Mafalda Millies studied originally politics – today she is a successful art director and lives in New York
A few years ago, I was sitting with Maffi (now 28 years young) in a friend’s kitchen – she was explaining to me that she didn’t exactly know what to do after she finished studying politics. Then I met her in New York awhile ago and I’m completely impressed: she’s such an all around talent! After she shot a successful short film, her degree still fresh in her pocket, she landed a job at a music label and develops campaigns for them. And on top of that, at the moment she’s working as an art director with Roya Sachs on a performance, an experimental ballet piece based on the painter and sculptor Oskar Schlemmer. But we’ll let Mafalda Millies explain it all for herself. Here, she talks about her job and how it came about.
I’m a film and art director living in New York City. I work as the Creative Director at C3 Management – a music management company – based out of NYC, LA, Nashville, and Austin. Clients include The Strokes, NAS, Future, The Head and the Heart, and MSMR. My role involves the overall creative conceptualization of our artist’s album campaigns, as well as the directing of their music videos; most recently MSMR’s Wrong Victory.
At the moment I am also art directing a contemporary performance inspired by Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet (1922) in collaboration with curator Roya Sachs. Virtually There aims to show the way in which technology and new media are impacting our contemporary culture, causing both a mental and physical shift in our society. The original ballet explored the impact that machine culture and the industrial revolution had on society at the time and reflected on a new type of synthesis emerging between man and machine. Similarly, Virtually There introduces the coming to life of a new, harmonic codependence between man and digital.
Just after finishing my MA at the University of Texas in Austin, I directed the short film Darknet Delivery, which ended up getting nominated at SXSW. While in Austin for the festival, I was introduced to the C3 Management team who was looking for someone with a background in film, a desire for creative direction, and a passion for music. I immediately jumped at the opportunity.
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The Virtually There project, in turn, came about through a conversation when my roommate Roya and I discovered our mutual love for the Bauhaus School – and Oskar Schlemmer’s contribution to it in particular. Both of our backgrounds are very multidisciplinary, and we both share a passion for collaborative projects in general. Taking inspiration from Schlemmer’s collaborative production, our performance combines the realm of technology with art, design, music and dance, by inviting artists and creative pioneers from all these spheres to tackle different parts of the production.
Collaborators include: choreography by the iconic ‘Punk Ballerina’ Karole Armitage; costumes by the renowned Brazilian designers the Campana Brothers; staging by Whitney Biennial artists Kate Gilmore and Heather Rowe; music by underground French composer Charles Derenne; and creative production by technology innovators MATTE Projects.
I grew up in a very creatively fueled house. My mother is a collector of absolutely everything and every corner in our home feels like a little still-life, down to the most mundane things like how the ashtray interacts with the lamp shade at the other end of the room. As bizarre and exhaustingly OCD this felt to me growing up, I believe it has given me a natural feel for and pleasure in aligning, combining, spacing.
I would say the most influential stop in my career was living in Austin, Texas during my studies at UT. The people there are so incredibly inspiring, open-minded, and supportive. It’s a completely different mindset from anything I have ever experienced before. Living there encouraged me to do what I really enjoy without worrying too much and taking myself too seriously.
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What I love most about my job is its versatile nature! Being able to work with musicians and artists that have completely different visions and talents is incredibly inspiring. It allows me to get creative with a diverse range of media as well as industries (music, art, theatre, fashion, technology, philanthropy, and beyond). I love the challenge of weaving worlds together and creating something unique and memorable. So, my routine varies depending on the project. My day can consist of writing up treatments for music videos and shows, scouting locations, collaborating on costume-designs with artists, conceptualizing logos, finding artists for album art, directing…
I feel very lucky in that a have a great group of insanely creative friends that I get to work with. Conceptualizing, curating, and bringing Virtually There to life with Roya over the past year has been an incredibly inspiring journey. I can’t really ever work without my talented director friend Bettina Santo Domingo, who I brainstorm with every day and with whom I share a creative collective called STARECASE. I also always love working with Alexandra Cronan, who is a musician-focused stylist. Also my brilliant costume designer friend Annina Pfuel, who focuses mainly on opera, but has made the most unique costumes for short films and music videos I’ve directed – the fur suits in MSMR’s Wrong Victory, for example, she sewed by hand out of 50 wigs. Working with singer Lizzy Plapinger of MSMR is also the biggest joy; I absolutely adore her vision.
Plus, I am still so very much in love with New York. Walking to work in the morning and seeing the city wake up makes me happy every day. The open mindedness and overall enthusiasm in New York (and everyone’s innate drive) has definitely encouraged me to challenge myself to explore and approach medias and industries less known to me. I also don’t think Virtually There would have received the same amount of support in the making if we had raised it in a different city. It’s such a passion project and people jumped on for the love of the idea, despite the risks involved in having to trust the ability of everyone else involved.
Looking into the future, I would love to immerse myself even more in interactive projects where video, sound, performance, art, and technology get to come together, invite people in for collective experiences and, hopefully, cultivate new dialogue.
The ballet will be hosted by the Performa Visionaries and premieres this Saturday, November 19th at Mana Contemporary. Tickets can be purchased here. Shuttles will be provided from and to Milk Studios in Manhattan.
Find more information about Mafalda Millies here.
Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.