On the smoke-filled set of the Fstreet video shoot, I immediately spot director Loraine Ffrench. The only female amid a small crowd of men she stands, center of attention. As she watches the action through her monitor, confidently giving instructions, I can tell that this woman is all about her business. So it was no surprise when she told me: ‘At twenty-one I was like “I’m just going to be a director” and I decided to start up my own company as well.’
True to her word, in 2004, Loraine gave creative birth to F2R Films production company, with business partner Ben Peters – director of Bashy’s Black Boys Remix video. Housing three companies, N22 films deals with short films and features; Grind deals with music videos under £5,000 and Artic Tango concentrates on the more expensive range of music videos. F2R has all its bases covered.
From small beginnings
Originally starting off by posting amateur videos on the Channel U forum, the twenty-five year old, now armed with more experience, boasts a trailer for the Money and Grime feature film and a documentary for Channel 4. Turning her mental visuals into celluloid, music videos are her forte at the moment, and her CV displays a diverse line-up of artists she has directed for. Projects range from the chaotic 24-style editing for Skepta’s track In A Corner, to gold saris and sports cars in water for Panjabi Hit Squad, to a tongue-in-cheek musical in the office for newcomers Common People.
Admiring the work ethic of Canadian director Little X (who has directed videos for Jay Z, Usher, and Sean Paul), her motto is, ‘Go that extra mile’. When speaking of Little X utmost respect is evident in Loraine’s tone; one could argue that he is (unofficially) her onscreen mentor.
Young, black and female, Ms. Ffrench is under no illusion that she is an anomaly in her field. ‘Even on shoots, I still get asked whether I’m the dancer or whether I’m the model. The last shoot I did they asked if I was the makeup artist.’ Still, in 2008, assumptions remain in areas of the UK entertainment industry. Yet, like a camera in focus, Loraine is unfazed. Instead she chooses to lead by example. ‘It doesn’t matter who‘s on set, treat everybody the same as you never know who is who.’
This attitude seems to work well on the Fstreet shoot. Loraine has worked with several members of the crew before, and they respect her and the work they have to do. Without the ego of a director to contend with, the atmosphere is a relaxed bustle. Light enough for Loraine to perform her customary dancing behind the director’s monitor, yet serious enough for all involved to create a polished product.
When asked what she would shoot with an unlimited budget, without hesitation she tells me: ‘I would shoot a musical. But if it was for a music video, I would probably want to direct an epic, kind of like Thriller. I’d make it into a mini movie with 35mm, aerial shots, motion capture, telescopic crane – the lot. Yeah, I would have fun.’
What is your motto for success?
If you truly want to do it, just do it.
Tell me about a career high?
The Alyssia featuring Panjabi Hit Squad video shoot.
Tell me about a career low?
My first ever music video. Members of the crew were not co-operating and the shoot had to be cut early.
What is the best advice you can give someone trying to succeed in this industry?
Get a camera, for an amateur it’s probably best not to gt anything too expensive. Choose an FX1 or a Z1E, and just start shooting. That is the best way to learn.
Do you have a favourite website that’s useful for people in your field (or those trying to get in) to look at?
Information on music video directing is quite limited. Directing is more about learning through practical experience.
Who is the one person that inspires you in your field?
Little X. His videos are vibrant and they tell a story. The way he builds things up and uses his sets is amazing.
Words by Rachelle Hull