The brilliant essence of The Reids’ documentary Cole Buxton: CB52 is that it captures the perseverance required to actualise your dreams. Co-Directors Will and Ed Reid tell the story of fashion brand Cole Buxton’s journey to the opening of their flagship store through a fly-on-the-wall style which showcases the 24/7 hard graft that goes into starting a major independent clothing store. DN spoke with the filmmaking pair about the hard work of their own that went into creating their debut doc, how they embraced the run-and-gun energy of Cole Buxton when deciding how to shoot, and the unique formula they took when scoring their film by manipulating field recordings captured at Cole Buxton’s studio.
How did you both first hear about Cole Buxton and what spurred you to create a film about their journey to the opening of their flagship store?
In early 2020, we’d made the first in a triptych of short fiction films that were planning to shoot across 2020 and 2021. However, given the state of everything in late 2020, we put the production for the second of these films on hold and were craving something proper to fill the gap. This project rose up and met us at the perfect time, we already had our schedules cleared for a longer form project and were ready to dive into something headfirst.
We met with Jonny and Cole in October 2020, it was then that they told us they’d been secretly working on opening a store and wanted to make a film about this evolution in the brand. We spoke about what the store was and what it meant to them, it struck us instantly how much of themselves was going into the project. Blood, sweat and tears had already been shed in the pursuit of pulling off something that should be impossible for where the brand was at the time, and they hadn’t even really started the hard parts yet. That was what we were to capture.
What was it about Jonny and Cole as people that you wanted to bring through in the film?
Jonny and Cole are artists: dedicated to their craft above everything, with an attention to detail like nothing else. They wanted to make a space for their designs to thrive and also that would become a space for others to come into and learn, eventually. The intention was pure and exciting. Ed took a photo of the two of them standing opposite the building site that would soon become a storefront. They look very excited and the photo became a bit of a totem for us: representing what the project could become for us all. A big undertaking with potentially big payoffs. The meeting left us inspired and driven to match Jonny & Cole’s energy by making something that would accurately capture and reflect the hustle and graft they’d poured into CB.
What was their vision for the film? Did they have anything specific that they wanted you to capture?
The only real brief from them to us was to make a film that captured the process of the shop opening. But we wanted to go deeper than that: into the brand and into the characters that filled their world. We wanted to make something personal that documented more than just a moment in time, and Jonny and Cole were keen to let us run with this, putting no limits or immediate deadlines on the project.
In the early stages of preproduction one of the most fundamental decisions we made was that, although this was a documentary, the film is capturing real events unfolding in an unscripted manner, we would aim for a cinéma vérité stylised approach to the capturing and assembling of the film.
I really enjoyed the flow of everything, you really get a sense of what Jonny and Cole are going through, and how much of them is going into this. When it came to shooting in that cinéma vérité style, was there a specific approach you took to get images that were as cinematic as possible?
We wanted to push ourselves to try and make big images on the fly that felt more narrative in visual language: no talking heads. No overly documentary-feeling cinematography. It would be weighty. Composed. Cinematic. Jonny and Cole supported this fully and were extremely good at ignoring us filming them, leading to moments that feel highly narrative and intimate and that massively increase the watchability of the film in our opinion. Another decision made early on was our capture process. In order to achieve the goal of cinematic run-and-gun storytelling we knew we needed to be light on our feet to keep up with the boys and the rapid changes in their plans and schedules.
We wanted to push ourselves to try and make big images on the fly that felt more narrative in visual language.
The only way of being able to capture what we needed to at the scale we wanted would be to shoot the film ourselves on a compact camera system. We chose the Sony Alpha A7sII as our main cameras. We used four of them across the film, as we could be nimble and very run-and-gun with them rigged up into compact cinema builds or tuck them into tiny spaces / mount them on things like cars in more stripped-down form. They also produce a nice full-frame 4k image which we were familiar with working on in post, and we could comfortably operate the cameras ourselves across what was a fairly intense shooting schedule. Noir Productions supported us throughout the endeavour and were amazing at putting in their time to help and pulling favours for us – Greg and Jav have been amazing at letting us do things in our way and always remaining super positive about everything we wanted to try here.
The run-and-gun nature of shooting totally aligns with what Cole Buxton were doing too. It definitely feels like the most organic way of telling their story.
Filming during one of the busiest periods of the brand’s life enabled us to very quickly see into the heart of Cole Buxton. Jonny and Cole warmly took us in and allowed us to capture everything as we saw it. CB52 is a very real film without any embellishments or frills. This sincerity was of core importance to us: the film had to feel true and pull no punches in showing how hard the lads worked towards opening the store. Things went wrong, it got gritty, but this is the truth that we all wanted to share.
They are such three-dimensional people and that extends beyond just Jonny and Cole and to the rest of Team CB – Pete, Sam and Hector. They all bring so much to the sense of the brand that it’s a tangible energy when you’re in a Buxton space. This was extremely palpable in the studio where a lot of this film takes place.
One aspect of the film that struck me was how you both captured the environments they were in. You really get a sense of the brick-and-mortar graft that is being put in.
Something that immediately struck us when we first visited the studio was how rich the world of the brand was. It being a bitterly cold winter probably helped accentuate the colours, textures, sounds and feel of the building they called home at this time. This space massively influenced how we shot the film and how it ended up looking – down to the colour grade, this is our interpretation of Cole Buxton through and through.
The studio now has a gym in it replacing where Cole used to cut and sew, as since the store opened the boys have gutted the Tottenham building and changed it all around – so we’re really proud of how the film has become a time capsule of this space too. No one else can go and see how it was so we made sure to capture the DNA of the space wherever possible and enrich the film with its texture.
When it came to the scoring CB52, what was your approach and who did you work with?
We worked with Sound Engineer Timo Säilä to produce high fidelity field recordings around the studio of sounds we found inspiring (Cole’s scissors cutting through material, the sewing machine, pattern weights being dragged across the concrete floor, the boiler buzzing).
Our Composer Louis Grace then took these sound files and turned them into synthesisers, creating our amazing ambient score from the sounds of the CB environment. Our favourite of these has to be Jonny’s BMW: the throaty engine of his car became an amazing bass synthesiser that runs under a lot of the film and is the first sound we hear. We love that car. It’s a character of its own.
The film had to feel true and pull no punches in showing how hard the lads worked towards opening the store.
That’s awesome. Similarly, how was the edit? You must’ve had your hands full of footage by that point.
Editing was a mammoth task and we spent months reducing the story down to the tightly paced flow that we have in the final cut – again, Jonny and Cole were refreshingly understanding of the need for this process and us wanting to work this way which is unusual in a landscape of brands needing fast turnarounds on everything. It felt like an antidote to ‘content’ work – as Cole says in the film, they’re all about the offline old-school energy. They’re trying to “bring back the real in a digital world” – and they let us explore this fully. In the end it all worked out perfectly: by the time the store was ready to re-open after COVID restrictions were loosened in London, we had a final cut, and it released via IGTV a few days after the doors opened.
I wanted to ask about your decision to premiere on IGTV, what inspired that?
Our decision to premiere via IGTV was a bold one but we wanted to embrace this feature. The brand has a solid Instagram presence and by allowing an exclusive premiere on their account for the first twelve or so hours of release it meant all eyes were on them and the film – the film has over 17k views at the time of writing which is far more than if we’d launched via Vimeo and had to share a link around.
Another aspect of IGTV that we found appealing was that of attention, when people watch the film on Instagram on their phone, we hope that they then won’t get distracted by Instagram on their phone… While part of us hated the idea of wantonly promoting consuming films via phone screens, we think it worked really well here and will tide us over until we can arrange a physical screening later in the year!
Have you had much time to reflect on the project now that it’s out there?
Overall it was a privilege being present with the lads during this time in their lives and in the brand’s evolution and getting to capture this achievement so close up. We really understood how close to something special we were and it was incredible to be trusted like we were with it. So thanks to Cole Buxton for the ride, and thanks to Directors Notes for letting us tell some of this story!
Now that CB52 is out there, what’s next in store for the both of you?
We’re going to turn our attention back to developing the next two fiction projects we’ve been working on. We’re hoping to shoot these in the next twelve months as the virus restrictions ease enough, hopefully we’ll be back on DN before too long with these!
Beyond that, we want to take our documentary approach from this project onto feature films and make EPK behind the scenes films in a new way. Imagine them as a doc about the filmmaker making their film. We have some directors that we’d love to meet and work with and we think this style would work really well as an alternative to the traditional talking heads EPK format for the right project/directors, people like the Safdie Brothers or Robert Eggers are up there as our pipe dream moonshots to try and shadow on a project. We’ve also got a few music videos in various stages of pre and post production and one just got into the BerlinMVA’s which is cool, so things are moving along!