A still from The Traveller's Collection

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Last week (11/3/12) Melbourne’s fashion-forward mixed it up with the country’s up-and-coming filmmakers for a special series of fashion films for No Home 12. Fashion and film have gone hand in hand for decades, with the runway often inspired by the silver screen and vice versa. In 2009 leading fashion designer Tom Ford made an immensely successful foray into film with A Single Man. This year Trish Summerville released a line of clothes for H&M inspired by the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for which she served as costume designer. It’s easy to see how interwoven the two mediums are, but organisers and co-directors of the initiative Justin Watson and Alastair McCann were looking to do something a little bit different.

“We saw that film was being used as a medium by fashion brands to speak to their customers,” Watson explains from his office in Melbourne. Together with McCann, Watson noted that designers were increasingly looking to “translate the story of their brand into moving image.”

What followed was an investigation into the growing collaboration between fashion brands and filmmakers, where the duo uncovered “a few fashion and film festivals”. However, Watson and McCann were interested in creating something that they saw lacking in the industry – partnering designers with filmmakers.

“I think that fashion’s always been part of film forever and [with No Home], now fashion is the point of the film,” Watson says. “We wanted to create a specific platform that spoke to that. There’s lot of films that are fashion films but they don’t necessarily involve a designer for those particular brands, it might be a filmmaker that’s creating a fashion film but its not really a collaboration and that’s the difference with No Home.”

First staged in 2011, No Home has been providing avenues, including funding and networking opportunities, for filmmakers and fashion designers to come together. With over 100 films submitted and then whittled down to 21, there was a huge amount of interest generated, from both her and overseas. This unique approach resulted in expanding new territory for the brands involved to move in.

“The beauty of film,” Watson explains. “[Is that it can do] what the runway can’t do. The runway can only provide a certain level of theatrics, whereas with film you can really create a whole world for the brand that’s exactly how it should be or how you want it to be perceived by the consumer.”

Greeted with this brief, the filmmakers, some professionals, some fashion photographers and stylists trying their hand at the moving image for the first time, 21 films were produced that invited the viewer into a realm constructed around the style and look of the brand.

Yet there’s another element that differentiates the films in No Home from being a moving look book – something Watson says they ask the designers and filmmakers specifically not to make – narrative.

This important element, which elevates the films above a standard fashion advertisement, was also something that filmmaker Liam Gilmour and his directorial partner Tom Friml were attracted to. “We’re all interested in storytelling,” Liam explains from his studio in North Melbourne. “I think that’s the flaw that we found in other fashion films is that even if they’re coming from another country, they’re always treated like an ad or a TVC.

“There are lots of photographers now who dabble in film. They sort of have no filmic training and so adapt their skills in the film world and end up moving out of the narrative. Their shots become a little stagnant or static, so we wanted to include a narrative that drives the film.”

Gilmour’s co-director, Friml, himself a fashion photographer, agrees: “With photographers moving into motion picture you find some of the big fashion companies just doing moving photographs. There’s not really any kind of story developing from the preconceived idea. A lot of photographers work with what they know, which is images – I think that you need more than that.”

Collaborating with fashion label Obüs, the boys film opened the second session of No Home 12 at ACMI. Drawing inspiration from the brand’s new collection, ‘Travellers’, their film followed a young woman as she navigated between three different landscapes.

“We got given the Travellers collection from Obüs, which was kind of really comfortable, lots of jerseys, very simple clothes and that ended up becoming the driving force behind the film,” Liam explains.

During the course of the film, the model is seen wearing the current travellers range, though Gilmour is quick to point out while the clothes inspired the film, he was also keen to avoid creating a moving catalogue. “One of the things that I really don’t like about other fashion films is that they become like a look book,” he reveals. “You end up substituting narrative and story for all these rash outfit changes.”

But if you’re making a film that is focussed on fashion, surely you’ve got to include the brand’s collection. At the end of the Obüs film, the model stumbles across a tree lit by moonlight, the clothing hanging from the branches. “I wanted [the film] to feel like you had time to absorb the narrative, so the tree was an interesting way to show the collection without having the model standing there having clothing change on her or shifting outfits every ten seconds,” Gilmour clarifies.

This ability to craft a story is one of the reasons Friml increasingly sees fashion photographers moving into the motion picture. “You can involve movement, time and all sorts of together elements that you don’t have with a single image,” he tells us.

Together with their partner Peter Ryle, another photographer, the filmmakers also worked closely with Obüs designer Kylie Zerbst and stylist Nadja Mott. “We’re pretty lucky with the designers we worked with,” Gilmour muses. “Kylie was great; we went in with loose ideas and sat around with her. It was great her providing feedback on what she thought would suit the clothes and what wouldn’t, so we just tried to pick her brain as in what she meant with the collection and then went from there.”

Friml agrees: “We were really lucky in the fact that the stylist we ended up using for the shoot is not only the stylist who has worked on all of Obüs’s material but is a very good friend of Kylie’s. When we were on location without [Kylie], Nadja, who is the stylist, knew what Kylie thought would work and wouldn’t work, so Obüs has an identity as a brand, which was great.”

This close working relationship between the designers and the filmmakers, and the importance of narrative in the film, adheres to Watson and McCann’s vision for the film festival. “I would say that more than 80% of the films submitted for No Home had a really high level of interaction from the designer,” Watson explains. “Ultimately the director is the driving force but it’s definitely a collaboration.”

Veterans of No Home, Gilmour and his creative partners screened a film in the inaugural year, returning again in 2012 with a greater sense of what the festival is about. After screening their film last year, and putting weeks of work into the finished product, the only place for their creation to exist was online. The filmmakers mention getting it posted on fashion and film blogs both here and overseas, but in regard to a wider audience the chance of seeing the film was limited.

This is something that Watson hopes to change this year with No Home travelling across the country to be part of the next consumer fashion festival, coming up next the Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival Sydney.

“Our goal is for these films to be seen by as many people as possible, obviously online is really important but also when we do these screenings that it’s accessible as possible and as many people as possible get to attend,” Watson tells us. “At the moment we’re looking at in terms of structure of how we would hold the screenings in Sydney and the other cities.”

But aside from securing these films a larger audience, Watson is also keen to develop the story side of the screenings. The direction that he would like the films in No Home to take is exemplified by Michael Matthews’ submission for Henson, which running five minutes long also included dialogue. “That’s the direction we want to really push towards – a kind of short film,” he says. “It’s five minutes, it has dialogue and a really intense story to it. I think that’s really interesting.

“I was really blown away by all the films,” he admits.