Our latest Team Tuesday is LS’s Creative Development, Meriel Bunney-Gillies.
Meriel – our walking, talking encyclopedia of industry knowledge, Creative Development guru and London person – sits down for this interview with an air of slight apprehension. This might be because I’m her sister (her sister who, it so happens, suddenly holds all of the editorial power), but I rather hope it’s because she’s worried I’ll be too nice to her. I wouldn’t say that it was favouritism to add, however – that Meriel is a very much loved member of the team; her happy personality, enthusiasm and interest shines through, even when it’s on the other end of a crackly phone line at our morning status. (She might also be one of the most stylish – but that could, just maybe, be my bias).
Here, we discuss her beginnings in the industry, who she most wishes would come to shoot in Scotland and her love of Peter Lindbergh.
Let's get started
Hello, Meriel! Welcome back to Edinburgh for a few days. First off, tell us – how did you come to work at LS? “I’d been really interested in fashion photography for a long time, specifically location fashion photography. I’d studied a lot of things at university that tied in, like portraiture and contemporary body politics. I was quite interested in it from an art historical perspective, and so I’d been gathering all of these different artists that I liked and admired, in my head. I wanted to find out more about the Walter Pfeiffer and Ryan McGinley Pringle of Scotland campaigns – with Tilda Swinton – so I did a little detective work and found Location Scotland (as it was then known). It was one of those moments when everything fell into place and the production I was doing at the Edinburgh Art Festival, my love of photography and locations, and my experience living all over Scotland; it all came together in this perfect opportunity – I just had to grab it.”
Meriel initially came on as a freelance creative consultant, working closely with Katy, supporting on all things outreach, thinking a bit creatively about brands that are out there and the shoot locations that they might be interested in. On this, Meriel says: “It was about pulling those loose ends together so that they sparked. Now, I think Creative Development is a lot of different things. My work encompasses new business, business development; I work closely with the marketing department, look at everything that we have as a company, our locations, how we fit in to the industry, who we should be talking to and partnering with. It’s a wide mix, which I love. I get to work directly with everyone in the company but in different ways.”
What makes you most excited? “Finally getting through to talk to someone that I’m incredibly keen to work with. Everyone’s schedules are so busy and things come up all the time – when you finally get that chance to sit down and show someone how great this company is and how exciting the UK is, for aesthetics in particular, you’re showing them just how useful you can be for them. That has to be one of the most satisfying elements, especially when it’s photographers or directors that we want to bring up to Scotland for the first time.”
Would she say that an interest in all areas is important for a job like this? “I think if I wasn’t curious about all of it, it would be a difficult job to do. Luckily I’m a fan of photography and film, photographers and directors, and on top of that I’m a total location freak! I love looking at the destinations brands choose, locations big fashion houses land on for their resort shows, the amazing spaces that Louis Vuitton travel to, the architectural homes that get picked up.”
It must be fantastic to be able to share and discuss these passions as part of your job. “The truth is that Scotland is currently underrepresented as a shoot destination. I feel very strongly that we as a company are doing something that others aren’t doing, and, yes – we’re here and we’re on the ground, but our message is much wider than that. We are repping the country and that is very easy to get behind.”
Say, I’m a client. What are Meriel’s favourite words for describing us as a company? “Passionate; individually and as a group we are very passionate. We are UK wide, but Scotland is our baby, our turf – our back garden. We are passionate about doing a good job, everyone here really cares about doing the best job they can, on any shoot. Another word I’d use: collaborative. This might sound obvious but it’s a word I really like; it’s important to be flexible, to listen to others. Ballsy. We’re go-getters. Cultural – there are people in this company who love cycling, road trips, fashion, music, gritty movies, One Direction… there are so many directions that people in this company go in (pardon the pun!); it makes it a lovely melting pot of different character, and we all work closely together. It makes my everyday life very happy.”
Meriel officially moved to London last September, to open a new branch of the company. How is she finding it? “I love it. I’ve been with the company 3 and a half years and it’s gone through so many stages of growth since then. London always felt like the most natural next step, particularly coinciding with the growth to UK wide last year, and the rebrand and new website last September. Not being in production, I don’t go on shoot regularly, so a plus for me is that I go to all these cities and have meetings with creatives – and Paris is but a Eurostar away!”
Speaking of travel, in the past year you’ve been to New York, LA, Paris, Berlin, Hamburg, Shanghai, and - most recently - Cannes Lions… What’s been your favourite trip so far? “Is it cheesy to say the next trip to come, no matter what it is? Saying that, LA was amazing this year. It was so wonderful to go for 4 weeks and really hit the market, see everybody I wanted to see and learn a lot about what these great American companies are looking for. It’s great to be able to put Scotland and the UK more on the map out there. It also didn’t hurt that I based myself down by the beach in Venice.”
Who would you like to come and work with us? “Selfishly or for the company? (Laughs) For me, I would love for Peter Lindbergh to come back, to take him out of the city and show him the natural beauty of Scotland. I also have a soft spot for Glen Luchford, Cass Bird – the list goes on. Director wise I am finding new directors I admire all the time.
Tell us a little about your love of photography. “I love work where landscape and location tends to play a big role in the photographer’s style. I’m a massive fan of colour. It was fantastic to work with Erik Madigan Heck last year [on two editorials for Harper's Bazaar, as seen above]. Paolo Roversi is a dream, too. I love the sense of expanse that you get in so many campaigns shot in Scotland. We do it ridiculously well. Lindbergh and Annemarieke van Drimmelen are wonderful for their use of light and sense of skin. I especially love the way they photograph women. Also, David Sims and Craig McDean… McDean’s Iceland shoot for T Magazine is still one of my utmost favourite editorials, with its northern aesthetic.”
In terms of the future of advertising, does she have any thoughts…? “I’m very interested to see what happens in the next few years. There are so many new technologies and ways of getting content out there. I love seeing the ways brands and agencies are experimenting. Virtual reality, augmented reality, integrated campaigns, commercials, print, 360, site specific advertising, interactive advertising… It’s really interesting to think about we’ll tie in with it all and how we can be a part of it. Trends, too – Iceland has always been very popular for feature films, the Scandi-chic style has been momentous for a number of years (interiors, nature, architecture) and this feeds in with the UK being Northern too. Generally, everything could change but nothing could change. We’re a company that adapts so bring it on!”
Finally, tell us about you as a human? “I like food and sunny days and walks on the beach. I also bloody love a taco!”
Thanks Meriel! See you in London soon...
Love this feature and interested in knowing more about the team? Please click here to read past Team Tuesdays, including our Locations Manager Amy, Head of Production Sarah and our Production Co-ordinator Jennifer.