Born and raised in London, hardworking director Gabriella Kingsley is taking the industry by storm one reel at a time. The 27-year-old spent years in media and photography, but her interest in film struck an interest that stuck with her. Since then, Kingsley has worked with several artists including Eugy, Kali Claire, and Mr. Eazy amongst various others.
In our latest editorial for Behind The Lens, Gabriella Kingsley opens up about overcoming obstacles as a female director and the creative process behind her work amongst other topics.
For those who aren’t familiar with your work, can you tell us a bit about your background?
I am 27 years old, born and raised in northwest London, UK. I never dreamed of being a film director when I was younger. Although I took media, graphic design, and photography in school and film was definitely an interest I didn’t think it was even a possibility. There weren’t a lot of female role models in film that I was aware of, especially ones that looked like me. I always thought I would end up in the fashion industry running my own label or creating my own designs. Life clearly took me in a different direction and I started in the film industry at the age of 22.
I originally started running the back end of a production company then shortly after started producing music videos which eventually lead to directing them. My first ever directing job was for one of the biggest rap duos in the UK Krept and Konan the track was called “Falling” and that is where my career really began. Since then I’ve continued to work with the biggest artists in the UK such as Tinie Tempah, Dappy, Mostack, Aitch, and many more. My work has always stayed on the commercial side of the UK hip hop industry specializing in more performance-based music videos.
When it comes to the creative process behind your work, what conversations do you usually have with your clients?
It is really dependent on the project, sometimes artists come to me with a set idea of what they want to achieve and it’s my responsibility to ensure their vision is executed to the best of my ability. Other times clients come with a blank slate and it really allows me to get creative and think more outside the box. And sometimes it really is more of a collaboration bouncing ideas off each other until we create something we are both really happy with, this process for me is when I think I make my best work. I also believe coming from a production background as well as being a director really allows me to be realistic on what can be created within what’s provided.
What are your three favorite aspects of being a music director and why?
One: being able to create a visual with my creative mark on it that will be out in the world forever for people to enjoy. Music is timeless and fifty years from now there will still be someone somewhere around the world watching my work. Two: making my client happy! There is no better feeling when an artist sees their video for the first time and is over the moon about the outcome, especially when working with new upcoming artists and it’s their first project and they are just super excited! Three: people’s reaction to my job title! People seem to always be so shocked that I’m a video director! It’s funny and it just shows you should never make pre-judgments on people based on how they look
Did you have to overcome any obstacles along the way?
Yes of course! Being a female in a very male-dominated industry isn’t easy especially in the area and genre of music videos I work in. People undermine me all the time, didn’t take me seriously, and even cases where I felt sexualized at work. I had to start presenting myself differently just to make people pay attention to what I had to say. As an example, now when I work I wear minimal makeup and a tracksuit to work so there aren’t any distractions when really I shouldn’t need to.
Luckily, I’ve always been quite tomboyish and feel comfortable that way so I’m alright with it. My kindness was also definitely taken for weakness along the way and I’ve had to develop tougher skin and I think you have to be in this industry. There were times I wanted to give up and go get a 9-5 job because I thought life would just be easier but somehow someway something always reminded me why I love what I do and why it’s all worth it.
If you can recall, what’s your favorite memory of working with an artist?
Wow, that’s a hard question! I have had the pleasure of working with so many amazing artists and creating some great work. So I guess if I had to pick something that was memorable it would be Eugy X Eazi’s “Dance For Me.” It was the biggest set I’ve worked on in terms of the number of crew members and cast and it was spread across two days. Even though at times it was manic, seeing it all come together and working with so many amazingly talented people from wardrobe and makeup to the artists and dancers.
I also had the pleasure to be introduced to a new music genre I did not know much about, Afrobeats. It not only allowed me to hear a new wave of music but also to see and experience African culture through dance, costume, and even down the food served on set. This also turned out to be my most viewed video on YouTube over all my work and opened the door to a whole new clientele for me.
What do you think the landscape will look like for female directors a decade from now?
Women are amazing creators and have a completely different perspective to men. Not to say our perspective is better but it is different. The pros of being in the film world is that visual perspective is never ending and there is always room for fresh new ideas. So why should the film world be so male dominated? I hope that we will see a raise in female directors in the future. It’s something I am noticing more and more as the years go on and I believe if female directors with a platform continue to speak out and encourage the younger generation of female creatives this will happen.
Is there anything we can look forward to from you?
I had many plans for 2020 but unfortunately due to everything that happened things were put on hold. But with that being said it allowed me to reflect on what I want to do in the future in my career and it is definitely fashion and beauty commercials. I hope I can take what I have learned throughout my years in music videos and translate some unique creative ideas into commercials. Fashion was my first love so if I can combine the thing I loved to do with what I love to do now it’s a winner for me. I also just think, I am a prime consumer of these fashion and beauty brands so surely I will have a better idea about their products which should enable me to capture their product in the best way possible?
In other photography news, check out our interview with Jacob Maher.