Director (Jeremy Scott: The People's Designer)
From Dull #1 Issue
Why does the documentary as a form appeal to you?
It's a great way to tell a story. When you make a feature film, you create it on paper and then you film it, and it slightly changes, and you edit it and it changes a little bit more. But with documentaries, what you wind up with is always a mystery until the end. It's an intriguing process ... it is definitely a lengthy process, and it is difficult, but there's always something compelling about it.
Your past subjects run the gamut from bodybuilders to the rapper Big Pun. Who sparks your interest and do you see any commonalities among them?
It really can be anything at all, but I want to discover something. Each of my films entails discovering, but there's no specific genre locked in. You know what I like? I like underdog stories. Jeremy Scott is an underdog story — a guy from a farm by Kansas City, Missouri, who becomes a fashion designer and overcomes a lot in his life — and I found similar subjects in the bodybuilding world, and the Big Pun film has an underdog story, as well.
How did "Jeremy Scott: The People's Designer" come about?
I reached out to Jeremy almost two years ago because I thought he would be a great subject for a film. He was always going against the fashion system — his style was different and he had huge support from different demographics — but I didn't think he was getting the proper respect from the fashion world. And, as we began talking, Jeremy was appointed creative director of the Italian house Moschino, which made for an interesting take. Over the course of two years, many amazing things happened career-wise, but I was more into discovering his past, where he was from, his thoughts as a teenager, and stuff like that.
Can you discuss your process? Is gaining the subject's trust your starting point?
Yes, that's very important and it can be challenging or it can be easy. You're making a film about a person, and you are trying to make it an objective film at that. And, sometimes subjects are reserved or don't want to be leading their lives in front of cameras. Sometimes, when they see themselves on the screen afterward, it turns into another issue. In Jeremy's case, I knew he needed to understand what I was trying to do with the film, trying to discover about him. Once he and I had a few conversations, I think that he was open to it. And he is one of the hardest-working people that I've met. People outside of the fashion world probably don't associate fashion with hard work, but observing how much he does on crazy deadlines, and doing his own show in New York and going to Milan for the Moschino show — and he's able to maintain his sanity — I gained so much respect for him. I also didn't know too much about the world of fashion or how it's really put together, so for me, it was fascinating.
What are some of the more revealing scenes?
To me, the most incredible part was visiting the small town where he grew up, his family and old house and farm; I think you get to understand him more and what he overcame as a kid. He was bullied a lot in school — he wasn't afraid to express himself, so he would make fashion statements and wear certain things — and the school would call his parents to say, "Your son is dressed like this and it's unacceptable." But Jeremy never stopped what he was doing and I think that prepared him for becoming a fashion designer who wasn't accepted by the fashion system. He built within himself a strong resistance. So he developed this attitude that plays an important part in his life to this day.
"As a kid, in a farm, in a small town, looking at magazines and seing high fashion, I wanted to be a part of it so badly, I didn’t realize the runway were fake and that TV wasn’t real" (Jeremy Scott)
It seems that there are messages in this film that transcend fashion.
Absolutely. And I also watched quite a few other fashion films — I was interested in discovering other designers and how their stories were portrayed — and what I love about the Jeremy Scott film, not just because I'm a part of it, is that we got into the personal side of things and showed his upbringing. I don't think other films come close to showing that. Most fashion films depict what's currently happening or talk about the designer's accomplishments, but they don't talk about what it took for someone to make it in that world.
That speaks to another point: You interviewed a range of people. How did you determine who would best inform the story?
Most of the people in the film are Jeremy's friends, so they wear his clothes and support him, or they've known him for long enough that they have their own stories to tell; other people could talk about him in a knowledgeable way. And there were a few critics who have given his work bad reviews because we wanted to make it an objective film and show both sides of things.
What were some of the challenges that you encountered?
It's a very lengthy process. In the beginning, we filmed him for probably a month and a half nonstop, and then he took some time off and we picked up again when his next collection was coming out. Then, there's traveling to the shows and getting rights to the footage, and fashion shows are very hectic. A lot of things are happening at once and the questions become, how do you get the shots that you need in order to build a story ? And how do you differentiate between the shows ? Because when you look at it with a plain eye, you don't know there's a difference. There are also the interviews, and making sure you have a concise piece ... but I do a lot of documentary films, so to me, all of this is second nature.
When are you satisfied with one of your films?
Honestly, when I watch a film, I want to see a full portrait of a person and to understand why it's a story that's important to the world. Those are the two things. And right now, when I watch this, I'm getting those things. It was important to have Jeremy open up and I wanted to do a very intimate interview, which we did. So, I feel very satisfied with this film and I can't wait for people to see it.
By Hilary Moss