First launching A Shaded View On Fashion Film five years ago, Diane Pernet is the shrouded cult fashion curator unveiling tomorrow’s international creative talent.
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Located at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, ASVOFF celebrated its fifth anniversary last weekend. Offering an unrivalled platform to aspiring, artistically minded filmmakers, the festival hosted an eclectic array of shorts focused entirely upon style, beauty and fashion. Opening proceedings, Rossy de Palma, the legendary actress and muse of Pedro Almodóvar, delivered a spell binding performance before Daphne Guinness sang live, debuting a song which will soon be featured on the soundtrack to a forthcoming film by Joseph Lally. Then came the awards. In order of delivery, the winners included: make-up artist Roberto Morelli for Beauty; director Jason Last for Best Documentary; Directors Dis and Lucy McRae for Best Advertising; Goran Grahovac for Emerging Talent; Alex Karolinski for Best Styling; Michelle Schuller for Best Sound; Brett Guita Hofer for Best Acting, Monica Menez for Best Art Direction and Jessica Mitrani for the Grand Prix ASVOFF. i-D online took time out with Diane ahead of the event to find out her shaded view on fashion film.
Who would you say is the Godfather of fashion film? For me, it is William Klein with his 1966 satirical film Who Are You Polly Maggoo. Even though it was a feature-length film rather than a short film, it set the wheels in motion.
Which traditional films do you see commonly referenced in fashion films? There’s Jerry Schatzberg’s Puzzle of a Downfall Child, Irvin Kershner’s Eyes of Laura Mars, Ben Stiller’s Zoolander, Douglas Keeve’s Unzipped, and then the obvious The Devil Wears Prada, Lagerfeld Confidential, Pret a Porter, Valentino : Last Emperor, Blow-Up, Funny Face, L’Amour Fou, Velvet Goldmine, Auntie Mame.
If you were to create a fashion film, what story would it tell? I think I’d focus on a disease that’s all too common among people working in the fashion industry – amnesia. You know, when fashion people conveniently forget people until they need them again. I’m probably joking but it might be a fun film to make, actually.
How did you first conceive of ASVOFF? The very first fashion film festival I did was two years before the launch of ASVOFF in 2006, it was called You Wear It Well. I created it with Dino Dinco, who was a contributor for my blog at the time. It was launched at Cinespace in Los Angeles and it then travelled to 12 cities in the first year. To be honest, it was a curated program but it was not a fully fledged festival like ASVOFF is today. That didn’t happen until September 2008 when I launched A Shaded View on Fashion Film (ASVOFF) in Paris at the contemporary art museum Jeu de Paume. It has since moved to the Centre Pompidou where it has remained for the past three years. When I first started, it was like propelling a very embryonic movement forward. Somehow I instinctively knew that a fashion film festival would fill a much needed creative gap. I guess it was because I understood there was already an audience waiting to be served. But what I could never have anticipated was just how quickly the cross-over between fashion and film would evolve from wild experimentation into a bona fide art form and a valuable commercial outlet. To begin with, I think the ‘fashion film’ was born out of a real need to breathe life into the old static medium and set fashion in motion through the magic of cinema. What ASVOFF does is to give people in both industries and talented outsiders too a platform to let this genre flourish. Hopefully, by rewarding excellence in the field, it also keeps pushing them to push the boundaries forward too.
ASVOFF is in its 5th year, have you noticed a change in the themes of films or submissions over the past 5 years? No one even knew what a fashion film was when I started. Awareness has of course blossomed since then in the creative communities and even among the public to a certain extent. The number of fashion films being created is also growing exponentially. Most importantly though, the level of creativity, time and effort that directors and designers are putting into fashion films is gaining by leaps and bounds every year and so is the quality, but it hasn’t always been easy along the way. Nurturing something virtually from the ground-up never is. Some people in the fashion industry used to treat fashion film as a novelty or they were just perplexed. But they began to take it much more seriously when they put it into the context of the digital revolution and new commercial realities. They also saw that, at the same time, there was this movement toward merging fashion and film as a new package in the entertainment industry. So fashion film as a creative genre now makes more sense to early naysayers because now we have the live streaming of catwalk shows, click-to-buy shoppable video e-commerce functionality, behind-the-scenes and fly-on-the-wall fashion brand documentaries, not to mention video ads that spread virally like wild fire through social media networks. And as online, tablet and smartphone media channels grow ever more important, fashion film is filling important business niches and offering artistic solutions to challenges we could never have imagined even a few years ago. What’s probably most interesting though is that fashion film itself is also creating totally new, sometimes unexpected opportunities as it evolves.
Who are your current favorite fashion filmmakers we should look out for? For all times: Mike Figgis, Vincent Gagliostro, Jason Last, Justin Anderson, Elisha Smith-Leverock, Alex Prager, Marie Schuller, Tina Winkhaus, Kourtney Roy, Benjamin Seroussi, Nathaniel Brown, Ioulex and Mogollon, Joseph Lally, Inez & Vinoodh, Solve Sundsbo and Ellen Von Unwerth.
Any advice you could give to future fashion filmmakers that would like to submit to ASVOFF? Most important is to remember that they are making a film and not a photo shoot or a look book in motion. And that fashion is the protagonist of the film and not just a prop. They should make it personal and try to grab the attention of the viewer within the first 30 seconds. Have their film take us somewhere that we’ve never been fictionally, metaphorically or even literally. The problem with many fashion films is that they are beautifully lit, styled and shot but we’ve been there before. Maybe that means that they will get lots of commercial work out of it but it is not really bringing the genre forward or pushing any creative boundaries.
Introduction: Milly McMahon
Interview: Michelle Peerali