Belfast-born Central St. Martins Alum Kathryn Ferguson is a self-taught filmmaker and art director who has achieved prolific success within a short span of 5 years, creating short films for fashion designers and taking on various art commissions. Three of these have been premiered at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and shown at various International film festivals including the Onedotzero Film Festival, Birds Eye Film Festival, Cambridge Film Festival, REELdance film festival and more recently at the 59th Berlinale.
Her recent commissions have included fashion films for British fashion designers Richard Nicoll, David David and Erika Trotzig, as well as one commissioned by Dazed Digital featuring Lady Gaga. The films have been showcased on Test magazine, DazedDigital, SHOWstudio and noted on Vogue.com.
With her arresting signature and incredibly sophisticated art direction and composition harkening to the dreamy and sublime, Portable invites you check out our interview with Kathryn below, and then escape through her lens with her generous contributions to our fashion film festival…
Lady Gaga / Dazed
Dir. Kathryn Ferguson
October 2009 – Original score specially written for this video by Gaga.
Chalice / Blade
Dir. Kathryn Ferguson
February 2008 – Featuring designer David David’s S/S 08 collection ,February 2008. Screened at the Institute of Contemporary Art.
Dir. Kathryn Ferguson
March 2009 – Showcase of designer Erika Trotzig’s A/W 09 collection. Video shown at her show and at the Institute of Contemporary Art.
Dir. Kathryn Ferguson
September 2009. This was a video commissioned by Testmag.co.uk made to encapsulate designer Richard Nicoll’s S/S10 collection. The video was shown at start of Richard Nicolls catwalk show in September at London Fashion Week.
Film seems to have become the new medium for fashion expression. Do you think this is a trend or will this platform become mainstream? Will film overtake the power of the catwalk show?
I don’t think video will ever completely replace the catwalk. Currently it is serving it’s purpose in helping young designers showcase their work without having to shell out on the huge expenses of a catwalk show. It’s a relatively new way of viewing fashion which is enticing for designers to try but I don’t think it will replace the traditional showcasing methods just yet
How is film unique in the process of fashion communication and promotion?
The genre of fashion film is fairly different to other genres of filmmaking such as the music video. The main focus is a garment and a texture rather than a musician or a song.
It is quite often a piece of work in which both the film and the designers collection develop very much in tandem. For some of my videos my first meetings with designers discussing early sketches and swatches of fabric rather than a finished garment. Quite often the designers early ideas inform the directors ideas for the video which in turn can inspire further development of a collection.
This differs from the music video for which you generally have a finished product to work with. So the process is therefore somewhat unique as a work in progress from the start.
How did you transit from styling into film-making? Was there a catalyst or turning point and could you describe your start/initial experiences in film-making?
My degree course focused around Fashion styling and art direction. I began styling when I was still a student. It was in my final year of my BA that I decided to experiment with film and I made my first film ‘Tingel Tangel’. By the time I had finished my BA course I had well and truly caught the filmmaking bug but I did not really know how to progress with it as a career so I kept working on as a stylist for a few years while making videos more as a hobby.
It was when I submitted my first film ‘Tingel Tangel’ into the Birds Eye View Film Festival in 2007 and it was chosen for their UK Shorts Programme at the ICA that I decided to start thinking more carefully about my career path. To be honest my heart was never in styling. It didn’t come very naturally so I was delighted to move away from it and pick up a camera which I found a much easier medium to work in.
What projects are you currently working on? What’s on your radar these days and what are you currently doing outside of work?
I have just finished putting together the third installment of the Birds Eye View Film Festival’s annual ‘Fashion Loves Film’ event at the ICA. I am also finishing off an experimental film for American art magazine I WANT YOU and about to start on my first music video for Bo Ningen, who happen to be my favourite band!
I am also currently studying for a Masters degree in experimental film on the Communication Art & Design course at the Royal College of Art where I can experiment to my hearts desire.
What was it like working with celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Richard Nicoll?
Both videos were a great experience from which I subsequently learnt a lot . The Lady Gaga commission came from Dazed Digital the day before the shoot. We had to grab cameras, lights, some mirrors, handmade kaleidoscopes and turn up and hope we would capture something interesting. She was great to work with and totally up for experimentation. It was my first experience of working with a musician. I sent her the first edit and she then penned the musical score to that. We finished off the final edit using her sound.
The Richard Nicoll film was also a good experience. Richard’s lovely and I’d been a huge fan of his work for years. I got to work with him and Jaime Perlman (Art director of British Vogue and founder and director of TEST magazine). Working with two talents like this was a huge chttp://portable.tv/admin/content/page/1089/edit_post/2003#oup and made the shoot really inspiring.
It’s hard to say what my favourite video is. They were all such different experiences. I’m always going to be very fond of ‘Tingel Tangel’ my first video as it was probably the most naïve and but was the film that helped me step into the world of film. I have to say I do like shooting outdoors. I made a film called ‘La Bete’ while spending one summer shooting around the fields and coastlines in Cornwall with a group of friends. That was probably the most fun to make.
I recently shot a fashion film for menswear designer Katie Eary which was challenging as we had managed to negotiate with the Barbican Centre to let us shoot in their amazing conservatory for the day and after arriving with a full crew we were seriously disappointed to find that our model hadn’t turned up! So the whole day had been kind of ruined. That was a bit of a nightmare but we managed to salvage it by using a different model late that evening in a studio instead. I was slightly fraught by the end of it to say the least!
What sort of future do you envision for film and fashion?
From working for the Birds Eye Festival and curating their fashion film strand I have watched the genre develop immensely over the past three years. The first year I put the screening together I struggled to find the ten or so videos of sufficient quality required for the show. However, when putting together this year’s festival I was just bombarded with work from new directors and photographers. I think it’s amazing how many people are making new work, picking up a video camera and really going for it. Watching its rise over the past three years I feel it’s only going to get bigger and bigger. I imagine there will be many more online portals for fashion films to be screened, more and more designers will experiment with it as a new way of showcasing their collections and the luxury fashion houses will have to follow suit with experimentation in the moving image.