How the Arcana Group's Unique Production House Landed Alicia Keys, GoldLink, PartyNextDoor

Lanette Philips and Nicole Keller, Co-Founder of The Arcana Group
Lloyd Pursall; Nikos Mav

Lanette Philips and Nicole Keller, Co-Founder of The Arcana Group

TAG builds a home for directors, photographers, writers and virtual reality artists.

Lanette Phillips knew there had to be a better way to do business. The acclaimed documentary producer (Mythical Creatures, Sabina) has worked on videos by everyone from Michael Jackson and U2 to Weezer and Muse and spent her career representing both film and video directors (Lance Bangs, Quentin Tarantino). But last year she began to think that the silos the entertainment industry has built up needed to come down. 

"What we’re exited about and what we’re doing is representing directors for music videos and music content, as well as VR companies, managing directors and writers/storytellers across platforms," said Phillips of the recently launched The Arcana Group (TAG), which she formed in February of this year with partner and former member of CAA's music touring division and brand strategist Nicole Keller. "For instance, we have a director working with one of our VR companies and a storyteller and they love it. We're also repping photographers, who come on the sets with our directors and take photos for the label or behind-the-scenes." 

In a model not unlike that of the briefly popular 360 deals major labels were cutting with artists such as Jay Z and Madonna a few years ago, TAG sees their lane as one where artists in different disciplines will come together and cross-pollinate to add their talents to the work of such directors as Martin Wiesz, Olivier Agostini and Insomniac, who've collaborated with artists including PartyNextDoor, Taio Cruz and Andrew McMahon.

Check out Adrian Martinez's work on PartyNextDoor's "Come and See Me" video:

As an example of the kind of partner TAG wants to work with Keller pointed to director Agata Alexander (Dillon Francis), who is also a writer with a stack of scripts she's sitting on that TAG is helping to get read by studio execs. "We walked in the door at a major studio and we got her in to pitch her script," she said. "There are not that many female directors in the industry, or managers for that matter, so for them to see this cool, unique relationship that we've developed over the past few months... to see the energy between us is cool." (Check out the Betty Who video for "Some Kinda Wonderful" from TAG-affiliated director Daniel Carberry below.)

One of the areas TAG is most excited about is VR, which is why their partnership with production house Unit9 makes perfect sense on several levels. "I have mutual creative friends with Lanette but the music industry was something we’d never approached in a traditional way," said Unit9 partner Michelle Craig. "The type of stories we like to do involve looking for partnerships with someone who could bring more than a script and their [TAG] enthusiasm and the way they're trying to structure relationships that are mutually beneficial for a number of parties allows us to think from the ground up." 

Whereas most production companies work on the "reach and receive" model where a creative shows their work, the client sends a script and then the artist writes a pitch for the gig that they may or may not end up getting, with TAG a more holistic, soup-to-nuts pitch is presented upfront. 

"Lanette is very hands on and she's taken us to see every label in town to do some VR demos," said Craig, whose company shared an Emmy Award in 2014 for its work on an interactive short film for Arcade Fire's "Reflektor." The other draw for Craig is working with two women who are focused on helping other women succeed in the business. "That's something I almost take for granted these days, but at the very core of my being what I want... and having two strong women [at the top of the company] was incredibly appealing. Being able to go into a room and present my work, meet someone, spark with them and take it to the next level is very rare. Nicole and Lanette can make that call and make it happen."

Philips said that since TAG officially launched in April the response has been very positive and they have a long list of exciting traditional and VR projects in the pipeline already, in addition to work out in the world, including a Nylon magazine cover shoot by Lloyd Pursall with Goldlink and Art Johnson for the Alicia Keys lyric video for "Holy War." One of the most exciting upcoming projects is a large-scale work from MacInnes Scott slated to debut at a Sotheby's exhibition later this year featuring life-sized interactive portraits of former President Barack Obama and President Trump with eyes that follow the viewer.

"We love to empower other females and bring in strong females, but we can provide everything and we're open to mixing and matching and working with other companies on projects," said Keller of what's ahead of TAG. "Our goal is to nurture talent and bring their vision alive and further our clients to be creative across mediums without restrictions."

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