Originally from Montreal, Becky Hearn first made her way to Los Angeles for a job offer at American Apparel. With a passion for photography, she was able to “[get her] hands into a lot of things,” across clothing production and creative direction. Today, she is the founder of Henri Collective, an LA-based production company that caters to the likes of luxury and streetwear e-commerce site SSENSE and artists including: Princess Nokia, SayGrace, Kehlani, The Weeknd, and King Princess. She’s even got a few short films in the works.
This interview took place over the phone between Ella in Brooklyn, New York and Becky Hearn in Los Angeles, California.
EJ: How did you get to where you are today?
I started off in fashion and studied photography in school. I'm originally from Montreal, and I was working for American Apparel as a traveling manager throughout the United States and going all across Canada.
Days before turning 21, I got a job offer in California. One day, I got an email from the headquarters offering me the chance to come out there. I was in LA for a month, and then they offered me a position working at the headquarters in project development and management. Day-to-day, it was a lot of interactions with the employees, revamping the stores and the whole structure system, and helping with the development of styles, etc. -- basically just wearing a lot of hats. I started at AA when I was 15 and ended up leaving at 23 as I was kind of figuring out what I wanted to do.
I started getting my hands in a lot of things, trying to figure out what path I wanted to go down. I was working in clothing production, and realized that that's not what I wanted to be doing. And then I started working at an LA-based company, where I was pretty much the assistant to the creative director. I was in charge of all of the creative production, and we shot with big photographers all the time, like Zoey Grossman, and Jason Lee Perry. I worked with the creative director on the decks and helping with the models (basically production, without realizing that I was doing the production.)
I started getting a lot of job offers from working with some of these photographers, and one day I kind of just quit and started my own small brand and production company called Henri Collective. I started working with this photographer, Dan Regan, who I owe my career to because he took a chance on me and gave me all of these production jobs. We were doing shoots for Dazed, and Stussy, and Sleek Mag, and SSENSE, all this editorial stuff. From there, one of my best friends Eddie Obrand, who is a director, asked me if I wanted to do production on a commercial that he was doing. I was like, "I've never done video, but sure." So, I started doing video, and that was kind of like a tumbler effect on where I am today on music videos, commercials, and film. I'm a film dork too, you know? But, I never expected to end up in the music/film world that I'm in right now.
I'm stoked. I love being a producer, I direct as well, but I just love what I do. It's a whole creative process; I work on the creative from start to finish. A lot of producers are either very technical or a numbers person, but I'm both. I know the budgets, I know the business, and then I also know the creative side.
Before starting your own company, what do you think were the most vital steps to take to set up a firm foundation?
Luckily, I come from a project management background. I was super organized, I knew spreadsheets, and I kind of did everything my own way. It's a learning curve when you don't have a formal business background -- you have to learn everything on your own.
First I set up a DBA, and then I looked into it and realized that for tax reasons, setting up an S corp is way more professional, and you can write off a lot more things. For the majority of my business, I was doing all the accounting by myself. I was the one that was paying people out, and sending them their 1099s. I didn't know what I was doing, but it's something you just figure out. Knowledge is power. Now, luckily, I've gotten to a point where I have an accountant that handles all that for me, but it was definitely like a trial and error situation.
What does your role consist of now? If you were to create a pie chart to depict where you put your energy and time, how would you lay it out?
I'm a small production company that works with independent directors on the video side. Either a director will see my work and approach me, or a label will come to me. One of my consistent fashion clients is SSENSE. For example, as I have quite a few connections in the music world, they'll approach me like, "Hey, we're trying to get Big Sean for the first cover of our print edition. Do you have any leads?" I had a connection and was able to get him on the cover, so I worked on the creative with them; trying to find a photographer that worked the best, and working as the creative liaison between the stylist and photographer. Usually, if you're working with a big artist they have their own stylist. It's also part of my role to further develop the concept, figure out location stuff, making sure that everything is done in a timely manner, making sure the budgets are done, etc.
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COVER 1/3: “Truthfully, I want to make my future generations proud, my ancestors proud, in the sense of doing something great with my platform, making the music that really helps people through certain moments and times in their lives. Helps them get over something, through something, or to something. I want to be remembered for being that service.” @bigsean talks to us about building his L.A. legacy in Paradise City. The first issue of our magazine, available exclusively to the #SSENSE community, includes original editorial content and a catalog of new product.
Same thing with the music video side -- finding the director, working with the director, developing the content further with them. But there is also the logistics side of it: making sure that the idea from the art department is being executed, making sure that all of the ACs and the DPs are taken care of, and all the equipment is in order. I've come to a point where I have a team that works under me and does the detailed part of it; sending out the call sheets for example. But at some point, I was doing all of that. And then I realized, sometimes it's about working smarter, not harder.
But it takes time to get there. There were times where I wouldn't sleep for like five days in a row because I had this big production, and I was literally doing everything myself. I was doing the line producing and the creative producing, without realizing that there is a line producer for that type of stuff, you know?
When building out your team, did you spend time and resources teaching them? Or did you just end up finding people that worked in those roles?
I taught my first assistant everything. Now she's killing it -- she worked with me for a little bit over a year, and now she works at Red Bull in their creative production department. I taught her a lot, and I wanted to work with someone who I connected with as we'd be working together day-to-day. I was looking for someone with experience, and she didn't have much, but she was super cool. I hired her and brought her under my wing.
My most recent team have all been line producers and production managers who I didn't have to teach. Obviously I teach them my ways and how I do my business because I work in a very specific way, but for the big part of it, they understand what a production manager does.
So you mentioned that a lot of your role consists of networking, matching brands with talents/stylists/photographers, etc. and being on set. When you're not on set how else are you spending your time?
If I'm on a project, it's just constant research. You're finding the right stylist for this project, you're finding the right DP, and then there's the boring paperwork part of it. You have to do the fittings, the tech scout, the location scout. When you do one day of shooting, it's actually weeks and weeks of prep work and weeks of post work.
There are two types of producers -- the kind who acts more as a liaison who passes off the work to the editor. For me, I work very closely with the director and editor and give my notes, and then we'll hand it off to the client. I even like to go to the coloring sessions, that's my favorite part.
What advice do you have for someone that's emerging in your field?
That's always a tricky one for me. It always comes off super cheesy, but if you're really passionate about something, show that passion and work as hard as you can because even though you might not see the payoffs right away, people recognize that you're doing hard work. As long as you're a good person that's passionate and kind to people in your field, you'll always get ahead.
Now that you're working at home, is there a specific thing that you do stay motivated?
It's weather dependent; when it's rainy, there are some days where I can't get out of bed and I don't. Then there are other days that I'm like, "Okay, let's do this."
I've come up with a routine and it's not for everyone, but every day I wake up, I have my coffee, and then I'll read for a little bit. I'll try to work out, and we have a dog so we'll take him to the park. One thing that I have been doing that has been changing my mindset is simply getting dressed. I'll do my skincare routine, I'll make sure my hair is nice, and I'll put on like a cute outfit.
I feel like that’s been motivating for my psyche because you're getting up and getting ready to do stuff. I've been doing classes on Coursera; MoMA has a program for art and photography. I've been trying to do stuff like that to enhance my brain and to take advantage of this time.
This week, I decided to take it another step further and I enrolled at UCLA for interior design. I’ve always naturally gravitated to it and done a lot of research on the topic.
Luckily, I've been working too; at the beginning of April, I did this quarantine music video for this artist SayGrace who is signed with Sony.
It's interesting to see how quickly creatives are adapting.
My heart goes out to the creative industry because a lot of people working freelance jobs are hurting and suffering right now because of COVID-19. It's interesting to see how everyone is coming together as a community to really get through this together. And I'm really excited to see what people will make out of it.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
Images Courtesy of Becky Hearn