By Eilidh Duffy — Earlier this year, the Institute of Contemporary Arts hosted a Friday Salon called Creative vs Commercial, where photographers were urged to rethink their relationships with commercial and creative practises. The discussion aimed to question the typical idea that commissioned work is always dissociated from personal practises, and therefore kind of clash and do not give artistic satisfaction. One of the speakers who explained her points of view on marrying those two opposing practises was Margarita Louca, a CSM Graphic Design graduate who started her career as a fashion film editor for brands like Burberry, soon turned to direct music videos for Franz Ferdinand and animate/edit that of Deadmau5, and has since joined Artangel, the company that produces some of the most peculiar contemporary art projects in the industry. We decided to get to know the person who might be realising your next creative idea.
” I feel like students get a bad rep most of the time.”
“I’m not very career-focused,” Margarita Louca tells me, perched on a sofa in a little cafe near Angel station. She sips a milky coffee with her tiny black dog, Lou, in between us. Considering how much she’s achieved since leaving Central Saint Martins eight years ago, I don’t know if I’m convinced of her statement.
Growing up in Riyadh to an Irish mother and Cypriot father (“that’s where my funny accent comes from”) her mum worked 8 jobs, so it’s no surprise that she’s multi-faceted on the job front. Just one look at her LinkedIn profile proves just how diverse her abilities are: lecturing, creative direction, DJing and (most recently) curation are just a few of the things she’s been working on.
A CSM Graphic Design graduate herself, Louca is a visiting lecturer at Camberwell, LCF and Middlesex University where she focuses on Graphics and Fashion Communication. Getting into tutoring was a ‘happy accident’, she explains, as “Middlesex asked me to go in and chat to third years and explain about how print media was transitioning.” They then asked her to teach a module; then for another year and another — she’s now in her third year. “I actually really enjoy it! It’s cool seeing how enthusiastic and full of energy students are,” she says of working at Universities, “but I feel like students get a bad rep most of the time” – meaning that they’re criticised for their lack of enthusiasm and people often think they waste the resources available to them.
“Music video budgets aren’t what they used to be and the irony is that the label still expects everything to look really expensive.”
Louca herself has been on the receiving end of this kind of reproval when, in her second year, she contracted meningitis disease. “I almost died,” she tells me, trying to sugar coat the seriousness of her situation with a nervous giggle. “Nobody really knew where I’d gone to because…social media wasn’t that big in 2005,” and so when she came back after treatment she almost failed her degree because of the time she’d missed. Despite this ‘sidetrack’, it was during her time at Saint Martins that she started focusing much of her work on music, despite her decision to take the illustration pathway. “I used to play in various experimental noise bands,” she says, and worked for London-based music label Upset The Rhythm during its early days. It’s no surprise, then, that she’s put her skills to work as a director, animator and editor of music videos, working with bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Metallica and Deadmau5.
“Music video budgets aren’t what they used to be and the irony is that the label still expects everything to look really expensive,” she smirks. Sometimes she doesn’t even receive payment for the work put in: directors “used to get paid a fee to make a treatment, but now only get paid if you make a video…it’s brutal because it takes quite a lot of time and you can get cut at any point.”
Music hasn’t always been her focus, however, as she started off working for boutique production company PG Commercial after her degree, whose client list includes some of the biggest names in the industry: from Prada to Google, Frieze to Chalyan and Wolfgang Tillmans. She made the transition to music after making a video for her friends’ band Wetdog [the cake video above]. “There’s been a huge change within fashion film in the last 5 years,” she assures me. “Previously everything was so aspirational and it’s almost like they made a point of the fact that you as an ordinary person couldn’t necessarily be a part of it.” But now things are evolving. Brands like Kenzo or Proenza Schouler with their video Desert Tide (2012) are, in her opinion, doing things right.
Her affiliation with music runs much deeper than just making videos as Louca hosts a fortnightly show on the award-winning radio station NTS called Don’t Trip. “The show has no particular agenda,” she explains, “it’s just a good excuse to give airtime to a lot of musicians that wouldn’t necessarily get a chance, but I should probably do something more with it.”
Having “literally just taken on” a job at Artangel, an art company that produces projects as wide an varied as PJ Harvey’s recent Recording in Progress at Somerset House and Miranda July’s performance at Sadler’s Wells (apparently she can’t disclose anything about it), she’s definitely doing well for someone who’s not got a clear idea of her career path. “You’ll have to wait and see,” she speaks of the project she’s working on for Artangel, and I suppose we will all be waiting to see what she does next.