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Tom Speers of SMUGGLER directs Headlights, a music video for fellow Irishman James Vincent McMorrow. 

Speers is best known for his breakout short film Boy Saint which was shortlisted for a YDA at Cannes Lions and New Director of the Year at the shots Awards.

Composed of portraits, time-lapse photography, as well as Super 8mm, Speers evokes a surreal, dreamlike depiction of everyday life, capturing the artist James and his daughter.  

The wandering camera’s movement creates an ethereal effect as it moves through spaces, making use of windows and doorways adding to the energy and dynamism. The images feel wholly integrated with the arrangement of the song and the visuals build in complexity with the track. 

Directed remotely, Tom Speers and Elizabeth Doonan, his EP and Head of Music at SMUGGLER, devised a production approach enabling James's wife Emma to shoot James and their daughter at home. The focus was for them to film private conversations between themselves, a way for the viewer to see James in an intimate and authentic way whilst preserving the private details.  Embracing the tactile quality of film and a lo-fi aesthetic, Speers developed a detailed shot list with James for his wife Emma to shoot. Speers empowered James to bring details from his life as a father and musician into the story, creating an impressionistic feeling on screen full of life and emotion. Secondary themes of memory and passing of time were explored in a pickup shoot by Speers and DP in London.

James Vincent McMorrow – Headlights

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“I started by asking myself what might be possible to shoot in isolation, in the middle of a pandemic," comments Speers, "but found myself fixating more on what wouldn’t be possible. Then I flipped it, and began to wonder what scenes might actually be improved by the physical absence of a director.

"I remembered my dad saying that his favourite photo of himself was one that I had taken of him when I was about 9. By his own admission, he often looks self-conscious in photographs, but not in this one. He attributed his expression in this particular photograph to the fact that it was me taking it, and that he was effectively looking beyond the lens at me, with a feeling of love.

"So by the same principal, having James’s wife Emma film this (and given they were in isolation) it was perfectly suited. I asked that they shoot long conversations and then send me the video with no audio, so that what they said to each other would remain private. This was particularly important because if they could trust the process then the visual authenticity of what happened between them on camera would shine through.

"James and Emma (who did an incredible job of shooting a lot of this video) took on this basic idea along with a simple shot list and really made it into their own. Secondary themes I wanted to explore had to do with memory and the passing of time. Myself and Eoin the DoP shot additional material in isolation to reflect this, and to serve as the energetic drive for more dynamic parts in the song.”

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