Darling Films director Tom Clarkson recently finished a gargantuan undertaking. Working with long-time friend and collaborator Jack Garratt, the pair directed every video for the artist’s latest album Love, Death & Dancing. It is an eight-film series of promos, each with their own personality, emotion and narrative that equally had to intertwine and speak to one another.
‘Love, Death & Dancing’ chronicles Jack’s survival through the dark period of crippling anxiety and creative difficulty in which he wrote the album, coming out of the other side having learnt new capabilities for self-acceptance.
We chatted with Tom to find out more about this huge and emotional project.
Q> How did you meet Jack?
Tom> Jack and I have been friends for a long time. As we were finding our way as artists we would support each other - Jack would provide soundtracks to films I was working on and I would film live shows and take stills for promos and album covers. We grew together. I wrote and directed the videos for three of Jack’s singles on the last album: Worry, Chemical and Surprise Yourself, and the trust and respect both him and the label gave me during that time was overwhelming, freeing and very rare.
That level of trust is key as you approach collaborating with an artist… but particularly when working on an album that is so incredibly personal and deeply honest. Our friendship gave us the safety and freedom to challenge ourselves and each other and create something special.
Q> At which stage were you brought on to the project/how much were you involved in the development of these films?
Tom> Jack had the idea to do the entire album as one long take around the middle of last year (2019) and almost immediately we were getting together to talk about it. We would sit, drink too much coffee..(or tequila depending on the time of day!) listen to the album over and over again and pitch ideas to each other. I was also then lucky enough to have the whole album as demos on my phone to keep going over. That was incredibly important…like all of Jack’s work, there are so many layers to the production, musicology and emotion, and each listen would uncover something new.
This was such an important album for Jack, it was very personal and honest and took a lot of
courage for him to share it - so it was an honour to be brought into it as close as I was to help him understand it and translate that emotion onto film.
Q> Can you explain what this journey was like for you as a director?
Tom> This entire project was the most exciting and most challenging I have worked on. We were building eight different films, each with their own personality, emotion and narrative, that also had to intertwine and speak to one another. Really the only way was to jump in and completely immerse yourself in it, which I did for nearly a year. An entirely rewarding experience, but one that needed a lot of strength and patience to get though. But it’s a beautiful album, so I was quite happy to live there for a bit!
Q> What challenges did you face along the way?
Tom> Each decision we made had a knock on effect to the entire project from creative to budget and schedule, so it was a huge, constant balancing act. Continually fighting for the existence of eight different ideas, but the more you put into one, the more you took from another. It was extremely rewarding but there were a lot of difficult moments within that, a lot of accepting failures and losses and constant rethinking and reproaching to make sure we were giving each moment and each song the best chance to shine.
Q> Did you have a favourite song/film and why?
Tom> It’s so difficult to choose a favourite. Overall I am floored by the entire team’s ability to re-imagine the same concrete space…and my favourite films are the moments where that really came to life - when we found a beautiful harmony between choreography, camera movement, lighting and production design.
‘Better’ is a great example of that, a simple concept of a repetitive set and camera move that Jack can’t escape. We had that key visual and Miles Roberts (art director) really developed that and brought it to life. Or the beautiful simplicity of ‘Old Enough’ brought to life through Liv Lockwood’s choreography, Jack’s beautiful performance and our ridiculously talented DP Paul Kirsop diving the audience momentarily onto the stage of an old, run down, variety hall through his minimal lighting and camera movement.
My favourite song is ‘Only The Bravest.’ I was lucky enough to have had a demo of that track as a voice note in my phone for a long time before this project began and it has gotten me through some tough old times. That and Jack’s support at that time meant so much to me, so to be a part of bringing that track to life visually was a huge moment.
Q> Did you have to work closely with a choreographer? If so, how did you find that process?
Tom> Liv Lockwood is absolutely incredible. Jack had been working with Liv on developing his movement building up to the project and the trust and safety Jack felt in that rehearsal room became a massive part of what made this film and its development thrive. It became a space where he could explore ideas with somebody who had the patience and drive to support them and develop them. Liv was the perfect partner for Jack to find that safety within the room and within himself.
Liv and I had a few creative meetings to discuss the ideas and development of the production, but mostly I stepped back and let Jack and Liv drive those sessions. I was lucky enough to join for a few of them and they were really magical to be a part of. Jack really pushed his body to the limit and did it with a passion and drive that was incredibly inspiring.
Q> Who else’s involvement was key on this production?
Tom> Paul Kirsop our DOP, Amy Thornton our producer, and Miles Roberts our Art Director were a huge support to me and integral to driving the creative development in the face of often quite scary odds.
Production began early in January, but we were prepping for this for a good 3 months leading up to that whilst Jack and Liv were in the rehearsal room and those three kept up this unbelievably constant commitment and drive…and then all brought in a fearless team who barely left the location for a week.
Jack and I are so grateful for them all. They pushed this impossible idea into something nobody ever imagined it could be.