Video Director Millicent Hailes Talks Working With Migos and Young Thug: 'They Want to Be Shocking, Which Is Fun'

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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 initiatives, the British director and former vogue photographer has had a really busy 2018, working with a number of the largest stars in hip-hop and build up a formidable roster of collaborators.

Hailes’ movies stand aside from most hip-hop visuals and modern pop movies generally – they mix shiny, colourful setpieces with a darkish, brooding environment, closely influenced by gothic horror and campy fantasy. Think Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, however starring Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset; it’s common for the backup dancers in Hailes’ movies to put on horns, or to forged 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 throughout the world’s hottest music style.

You have a background in vogue pictures. How did you make the leap to business video work?

It’s a protracted story, however I believe every little thing I’ve ever completed is unintended and unintentional. I went to London College of Fashion and studied styling and pictures, so I obtained a stunning diploma doing that. For some time, I used to be actually thinking about styling, too, which I now attempt to make huge a part of the movies.

After graduating, I labored at a spot referred to 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 in the future. Let’s be loopy and do one thing out of the odd.” So we obtained on a airplane, 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 with a purpose 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 critically, you understand? I favored doing them with Nadia, and I did loads 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 troublesome with the job – I imply, I suppose that’s each teenager, actually. It was a kind 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 record label, who reaches out to potential video directors] DMed me, and he was like, “Hey! Cool visuals. Do you wish to make a music video?” And that’s one thing I used to be not conversant in, 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 try this.”

Had you completed 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 strive that and see how that goes.” Because I all the time suppose, what’s the worst that may occur? If it goes unsuitable, I perhaps make a idiot of myself, however then who cares? You’ll by no means know if you happen to prefer it or if you happen to’re good at it if you happen to don’t strive it. So I used to be like, “Okay, I suppose I’ll strive it.”

For me not understanding something, I believe I did okay [on my first video]. And the commissioner mentioned from there, “I wanna work with you once more, however I can not work with you you probably have no producer, you probably have no rep or something,” as a result of that was irritating for him. So he launched me to my agent, and he or she signed me instantly 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 in every of your Lil Yachty movies, “Peek A Boo.”

Yeah, that was straight after that. The similar 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” [featuring Migos] is the primary one I did, which was terrifying. Here are the most well-liked fucking rappers on the earth in the mean time, and I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. Like, “Here you go, have enjoyable.”

Did you plan to work largely with rappers, or was that who you simply ended up getting signed with initially?

I believe if I used to be to decide on, I'd all the time select rappers. It’s not essentially the music I take heed to, however I believe guys like which are extra thinking about making bizarre and thrilling and of-the-time movies. They wish 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 tens of millions of round their neck. Everything is so over-the-top and wonderful, and aggressive – they’re all making an attempt 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 believe 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 method 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 another style. I’m assured that that is my area of interest now.

Some of the movies you’ve completed, 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 in every of 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 little thing a bit evil, I suppose. I do attempt to convey a bit of one thing totally different, particularly with the ladies. I would like them to really feel like they’re taking over 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 occasions a day are you dancing, and somebody’s providing you with pretend eyelashes and eyebrows? Let’s simply perhaps strive one thing totally different.” And then after a little bit of resistance, they had been wonderful. They had been down with it.

Because you've gotten a background in vogue, do the costume designs come early within the idea? What stage are you planning these?

Yes, very early on. I often take heed to the track a few times, after which I've my temper board and a bit of folder, after which I simply shove all of those pictures into the folder that characterize the track. From there I give you the overall spine of the visuals. Then that’s when the styling takes place, regardless of if it’s for the artist or the background artists.

It’s all the time very built-in throughout the idea, simply because it’s so boring to see the identical previous drained look. You have such an awesome alternative to do one thing actually cool, so I virtually suppose, why would we simply return to the essential look we see on a regular basis? With these artists, perhaps we can provide 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 happy with, with the styling. Young Thug’s stylist, Bobby, he picks out this entire rack of fantastic 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 all the time good to see what everyone thinks, and the way that will translate with the viewers. Because nonetheless, for some cause, it’s surprising for folks 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 believe you must do it within the field, as a result of while you’re within the field, you’re extra of a visible artist, so why not have you ever on this outfit there?” It’s making an attempt to be actually cautious about what you’re doing and the place that’s being seen.

The huge take care of that's that it was referred to 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 sturdy living proof 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, can we wish to go that far?”

All the time. It’s like every little thing in life -- you’re like, “I wish to do one thing loopy,” after which it’s scary, you understand? I like all these wonderful 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 can be like, “Let’s preserve it again down, let’s not make the outfit larger than the artist.” I perceive that.

I all the time wish to make the movies larger and greater and greater -- like Elton John, you understand? I simply want everybody would costume like Elton John. I've to do not forget that’s not doable typically. 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 kind that day. He got here in sooner than everyone else, than the opposite Migos, and he sat down within the chair and was like, making a joke, “I’m company Quavo immediately.” I believed that was fucking wonderful.

He mapped out that entire video, what he needed, what he needed to see, so we obtained 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 mentioned you needed, and that is Millicent’s interpretation of that. How do you are feeling?” He was very a lot saved 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 attention-grabbing or totally different. Like, we’re not actually within the dentist’s workplace. So I had one chair in the midst of the studio and blacked every little thing out, simply have one highlight on him, simply to attempt to say one thing whereas not making an attempt to be too apparent.

Another query I've in regards to the fashion of your movies: the colour schemes all the time come out to me, in a method 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 believe it’s me being mildly OCD about colours. Some look naturally nice collectively, like purple and blue, and I simply love the mix rather a lot. I like tremendous darkish movies the place it has some type of ominous feeling, after which now we have a flashing purple 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 horny actions, or with totally different digicam angles.

I discover it actually attention-grabbing to play with gentle and colour and the way in which we really feel once we take a look at sure colours, after which the way in which we really feel when there’s a contrasting digicam motion on prime of it. It’s good to think about perhaps a chilled, cool colour, like blue, that's blended in with a really hectic video edit. Or a really aggressive or passionate colour, like purple, that is available in with a extra soothing digicam motion. So I do attempt 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 joyful 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 method round that, so that you simply need to embrace it. But I don’t actually wish to do extra color-blocking movies after that, as a result of I really feel prefer it’s completed. At least it wasn’t pink color-blocking or one thing. It was a minimum of attention-grabbing 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 folks 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 wonderful.

I did wish to ask, simply since you’ve completed some work with Chris Brown, and I used to be questioning how that happened, given the present fame surrounding him, his historical past of home abuse and the present #MeToo motion.

The finest approach to speak about that's to say, as I mentioned earlier than, the kind of music that I take heed to will not be essentially hip-hop music. I do, I find it irresistible, it’s simply that that style of music brings me to a complete totally different kind of particular person. Which is wonderful and nice when it’s folks like Yachty, who're beautiful and really respectful. But for some cause, hip-hop has collected a gaggle of others that really feel like their habits 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, folks might reward this dangerous habits, or it’s pushed beneath the carpet, as a result of it’s like, “Oh, you understand, that goes hand-in-hand with that kind of music.” But as a lady and a human being, I discover that very troublesome to digest typically, as a result of the music might be nice and the track might be wonderful, however it's a must to suppose like, “By listening to that, aren’t I supporting this particular person?” Some folks would simply say, “No. I’m in it for the music, and what they do personally is as much as them.” And it might be the identical as me. I might be doing my work and making nice movies, however in actual life I might 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 attempt to give folks an opportunity if they're form and respectful to me. Then I believe, okay, I’ll give them an opportunity in a piece sense. I don’t wish to be pals 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 will make some visuals. But if you happen to 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 understand, you've gotten photojournalists that will go and take a photograph of Donald Trump. Doesn’t imply that you simply like him or agree along with his insurance policies. That’s simply your job, to go and take pictures 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 folks would possibly see your work with this particular person….to convey it again to the Donald Trump comparability, there is usually a journal photoshoot of him as a result of there’s some type 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 way in which 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 trip on a video for Chris Brown after that video, and I handed on it, as a result of I wouldn’t do a venture solely for Chris Brown, for him, to profit him.

But I perceive what you’re saying. It’s simply very troublesome. It’s arduous being on this world, within the hip-hop world, you’re going to return throughout some characters. I simply preserve my private life very separate from folks like that, as a result of I don’t want that negativity in my life, and I attempt to be very respectful and type to folks, and I attempt to go 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 troublesome, as a result of often the artist is late. It might be four hours late, it might be eight hours late, it might be the subsequent day late. And they’re there for so long as they wish to be there. So I attempt to get every little thing completed, as a lot with out them completed as doable, originally – insert photographs, etcetera, with out them there. That method, when the artists flip up on the finish, all that’s left to shoot is the factor I would like 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 little thing is cool and he’s having a pleasant time. He’s in all probability the perfect I’ve labored with, and he’ll keep till the very finish, over the time time he mentioned he’d be there, as a result of he desires to make a great video. But yeah, shoots might be 12 hours, it might be 16, it might be over, it completely relies upon.

Who are a few of your favourite video administrators working immediately?

I like the guys at Kid. Studio, primarily based in Toronto. I DM’d their editor, Red, I used to be like, “Hey, would you ever wish to edit not with Kid.? Would you ever do stuff for your self, or for different purchasers?” And he mentioned, “Yeah!” So I work with Red now, from Kid., on the vast majority of my movies, which is admittedly cool. I’m so stoked on that. I all the time attempt to be actually joyful for, very nice to different administrators I like, simply because it’s such a small neighborhood, and it’s simply very nice to help one another. So they’re undoubtedly the fellows that I believe are wonderful.

There’s one other man referred to as Shomi Patwary who is an awesome director. I freakishly DM him as nicely and simply inform him how cool he's.

Can you give a bit of trace to what different initiatives you’re engaged on?

I don’t know if I can say the artist, however I’m mainly getting awarded a cool video immediately. 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 obtained 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 wish 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.