60 Seconds with Mill Director Lisha Tan on directing Dua Lipa’s ‘Hallucinate’

Thought July 15, 2020

Tell us about the inspiration for ‘Hallucinate’?  

The inspiration for the video is the disco aesthetic of Studio 54 in the ‘70s. I started out looking at iconic photos from the time and compiling references based on the debauched behavior and crazy costumes that everyone was wearing. I was also heavily inspired by all things psychedelic, a theme you can see running throughout with disco balls, rainbows and bright colors. As the video splits off into the ‘dream’ and ‘nightmaresections, we had fun with imagining all the things you would want to see within those. From unicorns, flowers, ice cream and things that make everyone happy… to scary clowns, bats and snakes.  


Talk us through your favorite part of the video  

It’s hard to choose! The ‘mandala’ sequence, where the video takes you on the journey from positive to the negative and out the other side. That was something in my mind from the beginning, the way the animation would pull viewers along with a sense of forward motion. The celebratory chorography formation comes together for the final chorus in a way that reminds me of K-pop videos. I also love the celestial sequence, where we see Dua flying with the dolphins through the cosmos and then dancing on a giant disco ball, flying around like a superhero. That moment of breaking free feels magical.  

How does the track and the visuals work together, what was your process?  

I sat and listened to Hallucinate. I wrote all the lyrics down and made notes, it took at least 20 listens to absorb what all of it really meant. A lot of scenes and characters were inspired by the lyrics and there are quite a few moments of ‘see what you say’ such as put you in my hall of fame, middle of the wall where we see animated Dua walking through her hall of fame and selecting the picture to give her heart to.  


Color is a big part of the creative. How did you work on the palette?  

The music video has several ‘chapters’ that lead to a finale, following the same structure as the song. The color script changes alongside that. Visually, we start with a stripped back reduced color palette, before moving into the dreamy pastels, then the nightmare which is full of acidic shades. Finally, we come full-circle and move through neon into the final celestial palette!  

Tell us about the design collaboration and how that worked?  

After collaborating with Dua and her team on the concept art, I took the initial references from the treatment and made a list of inspirations. The design team then had freedom to run with their developments. I provided a general brief and parameters, but each designer owned the characters or section that they bought to life. We reviewed quick sketches, then collaborated on changing and tweaking specific elements. Art Director, Sidney Tan, really elevated the mandala sections with his compositions. Our team at Titmouse were awesome. Simon Wilches-Castro, the Animation Director on their end was great to work with.  He was incredibly positive and optimistic found a way to work in our endless requests. We spent a lot of time discussing how sequences would work between my rough sketches and style frames from Sidney and team, to define the look and feel of each act.  It was quite an interactive process where they’d post updates and questions for me on basecamp and I was able to respond and give notes quickly. If anything was not clear we’d jump on a video chat to talk it out.  


The track and video have a real summer festival vibe, what’s your best festival experience?  

Well, despite being an Angeleno I’ve never been to Coachella! I did go to FYF in the early days, and honestly, I prefer more of a chill festival experience. My dream festival would be yoga, music and a lot of lounging and hang out areas. No queues for the bathrooms and beer! My ideal festival would be a food festival with lots of yummy food, areas to picnic and lounge with a couple of good bands. 


You can check out more of Lisha’s work on her Creator Profile, Instagram @lishatan and get in touch with our LA studio here.

Mill Director Lisha Tan