Music video magic: Telling a story with contact lenses

OT  heard from singer-songwriter Billy Lockett, and Menicon, about a collaboration to create a zombie-like effect through contact lenses for the music video Freaking Out

Zombie wearing contact lenses
Gavin Wallace Photography
“Darling I’ve been freaking out” sings Billy Lockett, walking down residential London streets as zombies fall into step behind him.

Released in 2022, the music video to the Northampton-born musician’s single, Freaking Out, sees a zombie apocalypse emerge onto the streets of London. 

Lockett collaborated with contact lens manufacturer, Menicon UK, for the supply and fitting of tinted contact lenses used in the music video, along with an augmented reality (AR) Instagram filter to celebrate the launch of the video.

OT spoke to the partners to find out more about the unique project.

How long have you been wearing contact lenses? How often do you wear contact lenses currently?

Billy Lockett (BL), singer-songwriter: I’ve been wearing contact lenses since I was 13. I wear my lenses every day.

When were you introduced to Menicon lenses?

BL: When I was about 17 years old.

What led to the collaboration with Menicon for your music video Freaking Out?

BL: I had actually been a Menicon wearer for a while and met the managing director, Kevin Mitchell, at an event at my eye care professional (ECP) Brian Tompkins’ practice, where I was playing a gig. It’s not every day you play a set at your ECP practice. Kevin and I got chatting and I mentioned I’d had this idea for zombie eyes in a music video. Instead of using special effects, I thought it would be really cool to create these eyes for real. It was almost a eureka moment when I realised that Kevin and his team were exactly the people who could help me make this vision a reality – no pun intended.

Billy with Brian
Billy Lockett met the Menicon team during an event in Brian Tompkins’ practice

Where did the concept for the video come from and what did the collaboration with Menicon involve?

BL: It was quite simple. I was out with friends one night and we were talking about the film Shaun of the Dead. I mentioned that I thought the concept could really work in a music video and the idea was born. Thanks to the relationship I’d built with Kevin and the team at Menicon, they were able to make it happen. Menicon supplied the lenses and then fitted them on set.

Do you have any favourite memories from filming?

BL: I’m a real people person so I would say it’s probably having the opportunity to meet people from so many different walks of life. It’s crazy to think that many of these people I’ll never see again, but they’ve had such a huge impact on my career.

I’ll also never forget seeing the reactions of people on the streets of London when we were filming. I’m sure a few people thought a real zombie apocalypse had happened.

What was it like to work with Menicon, and what did it mean for you?

BL: It meant everything to me – it meant the world. Working with Menicon was really easy and efficient – the team are incredibly professional and great to work with. They had people on hand to make sure everything went smoothly and that we all felt comfortable working with and wearing the lenses. If I, or any of the models, felt any discomfort, the Menicon guys were there to help sort it out. It was a fantastic experience.

How did your fans react to the video, as well as the AR filter created by Menicon to support the launch?

BL: This was a new direction and sound for me so I was nervous about releasing the single, but the fans’ reaction was amazing. Everyone I have interacted with has responded well. BBC Radio 1 has been really supportive too and are playing the song a lot, which is so surreal. They have even mentioned the video on air, which has obviously meant more people are seeing it. I’m so glad I took this risk and that it paid off.

I’ll also never forget seeing the reactions of people on the streets of London when we were filming

Billy Lockett, singer-songwriter

What have you taken away from this experience?

BL: It sounds cliché but seeing really is believing. I had to pinch myself several times when making the video because it was such an amazing experience. Also, working collaboratively with other people is always a lot of fun for me.

I also feel I’ve developed a real friendship with the team at Menicon and I’m looking forward to working with them again in the future.

Attention to detail is really important to me so teaming up with Menicon for this project was incredible. The fact the team went the extra mile to ensure everything ran smoothly during the shoot meant we were able to make a really high quality video. This has now raised the bar for the standard of my work and without Menicon’s help and ongoing support this might not have happened. Becoming a part of the Menicon family is a wonderful thing to also take away from this and I’m super grateful.

Menicon’s view

When did Menicon first begin working with Billy Lockett and how did the partnership begin?

Rosie Roberts (RR), head of marketing for Menicon: Billy has been a wearer of Menicon Miru 1day Flatpack for many years, through his optometrist and good friend of Menicon Ltd, Brian Tompkins, at Tompkins Knight & Son.

Last summer Menicon was a part of an event at Brian’s practice and Billy was playing his music to the guests as entertainment. When Billy met with Kevin and myself, he explained the idea he’d had about an upcoming zombie-themed music video. He wanted to create the look with contact lenses rather than using special effects.

Prosthetic contact lenses can play an important role when telling a story

Kevin Mitchell, managing director at Menicon Ltd

Could you give us some behind-the-scenes details of the collaboration? What were the contact lenses used in the video, and how was the tinted effect achieved?

Kevin Mitchell, managing director at Menicon Ltd (KM): They were a made-to-order soft contact lens manufactured by a fellow contact lens manufacturer, Cantor & Nissel Ltd, who specialise in custom contact lenses for TV and film. We collaborated with them on this project as they have years of experience in this field. Regarding the lenses, a layer of opaque is added to a specific size which covers the wearer’s own iris colour. A small area in the centre was left clear for the pupil so the individual can see. When worn you then have the milky white zombie-like appearance seen in the video.

Zombie wearing contact lenses
The contact lenses worn by the ‘zombies’ in the Freaking Out music video were supplied by Cantor & Nissel Ltd. Credit: Gavin Wallace Photography

What led to the creation of an AR filter on Instagram and why was Menicon keen to support this?

RR: Billy has a very loyal fan base, and he does a fantastic job of interacting with them like friends, which is great. Our marketing team came up with the idea to create an AR filter for fans to use after the release of the video to help generate buzz and build momentum. We thought it would be a great way of getting people all over the world engaged with the release and feel they were also part of the music video.

There can be concerns around the use of cosmetic contact lenses, particularly around events such as Halloween. Was this a factor in Menicon’s considerations for the project? How might projects such as this be used to spread the public health message?

KM: Menicon Ltd only supplies contact lenses through a network of registered practitioners. As is the case for most TV/film/videos where prosthetic contact lenses are used, lenses are fitted under the controlled guidance of a trained professional. In this case, Karen Lockyer, a qualified practitioner and owner of Karen Lockyer Optometrists, was on hand to ensure proper application and removal and monitor the health of the wearer’s eyes closely. We were able to minimise any impact to the wearer, ensuring their safety and that contact lens wear compliance was always met.

The lenses were only used for the filming and were disposed of in a controlled way back at our factory in Northampton. I think it’s important to communicate to the public so people understand that contact lenses should only be supplied by qualified and registered practitioners as the health of their eye can be monitored and this reduces the risk of any adverse incidents. Issues can occur when lenses are bought from other sources with no validation, lens fit, eye health check or instructions for proper care and use.

Zombies wearing lenses
Lenses were fitted on-set with a qualified practitioner on hand to ensure proper application and removal, and monitor eye health. Credit: Gavin Wallace Photography
How does this project reflect Menicon’s approach to marketing and communicating with both eye care professionals and the public?

KM: When using lenses for creative purposes like this, it’s paramount that there should be a registered professional on site to facilitate the fitting and subsequent checking of corneal health. This ensures the safety of the wearer. Even though in this instance the lenses were worn for a short period of time, for Menicon this is our highest priority and we would not advocate wearing cosmetic soft lenses that have not been supplied and checked by a qualified practitioner.

What has Menicon taken away from this experience?

RR: We were very proud and honoured to be a part of this experience and to be able to work so closely with Billy and his team. For Billy to trust us implicitly, not only to supply the lenses, but be part of the creative process, was amazing. Our relationship with Billy is truly something special and we consider him a friend and a part of the Menicon family.

The partnership doesn’t end here. We are in the process of planning some more exciting things for this summer, so keep your eyes peeled.