Luke Monaghan is a British director based in Los Angeles, California. His style is best known for its humanistic and cinematic attributes. Luke's past projects have included music videos for Sam Smith and A$AP Rocky. We had a chance to speak with Luke about his career thus far as well as his future ambitions.
You’ve got a feature film in development. How has the experience working on a feature film varied from your prior work on music videos?
Yeah, I have two feature length projects in development. Both are totally different in their approach. The first, Rosecrans, is a documentary. I’ve been shooting it for almost 3 years in between commissioned work. It’s amazing going from short form projects, whether it be commercials or music video, on to a project I’ve been picking away at for years. It’s a totally different way of telling a story and a totally different discipline and approach that I have to take going into it. I’m also developing the script for my first scripted feature, which is really exciting although a good year away from being made. Rosecrans will be with you all soon though!
Your career has been an amazing example of how hard work can get you to the places most people can only dream of. How do you think your non-traditional path of becoming a director has impacted your aesthetic and the way you create content?
I think my career, beginning on sets and working at MTV, made me learn all my lessons in the field. Making mistakes and having successes made me realise in a quick, harsh way what my strengths and weaknesses were. I’m good at human emotion and pulling believable performances from whatever talent I’m working with, so I started in documentaries which played to those skills of sensing and bringing out human emotion. Then, as I made videos, I tried to blend that with a bold, cinematic aesthetic.
How did your partnership with Sam Smith come about? How has the experience been working with him?
I got to working with Sam Smith through the videos I did for Disclosure. They have the same management and they thought I would bring something to the table with Sam. Me and Sam hit it off and collaborating with him has led me to some of my best work and definitely my most high profile work to date. He’s amazing to work with.
What advice do you have for those up-and-coming filmmakers who are coming from a non-traditional path as well?
Make films with your friends or whoever is around you. Every town has a story to tell in it. Find it. Every group of friends will have someone with an interesting talent. Film it. Then push yourself out of your world and take it further, and maybe look into film school or send loads of emails out trying to get onto sets. You have to be prepared to work for nothing for a while.
What’s your craziest story from working on set?
I stayed in a motel in Detroit whilst filming Disclosure ‘White Noise’ and would have prostitutes and crack heads (sometimes the same person) coming in and out of the rooms next to me all night. When shooting in Brazil, my DP got an allergic reaction to a banana drink and was rushed to hospital only to return to set that night for the final few shots with a face swollen like a beach ball. Ah, while shooting Disclosure ‘You & Me,’ our actress and producer got food poisoning from seafood during the shoot and both had to spend the night in hospital. Also, a rapper I worked with insisted on using a loaded gun from his bodyguard for a scene, which probably wasn’t a great idea.
Since moving to LA in 2013, how has the city influenced your aesthetic? What has been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make since moving to the US?
Moving to LA did a lot for me aesthetically. It helped me be able to use natural light as much as I always wanted to shooting in London. It also is a place where everything is built on film and entertainment, so it definitely pushed me to be more professional as there's really no ceiling to what’s possible in this city.
Who are your favorite directors of all time?
Christopher Nolan. David O’Russell. Spike Jonze.
Where do you see your career heading?
Feature length stuff is what gets me truly excited. So that’s what I’m pushing. I love getting paid on the low, making some fun commercials, and I’ll always want to make a music video now and again. But, I’m definitely focused on the long game and making my first feature length projects the best they can be.
I recently directed a TV documentary called ‘State of Play: Fighting Chance’ for HBO which won an Emmy for Best Short Sports Doc and came off of a docu-series called ‘Why We Fight,’ which came out on Go90. I want to do more TV too. All the different mediums and forms of filmmaking have their own charms and challenges, which are all exciting to take on.