Cinematastic Amanda May explains ‘Media Production’
At 33, Cinematastic co-founder and Executive Producer, Amanda May has an incredibly long list of achievements to her name. She has lived and worked in Canada, where she was born, New-York City and in London. She has been a Stylist, Design Consultant, Costume Designer, Event Producer, Actress and the Managing Director of one of London most celebrated Canadian designers.
Amanda did start her career early; having left Canada to board Upstate New York, she found employment at the tender age of 16, as a freelance design consultant for NYC marketing department of Polygram Records. After returning to Toronto at 18 she started styling and assisting fashion editors, financing her creative pursuits through better paid jobs as an events producer for fashion and burlesque shows and club nights.
This series of jobs led, in 2005 to her becoming costumes designer in Vancouver. The film industry has real weight on the west coast of Canada, where amongst others, the Twilight franchise has been shot (it is only set in Oregon). In 2007, Amanda moved to the UK to take some short fashion courses at Central Saint Martins with the aim of becoming an Art Director. This is where she met Mark Fast, himself a Canadian graduate of Central Saint Martins and in 2008 launched with him his eponymous label. Amanda was Managing Director of Mark Fast, in charge of Marketing and Special Projects until 2011 when she left to start Cinematastic.
Amanda, Can you tell us a little about who you are as a person?
I grew up on Hollywood bios; aged 8 I knew Marilyn Monroe complete career and wanted to become an actor. Then in my teens my aunt became a pop star; she was my idol and my role model. I, I couldn’t sing to save my life! My career always had this edge of comedic glamour; even when working in a flower shop or a pizza place my love of glamour would take over! For me nothing could be worse than being ordinary. My comfort zone is in the beautiful, strange and fantastic. This is what makes Sam, my business partner and I such a great team. We’ve known each other for 12 years and we are really supportive of one another’s uniqueness.
Today I cannot imagine not being in Fashion. I’m actually unemployable outside this industry. I have had to find a place where I could work with the skill set I was born with. Most people don’t understand what it means to work in fashion beyond being a designer or a buyer. Even my family doesn’t really get what I do; I’m pretty sure they tell people I’m a hairdresser.
Can you tell us what Cinematastic is? What do you do?
Cinematastic is a multimedia production service for emerging fashion talents. We produce fashion films, stills shoots, and portfolios. We also negotiate for designers, special projects, sponsorships and design consultancies.
Earlier you mention a business Partner, Sam?
Yes, I started Cinematastic with my friend Samatha Jocelyn. We have similar career experiences and compatible aesthetics. Like me, she was in front of the camera before training to be behind. From the onset I knew I wanted Cinematastic to be a collaboration, to share this experience with a business partner, I just didn’t know who. When Sam left Canada and arrived in London in the summer of 2012 she offered to help with Cristina Sabaiduc’s film. She was amazing; she whipped the set into shape and helped us overcome a 1.5 hour delay in the shoot so we could finish within our allocated studio time. Her confidence on set is incredible and her technical knowledge is really impressive. The following day I asked her to be my partner.
What do Production Services involve?
Mostly organisation, planning and budgets; but we also add value in assisting the designers we work with to translate their vision.
Most creative people don’t realise they do not communicate their ideas and visions as well as they think! Designers are so involved in their work, with what they create; it is often difficult for them to step back. This is where collaborators who understand their vision but are less involved with it can prove useful. Of course the priority of Cinematastic is to ensure all practical aspects of a project are taken care of. That’s the producer’s job…
What quality does it require?
Patience, vision, passion… I’m a lateral thinker; I think that’s my biggest asset. I always consider the big picture. I often see trouble coming a long way off and can shore up against it before it becomes an issue on the set of a shoot, for example.
Can you explain what you do practically?
I interpret the client brief, hire the team, manage the budget and deal with practicalities. As the producers we have a significant influence on the final product: we are the people who are pulling it all together. The biggest challenge is to know when to speak up and when to let people do what they are going to do.
Most of Cinematastic activity pertains to Fashion Presentation; how do feel it Fashion is likely to be presented in the next few years?
Traditional catwalks are very expensive to produce and their impact often limited to those in the room. To broaden their reach, shows may be filmed and broadcasted but the images produced are difficult to control, especially if the broadcast is live. New digital media provide an outlet for designers that’s cost effective, controlled and easily accessible when hosted on line.
In your opinion, what makes a good fashion film?
In my opinion quality and integrity are what matters. Not everyone is going to understand what you are trying to communicate but they will know and be touched when you are being authentic.
By nature Fashion is ambitious and fashion communication demanding. At Cinematastic we are not interested in recycling concepts. We only work with people who we feel have a fresh perspective. The internet has given us direct access to massive archives of past work. The challenge today is to not be derivative; you must find your own voice. You must learn the rules so you know what and why you are breaking them and then you can be crazy, be weird.
I have over-heard you mention ‘creativity on a commercial level’. What does it mean?
I’m the Nigella Lawson of fashion! I like it if it’s quirky, well lit, and sexy. More seriously, ‘creativity on a commercial level’ is difficult to explain. It is the point where art and commerce meet. Fashion needs to be cool but cool is not always sell-able. I’ve seen what sells and what doesn’t.
You said earlier that you wanted Cinematastic to be a collaboration. Why? How important is collaborative work in Fashion?
Some design schools teach that you should stay away from those who don’t share your vision. I don’t believe it’s true. Collaborate with people you respect and who challenge you. Find the ones who call bullshit on you and draw on their knowledge, inspirations and their ideas to make yours better.
The tricky bit is giving credit where credit is due and not letting your ego get out of control. I’ve seen it happen so many times when people let other people help them and then become insufferable and forget to be respectful of their sources. This is so sad for all involved as it can be such a mutually beneficial experience if you remain humble and gracious.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a career in fashion?
Fashion as an industry is tough; to survive and thrive you must be committed. I would recommend you first try anything else you are qualified for. If however you still wake up in the middle of the night dreaming of a career in fashion, call me; I need interns.
More productions by Amanda May
Credits & References