VICTORIA’ S SECRET’s Ed Razek on their latest Holiday Film


BY KENNETH RICHARD

Victoria’s Secret fashion show may be the most watched fashion show in the world, but it is just one component (albeit a big one) of the retailer’s engagement strategy. As part of their internationally televised event, the world’s most known fashion brand also debuts their highly anticipated holiday brand film. We spoke with Senior Creative and CMO Ed Razek about creating what could easily be the most watched fashion film of the holidays.

Ed, congratulations on the show and the latest holiday commercial. Heard you were getting some phenomenal pre-show teaser numbers.
Thanks. It is a little crazy. Our show teaser ad ended up with over 100 million views in China alone. We’re already one of the top ten trending Google stories today, and that will just keep rising.

Didn’t know you were in China.
We are just beginning our expansion in China, but the market is hungry for the brand and knows it very well. The supermodels from that region that we’ve had in the show the last 4 or 5 years are major stars. And our fashion show is huge news there and, honestly, worldwide.

We’re interested in your two minute commercial. Tell us about it.
Every year, at the holidays, we try to do one very special two minute brand film – I can hardly call it a commercial – that is epic and ambitious and tells a larger story. We run it in the fashion show, and then on our web site. At this point, it is kind of anticipated by our audience. We’ve been doing it for 10 years now. We shoot the spots all over the world. We’ve shot in Prague, Newport, Los Angeles, Paris, and now Rome.

We always have a major director do it. A major MOVIE director. Because we want it to be cinematic. Often, including this year, it has been Michael Bay, who is a great director and clearly understands major productions.

The production crew, interestingly, was around 200 people between staging, hair, makeup, lighting, effects, cinematographers, stylists and everything else. We had one full building just for hair, make up and wardrobe.

How did you prep?
I went to Rome two months in advance to scout it. I’m not dumb enough to send 200 people to a place I haven’t fully explored. I met Michael’s set designer and his production head and the three of us did the initial prep. That was very useful, because everybody gets the mission clear and it sparks ideas.

One of the things we ended up doing was building our own museum. We found all these great sculptures in the prop warehouse. Things that had been used by the great Italian directors like Fellini, Antonioni and Bertolucci. They reminded me of that beautiful scene in Pride and Prejudice where Keira Knightley walks through Mr. Darcy’s private sculpture space. And I said “Let’s do that. Let’s build our own museum and have the Angels move through it.”

So we took an old sound stage that was really just a big warehouse and we built the floor, the walls, the lighting, and installed the sculptures. Do you remember the movie?

Certainly.
I thought it was such a romantic scene, and I felt certain we could do something beautiful with it.
But, honestly, there was so much we could do in Rome. The backdrops are epic and the city is stunning.
We shot in late July when the temperature had to be over 100. It was really hot.

Wouldn’t have known, as the snow is so believable. Thought the girls might be freezing.
Well, as I said, we approach things from a cinematic perspective, so if we use special effects, they are cinematic special effects. We are very deliberate storytellers in what’s meant to be a two minute movie.

The whole notion of the magic of Rome, the eternal city, the gift of love, was the mission. We shot 3 terabytes of footage in two days, a shocking amount of footage, which speaks to how hard Michael and his team work. We had 12 Angels, a record, and these insane structures.

We were dressing the sets, lighting old oil lamps, painting and refreshing everything, building beautiful spaces. We had snow machines, cranes, dollies, massive lighting requirements and, of course, that one great white horse.

Elizabeth Sulcer, our stylist, had variations of outfits for everyone ready to go on a constant basis. There were 6 Angels on set each day for the 2 days we shot. We started early in the day and went well into night.

And when it’s all shot, you start the edit process.

That means you sitting in a dark space, looking at a monitor with a few others day after day?
Yes. Two editors and me, day after day. After about a month we finished the first cut. It was very strong, but I began to think it was too aggressive, the music was wrong, and I wasn’t telling the story. This is really about love. If any brand can own love, it’s Victoria’s Secret.

So I thought we should slow it down, slow the pace down and let the girls shine, let the location shine, let Rome shine. Add more of the background footage we had taken, the shots of the Coliseum, the shots of those great Roman streets, the domes. Let it breathe!

Once that happened, we obviously needed new music. We were playing with different pieces of music and I thought of Taylor Swift, whom I adore. I just have all the respect in the world for her, and I think she is one of the great songwriters of the last 100 years. I was listening to her album 1989, and the song This Love came on and I thought, “My god, that’s just so beautiful!” It was really perfect. Taylor and I had collaborated on the last two fashion shows, so I obviously know her. And let me just say she is one of the smartest, most creative people I’ve ever known. I sent a note to her management asking if she would have any interest in being involved in our holiday commercial. They said “yes” almost immediately.

But that couldn’t have happened with just anybody. Our relationship was built over time. And it’s one of mutual trust and respect. An agency couldn’t have just called and said, “Hey, we have this idea.” I doubt that they would have gotten a returned phone call.
We recut the spot to Taylor’s song, and it came together beautifully. I happened to be with her a week later at a concert in Ohio. I was backstage with her and Lily Aldridge, who had actually introduced me to Taylor a few years ago. I said “Taylor, I have something for you to see,” and showed her the film. Her reaction was something I will always remember. So genuine and really excited by it.

I can be a hopeless sap about this stuff, because I appreciate the creativity and the contribution of people like her and I never take it for granted. She said, “Oh my god, are we going to do this?” And I answered, “I will if you will.” Just a great moment. Her mom and dad were there, her manager was there, they all saw it and loved it. Special night.

So it all came together. The Angels, Rome, Michael Bay, Taylor, all of it. I think it’s safe to say that few, if any, brands do productions at this scale. But we think it’s important for Victoria’s Secret. We’re proud of it, and I’m grateful to everyone involved.

Agency | In-House
Creative Director | Ed Razek
Director | Michael Bay
Editing | Moon Dog
Stylist | Elizabeth Sulcer