Interview Berlin Fashion Film Festival

bf February 10, 2015
Previous Winner: Monica Menez

The work of Photographer and Director Monica Menez has been exhibited all over the globe. Deeply inspired by director John Waters, her universe is anachronistic, visually vintage but ultra modern in the subject.

Monica’s films are an exercise in beautiful surrealism embedded in unconventional humour, with her productions often revolving around sensual characters in unusual situations. Two years after winning the “Best Fashion Film” award with ODDITORY at Berlin fashion Film Festival, we are interviewing Monica about her work, sex and surreal irony.

Your films are being awarded in top festivals around the world. In 2013 you won the ‘Best Fashion Film’ award at Berlin fashion Film Festival. What experiences do you have with fashion film festivals in general? What do you gain from them and what is their role within the industry? What are the main differences you’ve spotted between them?

Film festivals are great in many respects: I get to see many inspiring fashion films within a very short period of time, and I meet and talk to a lot of film-makers. So I really enjoy attending these festivals. Of course, there are differences: There are smaller festivals which have a very intimate touch, and there are other events which have a lot of attendance. I always look forward to attend both types of festivals.

People don’t treat me differently because I am a woman

As a woman in a predominantly male dominated industry, would you say men have an advantage as filmmakers or have you not felt that? In terms of fashion films, would you say that women are depicted differently to men? If so, have you noticed a change or trend in the way men and women are shown?

It is true that – like in many other sectors – women are a minority in the film-making business, but nevertheless I would not say that men have a specific advantage because of that. People don’t treat me differently because I am a woman.

Concerning the depiction of the genders: There are certainly more women who play the leading role in fashion films. Besides that I would say that there is a general tendency that the existence of a storyline is becoming more and more important. In the past many fashion films consisted of a model moving to some kind of music. Now the focus shifts to the story.

Fashion films are often criticised for being too sexual or sex being the main topic behind most of them. Would you agree with that? Do you think this is changing and if so, how? If you were to advise a young filmmaker exploring fashion film, what could you say to help them stand out?

I agree on the perception that many fashion films are sexy. The old saying “Sex sells“ works in the fashion film industry as well: The more sexy a film is, the more views it gets. This experience also applies to my films. However, I do not use the element of sex or sexiness excessively – least of all in order to get views. I am much more interested in an extraordinary story. Don’t get me wrong: fashion is the protagonist in my films, and when I make a film that is about lingerie, then a lot of skin will be shown. But a film solely based on sexual innuendos would be too shallow for me. I enjoy using these innuendos in combination with a freaky story and humour.

My advise for a young filmmaker is to find an own and unique style instead of copying other artists

After ODDITORY we couldn’t wait to see your next film. Now that The Journey is here, how do you look back at your working process? Could you tell us about the things that went through your head? For example, how did you select the topic at first and what has it become in comparison to the final result? What feelings are you looking to evoke in the viewer?

With every film that I make the whole setting becomes more and more professional, and my team is constantly growing. This of course affects the whole work flow: One the one side, I am not able to work as spontaneously as I did at the beginning of my career, but on the other side I never had so much fun working on my film projects.

It is great to have so many possibilities to convey my artistic expression. This also holds good for The Journey. For many years I had the basic idea for the film in mind, and I always wanted to turn this idea into reality. Now it finally happened, and it came out just the way I wanted it to – except for one little detail: In my imagination the car had always been a mint green Renault R4. Due to our lack of time we decided to use a VW Käfer instead – which is a very stylish car, too!

If I can laugh about my film while I am editing it in the cutting room, I know I have accomplished my goal

Laura Ponte delivered an outstanding performance – she was beautiful and dominant at the same time and really took the whole project to a higher level. I want the viewers of my films to be surprised, and I want to invite them to think about the film after they have seen it. The surprise effect is an integral part of my work. If I can laugh about my film while I am editing it in the cutting room, I know I have accomplished my goal.

To be straight: in all of your work there’s a certain ironic undertone. You once said that surprise is your secret ingredient. Could you tell us what you mean by that? Would you say you tend to place the element of surprise within an ironic context? How do you think this is going to evolve in your future productions?

I want people to think about what they have just seen. While they watch the film they should ask themselves: What did just happen, and what does that all mean? First comes the confusion, then the solution. It is true that I often use surprise in combination with irony and humour. I think this really adds to the fashion film genre. However I do not intend to use this stylistic device in all of my films for the rest of my career. Creating aha experiences is not necessarily a part of my work. It always depends on the basic idea that I have, and on the story which I would like to convey. So: just wait and see!