ARTICLE: The Wild & Wonderful World Of PHEBE Schmidt

24 August 2023

Written by

Candide McDonald for The Stable

Phebe Schmidt found minds with a similar bent for the unignorable unconventional at The Monkeys.

She has recently shot the agency’s new work for Goat Beer & is working with music artist Banoffee on a new music video concept. Meanwhile, she shares a glimpse into her own creative mind.

The Sweetshop

In your personal work, you often style your women with exaggerated wigs and facelifts gone wrong. What draws you to these flawed, plastic characters and to capture the eccentric side of life?

Phebe Schmidt: Throughout my personal work I enjoy creating exaggerated hyperreal characters to explore themes around consumption, self-image and identity in a branded contemporary culture under constant surveillance – seeking to make visible the gaps between image/brand and nebulous concepts of “reality” and “authenticity”.

What do you want your viewers to feel when they look at your work (photography + music videos)?

PS: As though they can’t look away. Whether it be a hypnotic or visually striking piece of work, it is my aim to create work that sticks with the viewer.

Were you brought up in a creative environment, what were your influences – describe your childhood?

PS: My mother (Christine) and father (Arthur) originally owned a fashion label in Sydney, that was quite successful in the 1980s. My father has a background in painting, my mother has a PhD in fashion research and my sister (Audrey) is a creative and academic writer. So, it was a somewhat colourful childhood. I only really discovered my love for photography late in high school before that I was more interested in sport. Initially, my influences were a lot of older science fiction, such as, Forbidden Planet (1956) The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) and 2001: Space Odyssey (1968). I have been a devout Trekkie from a young age, still sporting my figurines on display to this day.

Three words to describe yourself?

PS: Passionate, Determined, Disciplined.

Tell us what led you to filmmaking?

PS: I began to feel like I couldn’t quite express everything I wanted to in a still image. I have always been drawn to creating a narrative and filmmaking allowed me to build a far more involved story.

Why have you chosen Sweetshop to represent you?

PS: I know I will be able to grow and push my filmmaking with Sweetshop. I have always been drawn to Sweetshop’s ability, alongside its impressive roster of directors, to produce work that is committed to arresting storytelling. It feels as though it’s exactly the right place for me to take my next challenge.

Will you stay true to your own style when directing commercial work?

PS: My commercial and art practices have invariably informed each other, and I will always aim to make eye-catching work that revolves around a striking narrative.

What type of commercial work you would like make?

PS: It’s hard to put into words. Basically, I don’t mind toning down my work for commercials as I appreciate that there are more boundaries associated with this type of work. However, I am always into an arresting narrative that sticks with a viewer and is aesthetically striking. And because of this, I may be able to offer a point of difference as a director.

How does being a Trekkie translate in your work?

PS: I love the colours, the score, the SFX makeup and narratives across all the seasons. I have always been attracted to the otherworldly and my love of Trek first prompted me to explore the concept of the uncanny valley. When I first began producing work the colours and props used throughout the original series were a big inspiration.

This article was first published by The Stable on 10 December 2021.