Over the past few months I have been working on my most ambitious piece of narrative storytelling yet. ‘To Be Trusted’ is a music video for Norfolk-based calypso/disco band Tibetan Night Terrors.
The music video tells the story of Jessica and Carly (Elizabeth Hope and Gemma Barnett): Two girls who are young and in love but separated by their ambitions. Jessica has dreams of space travel whilst Carly’s dreams are for a family. A letter arriving in the post spells good news for Jessica but bad news for their relationship…
To me this is a very contemporary central delema: the choice between a relationship and a career. Is it possible to have both? Evidently in this instance the story takes long-distance to a whole new level. But what I tried to explore was how it’s never black and white, as Jessica can’t entirely leave behind Carly. I don’t think this kind of decision can ever not be regretful.
The video is set in the late 1970’s. Jessica and Carly are fans of the band Tibetan Night Terrors. They listen to them on TV and on the radio; but in the nether-space of the music video, the band bleed into their reality. It sounds like the science fiction of ‘Doctor Who’, but is rather inspired by the live acoustic narration found in ‘There’s Something About Mary’, and it is aesthetically bridged by Zoë Seiffert’s production design.
The ambition was to create a dialogue between the music (Tibetan Night Terrors) and the audience (Jessica and Carly). It says something about how integral the work of musicians and artists is to their listeners, even when being played over Spotify or YouTube these days. In the music video, as the girls grow and evolve emotionally, so does the performance of the band. The story becomes both a ballad for Jessica and Carly as well as for the girls and Tibetan Night Terrors.
In today’s landscape of sexualised and objectified sexuality in music videos, I wanted to tell a story about gay women wherein their sexuality wasn’t important. It is about the relationship and the emotion. Additionally, avoiding anything that felt like it was designed for the male-gaze was important to me as a feminist. The story needs to be clear, not sexy.
Stylistically this feels afar from most of my storytelling ventures to date. However, there is a thematic sense of loss and change which is very much in sync with my previous films. The visuals, whilst largely different, has comparable flat and symmetrical framing to ‘Glove Compartment’ in certain shots. I worked with the same Director of Photography, Tom Allen (my brother) to build upon our previous work and create something unique. My love for handheld camera work had a far more angelic and serene result filming in slow motion. We shot at a variety of frame rates, from 25fps up to 300fps, enabled by the RED Epic and lighting equipment generously provided by Quinpix Digital.
Rory Lowe created some of the most ambitious visual effects shots we have ever undertaken, in a production which Charlie Field oversaw as producer, with a shoestring budget of only £500. Although this was only possible entirely because such a great team gave up their time and their talent for free.
I have released a behind the scenes video which features some pictures from the shoot and I go into some more detail about the production. Whilst I have mentioned just some of the amazing team involved in the project, I have credited everyone on the official production pageHERE. Without everyone we could not have pulled it off.