Can you give an overview of how you got to where you are today?
Overview. Well, it's actually a story that I like to tell. I came to New York, went to Parsons, and I had this idea in my head of how things were going to happen. I was dipping my toes with different photographers; no one, necessarily, that was big or on any sort of level. Then one day, a friend of mine said, "You know, my mom has a studio in Paris and if you want to intern there as a studio assistant whilst you're visiting me, you can get some experience."
So I interned there for about two weeks as a studio assistant and I realized that things were happening every single day; from an e-commerce shoot to a fashion story, to a campaign. People were working, and the industry kept producing something new.
I ran back to New York, sophomore year, and thought, "You've seen how quick it is in Paris. You've got to start working in New York.”
Parsons has their career experience people that are supposed to help you get internships. So I sat down with this woman, and I was keen to get something but she didn't really help me. There was nothing that she could offer that was good, or even something that made me excited.
I kept looking for things, and one day one of my professors sent out an email saying Red Hook Labs was looking for interns. So I looked up Red Hook Labs on Google Maps, and was just seeing this industrial-looking spot that had the appearance of some sort of garage. I'm thinking, "What could possibly be here?" But turns out they work with some of the most sought out photographers in the industry.
I interviewed with Helena Martel Seward, who is now one of my close friends, and is an amazing producer. And it just took off from there, I was at Red Hook for about nine months. Then she left to do her own thing; she started her own company Lolly Would, and I worked there for a bit as well.
From there I went to Steven Klein as an intern. He ended up offering me a job as an in-house producer and in-house casting director. I was still in school at the time, so I said, "Let me come back to you after I graduate. Let’s see where I'm at."
I also interned for Charlotte Wales. It was the day of my graduation that Vogue offered me a job - Helena had put me in contact with some producers there two years prior. I guess that's how it all came together, when people kept recommending me based on the hard work that I was doing as an intern.
Would you recommend other young photographers invest in art school?
I benefited from the photo department at Parsons because I learned about community and what it takes to make a picture. It also allowed my craft to get better and to develop. So, I think yes, for photography and film, go to school for the resources, for the equipment. I had access to this SONY FS5 video camera which shoots 4K and that let me work for the right people. We also had these amazing flextight scanners which allowed me to really be with my film, play around with the curves, the exposure, and figure out the color.
In that respect, yeah, go to school, go to a good school that has those resources. But don't expect them to teach you everything. You have to be keen to learn. You have to go out there and teach yourself, assist, find tutorials, and advocate for yourself.
But if you're aiming to be a producer, honestly, no, I don't think you need to go to school. You need to find a production company, tell them you're keen to learn, and then go from there.
Now you’re an associate producer at Vogue. What's your day-to-day? I know there’s no such thing as a typical day but...
As an associate producer, or should I just say producer in general... what do I do? I am a part of the Vogue video team.
The main thing is coming up with ideas to pitch. We'll be in a meeting and think, "It's now June or July. What can we create that is relevant, and put out into the world?" So we'll come up with concepts for example, "24 Hours with," or "A Day in the Life with," or "Getting Ready with.”
What do you think are the key traits that make a good producer?
So being a producer means being organized, and understanding that sometimes things go wrong. You have to think on the spot and fix it, without showing the client, or the talent, or anyone, that you're panicking. There have been situations where we've been delayed by two hours, we missed two shots, or a PA has crashed a car. You have to keep a good face, a good spirit, and you have to carry on and lead the way. I always say that producer's are playmakers. Without a good producer, you don't have a good shoot.
Also, as a producer, you have your hands in everything. I think a lot of people think that producers lack a creative role, but you guys definitely do have creative aspects to your role.
We really do, because we bring everybody together; we hand pick the team based on who we think would work well. We're also coming up with ideas, creating mood boards and concepts, and then pitching them to the client. But still, production in the fashion industry is based in logistics and organization.
Going off of that, I do think that knowing how to produce will make me better at anything that I do. My main focus is being a director and a photographer. Production makes me a better artist, because if I have a certain budget, I know I can't cross that, but I’ve learned how to share things and make it work. Then, as a director you also need to know how to talk to people about your ideas. So production really teaches you skills that I think are vital in every aspect.
Whenever I’m interviewing someone, and they’ve been on the other side of what they’re doing, I know that they’re good at their job. They’re not coming from a place with a single perspective.
It also makes you more realistic. You have this crazy concept, which, usually I do. So it’s knowing, "Well actually, renting a car for 15 people is going to cost you $200 for the day, maybe spare a $100 for gas, then as the photographer you've got to feed people so that’s another $200.” Things start adding up in your head, and you're like, "Well Talia, maybe you don't have enough money to do this now. Wait 'til two months, gather enough money, and then go for it."
So shifting gears and going back into your role at Vogue. Can you walk us through the initial stage of when you’re pitching ideas, all the way through post-production?
Sure. At the beginning of the month we’ll all sit down, the whole video team, and we’ll talk about the ideas that we have or targets that we would like to achieve. We create video content that we think can attract our viewers to reach our targets.
But it's also content that has to be visually beautiful, visually interesting, and there has to be a story behind it. We’ll look at what's current, who’s being talked about, if somebody's coming out with a new film or a new album. From there, we would see if they'd be interested in working with us.
For instance, June is pride month, so we just did a video with Kylie Minogue, who was headlining at Pride. We filmed her getting ready at the Crosby Street Hotel, heading out, and a few shots of her singing as well. So it's things that connect, that are current, and then we’ll bring those ideas to the table. Once we decide, we go back within our teams and start producing it.
What does that entail?
First, we'll think about who could direct it. For example, Kylie Minogue, we knew that she was someone exciting and colorful, and we needed a director who was energetic and ready to have some fun. We booked Charlie Engman; he has a great vibe about him.
We then find a videographer. We’ll find someone that is young, ready on the move, aware that we're doing something quick, and can work fast.
Then we find stylists, usually it's a fashion editor that already works at Vogue, so Alexandra Gurvitch was the fashion editor for that. We also had a tailor to make sure that the clothes fit Kylie.
It's all a collaboration. It's taking those ideas that we come up with in the boardrooms and then going back to our desks and finding the teams that can create those concepts and make these videos.
After we shoot, we’ll bring it back into our offices and we get our editors to compile it into a video. Sometimes we get directors who really want to be involved in the post-production process, so they'll come into the offices and edit with the editors. Then it goes up within four or five days.
I feel like post-production can be so underrated, when it’s actually a huge part of the creative process.
For sure. Editing is so powerful because you're piecing everything together. You're building clips that go one after the other and it all has to tie in and make sense. So finding a good editor is really difficult but Vogue has some amazing ones.
It sounds like for your job you have to really be in tune with popular culture.
Definitely. You have to be up to date with everything that's going on. You need to know who's popular at the moment and who people find interesting. You have to also be aware, for instance, this person is performing in a month so let's start thinking about them.
Is staying current and up to date on popular culture something that you were interested in before you started this job?
Yes, to a certain extent. I was always interested in knowing what was out there and who was relevant. It was definitely more of a hobby, but now it’s my job to be interested.