You studied painting at the Slade in London and video art at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam where you made a performance film on chewing gum and bouncing balls that was screened live on tv. You then worked as a film editor before returning to art. And now you have spent two years making films on beautiful bodies adorned in incredibly sexy lingerie and sometimes with clothes. Was this always your career ambition?
HA! YES! When I was 14 I was lucky enough to have an art teacher who showed us Bunuel films in our art lessons at school. I remember very clearly seeing Belle de Jour for the first time with Catherine Deneuve immaculately dressed then stripped and bound to tree. The art teacher certainly knew how to get our attention and I was hooked and have loved Bunuel’s films ever since. The dragging scene in my recent AP film was a direct reference to that scene so the short answer to this question is “Yes, absolutely, ever since I was 14.”
Shooting lingerie is a genre that could alienate women but you have an understanding of what we like visually – a mix of tongue in cheek humour, beauty and always an element of surprise. Does this understanding come from detailed research amongst your women friends?
Lingerie is a fine line and I really try and walk it most carefully but still remain close to the edge. Humour is always a good way of checking that you don’t take things too seriously – an omnipresent danger to all fashion films. But yes you are right I ask women a lot of questions; particularly my wife who is by far and away my fiercest critic. She lets me know how it is.
Do you collaborate closely with the designers or is there a creative team you work with on ideas? How did the idea for the horror narrative for Agent Provocateur evolve?
I like to work very closely with the designer and they have been thinking about things long before I come along. In the instance of AP I met with Sarah the creative director, we talked without stopping for three hours then I went to see the collection at a press launch. I saw this long pink nightie that immediately reminded me of Hammer films and the seed was planted. I then wrote the film when I was away staying in a cottage in Devon, there was a copy of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal in the bookcase, The Flowers of Evil gave me the characters for the girls, Bad Flowers I felt were very AP. Then for the rest I stuck to a pretty well trodden horror story about a woman feeling exposed and on her own in a house at night. Something evil turns up and gets her….. and eventually she becomes one of them. It is a story that is told over and over again but what I didn’t grasp fully until I started researching was how much horror has always been a vehicle for showing sex. From Dracula onwards… I love the fact that my work is labelled NSFW, it is like a badge of honour.
What camera did you shoot Soiree on?
I am really happy to say I haven’t got a clue what camera we used to shoot the film. I am thrilled that it is not my job anymore to worry about that… it is fantastic to have a DOP to whom you can describe how you want it to look then let him figure out how to do it. My job is make sure everything makes sense… or doesn’t as long as that is the intention. There is a lot of detail but thankfully not technical anymore.
The music is a perfect pitch. How did this come about?
It was Sarah’s idea to use thrash, I always worried that if the music was too nice or trendy it wouldn’t be right – I love the track, I think it makes it really Pop, (that’s Pop Art not Pop Music!). The track is by a band called Omaha Beach who are based in Paris but one of the members of the band is also a creative director of Mother here in London – they recorded the vocal specially for us as we wanted something really over the top that would give our film the humour. The added bonus is that I have now spent hours reading Metal blogs who have posted the film and are discussing the merits of Lingerie mixed with death metal.
Apart from Agent Provocateur what other work are you most proud of?
The film I made for Damaris about the girl doing her cleaning in her undies has a special place for me as it was my first using a full size crew and was amazing to see my ideas come to life in front of me. But the film I also really love is called Twin Parallel. It was made for a UK designer and first appeared on Vogue Italia. In it I feel that I am really starting to develop a kind visual language and humour that is directly linked to the Bunuel inside me.
So you’ve been shooting every man’s dream jobs, what would be your future dream job?
I would love to work with Miuccia Prada- I think she is really smart and interesting. In the 70s she was in the communist party, has a PHD in political science and now is well… Prada! She has commissioned properly good pieces of art and I think she is really fantastic. I would love to make a short film with her.
What are the key lessons you’ve learnt about film making from your work over the past couple of years?
That it is tough, exciting, all about teamwork and I love it.
What are you working on now?
I have just started working on a project with Italian Vogue. I feel terribly lucky to find myself doing this kind of thing and although I didn’t map out this career path it feels just about right.