When tasked with portraying singer Paloma Faith‘s rise to success for Skoda‘s “Driven By Something Different” campaign, Park Pictures director Georgia Hudson wove together a nostalgia-tinged look back at Paloma’s determination in the face of adversity.
The branded music video for Paloma’s cover of “Make Your Own Kind Of Music,” intersperses scenes of the singer’s memories between shots of her performing within an expansive metaphorical dreamscape, and finally, surrounded by cheering fans. Georgia’s vision keeps a balance between the fantastical and the real, grounding her portrayal in a human, relatable story of overcoming the odds.
Georgia Hudson has created a prolific imprint on the music scene with her unique video work, earning her a 2017 nomination for Best Director at the UKMVA’s. Her passion for dance, emotion-driven storytelling and the way movement interacts with the camera have been used to create films for Under Armour, P!nk and Loyle Carner, to name just a few. Inherently female, always moving, beautiful – Georgia Hudson’s visceral films mine youth culture, identity and self-expression on a physical and intuitive level, with her signature attention to evocative and lustrous aesthetics.
We had the chance to speak with Georgia about the challenges of shooting automotive footage in the freezing rain, balancing her left and right brain, her love of dance, and the importance of checking your email.
What was the initial brief from Skoda, and what ideas did it inspire for you? How did you initially begin working out your approach to this project?
The initial brief was asking that we illustrate Paloma’s story of strength in the face of adversity, of not fitting in conventionally, closing on her performing to a packed out stadium. Essentially, it was intended to mirror Skoda’s own history of progress. When I read it, I thought it was a great opportunity to tell that alternative success story, stories of hope and determination, and that to create a real impact, it should be as authentic as possible to Paloma’s experience and feel intimate and inspiring. From here, I thought we should treat the elements of transformation and perseverance in the story in a metaphorical way, so as to make it inclusive for the viewer. I didn’t want it to be a voyeuristic story about a ‘famous person,’ I wanted it to be grounded and human. I think we can all relate to being resilient and feeling apart from the group – it can be a pretty universal emotion that pervades whatever your circumstances, so that is where I wanted to make the performance space a transformational visual metaphor for inner strength; the car a metaphor for direction; and most importantly, use her flashbacks in an abstract, sensory, and evocative enough way for us to feel them to be our own – to feel nostalgic and accessible.
Since this spot features a look back at singer Paloma Faith’s own history, how did you, the agency, the client, and Paloma work together to tell her story?
Fallon had insight into her story when I first got involved, which is why they had selected her for alignment with Skoda. From there, we went to an informal meeting where we all sat around and listened to Paloma talk about her life, the chronological story of her perseverance in the face of her personal challenges. She was very generous and open with her story. From here, I received tons of baby pics and growing-up photos from Paloma, and in depth briefs of what she used to wear, etc etc. Paloma was keen that we try to be as authentic as possible. Ultimately, the creatives knew what they wanted from her story – they are excellent at dialing into the essential moments that create a narrative – and I was keen to use her dancing history, as it would help the momentum for the tone of the track they had recorded and was something consistent in her life that would show her evolution.
Tell us about the shoot – where did it take place? How long were you on set?
We had a four day shoot, split over a day in a freezing giant studio, a day on freezing wet Ramsgate roads, and a couple days in freezing East London bouncing around locations like it was a music video (which I guess it was, in one respect). It was pretty full on, fun at times, with a super flexible creative crew who were up for it.
Since this campaign featured both a branded short and unbranded music video for Paloma Faith’s cover of “Make Your Own Kind Of Music”, can you talk us through the process of creating both? How do they relate to one another, and how do they differ?
It is ambitious trying to achieve a music video and a commercial in tandem with each other! It never felt like one was more important than the other, so we had to prioritize both. Music videos need to pay full respect to the flow of the track and the intention of the song while sustaining interest for the full length; continuing and developing, they can also be a little more abstract and niche. Commercials need to tell a story in a tiny window of time, while also selling a product (albeit gently) AND not be too niche! The agency and client were excellent at recognizing this, and as such allowed us to shoot without strict storyboards, which enabled us to loosen up our approach. They were also very supportive in creative divergence while we were shooting, which allowed us to get some beautiful shots that we couldn’t have planned for and that made the cut. Being allowed to approach a commercial with a lot of freedom and trust behind me from agency and client contained a different kind of pressure, as well as being very motivational.
What were the biggest technical challenges posed by this shoot?
Technical challenges… shooting the car in freezing rain from a 360 remote axis head attached to a Russian arm. We had serious issues with the lens fogging up as we accelerated our speed, and then as the camera got too hot for the cold rain, the rain protector creating even more steamy chaos, man! It was touch and go. Luckily, Steve Annis and his crew created an unconventional solution, and we got the shots. There could have been further challenges in capturing Paloma in the studio where we post created an entire stadium, but The Mill took over and handled it so well I could have thought it was easy. Same goes for finding multiple locations within proximity, my amazing producer Alex Chamberlain never compromised and went the miles to make it work.
Did this shoot allow you the opportunity to utilize any new equipment or experiment with any aspect of directing that was less familiar to you?
I LOVE shooting cars – what pleasure in the chase, big toys, speed! This was my first commercial foray into cars and I’ve got the taste… Generally though, this piece was different for me, as often I spend a lot of my work exploring a moment in time, isolating a feeling or a vibe and honing in on that. While that quality still came into play, this had a firmer narrative trajectory, needed to be clear in its story, and was set over 30 years, so there was a lot more to think about pragmatically: the details of creating scenes from era’s past, ticking off narrative connections. I guess I had to balance my left and right brain, and organize/structure like a demon while also trying to bring the artistry and vibe in, AND do service to Paloma’s actual life story!
What was the post-production process for this project like? What elements of the final product came together after the shoot had wrapped?
The entire black/smokey/cloud world that transforms into a stadium was, of course, a post job. We had 200 people – The Mill turned them into 20,000, or so. The creative for this other world took a while to pin down. I wanted the stylish minimalism inspired by “Under The Skin” and elements of “Arrival,” without it being a copy, and of course this landscape we created needed to be a space that transforms from dark nothingness reflective of her inner conflict, into a packed out stadium. The Mill were excellent at creatively concepting the clouds/smoke and elegantly making a landscape that could evolve within all the different lengths of the spot succinctly.
How does this spot relate to previous work you’ve done, in terms of its commonalities and departures from past projects?
I’ve always loved working with talent, aesthetics and atmosphere, emotion, dance, (rotating camera – eek, that is the last time)… this was all similar! What was new was recreating someone’s life, being respectful to the details while trying to keep an easy read for the story; and working with different eras, as I am not a period piece kinda girl by nature. Our incredible Production Designer Fiona Crombie absolutely blew me away, so much of what she created didn’t even get seen in the cut, and it was just pure nostalgia, crazy!
How did you get your start as a director?
I didn’t really realize it had happened, I just used to make films of everything – on DV when I was a kid, on Bolex at art school, and then on a DSLR when I had graduated – of my friends, family, etc. I loved editing it together (on iMovie). I was just experimenting artistically, staving restlessness, and cameras gave me a social shield and a focus! From there, I assisted an incredible artist Matthew Stone, who showed me how to be confident and see no barriers, then went to i-D magazine, making anything and everything moving image related (way beyond my abilities). I then veered off and used i-D as a way of making my own super experimental fashion films with creative friends I admired, and then through a few fortuitous friendships from my arts community in Peckham, I got an in with a music rep at OB management. After that, I applied myself to trying to succeed at that one thing of being a music video director!
You’ve made a name for yourself as a music video director – what do you like most about working on music video projects?
I love music! I love dance! I love colour, and beauty, and celebration! I find that music is just the purest art form, it gives so much to so many, it is so open and accessible, therapeutic. Music videos can follow on from that, you can make art for everyone! It is totally democratic in its outreach, it is about the present. I just get overwhelmed with passion for music, and for dance – my heart explodes, these are my vital highs! And I love to collaborate – an artist giving you responsibility to honor their music is immense, I am here for the trip of it!
How does your music video work inform your commercial/branded work?
What I learnt through music videos was that one of my jobs is to create and hold a space for all the talent and creatives on set to work their best in – same goes in commercials. Also, same goes for harnessing atmosphere, developing rhythm, alternative routes of casting, determining symbols, establishing structure, learning to act on your gut, following briefs, twisting arms, being diplomatic, backing down, replying to your emails! Music Videos and Good Commercials are not so different, I don’t reckon. Another excellent general lesson I got from music videos is to only work on projects I can genuinely believe in, otherwise the blood and sweat ain’t worth it because it never pleases you! I am very passionate and can’t help but to get fully attached to whatever I am doing. I am always open for opportunities to make the best work with the best people.
What are some of your goals as a director? Are there any dream projects that you’d love to be hired to shoot?
I want to work on projects committed to strengthening society, that are working to shine light on human experience, that want to promote inclusion and respect. I also want to make work that is just down and pure about JOY. I am always attracted to people’s heart and stories – getting deep, but also just getting light and loose and celebrating for no good reason at all. Dance! Love working with dancers. I am excited by the changing landscapes of commercials being more socially minded and taking on all kinds of formats, I want to be a part of that. Exhibiting, long form, documentary, whatever the format – if it’s got space for soul and artistry and is sent out to as wide an audience as possible, then I am in!
What’s next for you?
Entering into a new chapter of an immensely cool book with my refreshed representation, now a part of the Park Pictures family, so I am excited. I have this crazy documentary about extreme feelings and struggles (labour, life, death, infinity) to finish in the edit, I am scratching up to start a fresh piece of doc work with a therapeutic dance workshop attached to it, and I have some interesting commercial work coming up that feels like a dream come true.
Free The Bid is committed to advocating for diverse perspectives and points of view. What do you think are some of the benefits to diverse representation on both sides of the camera lens?
Very essentially, we need all the perspectives we can get in order to not be doing a disservice to the potential of our incredible, mysterious and diverse world. There are people totally unaware of their prejudices and preconceptions. We all need to be reevaluating and making the effort to address this, ACTIVELY. Even if you think you’re ok, give it another look. Balance. A chorus. All of us need to proactively help in creating access to this industry, we must not be stagnant! Sometimes I come up against the stereotypes of what authority, direction, leadership, strength should look like – this needs to be readdressed, because strength can be gentle and direction can be open minded. Making space for difference.
What are the most important pieces of advice for young directors to keep in mind?
Get to know your taste, employ it, trust the process, have fun, don’t give up, be yourself or be nothing at all! You are not owed anything, don’t believe the hype, protect your artistic integrity! An equal balance of fake it till you make it and not being too proud to learn! Be grateful, work with people you perceive as incredible, work with your mates, support your peers, reply to your emails, look after your health, have other interests, and really really, (all that aside)… everyone needs an IN, so keep banging at the doors with your particular beautiful unique ambitious voice, and when you get in, make sure you open the door for someone else who needs an in too. Aim high, everything is possible, let yourself be found – we are looking for you!
Agency: Fallon London
ECD: Chaka Sobhani
Agency Producer: Georgina Pearson
Copywriter: Ricardo Motti
Art Director: Ronaldo Tavares
Director: Georgia Hudson
DOP: Steve Annis
Production Company: Agile
Executive Producer: Myles Payne
Producer: Alex Chamberlain
Director of Photography: Steve Annis
Production Designer: Fiona Crombie
Post Production & City: The Mill, London
Post Supervisor: Ben Turner
Editor & Company: Paul O’Reilly, Stitch
Music & Music Publisher: Make Your Own Kind of Music, sung by Paloma Faith, Sony
Sound Designer: Munzie Thind @ Grand Central