Hot, popping debate on fashion-film futures at Fashion Popcorn #4

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Given it’s National Popcorn Day, it seems only fitting that we should update you on Fashion Popcorn #4. On January 16, as part of London Short Film Festival, several dozen creative thinkers got together at Shortwave Cinema to learn and debate the questions around fashion, film and the digital landscape.

We had a stellar panel, a true cross-sector mix, including film-maker Kathryn Ferguson, producer Stephen Whelan, film-maker and graphic artist Micky (aka Weirdcore), Pervasive Media Studio’s Tim Kindberg, artist Joceline Howe, and *catch breath* yours truly and sis Harriet. A long row of chairs up front. And mum in the audience, natch.

For benefit of those of you new to the popcorn bucket, we formed Fashion Popcorn to bring those working – or interested – in fashion, film and technology into a room to throw ideas and questions around, ask what next on the digital landscape and – ultimately- to facilitate exciting collaborations. Where technology is concerned, fashion has been a slow-starter, and we felt that we should be thinking now about the what-next question, and embrace the idea of technology as a creative tool, rather than a lithe hunter aiming to swallow up its prey. It was fantastic to have Nicky/Weirdcore on the panel, as well as Tim; both have a true passion for the creative potential of technology. Like a painter with new paints, these guys see techniques as much as an inspiration as a tool for creation.

We felt that there was a very genuine need to bring together creative-thinkers to explore and discuss the cross-sector opportunities that arise when fashion, film and technology meet and enmesh. It was decided early on that – on the basis that everyone has something to offer, and we can all learn new things – rather than being a closed clique, we would cast the net wide and see who willingly became entangled. So it was fantastic to have Stephen Whelan on the panel; he came along to the first Fashion Popcorn, asked us tricky questions(!) and has since been roped in to talk. One of the short films in our inspiration reel, was created by Suzie Zabrowska, who contacted us through the website, keen to be involved – both these scenarios are ones we hope to repeat at future events and online. A journalist by trade, Stephen jumped ship to production, joining Stink, and most recently Blinkk, where he’s in the throes of setting up an exciting new venture. Thrown the first question – what makes a fashion film a film ratehr than advertising, Stephen responded that it could only really lie in the intent behind the film. He fervently emphasised the need to
create film which has resonance beyond fashion and is simply fantastic film which happens to have fashion at its origin.

While digital technology theoretically creates the opportunity for a democratic space where consummate consumers engage directly, collaboratively and honestly with brands, the reality is currently quite different. To ensure a true democracy, the artists/film-makers/designers require the tools to set their thoughts free into the digital space, and the requirement for creative technicians becomes more imperative. The increasingly collaborative process – one where the technician is as much the artist – the ownership of content and creativity becomes a grey area – Warhol-esque reappropriation of brand and image is becoming the norm, and when we create we might perhaps ask how it might be uncreated, taken apart to be reused in other forms. The digital landscape allows us not only to create but also to distribute our work on a global scale, giving everyone the opportunity to be a film-maker, or a communicator. A burning question was that of benchmarking quality, and ensuring diversity; who is curating this work, ensuring that it speaks to its audience. Stephen emphasised the need to create responsibly, and the need to see the viewer as audience rather than consumer.

Sat within the urbanite, media bubble, we might forget how much people DON’T engage in the digital space, and also how many don’t understand how to, or how they are perceived. That they are a brand. Our interest in mobile technology, through the ready availability of ever smaller laptops, netbooks, tablets/ipads and of course smartphones, means we are already more engaged in the digital space than perhaps we realise – drunken texts have got nothing on what we can do next!

But it is the idea of taking the digital experience outside of the screen, beyond the PC and even the mobile, and into the physical environment – ie pervasive media – is one that offers a multitude of creative opportunities, and also some very real ways of creating truly democratic media experiences. In November 2010, Ralph Lauren’s 4D spectacular, a large-scale mapped film projection played simultaneously on their London and New York flagships; more recently, Gareth Pugh and Ruth Hogben filled the vaulted ceilings of a Florentine Church. and while Burberry’s recent live streaming of its menswear show, while commercial rather than creative, demonstrates the potential of using techology to truly engage its audience with the raw process of production – rather than the staged process as seen SHOWstudio.

The introduction of the digital landscape into the equation means that the method of delivery becomes integral to the actual content, although the tenet ‘content is king’ still reigns true. So, even the digital refusniks among us should be confident that we still have a voice – delighting the observer with a compelling experience which will engage and inspire requires relevant, clever and thought-out content to have real integrity. As Kathryn highlighted, the past two years has seen an explosion in fashion film; it is still very much a new genre. Given that 12 years ago, there was very little critique even of fashion photography, we have to allow some time to get our head around fashion film, to make mistakes and establish how we want to evolve this as a way of communicating fashion’s intent, with both creativity and integrity.

And after all that hot debate, we hit the bar and had our art taken by Joceline Howe, all taking home our very own Take Away Art portrait.

Watch this space for the films presented at Fashion Popcorn #4, as well as more in-depth reports. We’ll try add em to a forum too!

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