Tom Emmerson directs ‘Number One Candidate’ for AntsLive.
Filmed in the Italian Dolomites.
Words from Tom below.
Tom, could you share an insight into the video’s core concept, and its relationship to the track?
Ultimately, it ended up being about a year between gathering my first references for the video and the video coming out.
Funnily, the original concept came from an idea for a different track that Ants made called ‘Skeet’ where the hook goes “I’ve been low-key more time my phone on D.N.D”. I wanted to make a video for it in snowy mountains as it really matched the song’s feel.
Then, a few months later, Ants sent me the ‘Number One Candidate’ record and I knew this had to be the lead single with the big video. The treatment read something along the lines of ‘an epic song in an epic landscape lead by Ants’ performance’.
The great thing about working with an artist like Ants is:
- He’s an incredible performer – the camera loves him.
- He makes great music.
- He’s always up for pushing boundaries creatively.
Those factors lay the perfect foundations on which to build something really special. When an artist can perform like that, you just build the world around them.
Ultimately, it ended up being about a year between gathering my first references for the video and the video coming out. I found a photo of those Alpine Horns in my camera roll from December 2021!
How was the experience shooting on location in the Dolomite Mountains?
Unbelievable. The most beautiful place I’ve ever been. A genuinely spiritual experience with the best team I’ve ever worked with. I’ve never felt so emotionally invested and passionate about a project.
I wish I had more time to type out the whole experience and hopefully one day soon I will (I’m just running madly between meetings at the moment). There are so many insane stories about the process that I really want to get a chance to share with people.
Could you example some of the film’s technical details, and how they unlocked certain creative for you?
THE MATCH CUT SCENE:
We had to line Ants up in the same position in each shot and then have him perform the exact same choreography. It was all done in camera. I love how the viewer’s brain just pulls Ants out of those shots and creates continuity between the movements despite the scenery changes.
I love how the viewer’s brain just pulls Ants out of those shots and creates continuity between the movements despite the scenery changes.
THE ZOOM OUT THROUGH GOGGLES:
This was 3 shots comped together by our amazing vfx artist Jonas Thorhallsson. Firstly we shot the zoom out from the rock face. Then we shot Ants performing against a white sky. And lastly we filmed a zoom out from Ants’ goggles. We then comped it all together in post. It was awesome seeing that come to life and equally hilarious to see it only last 6 seconds in the video given all the hours that went into executing it.
Talk us through landing the opening shot.
Well, firstly, Ants learned to ride in 10 hours – courtesy of the amazing stunt riding school ‘Knights of Middle England’. That was a hell of an experience.
Secondly we had to find horses and a horse-master out in the Dolomites. That took me and my co-producer, Billy King, quite a while.
Thirdly, we had to find, in and amongst the winding roads of the Dolomites, a road that:
- We could get permission to film on.
- Was accessible by car and by horse.
- Was orientated correctly for sunset.
- Had a view of mountains and sky.
- Was smooth enough to get a steady(ish) shot.
- Was 200-300m long and straight.
- It couldn’t be angled downhill (for riding safety).
Given that, for the two weeks we were there, we didn’t drive in a straight line for more than 10 seconds, finding that road felt like an absolute miracle. We owe a thank you to the local fire department who helped us find it.
Fourthly, when we got there, Ants had never really ridden a western saddle. As he put it: “all the controls were different”. He only had an hour to get used to it. Our horse-master out there was a champion western rider by the name of Judith Faller and she was incredible – she did a great job of coaching him.
To execute the shot, we ended up filming out of the back of a pickup truck owned by the local mountain refuge. Isaac Eastgate (our incredible cinematographer) was operating and managed to make it almost look like it was shot with a stabiliser – a result of great operating and shot-by-shot stabilisation in post by Isaac himself. He’s a total perfectionist and entirely the reason that shot looks so good.
The take we ended up using, was the one we called ‘the wild take’.
We ended up doing about 7 takes in total. The original vision was for Ants and the horse to remain at a fixed distance and position from the camera, making it feel as if they were chasing the camera. But, the take we ended up using, was the one we called “the wild take”. This was one of the first takes we did where Ants, the driver and the horse were still figuring out the movements and set piece. But, there was something so exciting about the energy within this one. It just felt so raw in a way that I could have never visualised before getting out there. To have choreographed that would have been almost impossible. I love moments like that. Truly magical. I remember looking at Billy and we just exchanged a look of: ‘Holy s***t. This is actually going to work.’
I remember looking at Billy and we just exchanged a look of: ‘Holy s***t. This is actually going to work.’
Funnily, when Billy and I went out to the Dolomites, all we had was 100-120 carefully selected reference images, a packed location itinerary and a knowledge that the opening shot would feature a crash down onto Ants riding. That was it. The rest of the video wrote itself as we visited locations.
What are you reading at the moment?
‘The Remains of the Day’ by Kazuo Ishiguro.
- Billy King
- Producer & Creative Consultant
- Director of Photography
- Harry Wilkinson
- Line Producer
- Jonas Thorhallson