Hypnotism has never worked on me. That’s until I met Collier Schorr. Her voice, a kind of soft New York drawl, with a LA twang, is timid enough that one leans just that bit extra in to catch what she’s saying, but consequently ends up staring at her just that little bit more than they should, head tilted hanging on her every word.
Collier’s latest film for Mercedes-Benz AW15 fashion campaign is described as the “Champagne moment of Mercedes-Benz fashion involvement.” Why? Because this is not another advert for a new car, gliding off road and up some mountain with a Windows screen saver great view, showing off its updated tape player and apparently driverless car. This is a fashion film involving the two top Formula One racers in the world; Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg – who as chance would have it are obviously Mercedes-Benz drivers, not bad looking and apparently not that bad at acting either. The leading lady is model-cum-actress Dree Hemingway, a bombshell of sorts, but with the brain capacity to abolish any notion of a “chick on a car” style advert, and no she doesn’t end up on top of the car, but inside it…in a wind tunnel, wearing who else (we’re in Berlin) but Hugo Boss. Mercedes-Benz showcased their fashion film at Mercedes-Benz Berlin Fashion Week and Wonderland managed to catch a few minutes with both Collier Schorr and Dree Hemingway about their latest venture…
You really captured that thrill, the anxiety of Formula One and fast cars in the film, it was almost tense watching it…
I think we really wanted the sense of expectation that you have. It was an interesting project because they don’t really tell you what to do. When you hire an artist to do something you’re really going left instead of right; but I think being in the room with that stuff and the idea of those racers, the competitiveness of it and then having the sort of pressure of a woman to not take another woman and reduce her to a trophy…it’s hard. And I don’t know how many women have directed these car films before, I don’t think a lot.
Why do you think that is?
Well you know, a million reasons. There’s not that many of us that can make it through. There are pre-conceived notions about what people are interested in and what you can get and I think it was important for me that the film focused on pleasure and that if Dree was being looked at by the camera, she was enjoying that and she was kind of controlling the tone with her acting. I really think that comes through.
Not being submissive?
Yes. There’s only so much you can do as a photographer or a director if the woman has herself a pre-conceived notion of what she should do.
Was the wind tunnel featured in the film your choice of location?
The wind tunnel just seemed like the James Bond situation and since we had two cars, it already started in my head turning into one of those iron fortresses. Everything is super modern and yet retro. It was great and I think all of us felt like the wind tunnel kind of took away the working aspect and it made it real, she (Dree) was doing something kind of dangerous and it was beautiful to look at.
How do you take that speed of formula one and the speed insinuated by the cars and make one photo out of it; how do you capture that energy in one still shot?
Well I think we got lucky with having the biggest fan.
It’s quite big yeah…
I think it’s a turbine, I think the idea that the thing is spinning, it kind of gives you a sense of something impending. I didn’t really think about the photo as Formula One because it really is about a mortal human being driving a car in the street; it’s not really about racing, it’s about people who are interested in going fast but in the real world. There are limits to what you can do. Our cars didn’t even turn on. One of the cars – I don’t know if it even had an engine in it – the lights could turn on, the other car they were pushing it. Trying to get one model, two drivers and two cars in the right place, that was the tricky thing. It was like moving cows or something. The car didn’t necessarily want to go, it was like four people pushing the car and you’re just like, okay a little bit to the left a little bit to the right. But it was a lot of architecture to move around.
Which is easier to direct the car or the cast? I mean, how does one direct a still object?
Well that car is so animated. It has gold wing doors so it’s a lot more like a person. There’s a scene when Dree is kind of unzipping her racing suit and throwing it out. The inside of it is like a houndstooth suit. It’s beautiful textures, it really felt like a fashion shoot for us.
What was your inspiration behind the whole thing?
There is a film by Robert Altman called The Long Goodbye with Elliot Gould. I think its that kind of 70s blues and beiges and night photography that was kind of a jumping off point, a very ambitious jumping off point! The other inspiration was just at the end of it: the girl gets the car. It was really important for me that is doesn’t end with the girl on top of the car. It ends with her driving it so that the entire thing potentially is her fantasy and her kind of playing with the end of the day she is in the driving seat.
I like that aspect…
Yeah, me too! I think its really important to be making these things for women viewers and for all the men that are really interested in women being that involved in the imagery.
When you do a shoot like that, is their any spontaneity involved or is it very rigorous?
I think there were certain shots where we knew the basic storyline, once we got those things we could really play. We really made sure we got everything we needed and then we got more. It wasn’t until I really looked at the footage, that I sort of had this idea of her (flaps her arms around a bit)…what’s this movement called?
Oh the fast and furious gesture?!
Yes the fast and furious thing! It was really funny because Lewis (Hamilton) and Nico (Rosberg) were trying to figure out with Dree how to do it. I started in my head to see what it could be, but it’s not until you can get home and you’re looking at everything, that you realise – of course – you can’t have everything. The car is beautiful to shoot. But you know in half a day, which is all we had to shoot the car, there’s only so much perfection you can achieve!
Why did you choose Dree as your leading lady?
I knew her a little bit and I felt like intellectually she could understand what I wanted. She could empower, definitely.
I like that you don’t have a driving licence.
I did, but a long time ago, I moved to NYC when I was 18 and I just forgot about driving and I forgot to send the licence back with the $17 cheque , and I swear I don’t think I had $17!
Words: Harriet Charity Verney