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New creative disciplines and dimensions with Claire Arnold

Flipping between film and 3D, we discuss the imaginative process behind creative director and filmmaker, Claire Arnold’s work

Fairies and water-soaked prisms become Ashnikko’s playground in Claire Arnold’s video for one of the singer’s latest tracks, “Drunk With my Friends”. Despite the song’s underlying yearning for debauchery and playful mishaps, Arnold and Ashnikko quite unbelievably devised the otherworldly concept before we were plunged into the dystopian landscape of a global pandemic. While this was the first time Arnold had worked with 3D in a directorial capacity, the label-defying creator had previously worked within the medium as a creative director and in her role as associate commercial creative director at i-D magazine. While there, Arnold worked across the super original Fifth Sense project with Chanel that was quite groundbreaking due its multi-disciplinary approach.

RH: Hey there, could you introduce yourself and your work to us?

CA: My name is Claire and I’m a creative director, filmmaker, photographer, and more. I’m definitely a hybrid - I’ve always been the type of person who does a lot of different things. To be honest, I actually find labels tricky! Ultimately, I’m working towards more of a feeling where people are like "Claire is the right person to get involved with" rather than what I specialize in. However, my creative journey has been through creative direction. I did film at uni; I did journalism and started to specialize in broadcast film at London College of Fashion. I always loved the medium of film - I think it is a great way for us to understand things and tell stories with room for both fantasy and reality. Overall, my main source of inspiration is people and how they respond to their emotions and the nuances and the beauty of that.

Working in fashion and music is special because there is so much going on there and I like the opportunity to be playful and have imaginative adventures within those realms. Music has always been there - I feel like that is my soul and music has carried me forward. I used to put on club nights. We’d be doing fun little videos and taking pictures for friends. So, on reflection, music has been a red thread through my filmmaking and that marriage with music has become one of my main modes of expression.

RH: Prior to creating the Ashnikko, had you worked with 3D creators or new technologies before? If not, was it something you’d been increasingly drawn to as a filmmaker, and why?

CA: First and foremost, I’m really interested in the process of making things - that is something I am always drawn to. I am a bit nerdy like that! I like to learn how to make things - filmmaking is quite a DIY process up until the point you have big budgets and all the bells and whistles to bring your idea to life. I believe that filmmakers have to be quite resourceful to bring their idea forward unless you have loads of money. In regards to technology, I've done many projects with it. As I’ve got two parallel career strands, creative direction, and filmmaking. As a creative director, I get quite involved in the process, and technology itself inspires me to come up with ideas, find collaborators and want to do new things! Not in a flippant way but there are so many different amazing technologies you can use to create an image so why be confined by one?! Image-making is an amazing way to experiment and have fun. There are set ways in which people expect to make things. But, now, I feel like that is completely imploding. For example, people are recording things off screens and that’s the grade or using 3D to build worlds that you could never shoot without access to three billion, trillion pounds! So, I think it is quite fun and the further democratization of technology allows you to do things that haven’t been done before.

RH: In your capacity as a creative director have you seen a rise in the exploration or the demand for the digital?

CA: When I was the associate commercial creative director at i-D, we worked on a project which was very much about experimentation and finding new artists and visual languages together for Chanel. In that instance, we worked with musicians and 3D artists. It is an interesting one because we are on a parallel journey with what is currently out there to be used, what's being developed, and where our imaginations are at. I feel like the pandemic has accelerated experimentation in those mediums. Before that, I sometimes found fashion to be quite frustrating because there wasn’t always room for innovation there. Of course, there is a lot of innovation from a creative point of view but the processes can be comparatively archaic. The idea that the pandemic caused catwalks to turn to video for distribution was quite wild?! Like, did it really take a pandemic for that? There are obviously brands that completely got it and understand how fun tech can be. But, they are seen as pioneers for being that way. Overall, I feel like we are barely scratching the surface with what can be achieved especially in the mainstream. On the other hand, artists and musicians, at least the ones I’ve worked with, seem to love an adventure. Still, I can’t believe it took a pandemic for management and labels to fully embrace the online space or fully go for it in terms of live performances. There is an amazing opportunity to have artists do really cool shit and have their audiences go on a digital journey of discovery with them. As I say, the artists I’ve worked with seem to really love the idea of seeing themselves as an avatar, or they like the adventure of not having to be confined to one thing. In my own practice, I like exploring the many sides that make people who they are. In a weird way, I also think we’ve got this new level of pandemic-induced focus because we’ve been reduced to this one screen everyday.

RH: let's chat about working in 3D with Ashnikko. Can you give some insight into that process?

CA: What I loved instantly about Ashnikko is that there is a real person behind there. Her character, her energy, and presence are so open. She’s just so free as an artist in that way. At least, from an outsider's point of view! With her, I just felt like it was amazing because we do so much fun stuff because she wasn’t inhibited by what she might look like in certain shit. Whereas, she didn’t give a fuck in regards to whether it was flattering in a conventional way because you can invert that whole language. That is really exciting! After the pitch, we had our first call. Standardly, I put a pitch together from our shared ideas and images. It was actually written on the edge of lockdown. Since then, we’ve all disappeared into virtual worlds a bit more. But, prior to that, I’d already wanted to work in 3D and create something like that because we would have more scope to do something more interesting while bringing that level of fantasy to it. The level of otherworldliness that the song needed. After our call, I began to suggest artists to work with and I already had Carol in mind. I’d been following her work for a while and I really loved it as well as thinking that the concept would be suited to her. Still, it was a little bit of an adventure finding out whether she could do what we were thinking. But, yeah, Carol is a genius so she could! We worked together to develop the worlds. I wrote a storyboard for the idea as a framework in exactly the same way you would for live-action. You know, to outline the needs and how we will visually tell the story. For each scene, I also built mood references and we worked with an amazing character design called Kane Lee. It was super collaborative and that is how we developed the different fairies and what they would look like. From there, we just went at it!

RH: Did you find working in 3D very different from working in other mediums?

CA: When you are working with different mediums, you've got to embody the process. If you are a filmmaker going into photography, you have to start thinking through a single image rather than 25 frames plus. Working in 3D, you’ve got to think of it almost as theatre because you build an environment and then you navigate a camera through that. So, it depends on what dimension you want to look at it from you. But, you are still world-building so it is like film in that way. So, no, I don’t think there is a huge difference from film but there are just different tools.

Find more of Claire's work via their IG or website.

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