Girls on film

One is a session stylist and artistic director for Trevor Sorbie; the other, a creative short filmmaker and multimedia artist. Together, they are changing the way avant-garde hair is experienced.

Exclusively for Creative HEAD Education, Johanna Cree Brown and her long time collaborator, Roger Spy, explain how and why they decided to combine their love of hair and video artistry…

What first ignited your interest in video as a medium?

Johanna Cree Brown – “I have always been drawn to films with experimental, cinematic visuals. I started my career at the peak of the MTV generation, where music videos played a big part in my back catalogue of inspirations, I guess.”

Roger Spy – “I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by films and music. My father has a massive film and music library and he introduced me to works from a very young age. He also used to do family clips – pre automatic iPhone ones – on VHS, by transferring footage from one VHS to the other and then recording music on top. That was the first thing I was taught to do in video/film.”

Why do you like to shoot hair films for certain looks as opposed to creating static photographic collections?

JCB – “I like to record the hair moving. Video allows me to apply special effects such as a time delay and slow motion, showing hair in a way we don’t normally see it and to capture a surprise moment that may otherwise be lost. I also enjoy being able to tell a story that the viewer can engage with on a different level.

“As an artist, I work on developing hair looks that haven’t been seen before and by collaborating with Roger – a unique, super talented filmmaker – we hopefully can take hair into new unchartered territory.”

Why do you think hair and the moving image work well together?

RS – “Hair to me is movement. It’s a perfect match for video as it almost need no direction. It’s great to work with something alive and unpredictable.”

JCB – “I agree – hair is so dynamic. It’s great as a hairdresser to be able to show off your work in a more three-dimensional way and when someone watches it on film, it makes them feel like they are in the moment… a moment that because it has been recorded, can be visited and relived forever.”

Johanna, you are also renowned for using unusual materials in your hair work. Does video help showcase the contrasts between them better?

JCB – “Absolutely. Lighting and movement are key in defining transitions and highlighting the shifts between different textures.”

How do you go about creating your videos?

RS – “We’re always brainstorming and coming up with ideas. We have so many ideas that we want to materialise and huge ambitions, but it’s always difficult as all our work is self-funded. We have a concept for short film ready to go, where we’d like to incorporate underwater filming.  We’re hoping to get funding for this project or to partner with a big designer brand to get this off the ground. Fingers crossed!”

JCB – “We are constantly coming up with and getting excited about new ideas – I think we are on the same wavelength. We are both passionate about evolving and exploring further possibilities in film, so when we have a window of opportunity, we take it.”

Your short hair film EXOTICA was shot entirely on an iPhone. What kind of set up do you normally go for?

RS – “I like to experiment with my approach each time – I don’t have a formula when it comes to equipment or setting. I’m always open to try something different and new. With EXOTICA, I wanted to do an uncomplicated shoot and see how far we could go with simplicity. One of my favourite quotes about the creative process is by Michael Jackson: ‘Sometimes a pencil, can solve your problem’.  In this case, the iPhone was the pencil! I love technology, I love iPhones, and I love Instagram. I wanted to include them all in that project.”

JCB – “Every piece of work we have created together has been approached differently! EXOTICA was a gem. From a hair point of view, I could not quite believe what we were capturing. We hoped it would be interesting, but I feel the end result was almost magical.”

What tips would you give hairdressers interested in branching out into film work?

JCB – “I think firstly, really consider the hair, your concept and how possible it will be to make it look amazing. When you are working on a photographic shoot, you only need one great shot of the hair and then you have the look down. However, when you work with video, you have to remember that the hair has to look good from most angles and have longevity to last the duration of filming.

“Above all, I’d say have some fun with it. Try to do something out of your comfort zone and create something new!”

With rapid advancements in camera technology and the continued social media boom, do you feel the industry is moving more towards video when it comes to capturing hair and beauty looks?

JCB – “Yes, everyone wants video now on social media. The platform is there, it’s the perfect formant and a lot of hairdressers now want to present their work this way.”

RS – “Yes, definitely. I think we’re already there. Facebook and Instagram completely changed everything and have made video the massive mainstream format.”

Watch Johanna Cree Brown and Roger Spy’s 2016 hair film ‘EXOTICA’ here>