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Emmanuelle Pickett on Capturing Optimism and “Unconventional Freedom” for the ‘Creators of West Hollywood’ Tourism Campaign



The Plus Plus director talks to LBB’s Ben Conway about filming with West Hollywood creators, from “rocking out, shooting handheld 16mm in Mary Ta’s vintage Bentley” to backstage access at legendary venue, The Viper Room

Emmanuelle Pickett on Capturing Optimism and “Unconventional Freedom” for the ‘Creators of West Hollywood’ Tourism Campaign

Working with creative agency The Many and its sister company, Plus Plus, for production, the West Hollywood Travel and Tourism Board (known as ‘Visit West Hollywood’) has created a series of interviews with creators that live and work in the area.

Directed by Emmanuelle Pickett, the series features six of West Hollywood’s best - people who have made a mark on the city through dining, nightlife, music and more. The campaign is an authentic and personal look into the creators’ lives and workplaces, shot beautifully on a variety of film formats. From a boxing gym, to a design studio, music venue and the sunshine-filled boulevards of Hollywood, the films explore several stunning locations, each with its own personality and Californian colour to match the equally unique interviewees.

LBB’s Ben Conway caught up with director Emmanuelle Pickett to discuss the “life affirming” experience of sharing her love for LA, capturing personality and the raw side of the city with B-roll and how she built “a tapestry of colours and textures” with a varied selection of film equipment.

LBB> When were you approached to get involved with this campaign? What was the brief like? 

Emmanuelle> When Dave Horowitz, an executive producer at Plus Plus, reached out to me with this campaign, I was immediately hooked. The brief was a confident and energetic film series featuring a small group of niche West Hollywood creators taking us on a tour of the city from their unique perspectives.

As we signed on our incredible cast, the concept evolved into something more meaningful. Our interview questions begged for a more personal lens into what makes these people continue to choose West Hollywood as their home and source of inspiration. From then on, every creative decision was about showing West Hollywood as the heart of Los Angeles by sharing the passion and heart of our creators. 

LBB> Did West Hollywood Tourism select the interviewees of the films? How involved were you in the creative process before production more generally?

Emmanuelle> The process was very thorough and collaborative. It felt really important to all of us to make sure that each one of our creators has a real deep love for the city. Since I’ve lived in West Hollywood for almost 10 years now, I’ve become friends with most of the creators in our films. Getting to interview the people I’ve grown up with and whose work I respect was a really affirming experience. 

LBB> Why did you want to direct this project? And what is it about LA?

Emmanuelle> I’ve always been a romantic. After moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a director, I fell in love. Coming up in this industry is a grind, but the people and the city are here to support you if you have a vision. People show up for one another, they work on your short films, they come to your premieres and your art openings. There’s an optimism here that makes artists and dreamers feel safe to explore their ideas.

LBB> To those outside of LA, when you hear ‘Hollywood’ you think of the movies, glamour, celebrities etc. How do your films aim to represent West Hollywood and respond to any preconceptions?

Emmanuelle> Hollywood historically has the luxe allure of cinema and fame. But, it is also a place for unabashed self-expression and freedom. This campaign was a really interesting look at the emergence of a new type of luxury. We worked with Visit West Hollywood to redefine some of those outdated norms seen in high-end marketing. We’re seeing an evolution from quality over quantity - real over shiny and overly exclusive. What you like, what you wear, where you eat is all a form of affiliation, and only brands or concepts that connect with people through some type of real story are the ones that seem to remain relevant. By shooting on film and rolling during 50/50 moments between takes, I think we represented the real personalities and raw side of the city.

LBB> Was the scale of the project intimidating at all - with seven films and people with very different environments and personalities to shoot with?

Emmanuelle> Luckily after coming off of directing my first feature film of all night shoots, I felt prepared for the ambitious schedule. We filmed all six creators in three days, so two a day with interviews and b-roll. I loved splitting our day between two different creators and their own very distinct worlds.

LBB> Which creator did you enjoy filming with and directing the most? What was some of the most fun B-roll that you got to shoot?

Emmanuelle> From rocking out shooting handheld 16mm in Mary Ta’s vintage Bentley to wrapping out the series with Tommy black performing his original song on stage with legendary guitarist Pete Thorn by his side, it was all such a blast. I knew we had something truly moving while we were shooting with Kirk Myers and the entire DOGPOUND Crew. Kirk and his team are some of the sweetest badasses I’ve ever met and his interview moved the crew to tears. After the interview, we shot an epic oner with Kirk and his team getting into the boxing ring to do a group huddle. Everyone put their heads and hands together and we jumped right into the middle with our 16mm camera. The energy of being surrounded by that much family and love with film in our hands was a moment I’ll never forget. 

LBB> Did you learn anything about West Hollywood and/or the creators while shooting? 

Emmanuelle> There’s a sense that the people here are living for something bigger. a sense of respect and support for people’s individual journeys. People want to support people as they are coming up and that makes for a creatively diverse and supportive crowd of people. 

LBB> Mary Ta describes West Hollywood as “The birthplace of unconventional freedom.” How is this shown in your films and how you shot the creators?

Emmanuelle> Unconventional Freedom. Non-conformists are the people that pave the way for other people to be themselves. Our shoot was all about people being themselves. It is a huge reason why we chose to switch over to shooting a lot of b-roll handheld on 16mm film. There’s something about the sound and feeling of shooting on film that always helps people be present. 

LBB> The films look stunning - what was your camera and lens set-up for shooting this project? Why did you choose these?


Emmanuelle> Thank you for the kind words and thanks to our incredible cinematographer, Ian Rigby. From the very first call I got from Plus Plus, I knew I wanted to shoot this on film and Ian and his crew made it happen. 

We ended up shooting several formats to build a tapestry of colours and textures that reflect the energy of West Hollywood. We shot 35mm Kodak 5219 film stock on an Arricam ST 4 perf camera that gave us a lot of richness in the colours and resolution. For the handheld work, we wanted a grittier and more energetic look so we shot on an Aaton A-minima super 16mm camera with Kodak 7219 and 7213 film stocks. We used vintage lenses for all of our film work including Arri Zeiss Super Speeds as well as 16mm Arri Standard Speed and Ultra 16 lenses. Additionally we shot some work digitally to reflect the modern culture and vibrancy of West Hollywood with an Arri Alexa Mini LF camera and Arri Signature Prime lenses. 

LBB> Who did you work with on the edit? Did each film require its own style and direction?

Emmanuelle> Because we knew each film could have its own creative feel based on the talent and interview, we brought on two incredible editors that alternated films. A big part of the edit was creating the right music to set the tone and pacing mixed with the diegetic landscape of the city. I worked with composer Charles Derenne to create original music for each film. We knew right away Mia Moretti was going to be a mix of funky soul, Mary Ta was rock n’ roll Led Zeppelin vibes and Tommy’s original song would close out his film. In addition to the longform pieces, the cutdowns ended up becoming really unique edits that leaned on a mix of holding on the longer takes and leaning into the diegetic soundscapes of Los Angeles. 

LBB> What was the hardest challenge you faced on this project, and how did you overcome it?

Emmanuelle> The hardest challenge was shooting six B-Roll and Interviews on location in and around West Hollywood in just three days. Knowing that we had to be very intentional with our shots, shooting on film ended up helping us make our days. As much as I love all the gear and toys, I love the freedom of knowing I only have a few minutes to get a shot and just jumping into the back seat of a car with a handheld 16mm camera and telling the camera trucks and crew we’ll be right back. 

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The Many, Fri, 24 Jun 2022 16:06:00 GMT