South Africa’s brand new take on fashion film industry

Me at the last year's Bokeh Fashion Film Festival. Wearing  my kente dress by my brand NOYO Closet.

Me at the last year’s Bokeh Fashion Film Festival. Wearing my kente dress by my brand NOYO Closet.

THE SHORT film Aspirational starts with Hollywood actress Kirsten Dunst walking while
talking on her cellphone. She is dressed casually, in a black T-shirt and cut-off denim shorts. She hangs up and stops on the sidewalk, waiting to cross the road. A woman and a dog pass by, followed by a car. Another car, with two young women inside, stops next to her. The women freak out when they realise it’s the famous actress on the side of the road, and get out of the car. They take turns, pouting and posing next to her, taking several selfies.

“Do you want to talk or anything?” Dunst asks as the girls turn their faces in different angles for the perfect shot. “I mean you can ask me a question, or are you curious about anything?”

They ignore her and start uploading the pictures to their social networks. “Can you tag me?” one of them asks a startled Dunst. “I’ve already got like 15 likes!” the other squeals as they drive away.

The 2-minute 35-second film is written and directed by film-maker Matthew Frost for Vs Magazine, an international fashion and lifestyle magazine, and is one of about 80 that will be presented at the

Mercedes-Benz Bokeh South African International Fashion Film Festival on March 27 and 28. The glamorous affair will be held at the 15 on Orange – African Pride Hotel. It will bring together designers, filmmakers, producers and photographers from across the world for two days of networking and learning about the film and fashion industries.

Adrian Lazarus

Adrian Lazarus

“The plan is to change venues every year. This hotel is absolutely perfect,” says Adrian Lazarus, the event organiser.

“I wanted to find something that showcases steel, light and glass. This hotel, with its clean lines is completely photogenic in every aspect. You could shoot anywhere here.”

Fashion capitals of the world have successfully staged such events – giving the fashion conscious insight into some of the world’s top designers’ creative processes and unique perceptions of top brands.

The fashion film is a genre that was pioneered by fashion greats, including Karl Lagerfeld and Louis Vuitton, and Bruce Webber, an American fashion photographer. Lazarus started out as a producer before moving into directing about 12 years ago. His own fashion film, Steam 1886, won awards at the La Jolla and Miami Fashion Film Festivals in 2013 in the US.

Lazarus says his counterparts and industry experts at the La Jolla festival in California in 2014, were raving about the first Bokeh FF event.

“Everyone was impressed with the show that we had put out here. What sets us apart is that the fashion film festivals overseas are purely film driven, you have to be a director or a producer in order to get something out of it,” says Lazarus.

“Our festival encompasses everything, a bit of lifestyle and entertainment… and everyone is a VIP. We also have a daytime aspect which makes fashion films more accessible to a lot more people,” he says.

But what exactly is a fashion film? “A fashion film is a brand identity movie… Most importantly a fashion film never goes on TV, but is shared via the internet,” Lazarus explains.

“If you do a fashion film you may not do a commercial and the reason being is that once you shoot a commercial it costs you twice as much to flight it,” he adds.

“It is quite possible that someone who has a hotel may choose to do a fashion film and may not do a commercial. Because the hotel has enough screens around or a website to show their fashion film… and if the fashion film is good enough, the idea is that it gets shared virally.”

About 500 hopefuls submitted their films this year but only 80 made the cut.
“The number of entries is more or less the same as we had last year. But the difference is that 70 percent of the entries this year are really good. The previous year there were a lot of films with model girls just posing… which weren’t really movies. Now there are more films with actual stories,” says Lazarus.

“Anything longer than three minutes is very tough for a fashion film, in the sense that it has to have such an engaging story or most people will lose focus. The narrative has to be so strong or else, no matter how beautiful the film is, it becomes like an MTV video.”

Interesting entries that have gone viral this year include206 by Brooklyn-based,
Australian film-maker, J. Cooper, starring English actor David Oyelowo; The Purgatory of Monotony by Ace Norton; and Kiss of a Siren by NuMe, which won Best Film at the 2014 International Fashion Film Awards.

“Top names are actually getting involved in this. We have invited a lot of film-makers, who have great leading ladies and men, to bring their stars with them,” says Lazarus.

“The barrier to entering is so low, all you need is a cellphone or a digital SLR camera, editing software and a friend who has a fashion line or something fashionable. It does not need to be clothes,” he says.

The film-makers’ brief for the Mercedes- Benz Star award was “modern luxury”.
Contestants had to create a film expressing their interpretation of what modern luxury means to them, while featuring a Mercedes-Benz. The winner of this award will walk away with $10 000 (about R110 000)

“The idea is to not make it look like a student production. That is where most students go wrong… they have a fashionable model, someone has a camera and they all know how to edit. The fashion look is great, but the production value is low,” says Lazarus.

The judging panel includes industry experts such as Bryan Ramkilawan, chief executive of the Cape Town Fashion Council; fashion photographer Mark Newton; award-winning South African commercials director Jason Fialkov; and Michelle-Lee Collins from Mac Cosmetics.

The festival’s programme includes talks by fashion film music producer Craig De Sousa, Adobe expert Michael O’Neill, and special effects hair and make-up artist Jim Raubenheimer. Following this event, the film festival will be held in Johannesburg in June.
Lazarus says the debut event, held at the Grand Central airport in Joburg last year, was an overthe- top occasion complete with Eurocopter hangars.

“Joburg was absolutely amazing. The response from the red carpet alone was something else,” says Lazarus.

“The Johannesburg crowd were much more vocal and there was a lot happening behind the scenes.”

Lazarus adds that fashion and film students are now showing a great interest
in fashion films.

“These youngsters are seeing that fashion films offer them another avenue.

They now realise that they don’t have to do commercials, major films, or work in just retail after graduating,” he says.

“They have to think out of the box. Those who wanted to be a fashion designer should start thinking: Maybe I should be a stylist or a movie set designer.”

Visit http://www.bokehfestival. co.za for the full schedule.

[ This feature was first published in the Cape Argus newspaper, on March 9 2015 ]

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