We catch up with a budding fashion film director just graduated with her Masters film project out of London.
What was the original brief for your Masters graduation film Led Zeppelin Cashmere or was it completely open to you to create a film in any which way you wanted to?
I studied my Masters in Fashion Media Production which is a multidisciplinary course exploring new media practices within the context of the fashion film industry. For our final Masters project we were given complete creative freedom as to the direction of study and the type of digital media platform we aimed to showcase our work. My initial intent was to create a fashion film with a strong narrative, striking visuals and colourful characters that the audience would hopefully resonate with. I wanted to explore the idea of unrequited love and that it is our imperfections and character flaws that make us exquisite and unique.
What were the main challenges of making the film and how did you resolve them?
Pre-production for the film was incredibly stressful, I was averaging about three hours of sleep a night and we were working with a modest budget under pressing time constraints.
The role of Granny Duffy was inspired by Grandma Habana who resides in Central Havana mixed with character traits from my own Granny. Grandma Habana smokes Cuban cigars and wears brightly coloured fashion, happily posing for tourists as they take her photograph for a small fee. This character was the backbone of the entire story, so she had to be a charismatic, eccentric, lovable person with a mischievous nature. I had been casting for over a period of three weeks but two days before the actual shooting day, I still could not find anyone suitable for the role! I was literally asking every Tom Jones if they knew of any actors who could play a Cuban smoking Granny who hoarded china plates, needless to say no one was very forthcoming! By a small Irish miracle I got a phone call from a friend of mine literally the day before the actual shooting day saying she could recommend a lady by the name of Katie Lynch to play the Granny. Katie lived outside of London and had never acted before in her life! After a painstaking train journey into London, Katie like a true professional got straight into character and in the end completely stole the show!
I worked closely with my DOP Mariek Mysicka, Abdul Twebti the AD on the film, Linda Berlin my set designer and Fawnda Denham my producer who without all their help and support the film would not have been made. In post production both my editor Ollie Barron, along with Gemma Barron, Tano Iozzo, Dan Axtel and Sam Murray from Whitebox worked tirelessly to create the original music sound track and opening title sequence for the film. Kate King flew in from New York in order to participate in the film.
It’s easier to make a catwalk fashion film but you have created a great narrative here. How did you go about evolving the story did you storyboard the visuals, write a script, and what were your key influences?
This was my very first narrative based fashion film so it was quite a challenge. When I create a fashion film I always initially start with a concept, abstract idea or in this case the narrative. I wrote thirteen variations of the script and due to budget and time restraints did not manage to shoot all of the scenes in their entirety, the original script was twenty minutes in length. So after the completion of the actual filming I had to re-write the entire story again from scratch.
I am dreadful at storyboarding and find the entire process quite frustrating so as an alternative I tend to collect a series of digital images that inspire each scene in the storyline. I then sit down with my DOP Mariek and we meticulously plan each shot.
There are several influences running through the entire film piece. I am greatly influenced by the writings of American poet Frank O’ Hara, in particular currently captivated by the poem “Having a Coke with You”. Along with poetry, colour, set design and movement are all important aspects of my film making process. Colour especially is such a powerful tool to provoke emotion. I thought alot about the film works of Peter Greenaway’s The Cook,The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Sergei Paradzhanov’s The Colour of Pomegranates. The character of Butterfly was inspired by the Harlem fashion tailor Dapper Dan who made clothing for famous rappers in the 1980’s. I was also inspired by vintage Playboy magazines.
About four years ago I went to the screening of the film The Choking Man by director Steve Barron, there was one scene in particular that struck a cord with me. In the film a magic carpet merchant magically makes carpets rise in order to sells his wares. Steve had been to Morocco prior to the making of his film and based this character on a real life magic carpet merchant he met out there. I was partial to using the idea of a magic carpet as a metaphor for the euphoria you feel when you fall in love, which sparked the idea of the tea ceremony scene. I was also fond of the idea of a story within a story and that the tale of the carpet merchant has travelled through different countries and generations. So I wrote to Steve and was thrilled when he agreed to let me use an adaptation of the original excerpt of The Choking Man, as it is beautifully written.
The styling is key to your film too, did you collaborate on this or were you single minded in your vision?
I always seem to have a very clear creative vision of how I want each of my fashion films to look. For this film high on the list was a tangerine cashmere jumper which was crucial to the storyline of the film along with a few signature pieces that were eclectic, colourful, tactile with elements of embroidery design and a pair of ripped denim jeans. Gabrielle Stival and Josh Tuckley my stylists then put their creative stamp on the styling.
What are the key lessons you’ve learnt about film making?
I have learnt so much through this entire film process but most importantly I have learnt that it is far better to shoot less at a higher quality than more at a mediocre rate.
Now that you’ve graduated what are your plans?
At this present moment the dream would be to have the opportunity to direct a lot more fashion films! I will see what happens………♥