Work / Film

Oscar Hudson on using surveillance as an aesthetic and storytelling device in the video for Young Fathers

In the video for Young Fathers’ Holy Ghost, director Oscar Hudson once again proves how hard work pays off. As was the case in shooting the video for Radiohead’s Lift last year, Oscar wanted to play with what was possible in a physical location rather than in a digital space, or in post-production.

The brief for Holy Ghost was loose, “they sent some information about the meaning of the lyrics along with a few examples of thermal photography, including shots from Richard Mosse’s amazing project, Incoming” says Oscar. “Off the back of that, I did some research into specialist thermal cameras and found that certain military models had the most unreal zoom capacity, which sparked my interest in the idea of shooting a surveillance-oriented piece from really, really far away.” From here, Oscar worked on developing an idea that could incorporate the band and that would embrace the nature of the camera as a tool of surveillance with thermal sensitivity. “The rough narrative is that we’re watching through the lens of someone who’s covertly spying on some sinister events on a soggy Scottish hillside,” says Oscar. “We watch through this person’s lens as Kayus digs up some dead bodies and brings them back to life, while Ally & G get up to some of their own little rituals in parallel.”

The video was filmed in rural Perthshire in Scotland, where Oscar, Young Fathers and the crew spent a week preparing for the shoot and searching out the perfect location, “as well as getting to grips with the strange and impractical nature of the thermal camera”: “The decision to use the military camera was one of the first steps of the creative process. The camera and its idiosyncrasies acted as the jumping off point for the whole story, and the whole visual language of the film, which we subsequently developed.”


Filming in rural Perthshire was made possible via a personal connection, “a friend of mine grew up there and we used his family home as our production base. He and his family were totally invaluable and provided a crucial link to the local community, who played a very important role in making the film happen” Oscar says. “The film was shot in one day, from one single camera position at the top of a hill. The whole of the prep period was lovely and sunny, but for the day of the shoot the weather took a very cruel turn, it dropped to 3 degrees Celcius and absolutely tipped it down. It made the process so much harder as the ground became totally sodden and we couldn’t drive our 4×4s in, so all gear was lugged in by hand. Also, our extras playing dead bodies had to then play dead while lying in freezing cold puddles, which meant shooting time was severely limited while we had folks on the ground. It was also super strange directing a busy set via walkie-talkie from the top of a hill. The camera position and the location were completely unconnected so I never even got to meet some of the crew and actors in person. Very strange shooting process.”

But the strangeness of the shooting process, the complicated nature of setting up and the idiosyncrasies of the camera were all part of what made up the “story”. “I wanted the film to be all about surveillance, so the camera and its operator got to be present in the film as characters in the story. In most films, a camera is an invisible storytelling entity, so when going the other way, you get to embrace fun things that normal films usually have to avoid. Things like camera wobble; long, searching camera moves and people looking directly into the lens. It made even more sense to do all that in this instance because this particular camera has an extra unusual quality to its image and to its movement. Ultimately this camera IS a real-life surveillance tool, so it made sense to let it behave like one within the logic of the film.”

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Oscar Hudson: Young Fathers, Holy Ghost

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Oscar Hudson: Young Fathers, Holy Ghost

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Oscar Hudson: Young Fathers, Holy Ghost

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Oscar Hudson: Young Fathers, Holy Ghost

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Oscar Hudson: Young Fathers, Holy Ghost

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Oscar Hudson: Young Fathers, Holy Ghost

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Oscar Hudson: Young Fathers, Holy Ghost

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Oscar Hudson: Young Fathers, Holy Ghost

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Oscar Hudson: Young Fathers, Holy Ghost