25 May 2016

How I Got Here: Kim Gehrig, director


25 May 2016


In the run up to It’s Nice That’s annual symposium, Here 2016, we’ll be introducing each speaker who will appear at the event. We have asked each of them to share an early piece of work and a recent project, to reflect on how they’ve progressed between the two. This week we speak to director Kim Gehrig.

Kim’s weighty showreel includes commercials, music videos and shorts for the likes of Ikea, Cadbury and Amnesty International, not to mention some of the most ambitious and talked-about ads of the past year. Her This Girl Can campaign with Sport England inspired women up and down the country to forget judgemental internal and external voices to pursue their sporting goals in a celebration of grit, determination and body-positivity. Her expertly choreographed slot for Honda saw the automotive company’s HR-V model cavort with a huge troop of spritely dancers, who spelled out the car’s name by flashing their colourful shirts.

Ending 2015 on a bang, Kim directed the John Lewis Christmas ad – the first woman to land the hugely sought-after job. Kim’s endearing slot featured a girl who spies an elderly man sitting on the moon, wordlessly communicating the fuzzy glow of seasonal goodwill while also encouraging viewers to tackle the very real issue of loneliness at Christmas. We can’t wait to hear this esteemed director discuss her process, new projects and how to combine advertising with a empowering social agenda.

Above and Beyond, 1999

What is the work?
This was a college project I did with friend at St Martins, Kojo Essuman. At the time we were interested in typography and wanted to play with perspective. I happened to live a few doors down from a derelict building and we used it for our experiment. The work was inspired by a deconstructed chair I had seen at Documenta X and we wanted to see what you could do with type. We literally hand painted the sections of white line across the rooftop so that from just one angle you could read the words. Yes… this was long before the Channel 4 idents, and I was gutted when they were made as I had never elaborated on the idea.

Why was it created?
From my (bad) memory we just did it as a cool little project idea in our final year.

What did you learn while doing it? 
How to be patient! It took ages to figure out and was really tricky to paint across all the junk left on the roof.

What do you think of it now?
Although it’s a bit amateur, I still love the idea we were trying out. This kind of idea has been used loads now in the world so a bit dated, but I love how raw it was. I love the contrast between the grim east London landscape and the digital white type against it.

How does it relate to your current work?
It’s funny as I used a perspective trick in a scene of a recent Honda ad I made which made me think of it. In a more general way it does relate to my current thinking, in that it is both raw and technical at the same time. I like that.

Honda Stepping, June 2015

What is the work?
An ad for the Honda HR-V which uses precision walking and choreography to demo all the benefits of the car. We used lots of ‘tricks’ in the choreography, clothing and a little bit of post to create it. It is 95% in-camera though.

Why was it created?
To launch new Honda HR-V which was all about design and precision.

What would you tell your younger self about this work?
Be patient! It takes ages to design choreography, especially when it needs to be so precise. We spent six weeks in rehearsals for this and I can still see the faults.

As well as Kim Gehrig, Here 2016 speakers include artist Bob and Roberta Smith, photographer Nadav Kander, design director of The New York Times Magazine Gail Bichler, makeup artist and illustrator Isamaya Ffrench, illustrator Malika Favre and visual artist Yolanda Domínguez.

We will also be welcoming creative director at MTV Richard Turley, co-founder of Turner Prize-winning collective Assemble, Joe Halligan and Omar Sosa and Marco Velardi, art director and editor-in-chief of Apartamento magazine.

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