If you’ve been following the stratospheric careers of Migos, Young Thug, or Lil Uzi Vert, there’s a great probability you’ve seen a music video directed by Millicent Hailes. After making her video debut simply final 12 months with three Lil Yachty tasks, the British director and former style photographer has had a really busy 2018, working with a few of the greatest stars in hip-hop and increase a formidable roster of collaborators.
Hailes’ movies stand other than most hip-hop visuals and up to date pop movies normally – they mix shiny, colourful setpieces with a darkish, brooding ambiance, closely influenced by gothic horror and campy fantasy. Think Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, however starring Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset; it’s commonplace for the backup dancers in Hailes’ movies to put on horns, or to solid spells, whereas the artists themselves are shrouded in fog or strapped to a sadistic dentist’s chair.
In an edited and condensed video with Billboard, Hailes mentioned her directorial course of, her previous collaborations, and what it’s wish to be an avant garde director inside the world’s hottest music style.
You have a background in style pictures. How did you make the leap to business video work?
It’s a protracted story, however I feel every thing I’ve ever carried out is unintended and unintentional. I went to London College of Fashion and studied styling and pictures, so I acquired a beautiful diploma doing that. For some time, I used to be actually fascinated about styling, too, which I now try to make large a part of the movies.
After graduating, I labored at a spot known as SHOWstudio, with Nick Knight, for a few 12 months. From there I left, after which began doing pictures in London for a bit. My buddy Nadia Lee Cohen, she’s an superior director and photographer, she and I had been like, “Fuck, let’s simply go to LA sooner or later. Let’s be loopy and do one thing out of the atypical.” So we acquired on a aircraft, went over to LA and spent a few month there, and we each fell in love with it. Fell in love with the climate and the warmth, and being out and about to be able to take pictures. The pure diffusion within the sky -- it’s beautiful, a lot totally different to shoot pictures there than it's in London.
After we each moved to LA, I noticed that I don’t actually like taking pictures -- not severely, you realize? I appreciated doing them with Nadia, and I did a variety of self-portraits and nudes for some time, which was actually enjoyable, however I don’t like being advised what to do. I discovered that tough with the job – I imply, I suppose that’s each teenager, actually. It was a type of moments the place I used to be like, “These are my nudes! I wanna do my very own shit alone phrases!”
And then a commissioner from a file label, who reaches out to potential video administrators] DMed me, and he was like, “Hey! Cool visuals. Do you need to make a music video?” And that’s one thing I used to be not aware of, or that I had by no means thought of doing. I used to be like, “Uh, I suppose?” You know, typical Millicent. “I suppose I’ll simply go do this.”
Had you carried out prior directing work?
No. I didn’t actually know what I used to be saying “sure” to. I used to be like, “I suppose I’ll simply attempt that and see how that goes.” Because I at all times suppose, what’s the worst that may occur? If it goes mistaken, I perhaps make a idiot of myself, however then who cares? You’ll by no means know in the event you prefer it or in the event you’re good at it in the event you don’t attempt it. So I used to be like, “Okay, I suppose I’ll attempt it.”
For me not figuring out something, I feel I did okay on my first video]. And the commissioner stated from there, “I wanna work with you once more, however I can't work with you if in case you have no producer, if in case you have no rep or something,” as a result of that was annoying for him. So he launched me to my agent, and she or he signed me straight away once I met together with her, after which she signed me up with a manufacturing firm that she managed. From there, it’s been a blast. I simply fell into it.
The first video of yours that I noticed was one among your Lil Yachty movies, “Peek A Boo.”
Yeah, that was straight after that. The identical commissioner was like, “Okay, right here’s Lil Yachty!” I did three movies in a single journey. “Peek A Boo,” “Lady in Yellow,” and “Bring It Back.” But “Peek A Boo” that includes Migos] is the primary one I did, which was terrifying. Here are the preferred fucking rappers on the earth for the time being, and I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. Like, “Here you go, have enjoyable.”
Did you propose to work principally with rappers, or was that who you simply ended up getting signed with initially?
I feel if I used to be to decide on, I'd at all times select rappers. It’s not essentially the music I hearken to, however I feel guys like which can be extra fascinated about making bizarre and thrilling and of-the-time movies. They need to be surprising, which is enjoyable for a director. Like, “Oh, can we simply set that on hearth?” Yes! “Do you thoughts if we make it fucking ridiculous, if we put on 1,000,000 chains?” They’ll actually go round with thousands and thousands of round their neck. Everything is so over-the-top and superb, and aggressive – they’re all attempting to outdo one another. For a photographer or a director, or any visible artist, that’s the perfect type of particular person to shoot. Someone that’s prepared to go the additional mile.
I feel pop movies are so boring these days. It’s like pop ladies simply wanna be overly sexualized and fucking shiny and bizarre and boring. But rap movies, it’s simply extra uncooked, and true of who they're, I suppose. It’s means cooler. I’m so stoked that I’m in that realm. Again, I simply fell into it, however I wouldn’t want to be doing movies for some other style. I’m assured that that is my area of interest now.
Some of the movies you’ve carried out, they’re not even movies I'd essentially affiliate with hip-hop. Like the video for “Up,” with Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert, there’s very a lot an Alice in Wonderland vibe to it. Or one thing out of Pan's Labyrinth.
Pan’s Labyrinth is one among my favourite movies. I like these guys, Thug and Uzi, as a result of they’re simply actually right down to make one thing totally different. And I used to be so excited to have the ladies in that video have this cool, loopy styling -- make every thing a bit evil, I suppose. I do try to convey a little bit one thing totally different, particularly with the ladies. I would like them to really feel like they’re taking up totally different characters.
All of the dancers had been tremendous excited. For a few of them, I fully took their eyebrows away, and at first they had been actually upset as a result of they’re not used to that look. But I used to be like, “Come on, what number of fucking instances a day are you dancing, and somebody’s supplying you with pretend eyelashes and eyebrows? Let’s simply perhaps attempt one thing totally different.” And then after a little bit of resistance, they had been high-quality. They had been down with it.
Because you might have a background in style, do the costume designs come early within the idea? What stage are you planning these?
Yes, very early on. I often hearken to the music a couple of times, after which I've my temper board and a little bit folder, after which I simply shove all of those photos into the folder that symbolize the music. From there I provide you with the final spine of the visuals. Then that’s when the styling takes place, irrespective of if it’s for the artist or the background artists.
It’s at all times very built-in inside the idea, simply because it’s so boring to see the identical previous drained look. You have such an important alternative to do one thing actually cool, so I virtually suppose, why would we simply return to the fundamental look we see on a regular basis? With these artists, perhaps we may give them one thing totally different. Like that one Young Thug video for “Dirty Shoes,” that was actually thrilling.
The one with all of the glass panes and storm clouds.
Yeah, yeah. That one, I used to be tremendous pleased with, with the styling. Young Thug’s stylist, Bobby, he picks out this entire rack of wonderful outfits. So I'd go in and see what he picked, and pick a few of my favorites, and from there, Thug could be like, “Okay, from what Bobby’s whittled down, and from what you’ve whittled down, that is what I wanna put on.”
When it involves styling, it’s at all times good to see what all people thinks, and the way that will translate with the viewers. Because nonetheless, for some motive, it’s surprising for individuals to see Thug in a skirt. So it was actually having that dialog like, “I'd love you to put on this skirt layered over the trousers, and I feel it is best to do it within the field, as a result of if you’re within the field, you’re extra of a visible artist, so why not have you ever on this outfit there?” It’s attempting to be actually cautious about what you’re doing and the place that’s being seen.
The large take care of that's that it was known as “Dirty Shoes,” and on the finish all we see is that this pair of sneakers. So I needed the sneakers to be some type of iconic shoe, and that’s why I went with -- and made a really robust working example to have -- his Tabis in there. They are, to me anyway, probably the most iconic creative shoe. It has a shit ton of historical past, and Margiela has made that his signature, and reworked it, and now that is the brand new season’s ones, so I couldn’t consider something extra becoming to be the shoe. We actually put them on a pedestal within the video. Little particulars like that, it’s what I get actually enthusiastic about.
Have you ever had a time the place there’s been main pushback from an artist who says, “This is just too bizarre, will we need to go that far?”
All the time. It’s like every thing in life -- you’re like, “I need to do one thing loopy,” after which it’s scary, you realize? I like all these superb outfits, however in my life I’ll simply put on my denims and a black hoodie, as a result of I don’t truly need anybody to have a look at me. So I get it, it’s scary. Sometimes the artist will likely be like, “Let’s hold it again down, let’s not make the outfit larger than the artist.” I perceive that.
I at all times need to make the movies larger and larger and larger -- like Elton John, you realize? I simply want everybody would costume like Elton John. I've to keep in mind that’s not attainable generally. And that’s okay, as a result of it’s not my video on the finish of the day.
What was it wish to co-direct the “Ice Tray” video with Quavo from Migos?
It was enjoyable! He was on type that day. He got here in sooner than all people else, than the opposite Migos, and he sat down within the chair and was like, making a joke, “I’m company Quavo right this moment.” I believed that was fucking superb.
He mapped out that entire video, what he needed, what he needed to see, so we acquired all of it collectively for him. And when he got here onto set, we had all of it able to be like, “This is what you stated you needed, and that is Millicent’s interpretation of that. How do you are feeling?” He was very a lot stored within the loop.
I’m additionally egotistical, clearly, in any other case I wouldn’t be on this job, so it was actually necessary for me to interpret what he needed. For instance, there was one scene the place he needed to be within the dentist’s and be fitted for a grill, and it was as much as me to make that considerably fascinating or totally different. Like, we’re not actually within the dentist’s workplace. So I had one chair in the course of the studio and blacked every thing out, simply have one highlight on him, simply to try to say one thing whereas not attempting to be too apparent.
Another query I've in regards to the fashion of your movies: the colour schemes at all times come out to me, in a means that feels extra deliberate and methodical than most movies these days, which are typically all about monochromatic color-blocking or simply stuffing as a lot colour into the shot without delay. How do you go about selecting these colour schemes?
I feel it’s me being mildly OCD about colours. Some look naturally nice collectively, like crimson and blue, and I simply love the mix lots. I like tremendous darkish movies the place it has some type of ominous feeling, after which we now have a flashing crimson gentle or flashing blue gentle. It matches the fashion of movies that I’m doing for hip-hop artists – aggressive colours match rather well, and it’s good to pair with attractive actions, or with totally different digicam angles.
I discover it actually fascinating to play with gentle and colour and the best way we really feel after we have a look at sure colours, after which the best way we really feel when there’s a contrasting digicam motion on high of it. It’s good to contemplate perhaps a chilled, cool colour, like blue, that's combined in with a really hectic video edit. Or a really aggressive or passionate colour, like crimson, that is available in with a extra soothing digicam motion. So I do try to bear that in thoughts, how colours make us really feel, and the way that pairs with the edit, or visuals and sound of the music. I’m completely happy that you simply see that.
And then there are some colours I keep away from. I hate yellow, I can’t even bear it.
Wait, however then how was capturing that one Lil Yachty video that’s all in regards to the colour yellow?
Laughs.] There wasn’t actually any means round that, so that you simply should embrace it. But I don’t actually need to do extra color-blocking movies after that, as a result of I really feel prefer it’s carried out. At least it wasn’t pink color-blocking or one thing. It was no less than fascinating to do a color-block video that wasn’t fucking child pink or child blue color-block, that shit that we see on a regular basis at any time when individuals suppose they’re being profound and totally different. But additionally, for Lil Yachty, that was the fabric that he gave me. It was what he needed. That’s high-quality.
I did need to ask, simply since you’ve carried out some work with Chris Brown, and I used to be questioning how that happened, given the present status surrounding him, his historical past of home abuse and the present #MeToo motion.
The finest option to speak about that's to say, as I stated earlier than, the kind of music that I hearken to is just not essentially hip-hop music. I do, I like it, it’s simply that that style of music brings me to an entire totally different sort of particular person. Which is superb and nice when it’s individuals like Yachty, who're beautiful and really respectful. But for some motive, hip-hop has collected a bunch of others that really feel like their conduct matches a type of vibe, or that style, if that is sensible. Like that fucking Tekashi69, Chris Brown, Kodak Black, XXX...I imply, in fact there’s different genres of music the place issues occur too. But it’s simply far more publicized and far more talked about in hip-hop.
And so, individuals might reward this unhealthy conduct, or it’s pushed underneath the carpet, as a result of it’s like, “Oh, you realize, that goes hand-in-hand with that sort of music.” But as a girl and a human being, I discover that very tough to digest generally, as a result of the music could possibly be nice and the music could possibly be superb, however it's a must to suppose like, “By listening to that, aren’t I supporting this particular person?” Some individuals would simply say, “No. I’m in it for the music, and what they do personally is as much as them.” And it could possibly be the identical as me. I could possibly be doing my work and making nice movies, however in actual life I could possibly be a fucking piece of shit. But that has no bearing on somebody who likes my movies. To them, I simply make cool visuals.
I do try to give individuals an opportunity if they're type and respectful to me. Then I feel, okay, I’ll give them an opportunity in a piece sense. I don’t need to be mates with Chris Brown, ever. But work is totally different. If you’re gonna include me and also you’re gonna be respectful on my set and also you’re gonna be good, that’s totally different, then we are able to make some visuals. But in the event you begin speaking and being impolite and disrespectful, or convey out that entire fucking persona that you've, then that’s a tough no.
And it’s like, you realize, you might have photojournalists that will go and take a photograph of Donald Trump. Doesn’t imply that you simply like him or agree together with his insurance policies. That’s simply your job, to go and take images of him. I photographed Chris Brown, however that was a job. I used to be paid to try this. And I did a video and he was there and that was a job. Never did I sit there and chat it up with him, as a result of I've higher issues to do with my time.
I see the place you’re coming from. I suppose what I'd ask you is, some individuals may see your work with this particular person….to convey it again to the Donald Trump comparability, there generally is a journal photoshoot of him as a result of there’s some form of story about him within the journal, however is that the identical factor as making a video particularly to advertise his work?
I do know precisely what you imply. When I did that video, it was a Remy Ma video, not his. And I actually like Remy Ma, I like the best way she raps, she was beautiful and really nice to be round, and he was a featured artist, so it wasn’t even about him in my eyes. It was about her and what she desires from her visuals. He simply occurs to be singing within the background. I used to be requested to experience on a video for Chris Brown after that video, and I handed on it, as a result of I wouldn’t do a undertaking solely for Chris Brown, for him, to profit him.
But I perceive what you’re saying. It’s simply very tough. It’s onerous being on this world, within the hip-hop world, you’re going to come back throughout some characters. I simply hold my private life very separate from individuals like that, as a result of I don’t want that negativity in my life, and I try to be very respectful and sort to individuals, and I try to cross on jobs that I really feel are going to be detrimental to my soul and my morals.
How lengthy do your shoots often take, and the place do you do most of your filming?
Usually a shoot day is 12 hours. But on a hip-hop shoot that’s very tough, as a result of often the artist is late. It could possibly be four hours late, it could possibly be eight hours late, it could possibly be the following day late. And they’re there for so long as they need to be there. So I try to get every thing carried out, as a lot with out them carried out as attainable, firstly – insert photographs, etcetera, with out them there. That means, when the artists flip up on the finish, all that’s left to shoot is the factor I want from them, their efficiency.
Thug has truly been the perfect one for that. He’ll flip up and he’ll be the perfect busy bee, a very good employee, a very nice man, actually respectful and responsive and can let you know that every thing is cool and he’s having a pleasant time. He’s most likely the perfect I’ve labored with, and he’ll keep till the very finish, over the time time he stated he’d be there, as a result of he desires to make a great video. But yeah, shoots could possibly be 12 hours, it could possibly be 16, it could possibly be over, it completely relies upon.
Who are a few of your favourite video administrators working right this moment?
I like the fellows at Kid. Studio, primarily based in Toronto. I DM’d their editor, Red, I used to be like, “Hey, would you ever need to edit not with Kid.? Would you ever do stuff for your self, or for different shoppers?” And he stated, “Yeah!” So I work with Red now, from Kid., on nearly all of my movies, which is basically cool. I’m so stoked on that. I at all times try to be actually completely happy for, very nice to different administrators I like, simply because it’s such a small neighborhood, and it’s simply very nice to assist one another. So they’re positively the fellows that I feel are superb.
There’s one other man known as Shomi Patwary who's an superior director. I freakishly DM him as nicely and simply inform him how cool he's.
Can you give a little bit trace to what different tasks you’re engaged on?
I don’t know if I can say the artist, however I’m mainly getting awarded a cool video right this moment. That’ll be capturing within the subsequent week or so. Next weekend, I’m doing two back-to-back movies for a brand new artist’s album that’s popping out, and I like doing loopy path for them. I’ve simply acquired a few issues within the works. I simply did a video that got here out for 2 Norwegian boys, which was the primary video that isn’t a hip-hop video.
How did that come about?
That was extra like, fuck it, I like hip-hop and I like doing these movies, however every so often it’s good to sprinkle in one thing totally different, simply to maintain you in your toes. I don’t need to fall into the identical sample and the identical behavior, whether or not I’m transitioning into one other style or doing one thing else. It’s actually enjoyable to do one thing totally different, and people children are actually beautiful. I’m very proud of it, however now I may do some extra hip-hop after it.