When Louis met Charlie: Why Louis Tomlinson and Charlie Lightening work so well together

Louis Tomlinson is a well-known name, be it from his time in the record-breaking band One Direction, his stint as a judge on X-Factor or from his chart-topping debut solo album Walls. As is photographer and director Charlie Lightening who is known for directing some of the most iconic music documentaries of modern times.

The pair crossed paths in 2019 when Louis attended a screening of As It Was, a documentary directed by Charlie about Liam Gallagher.

Louis Tomlinson poses photographers upon arrival screening Editorial Stock  Photo - Stock Image | Shutterstock
Image from Shutterstock

Louis has often said publicly how he’s a fan of Oasis, the band Liam was in was with his brother Noel and their music influenced him growing up. He even credited Noel as composer on his track Walls, as it sampled some Oasis tracks.

As It Was, was a hugely popular documentary that went on to win Best Non-Fiction Documentary at the National Film Awards.

Charlie is from Manchester so is very much a northern lad like Louis who grew up in Doncaster. He has a degree in Photo Media from Manchester Metropolitan University. In an interview with Clash Magzine from 2010, he told how he got his first big career break in 2002 when directed Ronnie Wood’s live DVD featuring Slash.  He then went on in 2003 to shoot behind the scenes footage for Kylie Minogue and shot the commercial for her ‘Love Kylie’ Lingerie range, after a chance meeting with her stylist William Baker.

He then met Mike O’Keefe who at the time was head commissioner at BMG, which later became Sony Music, where he is now VP of the creative department. In his role as VP Mike has commissioned over 1000 videos to be created for various artists including working with Louis and his One Direction bandmates on some of their music videos.

Kiss You


Mike began to commission Charlie to work on numerous behind the scenes projects for the artists he worked with. He later began to direct the music videos for some of Sony’s biggest artists including The Script.

Between 2005 and 2010, Charlie would continue to cultivate relationships with artists he worked with and grow his company Lightening Productions working with the likes of Kasabian and Jamiroqui and Britain’s Got Talent Winner Paul Potts.

Meanwhile Louis Tomlinson‘s musical journey was just beginning. Louis auditioned for the popular reality singing contest, X Factor which was created by music exec and TV’s “Mr Nasty”, Simon Cowell. Having auditioned as solo artist, Louis was asked if he would like to be part of a band with four other contestants, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Zayn Malik. Having been in band at school, The Rogues, and willing to take the lifeline being offered to him Louis along with the other four lads said yes. One Direction was born. They would ultimately finish third in the show behind Rebecca Feguson and winner Matt Cardle, but go on to become one of the biggest bands the world has seen since The Beatles and The Spice Girls.

Interestingly during the Bootcamp stage of his X Factor audition when all contestants had to pick from a list of roughly 40 songs to sing. Self-proclaimed huge Oasis fan, Louis surprisingly chose not to sing one of the Oasis tracks on the list, he opted instead to sing Adele’s cover of the Bob Dylan track Make You Feel My Love.

While Louis was busy captivating the world as one fifth of the worlds biggest boyband, Charlie Lightening too was finding his own career was also going from strength to strength. He began working with one of Louis’s Oasis idols, Liam Gallagher. Directing video content for his band Beady Eye. He also worked with Paul McCartney on his world tour.

In 2015 One Direction an indefinite hiatus, in 2016 Louis began his career as a solo artist releasing a collaboration with Steve Aoki.

He also released a collaboration with Bebe Rexha, which saw his friends and younger sibling Lottie have cameos in the accompanying video which was shot in his beloved home town of Doncaster.

Known for rarely being able to bite his tongue, Louis took to Twitter 2019 to post some frank and exceedingly honest about how he saw his own career.

The post marked an exciting turning point in the acclaimed singer/songwriters career. Later that year he teamed up with Charlie Lightening for the first time, after Charlie had been approached by Sony Music asking if he would like to work with Louis. He agreed and so, Louis with Charlie’s help released in to the world his “statement of intent” and the first glimpse of the sound of his first album. Kill My Mind was the first of a trilogy of videos the duo would work on that would tell an intricate story spanning across three separate releases. It showed how both Charlie and Louis worked well, both seemingly on the same page creatively.

Subsequent releases in the trilogy, saw both Louis and Charlie reunite with Mike O’Keefe who commissioned We Made It and Don’t Let It Break Your Heart.

The entire series of videos captured Louis’s huge fanbase and they were delighted when both Charlie and Louis announced they would be releasing The Director’s Cut of the videos, which neatly threaded all the story together and featured unseen footage which further added to the compelling narrative being told within the videos.

The release of the short film saw both Charlie and Louis head to Youtube Spaces in February 2020 to host Q&A about the project. Both were extremely candid about working together with Charlie admitting “No disrespect but I wasn’t thinking about the fans, I was thinking about Louis and about what we could do together.” This showed the depth and respect the two have for each other and why creatively they bounce off each other so well.

During the Q&A Charlie discussed how the videos were shot individually and that seeing them released with reaction from Louis fanbase helped them shape the narrative as they moved forward to film the subsequent videos. Louis commented on how great his working relationship was with Charlie ” That’s what’s been good about mine and Charlie’s working relationship, I don’t have to spend ages saying this is what I want and this is how I want it to look. I think Charlie kind of understands who I am and who I wanna be, so it was a really collaborative process, which was really important to me.”

We also got to see an insight in to the banter the northern duo have with them being asked how Louis acting skills were. Charlie responded “Amazing”, with Louis calling him out “ Don’t bulls*** lad, don’t bulls***. Then conceeding he was “Aright”. Charlie explained that when people such as Louis grow up with cameras in their face they have a certain level of comfort in front of them and how they know what they can do and how it will translate on screen.

For Louis the video he is most proud of is Walls, which was of course directed by Charlie and saw them reunite with Mike O’Keefe who commissioned the pair to make a visually stunning video.

Louis described the video as being “important”, and “the scale and size of it, it being filmed in the desert. That one just really stands out.” Charlie also felt that “Walls was a real moment.”

The creative duo teamed up again in December 2020 to create a live stream show which became the best selling live stream by a male solo artist in 2020.

Charlie will be accompanying Louis on his highly anticipated world tour in 2022. Louis has also told fans he is working on a documentary to be released sometime in the future. Charlie has accompanied Louis to recent studio sessions as he works on his second album which he will release an independent artist in partnership with BMG.

In the three years Charlie and Louis have been working together, fans have seen Louis release content that reflects who is an artist and seeds for what is to come in the future. Charlie doesn’t appear to be fazed by the large and passionate fanbase with Louis has. He just wants to make content that both he and Louis enjoy and are proud of as if they like it and believe in the art they create together, it will translate to Louis fans loving it. Through working together it’s as if Charlie has opened a window in to Louis’s world and is allowing us to see the man behind the music.

Let us know at @TBHONEST_UK, if you are excited to see what Charlie and Louis work on together next!