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The Yorker at ASFF 2018: Insights on Fashion in Film from British Vogue

Minnie Carver, Video Producer for British Vogue came to the York Theatre Royale during the Aesthetica Film Festival for a curated screening of original films and discussion. She explained more about how the British Vogue videos, most of which have millions of views, were created.

What does your job as video producer entails?

My job is to make sure we create very good videos. My team is very small so we need to have a very hands on approach throughout. I’ll be on set, I’ll be at the edit, I’ll be at the grading suite… To do that I need to make communication with the branding department because it’s important that we are a unified entity but yeah I actually work in the editiorial department

How is the actual editorial team in British Vogue structured?

Well the editorial team is fractured into 6 main categories. And in the video department we have to have close communication with each of them. I will speak to the bookings department if we need to cast anybody, the fashion team for styling, the art team for graphics and postproduction, the subs team for subtitiling and then the digital team will help us to oversee the projects and they support us throughout. The video department is kind of like a magazine in itself, you need every single department to create the films usually.

How did you end up working for British Vogue?

I’ve been there for a year and a half now. I studied painting at art school and then I got into set design which I loved. My dad thought that I really should do an internship in an office because I had never had a stable job.  So I said fine and I did an internship for the video channel NOWNESS for a month and I completely fell in love with my work and the process of making videos. Part of my job was to do ready made content for the channels so I had to reach out to so many directors. I still am in contact with some of them today! That was kind of the beginning of the film journey and it’s thanks to my internship that I ended up at British Vogue.

What is British Vogue about at the moment?

Well people think that mainly it is a fashion magazine which it, of course, is. It is still recognized as the definitive style bible which is amazing you know but we are pushing the brand more and more. You can see Vogue as some kind of 360 brand that covers magazine, social media, events, and video. We need to think about the whole picture now. Pushing it to digital was definitely what we are continuting to evlove on. Our vision for the brand is diversity and perspective. So not only do we showcase some of the biggest names in the world but it’s also about championing emerging talent and  young people and people from all kind of wards of life and all kind of ethnicity and putting everyone on the same platform.

I know you disagreed with the term “fashion film”…

Yeah I feel kind of weird with the term fashion film because I associate it with people wearing beautiful clothes and walking around in a field. Our videos are not about that. I think fashion is a direct response to our social climate and what’s going on culturally with arts, politics, it’s not just about clothing, it’s a language.

So you would never say “we are working on a new fashion film”?

No I wouldn’t (laughs)

Can you now tell us the stories behind a few of the British Vogue videos?

Of course.

With the Cara Delevigne video, we were lucky enough to have a whole day to film which is quite rare. So I thought we should go wild with our concept.

Cara Delevigne was on the cover of the March issue and that came out at the same time than the Royal Wedding and we knew that the entire UK would kind of have wedding fever, which they did. So the entire magazine was kind of loosely themed around that theme of marriage in some sense. And yeah Cara wrote a piece in the magazine so I thought it would be great to do a fun comical antidote of her piece and go wedding dress shopping with her. I thought she’d say no immediately and there was a bit of hesitation from her at the beginning but she accepted and it was amazing! She ended up directing half of the video. It was brilliant.

With the Hadid film, it’s quite rare that you see the sisters together. So I thought that it could be cool to really bring out their sibling rivalry and do some kind of competition. I remember sitting at my computer and the cover story for them didn’t have a focus theme so I thought that it would be great to take them our of their comfort zone and recontextualise them. I don’t think they’ve done any sculpture challenges before!  So it was new to them and they are very fun in doing something unique and different. It’s amazing that they accepted and that it got made. I think it’s tricky when you have talents that are so wildly searched on YouTube you really need your video to stand out from the rest so it’s really good to think of something unique and weird and a bit bonkers. We were lucky to have a wole day to film this.

We were much more restricted on time for the Ariana Grande piece. Also likewise, Arianna really doesn’t let people into her life compared to many other celebrities. So we gave a pretty exclusive access to her life. We just wanted to keep it quite simple and make viewers get to know her a bit more.

This video got 15 million views. It was quite unique in the sense that Victoria Beckham came with the idea directly to us. It was a really amazing experience. It was the longest production from the get go until the final delivery that we’ve done at british vogue. It was probably 3 month from her getting in touch initially but until we had a date locked in, we only had two weeks for the actual production. 50 people were invlved in the making of this video! It’s interesting because it is not an idea that we could impose on her, this is essentially her mocking herself so it had to come from her, she is the driving force of this which is why we could push it and make it as outreagous as possible. We did have to taste the waters a bit, I remember the first meeting at her office, we were talking about the idea and I had been watching the TV show The Office a lot that week and I compared her to Ricky Gervais. Only as I was saying it did I realise that saying this could be a complete disaster but Victoria just said “Yes! Yes!!”, agreeing with me. I remember thinking “my god this could have gone very wrong”. She was brilliant, such a good sport.

A part from our meetings, before filming I also had to source the entire Spice Girls archive so I spent two days in her basement photographing all the pieces to make an archival system for her so we could use it for the shoot. I also had to find the director. I needed to find someone to work on the idea with. It felt like it had to be a collaborative project and then I met with Isaac Locke and we met and in the first minute I knew he was the guy. He had worked with Victoria before which was really useful cause a hell of a lot of trust was involved throughout. For me the hardest part of this video was the editing. I had never made a comedic film before and during the editing process I really struggled  because it’s all about timing and the smallest of changes can brake the entire humor.

I think this video was very successful because we showed a a side of Victoria that is nearly never showned. Everyone always says that she is funny but no one has actually ever really seen her smile.

What would you say are the purpose of these videos?

The purpose is to be informative in some sense but also what makes a British Vogue film a British Vogue film is that we have amazing access to talent. So it’s exclusive access and unique insights as well. We also pride ourselves on doing high production value video content. Quality is important for us.

We like the magazine are featuring a wide range of talents from emerging to established so we have the same level of diversity as in the magazine.

How much freedom and restrictions do you have?

There’s a lot of freedom cause I work in such small teams and because videos are quite new to the channel but also because we are trying to push our creativity with videos more and more.

What are the different type of videos made by British Vogue?

There’s three main categories. The first is “cover star and editorial”. So these would be kind of the spoken peaces of content that relates directly to talents that figure in the magazine.

The next is “Series and Formats.” We try to fit our video content into a series of formats, for a number of reasons: The one being that a viewer usually comes back for more if it’s part of a series. So you have the option to present perhaps a more niche  talent because you can rely on people coming back for more. another one being that you can create different identities for the channel, I think that adds depth to what we offer so that’s very important. An other reason being that it’s more attractive for the commercial team to rely on series to sell for clients. Which is also important.

And our last category of videos are the independently commissioned videos that are run completely outside of the magazine where we’ll have a talent do something completely different and the magazine won’t have anything to do with that. That’s what the Victoria Beckham video is. I still do rely on team members from the magazine’s team, you know if we need to style our talent I use people from Vogue’s fashion team but yeah it’s totally separate to the magazine.

What makes all of these different types of video significantly Vogue?

We have a range of emerging talent and established talent and each films our very different but in each one you get exclusive access and unique insights that you wouldn’t find elswhere. Every film tells a story as well. So you’re lerning about someone or something or a process. Yeah that’s kind of the set purporse for here we’re going when we’re doing each film.

I think we want to get to know somebody better through our films. We want to show sides of the talents that we havn’t seen before, that’s what we did with the Hadid video where it was all about their sibling rivalry.

How do you choose the film crews?

My team is great on sets but we ususally bring directors from outside of Vogue. Meeting directors is a massive part of my job. I am always interested in new talented directors but I have to admit that for loads of our projects, I will discover a talent is around tomorrow and we have 20 minutes with him so I won’t use a director I have never worked before for that.

Do the videos always have to tie with the magazine?

It’s quite nice if they tie together but people don’t necessarily need to watch the films and make a direct link to the magazines. It’s nice if there is a running theme obviously.

Increasingly video is becoming the first point of contact for the brand but it’s interesting because the way people consume information through the magazine and through the videos couldn’t be more different. When people are buying a magazine they are spending 4 pounds on something and they’ll spend hours and hours reading it and they are really invested in that product whereas with  videos it’s so much more instant and you’re constantly surrounded by other videos and people’s attention span is just like nothing now so we have to accommodate our practice to that and that really applies to every stage of the process and we need to take that into consideration when we are editing, picking the music, choosing the thumbnail… So even if we tackle similar themes they are all tackled in a different way because you know the magazine could have four pages in a feature where people will be invested whereas with video it’s a lot more snappy.

The films that you saw all relate to the magazine in some sense but then we have our independant commissions as well of course.

How frequently do you do videos?

There’s not a definite amount but on average, 4 an issue, so that’s about 1 a week. In an ideal world we would do videos about all our cover stars like the three that you saw there but often we are given quite extreme time restrictions so we developed series like “Firsts”, where talents talk about their first experiences. It can range from first audition to first kiss. That can be shot in 20 minutes so we can take that anywhere, set it up, shoot it and that means that we don’t  have to say no to talents if they don’t have much time. So we just have to be really flexible. Because it’s a massive luxury if you get a day with an A lister.

Who is the audience of the videos?

Videos in general are seen by quite a younger audience. 60 percent of our readers are millenials, thats between the age of 18 and 34.

What are the most successful videos?

It’s a tricky one because essentially we are being judged on views but some of my favorite films had the least views and some of the films that people have talked to me about had the least views so it depends on who you want to tap into the most. but commercially it’s kind of very talent driven if you are thinking of the amount of view, yeah it’s usually the talent driven films that hare the most succesful.

How do you decide what to make?

When we’re deciding wether to make a film or not it’s kind of based on two factors. Is it contemporary or not, does it have a long shot of life? It doesn’t make sense to make a film on something christmasy for example because it only applies to a certain period of the year. We want people to continue revisiting a film and for it to have a long shelf life and to feel like it could have been made yesterday.

The other factor is talent because most of our views on youtube come from talent searching so yeah talent does have a big impact on wether we are deciding to comission a film or not.

What are your future projects for British Vogue?

Uhmm, what am I allowed to say? We’re still learning and evolving our channel, I want to make more content that is not just based on talent but I want to make more videos with constructed narratives and the Victoria Beckham video proves that there is demand for that.