Co-founder Niccolò Montanari on the exciting changes in place for the festival’s fifth edition
Now in its fifth year, the Berlin Fashion Film Festival has evolved from a relatively small public event, to a bona fide B2B, multi-faceted conference on which the fashion, ad and production communities converge. LBB’s Addison Capper caught up with one of the festival’s co-founder, Niccolò Montanari, to find out what’s exciting him most for 2016.
LBB> What inspired you to launch Berlin fashion Film Festival?
NM> Back in 2012 I was running an events management company here in Berlin for emerging fashion designers. One of the events I started working on was a collaboration between five fashion designers and five filmmakers. I noticed that an increasing number of designers started releasing films and collaborating with filmmakers and I wanted to get involved.
As you generally do when you start working on a new event, I began by contacting potential partners. The feedback I received was basically that I needed to think bigger. Together with the BFFF co-founders Frank Funke and Lisa Filippini, we started putting together the concept of what a potential fashion film festival could look like. We looked at pioneers such as Diane Pernet to be part of our jury; we asked Vogue Italia to join us as curators; and we launched an open call to see what would come to us.
Four years down the line, our fifth edition has just kicked off and covers way more than the one award show we started off with. We are now producing two full days of talks, panels, masterclasses, multiple film screenings, networking events and our latest addition: BFFF's creative speed dating, an event focused on bringing together directors, productions companies, agencies and brands.
LBB> What makes fashion film a particularly exciting genre of filmmaking?
NM> I often get asked what exactly is fashion film. I always reply that fashion film isn't yet to be defined as it's still in its youth, in the experimentation phase, and that's what makes it very exciting. Since 2012, through our increasing number of submissions, I've seen this genre change and develop from an aesthetics-focused approach to a more storyline-based one.
In a certain sense, fashion film is the fashion industry's response to a general video trend we've seen in other industries. However what makes fashion film particularly interesting is a combination of strong aesthetics and storyline which, when done well, tends to trigger a strong emotional reaction in the viewer.
This is what I find exciting about fashion film; we aren't just looking at pretty people wandering through the woods anymore. Or plain and simple commercials by established fashion brands. We are witnessing having to get out of one's comfort zone, meaning brands are having to come up with engaging content that goes beyond the hard sale, but rather aim to put across the value and identity of the brand, whereas upcoming filmmakers and designers are given the chance to collaborate and experiment bringing together strong aesthetics and storytelling.
LBB> Why is Berlin the perfect setting for the festival?
NM> Berlin is an international city. Berlin is a creative hub. Berlin is the place you escape to when you need time to collect your thoughts. It's a city that, compared to established fashion and media capitals like London, Paris or Milan, inspires you to start working on your idea with almost no budget. It's an immensely creative space and I don't think I would have felt as encouraged to start BFFF anywhere else.
LBB> What have you got lined up for this year's festival?
NM> A lot. Every year we double in size, while the team stays more or less the same. We always listen to our attendees' feedback , and that's why this year we decided to split BFFF into two days considering the amount of content we've put together for our fifth edition.
We are very proud of our film programme, which forms the core product of Berlin fashion Film Festival. We've received over 800 submissions, which doesn't make our job as curators easy considering how much the quality has improved over the past four editions. We are now looking at productions that go beyond showing clothing on screen; we receive outstanding films that explore political issues, humour, love and sex and not just from the fashion world, but also from the music, accommodation, transport and drinks industries - what we call lifestyle and beauty.
As a B2B event, our speakers also play a vital role. We bring together the top creative leaders from the fashion, film and advertising industries to share their knowledge at BFFF. We have names like The Mill, VCCP Berlin, Vimeo, Farfetch, White Lodge, Vogue Italia, Acne, Nowness, Media Monks, ODD, B-Reel, Amsterdam Worldwide and Amsterdam Berlin just to name a few, covering topics from How Art Can Save Advertising and Fashion Goes Digital: Driving Transformation for Global Fashion Brands to Creating Content for a Multidimensional World and Has Social Killed The Video Star.
We basically have four floors of creative content being run and shared over two days. It's huge!
LBB> How has the festival evolved since its conception?
NM> We've really had to think within the first couple of editions as to where we were heading. We initially had BFFF as a public event. But as we don't rely on any major funding or sponsorship and we are dealing with a niche market, we realised that our strength lay in providing a B2B platform where creatives from the fashion, film and ad industries could meet, connect, learn from one another and discover new talent.
This transition has meant that our audience now comes to us knowing that we don't work on quantity, but rather quality. We cater for a maximum of 500 people and we constantly look for ways for filmmakers, brands, designers, productions companies and agencies to interact with one another and get to know each other. Every action BFFF takes has to resonate with at least one of our values: discover creative talent, learn about upcoming new trends and connect with one another.
These three pillars have helped us decide on how to grow, for example by adding our BFFF-on-Tour campaign to get people to meet in their own city or by launching our monthly newsletter magazine In The Know to highlight creatives working in fashion film. They've helped us build BFFF as an approachable brand, moving away from the intimidating reputation fashion tends to come with.
In the end we see ourselves as a big family where we all know each other and support one another along the way.
Main Photo Credit: Riccardo Bernardi