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11th June 2012
Tongue tied
Title of film: Vogue Italia - Get Richard
Director: Justin Anderson
Production Company: Epoch
Justin Anderson's mysterious film on fashion designer Richard Nicoll for Vogue Italia

Is the narrative really based on a true story? How did you come across it and what were you first ideas of how you’d shoot it – were they similar to the final piece or did the film evolve considerably in development?

Well it’s not exactly a true story. But we did bury him for real.

I was approached by Vogue Italia to make a film with Richard Nicoll to accompany an interview with the fashion designer. The first thing I did was to have an in-depth conversation with him to find how he worked, what he thought, and about his practice etc.

Finding a good time to do this was not easy as designers of his calibre are incredibly busy – the workload of the fashion calendar is enormous and relentless – the pressure to produce and show the seasonal collections is unlike any other creative industry.

Eventually we managed to have a very long chat on a Sunday afternoon in his studio – which I recorded and that became the basis for the interview for Vogue Italia.
He talked about a lot of things but particularly about the personality behind his work – he said he dressed the anti-heroine.

I went away and thought about how I could express the idea of anti-heroine in a way that was convincing and believable. You can’t just say she’s bad; you somehow have to show it and be convincing. So I came up with the idea of expressing it through what happens to Richard himself – if we get the girls in his clothes and somehow abuse him – maybe that would be a convincing way of showing their character.

Then a thought about the practical element of tying down a very busy successful person for an interview…. and the idea was born.

Is that a microphone in the end shot?

Yes that is a mic. The girl sharpening a pencil is also a reference to the interview as is the fact you just see his head and shoulders, another (talking head) interview ref.

Like most my films the visual side started with a drawing. (See drawing in Related Content).

During the flight to LA I also drew designs for the masks that the girls would wear. Every time the air stewardess came by my shoulder I tried to hide it in case she thought I was a terrorist, pervert or both. I was also carrying a bag with 12 pairs of Manolo Blahnik’s in it.

Where was the location, did that take a lot of searching?

I flew to LA and spent three days driving around with Corey our DOP looking for locations. We shot it in various different parts of the city – a Hollywood parking lot, Chinatown, Downtown, on the freeway and the desert scene was shot in a movie ranch about an hour and a half north of LA. The movie ranch was fantastic full of smashed up cars form various car chases, a fuselage from a 737 plane and bit of old train.

The colour and light are stunning, did you consciously go for this tone to mould with the collection and was it filters or time of day?

We shot the entire film with natural light on a Red Epic. It is a great camera with a small foot print allowing us to rig and re-rig the camera in the car without too much trouble. Tonally and colour-wise we kept it muted except from the girls lips – we wanted those to pop. Our stylist David Thomas made up the masks to accentuate this using an underwear fabric.

Our DOP Corey Walters, had supplemented his early photographic career as a location scout, so with his knowledge, we structured the locations by exactly where the sun would be in relation to each scene. We shot on the move between locations to maximise time and shot the desert scene exactly as the sun was falling from the sky.

We had to work very fast as we were against the light; Richard’s legs had gone to sleep and he was in some pain. As we shot the very last shot – the one the film starts with – the sun dropped, we lost the light and we could hear coyotes start to howl in the hills. It was quite a moment; exhilaration, exhaustion and relief all mixed together.

The shoot was one of those ones where things go right – the light was great and the crew were excellent, Richard was extremely amenable to what was quite a tough call and the model who we selected to drive the car knew her way around downtown LA; not to be under estimated.

Back in London, we found a great editor at Speade called Sacha Szwarc, who immediately came up with some new ideas and Tommy at Massive Music in Amsterdam, started work on the soundtrack. One of the toughest things in making fashion films are the financial challenges and from the very start we set out to make a film that had the highest possible production values.

Epoch, who produced the project managed to get the Mill to finish and grade the film and Sam at 750 to work on the sound. The sound was massively important and Sam played with V12 engines, coyotes, reverse canon shots to build the soundscape.

Also see Justin Anderson’s recent film for Isle Crawford collection for Georg Jenson in Related Content.