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Ishmael Ensemble 'Empty Hands' by Jack Lilley

Rob Ulitski - 13th Sept 2021

Jack Lilley directs a hypnotic promo for Ishmael Ensemble, featuring a powerful performance from vocalist Holly Wellington, shot in a single take. 

The visual is inspired by the rawness in the lyrics of Empty Hands, which was penned shortly after Holly finished a full year of treatment for breast cancer. 

“As well as holding elation and euphoria in one hand, in the other I was experiencing a lot of emotional pain as I started to process what had happened." Wellington explains. 

"Writing the lyrics, I was envisioning standing in front of God and laying it out plainly, ‘ok so I’m still here, now what?' This body has been through so much. Do with me what you want, this all must be for something, I’m here and I’m ready. Life post-treatment is undoubtably difficult, it’s been about untangling myself mentally and then focusing on what I need to flourish, and for me that’s making art.”

This poignance and strength can be found in every element of the visual, from the unwavering performance through to the pulsating lights and overwhelming wash of colour in the backdrop. The result is mesmerising.

"For the video we just wanted to focus in on Holly's performance," says Jack Lilley. "The song really has a real drive to it and it felt that having her slowly rotate throughout the whole thing would enhance that feeling of slow, undulating rhythm.

"We also took the risk of shooting it all on 16mm despite only having the budget for two takes. However I think it paid off in the end as the texture that it offered just helped to give the performance a more authentic feel."

Rob Ulitski - 13th Sept 2021


  • Director's notes
  • Jazz
  • Electronic
  • Backdrop
  • 16mm
  • Colourful
  • Film
  • One Take
  • one shot

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Jack Lilley
Jack Lilley


Director of Photography
Jack Lilley
Focus Puller
Daniel Broadley


Claire Bender


Holly Wellington



Other credits

Thanks To Jamie Harding

Rob Ulitski - 13th Sept 2021

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