Volt, known for its fashion films and editorials, interviewed Tom Bird, a successful Creative Director, revealing the story behind the camera instead of the front. Bird, gifted with a natural talent for photographing, producing and directing hints us towards his creative thoughts and backstage work process.
Volt Café: Your résumé shows an extensive portfolio of people and projects you have worked on. How did you initially get involved in video commissioning and directing?
Tom Bird: I’ve always been fascinated with photography and film making as well as fine art, as both my parents had a real love of those disciplines between them – my love of these elements inspired me to study Photography and Film with an additional self-requested study of painting, printing and sculpture. After completing my degree I worked briefly in Animation, then onto the British Film Institute.
VC: What was your lucky break?
TB: A friend told me that the Video Commissioner at Mercury was hectic busy as his assistant was away on holiday for two weeks – I rang the next morning, offered to work the two weeks for free – the answer was yes and I began. The love-struck assistant came back from Turkey and returned to Turkey within a month – meaning another two weeks for me – this time I was paid! A full time job offer followed and my career in video started for real … because of LOVE… (the love between the assistant and the Turkish chap did not last, sadly – unlucky in love – but lucky for me … and that assistant did finally find long term love in London!)
VC: And how did commissioning and directing evolve to where you are now as a Creative Director?
TB: When I began video commissioning and directing, I liked to have a real connection and discussion with the different artists about their look. I’d noticed that an artist’s look seemed to change dramatically from one photo shoot to the next, likewise in videos and TV performances. I made my feelings aware and discussed how someone should oversee the entire look of an artist to ensure both visuals and styling were clear from the start. My thoughts were reviewed and discussed with the artists and I was offered the role of Creative Director. A real challenge, I started working with artists from the very start of the projects – I also brought to photo shoots the same approach used in video production – allowing the photographer to be creative while production worked on the nuts and bolts of the shoot itself. As a Creative Director one can get in from the start and create the image with the artist.
VC: You’ve worked with the likes of Jay-Z, Elton John and Pixie Lott, which might seem eclectic when listed together! What draws you to an artist initially to work with them?
TB: The list of artists whom I have worked with does seem eclectic and that is intentional. I can honestly say is that every artist I’ve worked with share the same work ethic, the ability to focus on the creative, work hard on the process and respect the creativity of the team.
VC: What was instrumental in working with artists such as Rihanna and Mariah Carey and subsequently become involved in groundbreaking moments in their careers?
TB: Working on visuals with certain artists deemed to be successful or cool does mean that access to other artists in a similar situation is possible, because of the association involved. You do have to build a trusting relationship with the artist.
VC: Who would you love to collaborate with? Is there an individual or maybe a brand in particular?
TB: I have worked with certain artists who have really developed their visual style through our collaboration, defining their look through styling and photography. I find artists such as Lana Del Rey intriguing, mainly because of the underlining dark edge that she brings to an image that may initially seem glamorous. One can perceive it first as pure beauty but there is a real disquiet in the tone.
VC: When you create artwork for clients, how do you change your approach to appeal to different audiences?
TB: It is really important to be able to change one’s artwork approach from one artist to the other – the artists with whom I work should not have a cookie-cutter look to all their artwork – it is vital that the artwork created is a reflection of the artist, not a reflection of me – it is my role to creatively direct a set of visuals for the artist which reflects their message, therefore it is my challenge to offer new ways of seeing visuals, introducing image possibilities to the artist, to define the artist’s message and the project we’re collaborate on.
VC: You also have substantial involvement in charitable work – how do those projects compare with your everyday work?
TB: I have been very fortunate to work in the creative field for key charities.When one works in the charity arena, one is really touched by all aspects of the people involved – from those the charity is taking care of to the passion of the charity workers and the generosity of spirit of the artists and creatives who all come together to do something good!
VC: How do you feel your work plays into (or against) your contemporaries?
TB: I believe and hope that the work which I have created with all the superb talents involved, in terms of styling, hair and make up, set design, photography and direction plays well into the work of my contemporaries who all want to do powerful creative work.
VC: Having worked with so many artists, what are your goals about now?
TB: I want to continue working with great and interesting artists, while collaborating with creatives. I do love the collaborative process. I would like to develop my creative direction into other areas such as films, working with actors, and to develop my branding work and my interior design work – I believe all my disciplines are a great influence for me, one that allows me to look at projects in a more creative way.
Words by Nicholas Hayden
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