so it was a real treat.

How did the narrative come about, especially the symbolic matador and bull characters?

I wanted to create a story that had some honesty to it as well as fantasy.  The narrative came from my interpretation of the lyrics, I felt like there was something tragic in them, then this euphoric, romantic quality in the chorus and I wanted to find those emotional beats in a narrative.

I could see that there is a lot more to Theo than audiences had seen in previous videos and it would be cool to show a different side of his character as well as the dancing.  After I showed him my initial idea the process was collaborative.  The fancy dress and Matador and Bull theme was Theo’s idea which gave us a lot of scope to develop the characters, choreography and costumes with this in mind.  There are also a few more hunter/hunted ideas woven through the rest of the costume which was all done by designer Alex Noble.

Love her! She absolutely owns it.  What were you looking for when you cast for the female role?

Yes she is amazing.  We needed a dancer who can act.  Or an actor who can dance.  And someone who could feel a little bit rock n roll and “bull like”.  Lucy Martin is not at all “bull-like”, but she is a brilliant actor, so we were very lucky to be able to find her and cast her. She is a real star.

To what extent was Theo involved in the development of the treatment and the choreography.

Theo was very involved, he specifically wanted Lights to be a dance piece and reached out to me with this in mind.  We discussed the tone of the piece, styles of dance and exchanged loads of references.   Through Paul Roberts who choreographed Wonderful Life we met Callum Powell who worked with Theo and myself to choreograph the piece once we had the storyline.   Ian Kay came on board to choreograph the fight and worked the Matador Bull themes into that too.

There’s so much going on, was the entire shoot pre-planned in detail – was anything left to chance? Can you tell us about the most challenging aspects of the production please.

We had time to rehearse which made all the difference.  Not just the choreography but developing the characters. The shoot was planned but with space for the performances to develop on the day and the way we shot it was very organic with the freedom to shoot any angle and react in the moment.  The most challenging aspects of the shoot, as always with music video these days, are mainly financial.

There’s an emotional connection throughout the video because you can see what the characters are thinking and feeling without over hamming it. How did you get these nuances?

The rehearsal and preparation time was crucial.  Also they are both really good actors!  Because we were shooting 360 there was never an audience, everyone but the performers and camera had to clear out, and I guess that makes it easier to get into character.   Plus Theo knew that if we had plenty of scope in our rushes then we could create something nuanced in the edit and I think they trusted in that, so felt able to go for it.

Do you think a shoot has to have a magical quality to it to end up with a really good result or is it sometimes just sheer grunt work and tenacity?

The atmosphere on a set definitely comes over on screen but that doesn’t guarantee you ultimately make a great piece of work.  My best videos have always had the most preparation time. It’s not just a case of planning the shoot but because you can book a great team, so we had the likes of Robbie Ryan and Dom Leung @ Trim who are rarely available at short notice.  Plus Alex Noble had time to custom make Theo’s outfit and create all the costume from scratch.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Adam & Theo made the track specially for the fight section in the video but look out for it on a future B side.


Director: Dawn Shadforth Producer: Rachel Rumbold Producer: Caroline Purkayastha Production Company: Sonny London Director Of Photography: Robbie Ryan Choreography: Paul Roberts Choreography: Callum Powell Fight Co-Ordinators: Ian Kay, Marvin Campbell Stylist: Alex Noble Art Directors: Mark Connell, Scott Parish Hair: Tracey Cahoon Make-Up: Celia Burton Editor: Dominic Leung Editing Company: Trim Editing Colourist: Simone Grattarola Grading Company: Time Based Arts Sound Design: Patch Rowland Sound: Final Cut Vfx: Nick John Post Fx: Coffee & Tv