Philippa Price is featured in Muse by Clio’s Reinvention column, where she chats about how her career has been a constant pivot including her biggest pivot from fashion to filmmaking. Read it below.
What were you before?
I’ve always been an artist, but I’ve explored different mediums within that. I honestly feel like my career has been a constant pivot—I’m not even sure if pivot is the right word… more like a constant evolution.
But as far as where I was before filmmaking, I studied fine art and graphic design in school, decided to make a film for my senior thesis, and started my career working at an architecture firm. From there, I made my first “pivot” (sort of by accident) into fashion. But again, I can’t say it felt like a pivot… more like a door that had always been there that I finally decided to open and step through. It started when I was making these metal wallets that went viral on Tumblr (RIP). They ended up getting a lot of press, and so we expanded into a full streetwear fashion brand—[GG$] Guns Germs $teal.
What triggered your reinvention(s)?
The clothing brand kind of blew up, and in running it, I was unwittingly building up this set of skills I would later need as a filmmaker. I was designing the clothing, but I was also directing and creative directing our campaigns, shoots, fashion shows, lookbooks, videos, etc.
The success of our clothing line was mainly due to musicians—pop stars and especially rappers started wearing our designs—which I would say is when my doorway into working with musicians first appeared. The brand had all this outward success, but we never had financial backing, so the struggle was real. We decided to stop producing for the next season, and around that time I met Coleen Haynes, who was starting MAAVVEN, a new agency looking to rep artists who didn’t fit squarely into one box. There I started directing music videos, which felt like a natural continuation of my work. Music has always been one of the greatest inspirations for my creative process, and it still is, so this “pivot” just made sense.
What did the first steps look like?
The first job that came in was for a Pharrell Williams lyric music video (“Lost Queen”). Truly, I had no idea what I was doing—but I know how to pretend like I do! I shot it myself on a GoPro and figured out how to animate it as I went along. It’s still one of my favorite things that I’ve made. That experience jump-started me into directing, which led to working with Rihanna and St. Vincent… the work kept building from there.
What was one hard obstacle to overcome?
When I was running my own fashion brand, there was almost always a tangible product at the end of my creative process, and for the most part, I had total creative control in deciding what actually gets produced.
With filmmaking so much of what you work on will never come to fruition. I’ve worked on many projects where I’ve poured my heart and soul into a treatment, and then it didn’t get made. I’ve had projects I’ve already shot that got shelved. It can be really heartbreaking. Having little control over whether your work will be fully realized may be less an obstacle to be overcome and more something I’ve had to learn to get more comfortable with. But it’s helped me shift my focus away from the final product and back to enjoying the creative process. I have to constantly remind myself of one of the best things I learned in art school—that the process is as, if not more, important than the final product.
What was easier than you thought?
The challenge of doing something I’ve never done before, and I love a challenge. I’ve learned that I definitely do my best work and feel most inspired when I’ve stepped into the unknown. When I look back at my portfolio, I feel like my best projects are my first attempts at something totally unfamiliar–my first music video, my first live show, my first big commercial campaign. There’s this thrill I find in this space that really energizes and inspires me. I find myself working off of pure intuition, and that combined with the pressure to prove myself in a new space, pushes me to make my best work.
What’s something you learned along the way that other people, hoping to do something similar, should know?
It’s okay to not know what you’re doing. Nobody really does. It’s all about confidence, that’s what people notice. Believe in your idea and trust in your process.
And don’t be afraid of YouTube tutorials! You really can learn how to do anything from them. Like truly… anything.
Did anyone or anything inspire you along the way?
Whenever I have a project that falls through or doesn’t go my way I watch Jodorowsky’s Dune. It’s about filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to bring Dune to the big screen for the first time in the mid-70s. He had this grand vision for what this movie would be and was manifesting it piece by piece. The way he describes his process is magical—like a dream. He had Mick Jagger, Dalí, Orson Welles signed on as actors, Pink Floyd doing music, artists like H.R. Giger, Moebius creating concept art—Dune was going to be the best movie ever made, and five or ten years of Jodorowsky’s life went into developing it. Still, the producers ultimately took it away and gave the project to David Lynch (who removed his name from the project and says it’s his worst film ever made). But the way Jodorowsky tells the story, he’s still so positive about it, you can feel that the process was just as beautiful to him. He could see it all in his head and held fast to his vision.
He says, “You have to be like a poet. Your movie must be just as you think of it and just as you want it. Do not take comments to change this or that from this person or the other. NO! The picture needs to be exactly as I am dreaming the picture. The movie has to be just like I dream it. DON’T CHANGE MY DREAM!” I always think of that when a project goes away, or someone wants to change my vision for a project: Don’t change my dream!
What has this fundamentally changed for you?
I’ve found that filmmaking has become the lens through which I look at all the rest of my artistic endeavors. When I’m doing a live performance, for example, I’m always thinking how will it look on camera? (I mean, for better or worse, I feel like our whole lives now are about how something looks on camera.) I can apply that same thinking behind the filmmaking process to everything I do in any medium.
Do you think you could go back/do you want to?
Yes, absolutely. (But not without a business partner!) I would love to start my own brand again or creative direct an existing brand. I can’t see myself pivoting and leaving one medium entirely behind me—it’s more about adding other branches to the larger tree and growing in all directions.
Tell us your reinvention song.
“Desperado” by Rihanna.
Honestly, anything Rihanna feels right, I’ve been so inspired working with her over the years. Our most recent project was in collaboration with Apple, promoting her Super Bowl Halftime Show performance.
How would you define yourself now?
I see myself in a continual state of reinvention. Some creatives are very single-minded in their medium, and I admire that, but I am definitely quite the opposite. I don’t like being stuck in one box, so I try to always remain open to new potentials. I’m constantly pivoting towards the unknown and exploring other mediums of expression, trying my best to exist in a state of artistic flux and evolution. I believe that’s my calling as an artist.