I thought it makes sense to talk about your debut feature, Blood Cells, a fictional tale about the effect of the foot and mouth crisis here in Britain. I once met the guy who signed off the cow killings, and he gave me this thousand-yard stare. What is it that attracts you guys to the smaller, often overlooked, tales? 

LUKE: In any kind of media landscape, there are certain narratives that get drawn to the forefront. At the time of foot and mouth, September 11th was the event that completely overtook what everyone was talking about. Because when we started, we began with short documentaries, we would always gravitate to this kind of sub-stories, different avenues of personal stories, so these were the stories we were equipped to tell.

In terms of Blood Cells, I was brought up on the edge of a town where it’s quite rural. So, there was always a sense of a farming community — the images of the cows burning during our childhood were hard to forget.


How do you go down those avenues of personal stories?

LUKE: Well with Blood Cells, we began researching the emotional side of it all. Stories like the one you mentioned for example, about the guy who signed it off.

Questions like, what’s the emotional impact of losing your livelihood? The destruction of the personal connection to the cows? Because farmers do, you know, they do have a connection to their livestock. What happens after the land and community is broken. What’s the story after that? That was kind of the story of Adam, son of one of the farmers whose life was destroyed by the crisis.

Your work has been described as human, heartfelt, and grounded. Would you say these are accurate descriptions?

LUKE: There is a hopefully a duality there — like with Blood Cells — we want it to feel real and authentic, but then also there is like a dreamlike feeling, a certain ethereal atmosphere.

JOSEPH: It’s more about feeling the emotion. About feeling something rather than being told a straightforward story or just shown an issues-based film.

LUKE: It’s that sense of atmosphere. We did a film called Isolation and nocturnal London was a big part of that. There’s a kind of wildness and weirdness in nocturnal London, particularly with the neon light, and its strange characters. It’s a tangible feeling that we wanted to convey on-screen. We did it with a mixture of the music and imagery which led to these two things getting something that does feel visceral and real but also something which conveys to an audience what’s going on inside a character — a maelstrom of emotions or memories.



LUKE: Yeah, memories are something that we tap into every day. Someone could be walking around with all the memories of their childhood or of a certain thing in their life. But we’ll carry them around those in the present day, you know, that cross-section of timelines. It’s a strong force.

Still from 'Isolation' (2009)

I feel this duality in the style has percolated into media across the board since it was pioneered towards the end of the noughties. Do you agree?

LUKE: Yeah, I mean, you see it in films but we’re seeing it even more now on TV. Luis Buñuel did the first dream sequence on screen in the 30s. Since then you’ve seen it a lot in the film, from Fellini to Lynch. But TV wasn’t always interested in that, nowadays I would say it is.


Why is that?

JOSEPH: Because there’s a lot of cross-pollination between you know, like TV, film advertising, music videos, art installations — they all kind of seem to borrow from one another quite thoroughly now.

Younger filmmakers definitely find their influences and reference points from all different directions rather than just pure cinema nowadays.

LUKE: It’s that kaleidoscopic nature of the Internet, and how you view that has informed that.

I suppose you wouldn’t consider yourselves part of that generation — do you have a more clean-cut set of inspirations that come to mind in terms of your work? 

JOSEPH: When we were growing up it was all MTV and magazines really, our tradition is probably more influenced by cinema, art, or maybe literature even.

LUKE: When we started making documentaries it was people like Werner Herzog who inspired us, but really we’re online too so the internet does of course have a big influence on what we do.


In terms of content too, a lot smaller stories are being brought to the forefront these days.

JOSEPH: There’s definitely a culture now in commissioning more stories from more marginalised backgrounds. That has definitely percolated throughout media from mainstream television to film.

Sky – Power of Belief (To Hear a Smile)

How do you approach a project like the Power of Belief series? 

JOSEPH: We just approach it in the same way we approach a film, it’s not really any different — it’s about acknowledging an idea and telling the story that wants to be told.

LUKE: It’s always about tailoring the idea to reality. A lot of advertising is like, ‘here’s an idea, no matter what the outside world is telling you, you know, we stick to the idea”. Then by the end it’s watered down and inaccurate.


One of our designers, Jane, cried when she watched the loneliness film

LUKE: That’s the thing, everyone at EveryFriday seemed to be on the same page with us on this one. Understanding the importance of getting these authentic stories and real people, putting in the effort to understand them, and forming real relationships with them to tell a story that is real.

Because that’s what moves you at the end of the day: Barbara telling her story in her own words. When you listen to her voiceover, and you can tell she’s so gregarious and sociable and likes being with people — it just shows how real and tough this situation is.

Sky – Power of Belief (New Innings)

I guess if you stick too much to an idea, you’re forcing something through a hole that it doesn’t fit into, it makes it all harder.

LUKE: Exactly, and you do sense that on-screen when it happens. If you go in with too much rigid idea, then the story becomes fragmented in a negative way. Of course, you’ve got to have the perspective, one that is personal to yourself as a storyteller.

But at the same time, you’ve also got an embrace of the real-life situations unfolding in front of you as well. With this series for Sky, it was no different from how we work on our documentaries, letting the communities we are interrogating lead the project.

JOSEPH: And to make films like the ones we are — that hopefully connect with people — really requires a synthesis between the people involved making it, and between ourselves, EveryFriday and Sky. It was clear from the beginning that that was what we had.

In advertising, you want to tell stories that are real, and that’s why this campaign works. It’s real people telling real stories, created by people who understand the genuine problem at hand in the first place and let the story be told in the way it had to be.

I feel like there’s almost as much not an advert for Sky as just a sort of a PSA to sort of highlight the problems as well. 

LUKE: They’re mini portraits, and it’s that paradox because although they are so personal, often that means they are the most universal too.


Is there a common thread across all these films?

LUKE: A couple of the films are about the younger generation, and those ones I really do feel are all about collaboration. The sense was when we spoke to those involved in the stories was that collaborating with other people is like the key to a kind of happiness.

And I suppose the Sky Arts film also touches on that, where Sky made the channel free during lockdown. It’s about anti-isolation in a way, that sense of friendship, connection with others — particularly from a different world than you are, different backgrounds coming together.

JOSEPH: The films are like a sort of snapshot of contemporary Britain in a way — different communities, and different kinds of people.

Luke, I know you also have a lot of experience in the music world. How do you decide on the music for a film series like this?

LUKE: I wanted each song to feel like it came from the same album, but ultimately different from one another. We didn’t want repetition between the films nor within them, because there’s a lot of tautology in storytelling where there’s a sad image and the music is sad, but here, we wanted to explore the tension between those two things.

So it’s not telling you the emotion you’re viewing, instead, it is pushing it another way. And then a certain point may come together, so there’s a bit of tension between what you’re seeing and hearing, and then a key point, it clicks together which hopefully moves your audience in some way. Real-life isn’t as simple as sad equals sad, so why would we try and make it that way?