It’s not everyone who can secure the services of Jessica Biel as the lead in their first short film. But then Quentin Jones has enjoyed divine munificence on many fronts. A Cambridge philosophy graduate and part-time model, Jones swerved haphazardly towards illustration and then on to directing and animating short films for Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Kenzo, Victoria Beckham and Miley Cyrus. Along the way, her unique mix of carefully choreographed stop-frame animation, montage and collage has become a fashion-film-making typology unto itself.
The films are funky syncopations, part Dada, part Busby Berkeley. And no matter how many times you watch them, it’s hard to see the joins, to work out what came when and how. It’s a confusion even her clients suffer. “People never understand the process, but it is like a moveable jigsaw puzzle,” she explains.
Jones first made stop-motion animations with her mom, spiriting plasticine men into action (Morph, a clay stop-motion series was a fixture on children’s television in the UK for decades). At Cambridge, Jones was fashion editor of the college newspaper and then interned at British Vogue with a mind to becoming a fashion journalist. Although eminently qualified, she was not a good fit. “I didn’t enjoy the environment or a lot of the personalities. After three weeks the deputy editor told me I had a problem with authority and I shouldn’t work under anyone. So after that I was like, I need to do my own thing. What is my own thing?”
She enrolled at Central St.Martins to study graphic design, quickly switching to illustration only to find her sketching skills not quite up to snuff. “I practically hadn’t put a pencil to paper in four years and I spent the first year of the course thinking I was crap at it,” Jones says. The rusty draftsmanship forced her into a productive creative corner. She started working with collage and again experimenting with stop motion animation. “My tutors told me it was the most interesting stuff I had done.”
After finishing her MA, a modeling gig (she signed with Storm when she was 15 years old) led to a dinner party meeting with Patrick Grant, owner of E Tautz and the new face of Savile Row, who asked Jones to produce a short film. Chanel saw it, made the call and she was off.
After these early successes, she spent a couple of years in New York, creating work for fashion and editorial clients and shifting from animating stills to applying her art work to video. “When I got an agent in New York, he told me I couldn’t make TV commercials in the way I had been working. ‘If they are spending a million dollars on this and paying for this model, they want to see video,’” she recalls. Tiring of these restrictions, she moved back to London to be closer to her more open-minded European clients. “I have snuck back to the old techniques because actually people liked it more. There is something to be said for the lo-fi approach.”
A new film for the French accessories brand Roger Vivier, starring the Argentinian fashion consultant and art director Sofia Sanchez de Betak, makes clear how sophisticated and compelling Jones’ lo-fi approach now is. “It was so much fun to collaborate with Quentin as she is obsessed with graphics and collages as I am,” says de Betak. “She is a very creative and talented woman.”
Increasingly though, Jones, now 33, is using herself as a model and creating films with a new kind of freedom and spiritedness. “When you are using a model you can be nervous about cutting up their face. When it’s you, it’s kind of fun to dissect yourself.”
And she is branching out in other ways. A year and a half ago, Jones had her first child, encouraging a bit of early career stock taking. “I thought it would be nice to get into longer projects where you can get into the ideas a bit more, invest a bit more of you in them.”
Which leads us back to the Jessica Biel. Jones set out to make a non-fashion, short film—a stepping stone to a feature film.
And, she decided to write it herself. The film, she says, is about a young mother who can’t find her baby. Shot in on location in Los Angeles, it has animated moments and Jones describes it as “surreal” and a little bit dark.
Jones has entered the film into a number of festivals, including TriBeCa, and as of press time, is awaiting the official reaction, but already looking at the next step. “I’m thinking in five years time it would be nice to work on a feature film that had animation and artwork in it. Wouldn’t that be cool?”