So it's summer, and the brief the label just emailed over is simple: go off and shoot a sunny, summery music video. By next week. And you're in the UK, and, of course, it's miserable and …
The Questionnaire: Ellie Johnson
Ellie Johnson has emerged as one of London's top music video editors. She joined Speade five years ago and has gone on to cut some of the most popular and acclaimed videos of recent times, including Wilkinson's Afterglow, and J Cole's She Knows. Her special relationship with Emil Nava has been the foundation of videos for Calvin Harris, Elli Ingram, Kwabs and most recently, Ed Sheeran's all-archive vid for Photograph. Ellie, 26, comes from the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, now lives in Walthamstow, north-east London.
Education: BA (Hons) in Film Production at UCA in Farnham
Previous occupations: Librarian, support worker, runner, assistant editor
Favourite music video of the past 12 months? I thought Ed Morris's Ibeyi 'Rivers' video was incredible, and obviously Hiro Murai's Flying Lotus/Kendrick Lamar was a highlight. Got a lot of love for the Petite Mellor's Baby Love video too.
"Favourite video of all time? Editing-wise, Arctic Monkey's Brianstorm is what got me into the game, and Fatboy Slim's Praise You is my go-to pick-me-up."
Favourite publications/websites: I spend too much time on Reddit. And I loved editingisart. Gutted that doesn't run anymore.
Favourite food/restaurant: When I can find them, Yum Bun. Otherwise the cheese & ham toastie from Pret is the perfect cure for a hangover.
Favourite drink/drug: Anything vodka based.
Last movie you saw (and was it any good)? I'm more into TV at the moment and have been harping on about The Affair for months. The first series was completely brilliant.
Favourite directors: Derek Cianfrance, Alan Berliner, Xavier Dolan, Gus Van Sant.
Last gig you went to (and was it any good)? I'm not a huge live music person...saw Jurassic 5 at Lovebox last year with the Speade crew, that was pretty special.
Favourite bands/artists: London Grammar, Alt-J, Elliphant, MØ, The XX
Currently reading/favourite book: I love to read. The Book Thief has the most beautiful lyrical rhythm.
I'm constantly dipping in and out of my favourite 'editing' book, Cut To The Chase – a series of conversations between Sam O'Steen (who edited Cool Hand Luke, The Graduate and Chinatown) and his wife Bobbie, and it's wonderful.
What was the first music video you worked on - and what were you doing on that job? Genuinely can't remember during my running/assisting days (stress-related amnesia). But my first one as an editor was Cafe de Flore, directed by the fabulous Lily Smith. Started my love affair with editing dance.
Favourite job of the past 12 months: I'm very proud of Ed Sheeran's Photograph directed by Emil Nava. I've missed him since he moved to LA, where he's doing amazing things, and I'm always thrilled to have him back in the suite.
"It's not every day you get handed 70+ hours of someone's life and given free reign. It was an editor's dream."
And completely fascinating watching this child grow and develop – his Dad was filming everything. I'm hoping next year we can release the 'Complete guide to raising a successful singer-songwriter' DVD.
What’s the next Big Thing you’re working on? Finishing up a short with halcyon which has been a delight to work on, and was the perfect narrative remedy after a few months in commercial-land.
What would most improve your life? An in-office masseuse.
Best moment, or fondest memory, of your career thus far? I remember being particularly relieved when the stars/schedules aligned and I was able to work on Sam Pilling's J Cole video last year. I love working with Sam, and we'd been talking about the project for months, but whenever dates came up something always clashed. Luckily more shoot dates were added, the delivery extended enough for me to be involved, and the whole job is now a very happy memory making a video I'm very proud of.
Worst moment? There's been a few occasions when it's 3-4am and you're still working on something with a crazy deadline with a room full of people and your brain shuts down. Then you take a trip to the bathroom, cry, and the world is okay again.
"Biggest frustration? Not having the time to do all the jobs I want. I've missed out on working with incredible people on some incredible projects."
What’s the big issue or issues facing music video makers right now? It's not necessarily practical, but I feel having flexible schedules would make a massive difference. Time pressures back you into corners, and it's hard to know you've made the right creative decisions when you have to get it right first time.
Person you most admire? Ma and Pa Johnson are both special people. My friends for still being my friends, even though I cancel on them constantly (right guys...?) And everyone I work with at Speade is pretty badass.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in music video production? Don't stop. Be lovely and respectful to everyone and surround yourself with talented people.
Any hot tips on who will be the future stars in music video in the next couple of years – directors or otherwise? There's quite a few directors I've had the pleasure to work with who are turning out brilliant work, Chino Moya at HSI, Pedro Martin Calero at Colonel Blimp, You Ness at The Sweet Shop. I LOVED working with Radical Friend last year, I'm sure they'll continue being amazing, hopefully this side of the Atlantic.
Featured in this interview
Producer, executive producer, director's rep, commissioner... Nathan James Tettey has held a few roles in the music video-making game. And now he's making a very decent fist of another, …
Adriaan Louw, nominated for Best New Director at last week's UK Music Video Awards 2018, spent a month this summer on a whirlwind tour of Africa, shooting four videos for Major Lazer's new …
Ian Bonhôte, co-director and producer of McQueen, the documentary on the life and work of fashion designer Alexander McQueen, says that he and his co-director Peter Ettedgui worked around the clock …
Kye Taliana directs this tale of blossoming love against the odds for London-based producer …
Faux Real’s self-directed video is an education in being truly, authentically weird.
Ewan Jones Morris's marvellous single-shot video for Anna Meredith, uses an unorthodox method to …
It's a Tottenham strobe warning as Headie One teams with fellow N19 local boy Skepta in Hugo …
Steven Briand's short music video captures the earth-shattering intensity of a first kiss, when …
Lili_dreams only has 17K followers. It’s high time she fixed that. Sophia Ray directs this …