It’s typical these days for magazines to record behind-the-scenes videos at cover shoots, chronicling the process and allowing the famous folks being photographed to talk about the films, albums or whatever projects they are promoting at the moment.
But Vogue is now using its access to the top stars in the world to build out its content offering in a more creative way via Vogue Original Shorts, a series of scripted videos that combine the talents of emerging directors and Vogue cover subjects.
"We have the privilege here of being able to work with the most amazing actresses and all sorts of entertainers for our cover stories, and this is an opportunity to do something collaborative with them as opposed to just recording the behind-the-scenes of a video shoot," says Sally Singer, Vogue’s creative digital director. "In other words, we’re not just recording a moment with them, we are actually engaging them in what they do best. If you get to work with the best actresses in the world, why not let them act and figure out a way to make something original?"
Vogue is officially announcing the Vogue Original Shorts series with the release of the short "Scripted Content," starring Jessica Chastain, who is on the cover of the magazine’s December 2013 issue. Kate Winslet appeared in the first video of the series, "Best Actress of All Time," released in October to coincide with her November 2013 cover turn.
Both shorts, directed by Matthew Frost, find the actresses playing themselves, coping with the challenges of celebrity in the digital age. While Winslet fears being caught Googling the phrase "Best Actress of All Time," Chastain is seated on a park bench next to a fan who is texting his significant other about the close encounter.
These aren’t "fashion films," as we've traditionally known them, by the way. Stories are being told, and there is tension and comedy at play in the cinematic shorts. "My film style is narrative," says Frost, who once spoofed fashion films in a short titled Fashion Film starring Lizzy Caplan for the fashion brand Viva Vena! "I come from a narrative place of stories and real moments."
While Frost shot with Winslet right after she wrapped her cover shoot with Mario Testino, he worked with Chastain the day after she did her cover shoot with Annie Liebovitz. Frost says both high-profile talents were enthusiastic and trusting because the shorts were made under the aegis of Vogue, an entity they respect.
The plan is for Vogue to produce at least a dozen Vogue Original Shorts a year, though that number could increase, Singer says.
Frost has already done a third short for the series, and Vogue will work with other directors, too. There is no rulebook as for how future videos should look or feel, according to Singer, who is open to all kinds of concepts and ways of shooting as the project moves forward.
Fresh ideas are of the utmost importance. "I think the greatest challenge in making digital content is to make things that are original, that couldn’t happen anywhere else," Singer says. "Online, people are looking for that which they haven’t seen before and aren’t going to see anywhere else. Everything should be done with the notion that readers, viewers, clickers, users want to see something that’s incredibly special when they take the time to view, read, consume, tweet it. You should always be trying to make wonderful things."