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Therapy Takes on a Monstrous Form in Hypnotically Dark Promo for Empathy Test

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Great Guns director Calum Macdiarmid helms the intensely choreographed music video for new single ‘Monsters’

Therapy Takes on a Monstrous Form in Hypnotically Dark Promo for Empathy Test
When driving into a multi-storey car park, the last thing you would expect to see is a haunting, cloaked figure blocking your way. This, however, becomes the reality for one couple in an intense new promo for electropop band Empathy Test. Directed by Great Guns’ Calum Macdiarmid, the hypnotically choreographed music video for ‘Monsters’ sees two people confront a surreal, dancing creature as it becomes an emotional metaphor for therapy. 

The promo follows a couple who, whilst arguing in their car, pull into a carpark. Upon turning a corner, they happen upon a lone figure, cloaked in a white shawl and mask. With only its legs and arms exposed, the creature begins to dance as the couple watches on. As the film progresses, the atmosphere grows more intense, with the couple experiencing a range of emotions whilst viewers are presented with increasingly abstract images. The creature approaches the car, licking and throwing up onto the windscreen as we see flashes of the couple making love and interacting with the monster. 

Director Calum Macdiarmid comments: “Personally I always saw the monster as a psychiatrist who takes you on a beautiful, scary, and insightful journey into yourself. The dance she performs is a dance of life – a good analyst will take you on that dance. Whilst my original inspiration might have been marriage therapy, we wanted to leave it more open to interpretation, so that the monster could present many things in people’s lives.”

Calum took inspiration from director Chris Cunningham for the promo, particularly in terms of lighting and edit. The intense, fast-paced edit flashes with troubled thoughts as scenes rise out of the darkness and into sharp focus, presenting the viewer with stark, confronting imagery. The editing in particular presented a challenge, as the team first had to tell a story with a heavily abstract concept before working to choreograph the dance to the music – alongside the speed ramps and detailing that completes a music video. 

The promo stars dancer Isabella Mahmoud under the guise of the monster. Calum discovered Isabella through her Instagram account, performing beautiful provocative dances shot inside her house. Inspired by the haunting brilliance of her performances, Calum reached out with the script and explained the idea for the shoot. Whilst the surreal nature of the video presented issues with casting, Calum found the perfect solution. 

He adds: “I have to take this opportunity to give a massive shout out to my beautiful partner Julia, who stepped in to play the role of the wife, nailed it, and had faith in the project all the way. We don’t have a dancing monster therapist so I’ll have to use this moment to tell her I love her instead.”

The promo has also been nominated for a Berlin MVA.
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Production Company: Great Guns

Director: Calum Macdiarmid

Producer: Mathilde Stone

Make-up: Eleanor Garratt

DOP: Max Witting

1st AC: James Chegwin

Spark: Sam Donvito

Costume: Natalie Wilkins

1st AD: Oli Falcon

Runner: Morgan Shaw

Runner: Jonah Gaskell

Photography: James Demetriou

Post Production

Editor: Will Cole

Grade: Vlad Barin @ Cheat

Sound Design: Lauren Cooper @ Wave


Dancer: Isabella Mahmoud

Him: Mathijs Swarte

Her: Julia Mauelshagen

Genres: Horror, People, Musical

Categories: Music video, Short Films and Music Videos

Great Guns London, Mon, 11 May 2020 10:47:40 GMT