BAFTA award winning filmmaker Martina Amati and London fashion designer Bella Freud recently teamed up to create a short film to showcase a new collection. Their collaboration on ‘Submission’ brought the artistic elements of costume design and narrative storytelling together. Based on the philosophy of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the film centres around the theme of how an individual must use an opponent’s energy to vanquish their enemy. This short film, starring Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Susie Bick, Abbey Lee, Phyllis Wang and Olympia Campbell, features costumes designed by Freud and a fighter cast from the Roger Gracie Academy.
This particular collaboration shows a new mix of fashion and film, creating a different emotional experience for audiences. The concept of the body is also explored visually in this film, which accentuates the idea of clothing as a character or form of expression. This kind of creativity defines an angle for innovation that designers should look at to launch their collections. The appeal of visual fashion is also strengthened by the merits of a short film, which can connect more deeply with online viewers.
(interview below the film)
Submission Short film – Directed by Martina Amati
Interview with Martina Amati and Bella Freud
Iain: How did you both get involved with ‘Submission’ and is this the first time you have worked together?
Bella Freud – I saw Martina’s short films and decided I had to work with her somehow.
Martina Amati – Bella asked me to direct a short film featuring her new collection, I said yes. First time we worked together.
Iain: Where did you find your cast?
Bella Freud – Casting is my favourite pastime! Martina knew who Susie was and we both really wanted her to be in the film. I met Phyllis and thought she was so elegant. Then she went to Drama school and she seemed perfect for our film. Then when we wanted a blonde and I emailed Abbey though I had never met her. It was an incredible stroke of luck that she was free on just that day and she really wanted to be part of the film.
Martina Amati – We mixed real fighters that I found on the mat with professional actresses and models that Bella thought would bring something special into the film. I initially was a bit nervous because I am used to working with non professional actors to keep things real, but it was great. They trained to learn some Jiu Jitsu moves and Phyllis and Susie really got into it.
Iain: What was the message you wanted to give in ‘Submission’ and how has this experience turned out for both of you?
Bella Freud – We had a story originally but our shoot was too short to tell it, so it became more abstract. The message is sort of you can use your opponent’s strength to vanquish them (this is the principle of Jiu jitsu). I find it a good way of dealing with life. Sort of Zen mixed with Judge Dredd.
Martina Amati – I am not sure what the message is. We had an idea “girls wrestling in Bella’s clothes with an unlikely winner” and it developed as other things (location, cast…) came along. I especially loved writing the monologue together with Bella, it was totally unexpected and fluid the way we did it. We cast Antonia and wrote it for her.
Iain: How did you find the ideal locations to shoot your short, and why did you choose the theme of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Bella Freud – I knew Martina was really into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and I had been to the Roger Gracie Academy and seen the amazing blue floor. It seemed quite remote from the world of fashion and I liked that.
Martina Amati – I am practicing Bjj at the Roger Gracie Academy that has a great 70s feel. Roger let us use his space and Marie Lanna (set designer) came up with the idea of dressing the mat with plastic sheets to make it more surreal. She build a model with all these little semi-transparent drapes, it looked amazing.
Iain: Do you feel that fashion and film complement each other in movies?
Bella Freud – Yes, though it rarely seems to work in films that are trying to be about fashion. The really successful ones are when the story works so well that you think the character is genius for wearing such great clothes, like in Casino, or in Bunuel’s films where they always look fascinating.
Martina Amati – Bella’s leotards inspired the idea and setting of this film and her costumes brought a significant edge to the pictures, but i don’t see this as a “fashion” film. It’s just a short piece featuring models and fashion icons like Susie and Abbey. Our priority was always to make a film we like, not to show the clothes.
Iain: How did you set in motion the soundtrack for your short? Was this an important part of your narrative?
Bella Freud – We knew the music was extremely important with the film being so short. It needed to say things we didn’t have enough time or budget to include. I am a major Nick Cave fan and he and Warren Ellis watched the film and wrote the music especially.
Martina Amati – We showed a rough cut to Warren Ellis, who showed it to Nick and they recorded two pieces of music for us to place over certain sequences. Once we had the tracks, we worked on two versions of the film, the original cut and a new more spontaneous one, where we edited the pictures to the music. Watching this new cut, Bella and I realised that it was bringing out the monologue stronger – the heart of this film. So we went for the new cut and that became the film. The soundtrack totally transformed the narrative. We didn’t plan it like that, it’s just how it went.
Iain: Is there anyone in particular who inspired you to create this kind of fashion/film story?
Bella Freud – There were things I saw in Martina’s other two shorts ‘I Do Air’ and ‘Chalk’ that made me think of how things would be seen in the film. My collection was mostly black and I realized I needed colour so I made some leotards in bright colours at the last minute. They are my favourite pieces now.
Martina Amati – A scene from Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up.
Iain: Will you be working on any upcoming projects together?
Bella Freud – Oh I hope so!
Martina Amati – Love to do more with Bella. Maybe next thing will be my first feature, maybe something else, sooner.