Recently awarded the fourth A Shaded View on Fashion Film Grand Prize, judged by fashion legend and the awards organizer Diane Pernet alongside Manish Arora, Daphne Guinness and Rossy de Palma. Elisha Leverock-Smith's witty, telling and hyper-glam film I Want Muscle, takes the fashion film genre and adds a level of social narrative to sharp effect. A personal portrait of female body-builder Kizzy Vaines, the two-minute film styled by Kim Howells profiles pieces by David Koma, Simon Harrison, Aqua, Lyall Hakaraia, Husam El Odeh and Maria Francesca Pepe.
Focusing on the attitudes of others to the idea of female body building and the reasons behind wanting to push your body to those extremes, rather than portraying Kizzy in the glorious but grotesque way we are often shown women with this physique, Leverock-Smith's film is touching and honest. I Want Muscle is clearly born out of a genuine interest the director has in training the body to this degree and the affects, both physical and mental, that it has.
Dazed Digital: When did you first get interested in making fashion films?
Elisha Smith-Leverock: I kind of fell into it. My main focus used to be photography and the occasionally music video. The designer Fred Butler came across a photograph I had taken, which featured one of her pieces, and she liked it and asked me to do a film for her. Apart from it being a really great and inspiring experience, we also got a lot of positive reactions to that first film, amongst others Diane Pernet, so I stuck with it.
DD: How do you approach the concept in comparison to a music video? What is the creative process?
Elisha Smith-Leverock: Fashion films are generally more ‘free’ compared to music videos. The creative process is not so straight forward and even before the artist gets a say in what they want, there are certain criteria the video has to fulfill for the label and management. The outcome can get very diluted. I feel in fashion film it’s more direct, one on one with the designer.
DD: Where did the idea for I Want Musclecome from?
Elisha Smith-Leverock: There are a lot of different elements that formed the film. One of them was the idea of power and what it entails. It’s a very straightforward thought that Diane Pernet once planted in my head. It stuck with me and got me thinking about how empowering and beautiful physical strength can be for women and why the idea of it seems so offensive and repulsive to so many people.
DD: Where did you find the model?
Elisha Smith-Leverock: The model is Kizzy Vaines, she’s an absolute super star! She replied to a casting call that was put out buy the films casting director Isamaya Ffrench. I couldn’t have wished for anyone more perfect. She had just the right mixture of softness and strength and she’s extremely beautiful!
DD: Is the speech laid over the top of the audio actually from her?
Elisha Smith-Leverock: Yes, it came from an interview I conducted with Kizzy after the shoot. I was fascinated by what drives her. I wanted to know what might possibly make her want to put herself through the grueling diets, endless exercise and ignorant comments just for those 10-15 minutes of glory on stage.
DD: What made you want to personalize the film in that way?
Elisha Smith-Leverock: Beyond the aesthetic, the film was always about the character. About her strength and about her passion, so I felt the character needed a voice. Even more so after I had met Kizzy.
DD: Who did you work with on the film?
Elisha Smith-Leverock: I have a few long term collaborators that I love working with. There is a great creative bond between us that makes everything come together. Kim Howells who styled the film, Benjamin Esser who did sound design and also the films editor Ryan Boucher and make-up artist Yin Lee. New people on board were Anna Lomax and Lizzie King who did the art direction. Anna is one half of Jiggery Pokery and she also shares my obsession with bodybuilding! Absolutely crucial to the film were Creature of London and Knock Knock. I brought the project to them and they believed in it enough to make it happen.
DD: How did it feel to be the grand prize winner of this years ASVOFF?
Elisha Smith-Leverock: ASVOFF is such an amazing festival to be part of. This year's films were just incredible and the jury was made up of so many extraordinary people! I couldn’t believe my film won the Grand Prize. Diane Pernet and ASVOFF has been one of the single most inspirational forces in fashion film and to me personally, so winning this prize is such an honour.