Creative in association withGear Seven

Henry Dean Creates a Cinematic Underworld for MJ Cole’s Album ‘MJ Cole Presents Madrugada’ 

Production Company
London, UK
FAMILIA's Henry Dean directed the entire album for MJ Cole including a documentary, music videos and alluring visualisers

Henry Dean directs ‘MJ Cole Presents Madrugada’ a new album release from Decca artist MJ Cole. Henry has taken on the task of directing the visuals for the entire album; a one x 15 minute documentary, three x music videos and a series of alluring visualisers. Henry, now of production company Familia, teamed up with head of music Ryan Morgan and producer Ersan Berksades to realise his incredible treatment in the beautiful streets, nightclubs, farms and surf beaches of Ukraine. Madrugada, which translates directly to ‘early morning’ showcases the incredible stories of those who live in the time between night and day. 

Henry Dean, director, explains: “‘Madrugada’ is a film about serenity, a peek into the solitary magic of night turning into morning. 

As MJ Cole’s musical offering moves out of the club and into other spaces, we wanted to make a film that did the same thing. We wanted to show that at this forgotten hour, there’s more on offer than emptying dancefloors. This madrugada period turns the world around us into a playground of opportunity. We love, we nurture, we play, we work - we live our lives in a way that is unique to this time. 

This film is uniquely fitting to the time we’re living in. The solitude and isolation we experience in the early hours of the morning mirror our current daily experience, yet the spacious, seemingly boundless spirit of this time reminds us that there’s a huge world out there, waiting for us to fill it once more. 

By blending narrative and documentary formats, we created a film that manifests the clash between surrealism and normalcy that we live through at the end of a long night, or the beginning of a long day. With a beautiful score from MJ Cole carrying it, this film aims to bring out the madrugada in all of us.” 

“When this brief landed in my inbox I was immediately excited. Not only did it provide a chance to work with a UK music legend, but also to make a substantial film, with subject matter that I had a real, personal connection to... somewhat of a rarity in music promo land. 

I’ve spent more than my fair share of mornings adventuring home from clubs, up early for work or travel, or still knee deep in conversations carried over from the night before. This film was a shot at bringing all those experiences together, finding the common emotional thread between them. 

I was instantly flooded with ideas - in reality I could have fleshed this out into a feature length piece - but given our budget and time constraints, the film had to be whittled down to five main scenes. I was determined to show a real range of characters, locations and their realities, without making the shoot a logistical nightmare. Both the artist and myself also wanted the film to have a real international scope, so it was important that it didn’t feel too UK-centric, or locked to any particular geographical aesthetic. After considering shooting in Wales, South Africa and Scandinavia, we landed on Ukraine, given its accessible and organised production, visual variety and burgeoning cultural scene. 

Thanks to the hard work of Familia and our service company, Rafesthetic, we were able to pull off what sounds impossible: eight locations, five scenes, two cities, a 17-minute film... all shot in two days. I think we managed to make something to be proud of.” said Henry.

Ryan Morgan, head of music/ producer at Familia: “It was only the second time that Henry and I had met, first one-on-one and it was blooming marvellous to dig deep into his vast and decadent mind palace. It was beer o’clock at Mikkeller in Shoreditch near the Familia offices and it was obvious straight away to me, not only how organically creative Henry’s approach to storytelling was, but also how thoroughly he had researched the artist and the concept of the album. The treatment was massive for the budget but we devised an approach that would allow us to capture as many characters and stories as possible, all the while still making sure that we captured the cinematic qualities of the treatment. The decision was made to take this to Ukraine as we could find the perfect blend of metropolis, farmland and humble surf village that would provide an original and unseen backdrop. Ersan came on board to Produce this on the ground in Ukraine and has been incredible organising an army of deliverables for all elements of the project and worked amazingly well with both Henry and the label. A huge shout out to DOP Charles Mori who has done an incredible job of capturing the characters and their environments with such a beautiful and natural energy. We continued to revisit the tagline of ‘cinematic on the run’ during pre production and he has absolutely nailed it.” 

Behind the scenes of the shoot. 

“From Ersan Berksades, producer. Upon picking up Henry's amazing treatment I knew locations, people, and stories were going to be crucial in bringing this all together. Having shot in Ukraine in the past with Rafesetic I was keen to work alongside them again with Henry and bring the Kiev/Ukraine aesthetic to the doc. I knew they had an ear to the ground and an amazing network and knowledge of the weird and wonderful parts of Kiev.”

“Shooting in different countries can always be challenging and different - you never really know what is going to be thrown at you. Which is what happened with our last interviewee. We were rolling in expecting to interview a Ukrainian - but soon found out he also spoke Turkish which is where I stepped in to translate last minute.”

The ‘Madrugada’ documentary launched last Friday on MJ Cole’s Youtube channel. You can now also find all three music videos for ‘90 Miles’, ‘Cathedral’ and ‘Reimagination’ on Youtube. 

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