mini MUFF Profile: Emma Higgins
“Given that we make up half the population, we ideally should make up half of the stories told on screen. I think that more women behind the camera will be key to eventually making this a reality.”
In honour of our December feature Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, we have selected locally-directed music videos for our mini MUFF program this month! Last, but not least, is Emma Higgins’s video for “Tongues” by Vancouver-based band Dear Rouge.
Emma’s video for “Tongues” received heavy rotation nationwide on Much Music as well as Much More Music.
Toronto-based filmmaker Emma Higgins has made music videos for some of the country’s top artists and has gained millions views in the process. Her work has been selected for film festivals worldwide, including Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, Palm Beach Women’s Festival, Sacramento Horror Festival, and CFC Short Film Festival, and has garnered significant critical praise and recognition including Best Short Film at the 2011 Oregon Film Festival, Best Music Video at the 2014 Los Angeles Reel Film Festival, Best Video nominee at the 2015 BCCMA’s, Best New Artist Video at the 2016 MMVA’s, and Best Director nominee at the 2015 BCCMA’s. Emma’s work has also been featured on Entertainment Tonight, Billboard Music Awards, CTV, Much Music, Much More Music, CMT, MTV, and many more.
Get to know more about Emma Higgins and her video for Dear Rouge’s “Tongues”!
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU GOT INVOLVED WITH FILMMAKING.
Emma Higgins: I got involved with filmmaking quite young, while still in high school. I stumbled across a set in Vancouver, B.C. — where I’m originally from — and asked so many questions that someone suggested I come out and volunteer as a PA. Since then, I haven’t looked back. I’ve taken on many different on-set roles, eventually directing my own small projects and working my way up from there. I love the challenge and collaborative nature of filmmaking. Although right now I mostly focus on music videos, I would love to one day make feature length films.
TELL US ABOUT THE VIDEO YOU CREATED FOR “TONGUES”. WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM?
EH: I was sent the song “Tongues” from the label along with some ideas from them on the direction they wanted to go with it. They wanted to capture some of the magic of live music and classic rock and roll vibes — the energy, grime, and excitement of touring, backstage, and performing. So, I took these concepts and developed a treatment which we all liked and we went into production. Travis Richel and Cherie Sinclair at The Field production company produced the video, which was shot at The Opera House in Toronto. We shot one very action-packed day and came out with the video. I gotta give huge props to the band who really gave it their all for hours on end. This video would be nothing without their energy and presence while performing.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SOME/ALL OF THE OTHER AMAZING WOMEN WHO WORKED ON THIS VIDEO?
EH: Danielle is the singer of Dear Rouge and an incredible power house of a front woman. Working with her was amazing because she knows what she likes and doesn’t like, which I think is important for any artist. Cherie Sinclair is another incredible woman who was deeply involved with this project. She owns and runs the production company The Field in Toronto and has been involved with the production of hundreds of music videos. She is extremely driven, business-minded, and has had a major part in Canadian music videos for over a decade. She is my rep and I’ve learned an incredible amount from her over the last few years for which I’m very grateful.
YOU HAVE DIRECTED SHORT FILMS AS WELL. CAN YOU SPEAK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN DIRECTING MUSIC VIDEOS AND NARRATIVES?
EH: In 2011, I directed the short film Touch. It was selected to the CFC Short Film Festival, Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, Palm Beach Film Fest, and won the award for Best Short at the Oregon Film Festival. I also just recently completed my first BravoFact short named Currency which I hope to screen in festivals soon. I think music videos and short films can be quite similar — often times music videos will just be short films set to a song. With “Tongues” we went a more conceptual way, capturing a tone and an atmosphere rather than a linear narrative, which is a bit different than a short. However, I always do try and make performance the first focus on shorts or videos — whether trying to get a performance out of an actor or a musician, the process is similar: trying to nurture an environment that allows them to focus and be present in the moment.
TELL US ABOUT WHY YOU ARE A FEMINIST AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO YOUR FILMMAKING.
EH: I’m a feminist simply because I believe in equality between men and women and I think it’s important to be a feminist in filmmaking because I think it’s time that women start having their stories told. I would desperately love to see more female-focused stories. Given that we make up half the population, we ideally should make up half of the stories told on screen. I think that more women behind the camera will be key to eventually making this a reality.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WOMEN WORKING IN THE FILM INDUSTRY?
EH: Kathryn Bigelow was a huge inspiration for me growing up. I remember seeing Point Break and being mind-blown. She has never made films that fit a mould of what a female director is expected to make — they are major studio films, which is incredibly rare, especially with action movies, which have typically been dominated by men. I also really love Geena Davis. Beyond starring in my favourite movie ever (Thelma and Louise), she recently has started an incredible organization called the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media where they have conducted studies on the representation (or lack there of) of women on screen. The idea is that — especially with children’s programming — we need to show girls that they can be leaders by representing them equally to their male counterparts on screen. I think it’s an incredibly important message. Please go check it out for yourself!
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE ABOUT FILMMAKING YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
EH: Some of the best advice I ever received on filmmaking was to just go do it. You gotta be your own driving force—no one will hand it to you. You want to direct — then direct. You want to write — then write. Even if they are small little projects that only a handful of people see, you have to start somewhere. I was stuck working in other roles in film hoping that one day I’d be able to transition to directing. It wasn’t until I got this advice that I started just creating my own work and beginning my career.
IF A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE WAS CAST/CREATED, WHO WOULD STAR AS YOU AND WHAT GENRE WOULD IT BE?
EH: If my life where a movie, I hope it could star a Julianne Moore or a Meryl Streep or a Jennifer Lawrence, but be a bit quirky and upbeat, like a Spike Jonze film.
WHAT MALE POP CULTURE ICON OR MOVIE/TV CHARACTER ARE YOU DREAMING WOULD GET A GENDER SWAP?
EH: I’d love to see Die Hard with a female lead. Or Lethal Weapon! Or a female-driven Predator remake?!
IF YOU COULD HOLD ANY GUINNESS WORLD RECORD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
EH: I’d love to hold the world record for Highest Grossing Film, maybe. Watch out, James Cameron!
WHAT COMPONENTS MAKE UP YOUR IDEAL SANDWICH?
EH: A great sandwich will have tasty cheeses and all the veggies possible in it. And will be warm and saucy.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW/NEXT?
EH: I’m currently working on writing some feature length scripts, as well as completing some videos I’m really excited about. In the new year, I will be releasing new work for the band The Darcys and Dirty Radio.
RECOMMEND ONE #MUFFAPPROVED FILM FOR OUR BLOG READERS:
EH: For a great female-driven film, I’d recommend checking out Into The Forest, directed by Patricia Rozema and starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood. I loved it so much, I saw twice in theatres. Amazing performances and themes of sisterhood.