Barbara Anastacio is a name you may recognise in the opening credits to My Apartamento, an interiors series from Nowness. Barbara is the director with enviable access to some of the finest homes in the creative world, and the project is a calming conversational film between Barbara and the tenant of the home.
Barbara, an anthropology graduate with little experience in film at the time, was approached by the then commissioning director of Nowness Raven Smith to direct the series. “He was the one who brought it up, but it wasn’t like a definite commission,” she explains. “It was more, ‘We’d like to take you to some people’s houses and see what you come up with,’” explains the director. “I definitely owe it to him, the trust he gave me to just for it, I really didn’t have a lot of experience at the time.”
In the eighth episode of the series Barbara visits the home of advertising legend George Lois, on her own with a camera. “It’s just me asking the questions, the first three were just me filming and asking questions and one guy working on the sound,” Barbara tells It’s Nice That. “It was a good way to make people feel confident but it was difficult for me to concentrate on the focus of the camera and be engaging with the person in front of me.” Over time, as the series gained popularity, her team expanded to a director of photography to lend a helping hand. “But still we keep it really small because that is what keeps people open. It’s quite intrusive to go to someone’s house with a camera, we never have a recky, or time to meet before, it’s all just on the day, you just have to really be present.”
Travelling to the houses of Tavi Gevinson, Marianne Faithful and Peter Shire to name a few could seem a nerve wracking experience. To tackle this, Barbara doesn’t spend a lot of time digging into their lives beforehand. “For the first ones I really didn’t have time to do so,” she explains. “I’m still not sure what is the best approach, obviously sometimes I think this is a good one to research. But in others, a fresh approach, not knowing too much about the person, not expecting, being a little naive, is the best way.”
This also means that the questions Barbara asks aren’t formally scripted. “There are general ones I ask most people but it’s just reacting to what I see in the space mostly. That and how they feel that day and even how I am feeling, it’s always surprising. Usually I find it’s more helpful to just feed from that day to see an outcome. ”
The original films were usually apartments in New York, London and across Europe. Now, as the series continues larger houses are seen. “There are some that are a little more challenging in the space itself. We just did Kelis, she has a really big LA house. It’s definitely different to the small apartments I was used to, it was just so spread out, it creates a different intimacy.”
The elements the director decides to include depends on the space. “In some cases it’s the structure that is interesting. Others it’s the little knick-knacks they have that are interesting.” Barbara’s directorial style is predominately digital in the shorts, but small sections cut to characteristic elements of people’s homes in VHS. This stylistic decision was informed by Barbara’s grandmother’s house. “When the series started I was at my grandmother’s in Brussels and she actually had all these VHS tapes of us. When I was looking through them I thought it was perfect, it brings you back to childhood videos and how you really live in a space, rather than the perfect image of interior design.”
On asking Barbara if there were any favourites during her time creating My Apartamento she answers: “They are all kind of special, even people I would’ve never thought of. It’s really hard not to appreciate everyone.” However one couple, a rarity in the series, Tchaik Chassay and Melissa North, are a fond favourite. Their apartment in Notting Hill, was one Tchaik originally designed for David Hockney, with of course a giant indoor garden. Tchaik and Melissa eventually bought the apartment from David and made it their family home.
Barbara’s ability to make the films so personal, as if you’ve actually popped round to this person’s house for lunch, is also because she edits them herself. “For me that’s quite important, it’s very artisanal to me as a piece,” she explains. “It’s really subtle things that I look for, it’s easier to do it yourself as some editors would cut out those off camera moments, the ones when you see the person off guard and how they really live.”
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