A bold new film by director Daisy Zhou from Great Guns marks the debut of Aston Martin’s newest model and first ever SUV, the Aston Martin DBX. Built at the new Aston Martin St Athan production facility in South Wales, DBX takes the qualities and characteristics that have defined the brand for over a century to a whole new level.
Daisy Zhou is the third contemporary artist to collaborate with Aston Martin on an exclusive launch film. This series began with Rankin’s striking presentation of the Aston Martin Vantage and was followed by Nick Knight’s menacingly beautiful film of the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera.
Zhou grew up in both Shanghai and Newtown, Pennsylvania, and went on to study filmmaking at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her thesis short, ‘How to Be a Black Panther’, won the Audience Award at the 2015 Brooklyn International Film Festival. It was followed by a piece for Nike on contemporary dance. ‘It was more feminine take on the brand, instead of being about basketball and soccer,’ she says. In addition to that film, Zhou’s portfolio includes commercial projects for Lincoln, Chanel and Victoria’s Secret. She has also worked on music videos for artists including Mykki Blanco, James Blunt and Banks, as well as fashion films and documentaries.
For Aston Martin, Zhou explores light, dynamism and emotion, drawing on her own memories of childhood to express the innate qualities of a particular place and time. ‘For me, DBX describes a feeling of defiance, like an animal in a cage it is pacing and growling, about to jump out and leap free,’ she says. The film epitomises the curiosity that drives her work and the emotion, rhythm and passion she evokes through light, which in turn animates the dynamic forms of DBX. ‘I really thought about creating ways in which the car can surprise you,’ she explains, DBX is an SUV but it’s very much a sports car at heart.’
Zhou and the Great Guns’ team shot on location in North-eastern Spain at the abandoned Autódromo de Sitges-Terramar near Barcelona is a 1920s-era track with steep banked curves. It was a unique location and the perfect backdrop for a spirit of adventure and daring. ‘The site had an ancient quality,’ says Zhou, ‘it was otherworldly – it felt like an alien, unreal place. We felt like we were returning to the place and making it come alive again. We had space to explore movement and form.’. ‘We were able to really hone in on dynamics, the feeling of a sports car,’ says Zhou, ‘when you see the car move around the banking at a high angle, it shocks and surprises you.’
The film tracks a journey in the Aston Martin DBX through the eyes of a child. ‘When I was first presented with the brief, I thought of a personal approach, like the cyclical nature of feeling free and then feeling restrained,’ she explains, ‘DBX is the ‘voice of the relentless,’ but the piece is also about living in a relentless, existential nocturnal place. When I was planning the film, I thought a lot about neon, red and teal, as well as locations like a 24-Hour gas station that never closes.’ Lighting and long exposures determined the aesthetic and mood. ‘Using long exposure lights is a technique for creating motion and travel – you don’t just see something for a second, but as a shape as it moves.’
Miles Nurnberger, Aston Martin’s Director of Design, describes Daisy Zhou as a perfect match for DBX. ‘Her vision is incredibly personal and strong,’ Nurnberger says, ‘it was important to us to collaborate with a talent who understood movement, light and dynamics. The Aston Martin DBX is the quintessential all-rounder but also a true performance car, and by presenting it as you would film a performer, a dancer or an athlete, she has brought out the emotion of the design.’ Aston Martin is proud of its commitment to working alongside innovative creators, exploring new ways of presenting beauty, dynamism and performance in all its forms.