Rising filmmaker Dan Emmerson maps out his cinematic vision with electronic sounds
London-based filmmaker Dan Emmerson is a visual creative whose exact style can be hard to pin down, with a portfolio ranging from the modern, digital sheen of commercial work for fashion powerhouses – his latest video celebrates LGBT+ empowerment for Burberry – to handheld visuals and surreal, cinematic moving image for artists, such as Ninja Tune’s Actress.
What’s clear, though, is that Emmerson isn’t afraid to experiment outside of traditional notions of video formats, sewing together two tracks by Burna Boy into one extended visual that lies somewhere between a short film and music clip, with the inclusion of those detailed in-between moments, like the taxi ride to the club with your friends and asking the driver for the aux cable.
Commissioned work aside, at the core of Emmerson’s personal projects is a humanistic quality, with the filmmaker’s videos exploring ideas of connectivity, whether that’s through his work on social disparities and lack of intergenerational empathy in Gannin Hyem, or through the use of technology and how young people use the power of the internet. Driving his deeper narratives forward is music, with exclusive goodies from Peder Mannerfelt and slowed down rave tracks mapping out his vision.
We caught up with Emmerson below to discuss the formation of his ideas, and how music and technology are essential components to his work.
Read Crack Magazine’s list of 10 music video directors switching up the game. Work by these directors will be screened at the and& summit and festival’s A/V screening room and Oscar Hudson will be in conversation with Crack Magazine at the event, discussing the art form and its future. Find out more about and& here.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I was born in Newcastle and grew up in Brighton. My dad is a Geordie and my mum is from a small town in the Basque Country, she came over as an au pair while Franco was still in power. Not sure why she chose Newcastle though.
How would you describe your style and what kind of video format do you usually work with?
I don’t really know how to describe my style. I’m interested in people and I like to find humour in things. I might approach two films in completely different ways, it depends on what I think of or what feelings are evoked when I listen to a track or get given a brief. I like to work with film a lot, but I also like modern digital stuff too.
What are some of the most definitive experiences that have led you to where you are now in your career and what was your entry point into the music industry?
I started out assisting Ewen Spencer as a photographer and learned a lot from him. Went all over Europe taking pictures of local youths. Was banging. Growing up skateboarding definitely exposes you to a cruddy side of the world, breaking in to places, getting chased and all that stuff. That stuff definitely makes you see the world in a not normal way.
A common thread in your videos is the exploration of empathy among subcultural groups and different generations. Why’re you drawn to this theme?
I think it just makes me laugh how different we are to older generations. When I was at school no one had phones. Now look at it, it’s nuts how much the world has changed and I’m just interested in showing how attitudes have flipped so much. Contrasting youths with old people is what I like to do.
Your videos also act as visual meditations on the internet and Instagram. What are your thoughts on interconnectivity through the social media platform?
I love how people can feel like they belong to scenes in different countries sometimes just through social media and all that stuff. Especially if you live in a really boring place, you need some excitement, there’s so much online to explore. I’m backing it.
In one of your videos, you slowed down a rave track by 400% and in another, you used an exclusive track by Peder Mannerfelt. How important is music to your work?
Music is well important to everything I do. It’s hard to license most well known tracks so you have to ask your mates for favours all the time. Shout out to Actress, Will Bankhead (TTT) and Joy O for hooking me up!
The slowing down of that Prodigy track (Your Love) in Paper Planes was because we couldn’t license it. We tried stretching it without affecting the pitch and it sounded nuts. I love that effect, definitely doing it again soon! Sounds like drugs.
What projects do you have lined up?
I’ve just finished a film for Burberry which features music made specifically for the film. I got my insanely talented mate Oscar to write a piano hook and then Ben Crook (ADSL CAMELS) built a banger off the back of it. Pretty stoked on that, love making stuff with mates, it’s the best. That’s coming out on Friday.
I’m in the early stages of writing a script for my first film. It’s about teenage angst and it’s set in the Basque Country where my mum is from. It’s all I can think about now, making a feature is my ultimate goal.
Massive thanks to everyone that supports what I do and especially Tim Nash, Sally Cambell, Daniel Wolfe, Ben Crook and Deepa Keshvala.