Photo: Ashley Ross
Photo: Ashley Ross

Meet the 2021 Juno Nominees: Emma Higgins

From now until the 2021 Juno Awards are presented on June 6, we will offer this weekly column to help you get to know some of the nominees in all categories a little better.

Meet the 2021 Juno Nominees:

Emma Higgins

Nominated in the category Music Video of the Year (with Jessie Reyez)

Emma Higgins has been one of the busiest and most respected music video directors in Canada for several years, having created eye-popping clips for (among others) Tegan And Sara, Marianas Trench and Dear Rouge. She’s also no stranger to the Junos, having been nominated in 2018 for Mother Mother’s The Drugs.

This year, Higgins is nominated again for her work in collaboration with Jessie Reyez on No One’s In The Room, a video that uses Higgins’s trademark bold imagery to expand upon the song’s plainspoken message of personal expression. The video also finds Higgins incorporating more cinematic qualities into her style, which is likely a natural by-product of getting her first full-length feature, The Northwoods, into production this past year.

“It’s thrilling to be nominated on this historic 50-year anniversary of the Juno Awards,” she says. “I’ve seen the power the awards have to grow careers and audiences, and it’s especially meaningful in a year when I am directing my first feature film. The Junos are also one of the few organizations to recognize directors of music videos as artists, and this nomination gives legitimacy and validation to the craft I’ve spent years dedicating myself to.”

Indeed, Higgins entered the film world as an extra while still a high school student in Vancouver. Her natural ambition soon landed her jobs as a production assistant, and by the time she graduated, Higgins had amassed enough experience to start getting full-time work right away.

In terms of music videos, she says she quickly learned how to balance her personal artistic vision with what she was being asked to get on screen. “I think that music videos should serve the song and the artist, however a few things always stay the same. I have a fascination with humanity and figuring out what makes us who we are, so my videos are filled with moments that make me feel something. I love to immortalize a place in time or a feeling. You’ll see a lot of close ups on faces, performances, and interaction between people and the lens.”

Capturing that humanity has certainly been a challenge because of pandemic restrictions, but every production aspect had to be re-evaluated from a logistical standpoint. It resulted in some scenarios Higgins never imagined being in. “Zoom has been an incredible tool and I was able to direct a number of projects remotely for the first time,” she says. “Without leaving my room in Vancouver, I tuned in to direct sets in Nashville, Toronto and Los Angeles. In one instance for a video with Michael Bublé, we had three different crews, in three different countries all coordinating on the same video. It was wild stuff. Another hilarious challenge I didn’t expect is that it can be difficult for people to hear me on set with my mask and visor. I always wind up losing my voice from shouting by the end of the day! Maybe it’s time for a megaphone?”

Although current technology now allows any artist to make a serviceable video virtually for free, Higgins isn’t worried about her position. To the contrary, she’s constantly inspired by work being done at all levels, and excited to keep coming up with her own innovations.

“I think the future is very bright for music videos, and they are only going to get more influential with time,” she says. “They reflect where we are as a society and are mass consumed pieces of art when they’re at their best. Now you’re seeing vertical videos, lyric videos, concept videos and choreography videos on top of the regular music videos, which is exciting. I always think about my favourite videos growing up and how they’ve stuck with me, and I love the idea of creating iconic and lasting pieces of pop culture history.”

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