Art & Culture

In conversation with Alec Maxwell, the trailblazing founder of Kloss films

Alec on film, introspection within fashion, the beauty of the digital era and his poignant yet abiding mantra: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

One of fashion’s – not to mention film’s – most revered videographers of the past decade, British award-winning “web-whiz” a.k.a Alec Maxwell, founder of the acclaimed digital platform entitled KLOSS FILMS, has taken the world by utter storm. Charting his prodigious career chronologically via 10 years of outstanding remark in industry, Maxwell has paved the ways of fashion like not many could. Working with icons from Kate Moss, Rihanna, Oprah Winfrey to supermodel and activist Naomi Campbell, he tracks a collection of enrapturing ventures, evidence of Maxwell’s profound acknowledgement to not only fashion, but Britain’s nation as a whole. Below, Maxwell spoke to HUNGER about everything from his productive approach to how Instagram is the new “cohesive dealer.”

Hi Alec! What exciting projects are you currently working on?

At present, I’m working on two projects for British Vogue. For both projects, we began shooting in New York, and then a second shoot day for each in London. The first is to celebrate Pride month, the other is the video element to run alongside the cover of Vogue U.K.’s September 2019 issue. The Pride project is analogous to two films I directed in the past: “I Am An Immigrant”, for W magazine and “We Won’t Be Erased” for British Vogue. Also, I’m on a process of re-designing my site which will include an online store where you can buy KLOSS pop-sockets and other KLOSS merch. I am about to conclude a project with Rambert too: this was my first time working with dance and it is a beautiful project.

Has the digital media always been a fascination of yours?

Growing up, movies, music videos and fashion imagery have played a pivotal part in my life. I was always playing with cameras and video cameras and later mobile phones with video.

My first editing experience occurred with a Nokia handset that I owned back in the early 2000’s, through which you were able to record a video, pause it and then continue recording at a later date. It flourished my obsession of finding the next thing to shoot which would work with what I had paused previously. It was a primitive edit. I am lucky to feel like I have been able to turn all of my childhood obsessions into my job. I have been full-time video-making for the last ten years. Making videos and my digital fascination stay hand in hand, it’s the marketplace for the work I am putting out.

What are the key sources of inspiration for your practice?

It depends on the project. When I’m researching, I often look at fashion photography images, so when starting to generate a concept for a film, there’s usually a reference to fashion photographers that I like. I also reference actresses that bewitch me. This idea of being on a Hollywood film set, especially in the ‘50s, is always a recurring orientation for me when I’m putting together something that has a “behind the scenes” sort of quality. And I go back to Catwalking and Unzipped for intimacy and access. I undeniably take reference from platforms such as Instagram, from people who are able to give me a feeling from their content. So my process is a combination of classic imagery and the energy of something digital and fresh. With any project, I always want the model/talent’s energy to be what you feel the most. A lot of models I’ve worked with told me that when they watch my videos, they feel like themselves. I wouldn’t like them feeling uncomfortable in order for the viewer to feel as if they were almost “hanging out” with them, rather than “the model is a little too perfect” and as such, they can’t be.

In your opinion, what makes a good fashion film?

A good fashion film, for me in particular, is something that holds your attention, something where all the different elements are considered and fit together. The concept, the quality, the mood, the excitement to look at the subject. That could be because of the beauty, the personality, or the viewpoint of the model. Above all, my real love of all those components is the edit. Once I get the project to the computer, I am the most excited. I have edited every project myself for the past ten years. The music is also very important for me. 99% of the time, I work with original music that is made in my studio. Colour grading and aftereffects are also crucial elements, so is length, making sure you’re not taking too much of the viewer’s time.

What characteristics do you search for in a model?

When I meet a model, I think the most important thing for me is the energy and if I feel like I would enjoy working with them. Additionally, there needs to be a good chemistry between them and myself. I am also drawn to models who are smart and have something to say. There is a fine art to modelling, especially on video, so the willingness for the model and I to work as a team is a key characteristic. If I am working with a model/talent who I haven’t worked with before, I will do a little case study from social media, so I have an idea of their energy so that I can connect with them during the shoot.

Do you like when films portray more of an ambiguous feel or do you prefer when a concept is much more straight-forward?

I like both to be honest! With my own work I don’t want to repeat something I’ve done before. Sometimes it’s cute and easy to watch and other times there are strong messages of social conversation.

Do you have any advice for the younger generations? Any statements you may wish to share?

There’s been a few sayings that I have held onto over the past few years, and the following stuck with me a few years into my career: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

From the moment I heard it, I connected with it because a lot of the time, you can sit there thinking “If only I had an amazing camera” or “If only I had this seasons looks”… At the time I didn’t have a studio set-up, nor great equipment or whatever, but the above saying helped my creative growth. I was utilising what I had, and people were reacting well to the result.

Another saying that I thrive inspiration from is: “The best way to get ahead, is to get started.”

Could you tell us how a day in the life of Alec Maxwell runs?

I wake up obviously *laughs*, then if it’s a day where I’m not shooting, I’ll go to the gym, be at the studio, meetings and editing. I really like editing late at night, so usually I stay at the studio until midnight-ish.

When I’m shooting, it could be something lasting all day, all night, starting early, depending on the project. The shoot could be a conversation between two people or content for a brand. The most people I’ve shot in one day is 90 in total; if one adds the crew on top of that, it becomes a lot of different energies to direct. I’m not afraid to work on a tight schedule when shooting.

What’s your best collaborator so far? Who do you think has enlightened your KLOSS FILMS career the most yet?

I mean…I’ve worked with some amazing people! But if I had to pick one, I think that working with Naomi has always been amazing. She brings it every time. Her energy is incredible, and I love how she can be herself on camera, she opens her mouth and it’s sudden magic blended with timeless charm. In all honesty, Naomi was one of the first people, a very long time ago, who believed in me.

What are you hoping to achieve at the end of 2019?

Well this year is the first ever year that I’ve written my goals down. I would love to continue to grow KLOSS FILMS, and I’m aware that to do that I may have to share a little more of myself rather than purely my work. September 2019 marks ten years of filmmaking, therefore I would like to celebrate that in a unique way

 

18 July 2019