THOMAS HEFFERON IS A TRUE BELIEVER…WHEN IT COMES TO ART.
A true artist will create no matter what you give them. It’s in their DNA, they can’t help it. There’s no telling what Michelangelo or Mozart would be creating if they lived in current times. Conversely, who knows what Eminem or Banksy would have created in the 1500’s? You can be certain it would have been something interesting. Thomas Hefferon is artistically inclined when it comes to filmmaking. As a director of many lauded films (The Confession, The Heist, among others) which have garnered accolades at the most prestigious events (such as the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and countless others), Thomas has found his voice in a medium that is appreciated and welcomed by both audiences and the film community. For those who seek constant creative expression, they must allow themselves to explore many different opportunities. Hefferon has done this as have many of his peers through music videos and commercial work. A balanced diet applies to one’s professional life just as much as with diet. This director points out that the opportunities he is given via these other avenues have allowed him to explore approaches that do not require the lengthy commitment of a film and this have helped him hone his abilities in this arena as well.
Thomas had worked a number of times with Universal Ireland directing music videos for their artists. When they approached him about creating and directing a video for The Riptide Movement (famous Irish band who got their start as buskers on Grafton Street in Dublin) he knew of the band, liked the song, and already has an idea ready. The song “All Works Out” is an upbeat happy song about remaining positive in adversity. Taking some inspiration from the iconic film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (based on the Ken Kesey book of the same title), Hefferon envisioned a plot in which a woman is committed to a mental institution against her will. Her diagnosis? She sees an imaginary band called The Riptide Movement everywhere she goes. The institution attempts to cure her of her delusions, but at what cost? This setting is ideal for a story in which imagination and reality intersect. The homage to the 1975 film directed by Miloš Forman gave Thomas a chance to reimagine the idea in a modern/musical presentation. The video is essentially a dark comedy and a dramatic twist. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by way of Harvey. The lyrics themselves are all about enduring tough times to get through to the other side and the structure of the video honors that.
Malachy Tuohy (lead singer of the band) was surprised by the director’s relatability and lack of ego stating, “Thomas is an incredibly talented director and a joy to work with for a band. He’s unpretentious, easy to approach with your own ideas, and he never puts himself above the music video. It’s all about the video to him and he’ll go through hell or high water to get it done.” The video for “All Works Out” was a massive hit for the band, as was the song which one of the biggest singles of the year in Ireland.
Hefferon finds that directing music videos are stimulating to him in a way that differs from his other work. The fact that the budget of music videos these days is almost universally smaller than that of both commercials and films is inconsequential to him. He stipulates, “I think music videos are an incredibly important and unique art form. It’s simply the closet thing you get to abstract art in pop culture and as such allows you to push the envelope creatively in a format where things don’t need to make sense in the traditional manner. That’s valuable to me. But if it’s just a performance video and a boy-meets-girl storyline, it needs to be really visually stunning to be interesting…and that usually requires a big budget.”
The most common work for this director other than film and music videos is commercials. In 2017 Thomas recently shot the “For My Little Rose” Johnson & Johnson commercial. This advertisement was presented globally online which is a method that has become the increasing focus of many major brands. The ubiquity of an online presentation coupled with the fact that the overwhelming majority of youth and adult consumers receive their information and thus marketing online has resulted in bigger budgets for these productions while still retaining great artistic freedom than traditional TV or print presentations.
The commercial features a father and his daughter throughout her life, from infancy, through childhood and heartbreak, to moving from home, and returning cyclically to she, her father, and her new daughter as they bond over the use of a rose, which is
linked to the Johnson and Johnson wash.
Crawford Anderson-Dillon (The Supervising Producer at the agency who hired Thomas) had worked previously with Hefferon a number of short films and music videos. With the knowledge that this director had a lot of experience working with kids as well as the sensibility and a love for emotive filmmaking, Crawford was certain that Thomas was right for the project. Relating his affinity for directing commercials, Hefferon states, “The great thing about commercials is that you have more money to play with and an opportunity to practice some really condensed storytelling. At the same time, you don’t just consider what’s best for the story you’re telling but also have to factor in an entire marketing department and a client who may or may not always know what they want. It’s a trade-off. I do usually get along well with client-side people on set, so there’s rarely an issue for me.”
Openly confessing his love of emotional and heart-tugging storylines, Thomas gives praise to Johnson & Johnson as template setters. The Johnson & Johnson’s brand has long provided a framework to tell stories about relationships between human beings, in particular parents and children. The challenge of condensing the story of a father and his daughter from birth to adult age, showing the passing of time in such small, quick bites is particularly poignant in “For My Little Rose” was what initially moved Hefferon to accept the offer to direct.
The perspective Thomas has on these productions and others always permeates the view and feeling of his crew and cast. Callan Green (Director of Photography on “For My Little Rose”) perfectly states, “Thomas is simply one of the most collaborative directors I’ve ever worked with. He brings a sense of passion and joy to every project, big or small. He knows what he wants and works tirelessly with cast and crew until he gets it. Having worked with him on a dozen jobs now, I can safely say that he is one of the few directors I know who is equal parts talent and grit…which makes him a pretty rare article.”