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Dream Teams: ‘Almost Telepathic’ Directing Duo Luke & Joseph

Production Company
London, UK
Friends since their art college days, this UNIT9 filmmaking pair explain how they’ve grown up together and all the pros and cons that come with that dynamic

Luke Seomore and Joseph Bull’s thought-provoking filmmaking work spans commercials, features, documentaries and art installations.

Their films centre on authentic performances that find the nuances in human stories, and have been screened at major festivals across the world. Commercially, the duo has worked with some of the biggest brands globally, crafting content for Google, Mini, Absolut, KFC, BBC, Unicef and Carling, amongst many others. Their campaign for Granta magazine won a D&AD award. Luke & Joseph’s most recent short PALACE is long listed for the 1.4 awards.

Their debut feature ‘Blood Cells’ premiered at Venice Film Festival. A hypnotic road movie that offers a distinctive look at contemporary Britain, the drama found wide critical acclaim following its release.

Luke composes their music and soundtracks under the guise Blessed Are the Hearts that Blend, and released his debut album through Berlin label Vaagner in 2020. He has performed live scores to their lauded feature documentary ‘Isolation’ in a series of sold-out shows at venues including the Roundhouse and the Barbican in London.

Their short film ‘Palace’ won Bronze at the 2021 Lovie Awards as well as the People’s Choice Awards. 

With their most recent work for Sky – documentary-style films tackle some of society’s most deep-rooted issues – fresh out there. We found out a bit about the people that make up this team of two.

LBB> How did you two meet?

Joseph> We met at art college a long time ago. We started collaborating on projects back then. We realised we had similar tastes and a curiosity. We became friends whilst working together. We discovered a lot of art together. I can remember going to see Tarkovsky for the first time with Luke.

Luke> We met at art college in East London, Joseph was the only one that talked to me, everyone else thought I was too weird, although I thought that was the point of art college! Anyway we started to work together in a small collective (four of us) but once we graduated university the others left and Joseph and I started to work more closely together. It was an exciting time, we’ve known each other for over 20 years now, as we started to make films together our relationship and film career became intertwined but our friendship came first.

LBB> What were your first impressions of each other – and have they changed?

Joseph> Ha — I can’t actually really remember my first impressions of Luke.

Luke> I thought he was a genuine guy and curious about a lot of things, so in that regard he hasn’t changed but he has evolved a lot during the years, we’ve grown up together at the same time as making films. Joseph is also a bit of an enigma so there are some things about him that I’ll never know!

LBB> What was the first project you worked on together? How was that process?

Joseph> Back in the day, at college — we designed a fashion show together. We created the show, made the films, music etc… We won the competition it was part of. That project kind of started our “journey”.

Luke> Our first short film was called ‘Male Caucasian’. I actually starred in it, illegally shooting on the underground and all around East London at this exciting frenetic pace. Joseph shot most of it but we blocked out the story and script together. It was shot on black and white 16mm and featured a voice-over from our friend Chris Wilson whose strong Liverpudlian accent added to the overall rhythmic chaos it created.

LBB> Why do you think you complement each other?

Joseph> In the end we are friends first, we become filmmakers together. We started writing, creating stuff together. We have a shared creative experience which is probably quite unusual. People often talk about creative tension, I am not sure we have creative tension, sometimes perhaps. But ultimately it is harmonious and it is because of our shared experience.  

Luke> We switch roles quite a lot, you can bounce ideas between you as the films evolve. I quite like showing off sometimes and Joseph is more down to earth but a lot of the time our relationship is a good balance between our personalities and our ambitions for the films. 

LBB> Is there anything that can frustrate you about each other? Or that you disagree on? 

Luke> Of course, ironically it’s probably the same quality in both of us, we both can be quite stubborn but when we do disagree we try to make it about the idea and not let ego get in the way of creating a strong piece.

Joseph> Occasionally we stop each other's ideas from developing, which I guess could be frustrating at the time. If the other person isn’t interested in the project. But in the end I think it is a positive, it makes the other person think and dissect an idea before sharing it. If someone really wants to pursue a project, it is up to them to persuade the other person. 

LBB> How do you approach creative disagreement? 

Luke> We’ve got better at this since we started, sometimes there are big arguments because we both care a lot about the projects but most of the time we agree. One unwritten rule we’ve got is to get any disagreements out early on before you start shooting because if it happens on the shoot things start to disintegrate. So now we find it interesting to disagree as you find a new solution or idea and it always makes the work better

Joseph> Just being honest and trying to articulate why you think something doesn’t work. We usually agree in the end.

LBB> What is the collaboration that you’re most proud of?

Joseph> BLOOD CELLS which is our first dramatic feature which was made with no compromises. It was a pure expression of where we were at, at that time as filmmakers.

Luke> It was an accumulation of all our previous work, an idea we had been talking about for a long time. To work with our crew, people like cinematographer David Procter, our casting agent Kharmel Cochrane, our editor Darren Baldwin and Barry Ward our lead actor and all the crew (people we have been working together for years) felt like it was a really special time. The film premiered at Venice Film Festival to stand on the red carpet with most of the crew, arm in arm was a great moment.

LBB> What are the benefits of having a creative partner or regular collaborator in the industry?

Luke> The obvious one is you can create more work, one of you is always developing an idea and once you bring it together it can start to grow. On set it helps too, a lot of directing is communicating so while one director is talking to a particular crew member the other one can be pushing the idea further with the actors for example. We’ve worked together for so long so this is very instinctual now, almost like an eerie telepathy!

Joseph> Obviously there are lots of positives from a creative point of view… I think being a director can be lonely. I can see how it is very tough for filmmakers who work alone. The industry is very hard, it's competitive… A lot of decisions get made that are out of your control. To be honest — You have to navigate lots of negativity and untrustworthy characters, so having a best mate who you trust 100% is good emotionally. It’s good to have that stability and support.

LBB> Tell us about a recent project that involved some interesting creative challenges that you overcame together.

Joseph> Lots of our recent work I am super proud of like our spot with McCann for Mind that had challenges because it dealt with mental health. We tried to work with real front-line workers, so it was a very sensitive process… But actually it is a TV script for a project called Pigs’ Disco which is an adaption of long term collaborator and friend Stuart Griffith’s memoir. This project has been a huge challenge behind the scenes over the last few years and despite this our latest script still feels fresh and vital, it will make a great television series. 

Luke> We shot a film for my musical project Blessed are the Hearts that Bend for a track called ‘Cactus’, we didn’t have much money or time but the way our producer Adam Farley, the casting by Kharmel Cochrane and cinematographer David Procter helped capture it was really inspiring. The idea was a series of hypnotic portraits, hidden moments, it had to be delicate and intimate. So finding a way to leave as tiny a footprint as possible was really important. It was a small crew, we let the scenes unfold almost as if we weren’t there, to tap into those moments felt like a real victory.

LBB> What or who inspires you and your work - another creative duo perhaps?

Joseph> Creative duos — off the top of my head; Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard… Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin make work which I am always excited to see. In terms of commercials… 32 have made great work over the last 10 years or so. Making good commercial work for that long is to be admired. 

Luke> There are lots of great directing duos out there but none that inspire our work directly, maybe the authenticity and honesty of Dardenne brothers, they are a Belgian filmmaking duo, we’ve discussed their work a lot. I always loved following a director when they were working with a particular DOP. They develop this symbiotic relationship. I’m thinking of people like Robby Müller with Wim Wenders, or Agnès Godard and Claire Denis.

LBB> Do you enjoy socialising together outside of work? If so, what do you get up to?

Joseph> We do — obviously our social life has changed lots as we have gotten older. Last Sunday we took Luke’s son River to the park. 

Luke> Yes! We don’t as much as we used to as we live in different cities, when we both lived in London we’d go to the cinema a lot and galleries. The beautiful thing about working with your friend is you get to do that around the world while you work on projects together.

LBB> What have you learned from each other?

Joseph> I am not sure if it is anything tangible, I think it is more holistic. I still find Luke inspiring to be around. Luke’s music keeps getting better, his new album is great. Hopefully he doesn’t read this far down. 

Luke> I don’t know what he’s learnt from me, maybe embracing spontaneity? I’ve learnt a lot from him, he likes to talk about how art and society crossover, how the lines of cultural history and a country’s history are intertwined. The essential thing I've learnt from him is commitment and how to put your whole soul into a project, that way you’ll always have a chance to create something memorable.

Work from UNIT9 London