Director duo Luke & Joseph scrutinise the “hero” narrative surrounding our key workers for mental health charity Mind
Those working in key industries like healthcare and emergency services often get labelled as heroes, but this new film and print campaign from McCann asks us what toll this might take on their mental health.
- 26 November 2021
- Dalia Al-Dujaili
Featuring a cast of real-life emergency responders, the new campaign for mental health charity Mind aims to reveal how the word “hero” can sometimes be burdensome for those who are encouraged to be labelled by it. The film hopes to show that emergency service workers, while worthy of their high praise, are also just ordinary people, and the “hero” badge might press them to feel like they’re unable to slip up or act human.
The film was directed by duo Luke and Joseph of Unit9, and created under agency McCann London. With the support of creative director Daniele Pulega and art director Michael Blakey, the film has soft visuals with a muted colour and a quiet tone to it, attempting to portray the humanity of the key workers it highlights. Luke Seomore claims that “the psychological states of the people" were what the duo aimed to highlight through the mood of the film. “Talking to Mind and McCann,” he continues, “we discovered a lot of emergency responders were trying to hide emotions, and we wanted to capture that feeling of something bubbling beneath the surface.” Visually, the pair wanted to make something “intimate and tactile,” and Seomore thinks director of photography David Procter captured this well – “an almost documentary approach but also heightened and cinematic. Shooting in real locations and with real-life emergency responders really gave the scenes that rich atmosphere we were searching for.”
It was also important for the film to portray a “sense of isolation and the juxtaposition of the everyday and the extraordinary,” Seomore tells us. “You may be sitting in a front room in South London but in your head, you’re reliving traumatic scenes, whether you are a paramedic or a firefighter. We wanted to capture that disconnect.” Each location, therefore, had to visually capture a sense of isolation and so all settings were carefully chosen; “the cocoon of a car or being completely withdrawn while kids run around you at a family birthday party,” explains the director. “Our camera team and art department did a great job at building these mini worlds and then the sound played an important part in getting the audience into the emergency responder’s headspace.” The directors spent a lot of time with the team at McCann and sound designer Will Frances at Craft, layering sounds with “audio clues,” describes Seomore; “a scream, the crunch of metal, the ripple of flames. They all help build that sense of the emotional maelstrom.”
Given the sensitive nature of the shoot, the creative team were careful to not push their cast members: “The cast were recalling intense shifts they lived through,” explains Seomore. Dave the firefighter, for example, who has been retired for 10 years, has suffered from PTSD but he has learned to manage that and feed it into acting jobs. “He was sitting in that car weeping thinking of colleagues he’d lost on shifts,” Seomore continues. “It was inspiring and humbling to witness each cast member get into that headspace, and you can definitely feel that tension on screen.”
As well as the short campaign film, McCann has produced a print campaign to accompany the moving visuals. It features several headlines describing key workers as “heroes” from magazines and newspapers, which have then been torn and pasted into a collage. The Heroes campaign has launched with the aim of raising awareness of Mind’s Blue Light programme of mental health support for emergency responders – the work spans TV, radio, OOH and social media.
Luke & Joseph, McCann: Heroes (Copyright © Mind, 2021)
About the Author
Dalia joined It’s Nice That as a news writer in July 2021 after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh. She's written for various indie publications such as Azeema and Notion, and ran her own magazine and newsletter platforming marginalised creativity.