Words Peter McSweeney
Photography Adedotun Adesanya
“We share the same work ethic and lifestyle of being creative all the time. So we thought, why not start a business where we bring these skills together?”
In a Georgian house just off Fitzroy Square, two filmmakers express their genuine love for living in Fitzrovia and, not only creating, but living out their projects in the area. With their hearts firmly set in Fitzrovia, I talk to Erin Barry and Fraser Watson, a powerhouse wonder-couple whose career as a pair of independent filmmakers is taking shape in their new-found company Foliage Films.
Fraser originates from a very small village in Scotland, where around 4,000 people live. He came to London for art school, studying sculpture at Camberwell in South London. Erin grew up in the Metro Detroit area near a lake in Michigan, USA. She came to London in 2003, originally to do an internship at The Face Magazine. She tells me, “I was curious to travel and to live abroad as all the magazines and culture seemed avant-garde and raw compared to the overly retouched and perfect imagery in America. I liked how raw and rough the models and magazines looked. It felt much more real and honest to me.” She spent 2 years living in New York City before returning to London, and she has been living here for nearly a decade.
Erin & Fraser’s relationship sparked when Erin moved into an art studio in the same building as Fraser over in Marylebone. She remembers when she first came to his studio; he had over 500 VHS tapes, he said he loved the way VHS tapes age over time and all the imperfections of film. They (like me) share a love of film stocks and have an eye for colour. It was a slow burning friendship that soon caught fire. They later moved to Fitzroy Street across from French’s Theatre Bookshop. They started their own business in 2013, working as freelance designer/art directors for various brands, including photography and video. Erin tells me, “I believe that you are either creative or you’re not – it’s a complete lifestyle for me. When I met Fraser I was totally blown away by his absolute enthusiasm for creativity and his sheer passion for stories and movies. We share the same work ethic and lifestyle of being creative all the time. So we thought, why not start a business together where we bring these skills together?”
We begin to discuss how they came to be in and what it is about the neighbourhood that made the two want to live here. Fraser explains, “I can’t say I really spent any time in Fitzrovia before 2012, but it definitely kept a hold of me as soon as I did. I love the fact I can walk to work, I’ve lived all over London and the commute time was really getting me down; I wanted the 20 hours a week back so I could spend it working on other things. I love how quiet it is at the weekend. The architecture is some of the best in London: from the square to the Saatchi building, it’s a very entertaining place to live.”
Erin used to live in Ogle Street and she gleams, “That was one of the best summers of my entire life. I would walk to and from work to meet clients – never once setting foot on the tube. The sheer amount of time I save by walking!” Erin is a woman after my own heart. When you look at London life for 90% of people, it often results in 10 hours a week traveling, 20 or more for many others. Living in central might cost a few more pennies but, with what you save in travel, and the gift of time, it’s a price worth paying in my book. That time can be spent creating, which is why so many young entrepreneurs are based in Fitzrovia.
We talk a little more about living in the area and what impact the Fitzrovia neighbourhood has had on their own creative direction, as well as the process of setting up the company. Erin jumps in to say how she finds Fitzrovia really inspiring. We talk about the convenience when meeting clients and being able to pack more meetings into a day. She tells me, “I also feel like it has as a great balance of work and home lifestyle. The energy of the people and local businesses are great – it keeps me motivated. I love the greenery of the square and having Regent’s Park at my doorstep.”
Fraser talks about how living in the area has definitely helped the progression of Foliage Films and how easy it is to have collaborators and clients over for meetings. “As it’s in the middle of London,” he tells me, “with lots of great transport links, it feels like we are building something great, and people are responding well.” They both agree that they shall be staying in Fitzrovia no matter how large the company gets.
We begin discussing projects abroad as Fraser informs me that they are actually on their way to catch a flight to shoot and direct a music video in New Orleans. Next they will be directing and producing a short, dark comedy for modern women, to enter into festivals next year. Eventually, they want to move into film production more as producers for Foliage Films and bring together a strong team of creative people to collaborate on bigger projects. The two explain that amongst their high profile clients, and of course one of their personal favourites, is Fitzrovia Journal.
Somehow we get onto the subject of Erin’s Piano. As Fraser states it as one of the reasons he won’t be moving out of Fitzrovia; “I have moved Erin’s piano too many times already. Do you know how many men it takes to move an upright piano…?” He jokes, “When we first met I thought it was beautiful that Erin owned a piano, who thought then I would have moved the piano 3 times already?”
We begin to bring our conversation to a close, talking a little more about their work. They have a few more music videos in pre-production, so 2015 will be exciting for them. Erin expresses how interested she is to see how they can do something different in video that isn’t really being done and work with lots of different people from bands to brands, from businesses to actors needing video tests for their show-reel. “Each brief is different, it’s taking what the client wants but also making it your own style and putting your own spin on it- working with a great team of collaborators also helps! We have met a few screenwriters recently who we are collaborating a few short film projects.” Erin says.
What strikes me about Erin and Fraser – or Fraser and Erin – is that they both come from an Art background. There is a new trend of original work coming from areas of creative education like Art School. Hammersmith-born filmmaker and Oscar winner Steve McQueen also comes from such a background. On the Fitzrovia neighbourhood, the two explain how they would personally like to see the area grow furthermore into a creative hub in its already strong contemporary state and heritage.
As we wrap things up, Fraser has one burning question… “Why are there not more cool bars, New York style bars that play Live Music till late in the area?” This is something for a Fitzrovia entrepreneur to tackle in 2015 possibly? If you launch one, let us know! We will spread the word.