Fashion films often play on a certain fetish. But in a very real and imaginative short, director Amanda Boyle’s ‘Skirt’ reminded us of the everyday presence in which objects penetrate our lives in powerful, poignant – even irrelevant – ways. This might very well be the reason why Boyle’s clip, commissioned by Mulberry, emerged as winner of the fashion category at the Vimeo Awards 2012 on Friday night, after facing competition from finalists such as Nick Knight and Opening Ceremony. The British director, whose portfolio includes episodes of ‘Skins’ and Channel 4 series ‘Cast Offs’, reveals to Dazed the richness that went behind her five-and-a-half minute production.
Dazed Digital: Congrats on the win. How did the partnership with Mulberry come about?
Amanda Boyle: The brilliant Eilidh MacAskill at InStyle magazine came up with the idea of making a collection of films about style with a group of designers collaborating with filmmakers. Although I wasn't sure I knew anything about style, I was very keen to make a new short, particularly one that had little dialogue. I'd just come off directing back-to-back television where dialogue is king and longed to do something that was about the texture of things. I got in touch with Eilidh, who put me in touch with Mulberry – who I think were interested in me because I'd directed Skins.
DD: Where did the story and inspiration for ‘Skirt’ come from?
Amanda Boyle: It came from brainstorming about what style meant. For writer Mike Lesslie and I, it was the aesthetic choices we make to express who we are, the way we interact those choices and how that affects the people around us. We imagined how style might be explored within a relationship, which became the story of two people having to share a flat and how their personal possessions might become a way for them to baffle, fight, flirt and maybe fall in love.
DD: There was a real focus on object play that was not necessarily about fashion products, or Mulberry for that matter. Tell us more about the intention behind this.
Amanda Boyle: Jacqueline Abrahams (production designer) and I began to shape how we might explore this visually by first focusing on what their objects might be and what they would say about the characters. We were interested in looking at what one character's choice of objects might mean to the other. How far do objects define or come close to any definition of who a person is? Jacqueline and I chose each of the characters' possessions, then experimented with how the characters could animate them and how that might develop their relationship. Costume designer Chloe Richardson then responded to the objects with what the characters would wear. The look and tone of the piece also evolved with Ula Pontikos, the director of photography. What I loved about this project was the microscopic detail we went into. You might not catch it all but I believe together it creates the feel of the film.
DD: Was part of the goal to promote a fashion product at all?
Amanda Boyle: For me it's about the style and texture of the everyday. Mulberry's bravery was that it wasn't about promoting a fashion product. They simply felt the feel of a film that chimed with their brand.
DD: You were up against some stiff competition this year. Why do you think 'Skirt' stood out to the judges and public?
Amanda Boyle: The other shortlisted films were incredible, let alone the finalists. What was great about Mulberry was that they gave me complete freedom to make a film. It’s branded content at its most relaxed. There's no product placement and they let me experiment. Perhaps that paid off.
DD: What was the biggest challenge?
Amanda Boyle: With creative freedom come modest budgets. The creative team donated their services and that might have been how we pulled it off. This film happened because of so many people's generosity - in prep, on the shoot and in post. The credit sequence is long as so many people who helped me across the world.
DD: What are you working on at the moment?
Amanda Boyle: I directed Care, which was produced by Warp for Sky Arts htt and then I made this film for the NSPCC. Next week I start shooting a film of the award winning play Kursk for the BBC/Arts Councils. I'm pretty free after then...
Read our interview with Vimeo judges Nicola Formichetti and Humberto Leon HERE