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As is often the case with most prolific and creative individuals, the moment you ask about their specific title or role, the answer becomes abstruse and ambiguous.
The simple fact being that such a label creates limits and confinements – and creative people like to enjoy the liberty of moving freely, without the fickle constraints of borders or parameters.
For London-based artist Jamie Neale, this also rings true. If anything, the restrictive measures of social lockdown here in the UK have only helped to reinforce this notion. An award-winning movement director, choreographer, creative consultant, writer and director, Jamie’s work can be seen in global campaigns for Nike, Nicholas Kirkwood, Puma and John Lewis – as well as working with sports celebrities including Serena Williams and David Beckham, and even television network HBO.
A self-driven and intuitive creator that will etch-out his own lane if there isn’t one already there for him, Jamie has been furiously active these past months, working on everything from his own podcast 360 Yourself, to screenwriting and photography. He took some time out over the summer to sit down with me and share his thoughts on how lockdown has impacted him.
Would you mind sharing with us a little on your creative background and how you came into movement direction and choreography?
Having had the opportunity to attend Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, I was lucky enough to have a tremendous amount of support and nurturing for me to grow as an artist. In 2012 I completed a Young Creatives Program at The Royal Opera House, which was mentored by Wayne McGregor – and was my injection into the arts world. Not long after this, I entered a piece of my work into the Burgos Choreography competition which was held in Spain and went on to tour 30 different venues, of which we were awarded the City Award.
Initially I’d had hopes to go into theatre; however after coming out of school with a bunch of credits within my field I found myself moving more toward choreography and movement. Around this time too, I was picking up bits of work within various brands and fashion labels, and I was warming to the potential opportunities of becoming a creative entrepreneur.
Additionally, two cases of being in the right place at the right time came about not long after – the first being when I was asked to work on a fashion event in Florence for Paul Smith, after someone had dropped out at the last minute. For this I worked closely with the show’s creative director, and was allowed the creative freedom to formulate my own ideas.
The second opportunity came when I was staying at a close friend’s photography studio. After he was having trouble trying to find ways to have his model move in front of the camera, I offered to assist. Inadvertently, this was one of my introductions into a career of movement direction. These two experiences were pivotal for me in terms of my career, as I saw a real gap in the market and a need for creative choreographers within fashion and brands. Not long after this I began utilising my network and approaching brands. I soon came to realise that there was only a very small number of people doing this kind of work, and yet the demand for creative consultancy was high.
When you talk about movement, people often think it’s simply structured moves put together – when actually that’s not all it involves. It’s very much intention-based too. Even with advertising, when working with actors you often give them the intention – which could just be a physical intention or an emotional intention. Movement can be as subtle and suggestive as moving an eyebrow.
How has your experience in working across a variety of mediums benefited you as an artist?
I’ve always had a strong belief that everything relates to something else in some way. This comes back to the initial motivation behind my podcast ‘360 Yourself’. If you can truly understand your key strengths and the worlds that you are working in, your creativity doesn’t have to be restricted by the medium in which you operate.
Whether it’s film, music, fashion or advertising the end result to me is much the same. For instance, whilst a fashion brief for Chanel may differ significantly from a music campaign for a particular artist, in terms of how I approach my work, the creative process for me is much the same.
Overall, the benefit for me in encompassing different mediums is the ability to immerse myself in a diversity of artistic platforms, and being able to inject my knowledge of various disciplines into a wider body of work.
To what effect has self-isolating or social distancing had on your creativity?
I’ve always felt that there is a certain creative liberty that can be unleashed in times of restriction. It’s often in these times that I find myself most creative.
I’ve recently completed a photography series whilst being around the family house in lockdown. For this I set myself a creative brief that explored the physical spaces in which we have spent the most time (in this case it was the back garden), and compiled a series of over 50 stills shot in this location. For me, the moment I had set the restriction of only shooting in this confined area, it opened up a world of ideas for me to be creative. This I feel is the advantage of working within constraints and restrictions.
Has the global pandemic changed your perception in any way with regards to how you engage with your audience or express yourself creatively?
If anything, during this period I’ve become much more grateful and authentic to my higher purpose. Within these times of self-reflection I’ve also been thinking more on my position in society and how I can motivate or inspire positive change. It’s also made me realise how precious a commodity time really is, and how best to utilise it.
How in your opinion do you feel that the creative industry is evolving, and in what ways do you feel that creatives need to reevaluate or adapt post-Covid?
In terms of how the industry is moving forward and evolving, I think that everyone is now having to quickly adapt to this rapidly changing climate. Much like the social transformations of the internet age, we will soon find some companies flourishing and others being left behind. A good example would be live events and entertainment; which is finding new ways to readjust – with drive-in movies making a comeback for instance, and companies now stepping into virtual and interactive worlds.
This reinforces my belief that restrictions can open up new creative avenues for those that think outside of the box.
How (if any) has this period influenced any new ideas or themes that you may have thought of exploring or incorporating into your work?
As well as my personal photography project, I’ve been utilising this time to explore my writing, developing scripts for film and television. Both producing and directing are creative avenues I would also really like to pursue moving forward.
Being dyslexic has not stifled my passion for writing things down – nor has it limited my creativity to physical performance alone. At the same time, it has been vital for me to know and understand my key strengths and weaknesses; and being able to delegate or enlist the assistance from others where necessary. Being a highly visual creative I’ve quickly learnt that it helps to have somebody on your team that can provide technical assistance with things like structure and grammar too.
What words of advice would you offer to anyone that might be looking to make a career in movement or dance?
Both the fashion and advertising industries can often be stressful environments, so it really helps to be composed under pressure and just go with the flow. It very much requires the ability to balance various facets whilst fitting within this very niche role. Being able to communicate effectively within production time constraints, as well as understanding how the individual talent thinks and operates is key.
I think that any creative that is well-versed in working with people should be relatively good at analysing and interpreting behaviour. This not only goes for choreography and movement, but for marketing and business too.
One thing that I’ve come to explore upon recently completing both an online course on mindfulness practice and another on life-coaching has been mentoring. After reaching out to my agent about this, I’ve recently taken up conducting mini-courses for 5 individuals across the creative sector; in order to help them in achieving and reaching their goals from both a career and personal point-of-view.
I’m passionate about seeing through ideas to the point where they materialise and become physical pieces of work, and mentoring has been a fulfilling experience for me.
What can we expect from you as far as projects or performances in the near future?
This unprecedented period has been monumental for the growth and development of my own creative practice. During lockdown, I’ve come to the realisation that I would very much like to become more involved in film production and directing. To achieve this I am looking at new and creative ways in which to see this come to fruition.
When the commercial and consultancy work eventually comes back in full swing, I still aim to see my own creative projects grow and flourish; for instance, my podcast ‘360 Yourself’, as well as my writing and filmmaking. If anything, this has been a wonderful opportunity to reflect on identity and what we prioritise in our daily lives.
Follow Jamie Neale on Instagram here.
Keep up to date with Jamie’s podcast 360 Yourself here.
Interview by Sonny Arifien @Sonnyandhispen