A romantic at heart, a Director by trade, and the woman who helped shape the creative direction of Feels from day one.
Name: Leah Barylsky
Born in: Palm Springs, Florida Springs
Currently living in: Los Angeles
What you do: Director
Follow on: @labarylsky, @vaultprod_
‘Global nomad’ is a term thrown around to describe a generation driven to set off with their laptop, untied to any place or city, in search of the next great find. While Leah Baryslsky would never lay claim to this title, she is at heart a romantic and a tireless wanderer. Born in Palm Springs and now based in Los Angeles, she’s worked, adventured and lived everywhere from Hawaii to Sydney.
As a Director working in the music industry, Leah’s work is driven by the way people, their stories, sounds and images materialise on screen. The jump off point for many creative projects, she tells us, can be as simple as a flickering impression or private emotion that she feels compelled to distill on film. Perhaps, you’re beginning to glean why we called on Leah to help shape the world of Feels from day one.
To celebrate the launch of our latest film, shot with inspiring creatives from Los Angeles to Hawaii, we dialled in with Leah from her home to look back on her journey with us so far and the women in her life that have driven her to keep on creating.
Tell us about your journey as a Director and DOP, and how you got into the business in the first place.
My journey into filming starts with my mother. She was always filming my sister and I as we grew up and I look back on that as what formed my passion for it. I found it magical that she captured who I was and what I was like just by simply having the will to press the record button. Filming for me has always felt like collecting treasure because it’s my perspective on moments in time that I decide to make something out of. It’s the feeling of something being so one of a kind that you’re attempting to preserve it forever. That’s the way I look at it, at least... it’s loving the romance of that idea and I think that’s what I always chase.
In high school I began to film the things I found beautiful in my life and fell in love with the different stories I could tell through the way I decided to edit. I was equally in love with music and knew I wanted to film concerts so I went to my local concert venue and asked. Luckily they said yes and I got a true taste of what filming live music is like. I would film every show I possibly could, I couldn’t get enough of it. Once I moved to LA I followed that path and it felt like the dominos started falling into place.
You’ve been working with us from the very beginning. What was your gut reaction when you first came into contact with the brand, concept and product?
My heart was racing when Steve first brought Feels up with me. In an instant I felt deeply aligned to this brand. It’s cliche to bring up the notion of ‘I was meant to do this,’ but it really felt like that for me with Feels. A year later, I still feel the same. The possibility of this brand thrills me to my core because the heart of it lies in the literal emotions we all experience. To lean into feeling and emotion is such a gift and Feels is a brand that wants to celebrate that.
On bringing Blake and Steve’s vision to life—could you tell us about that journey so far?
We started working together exactly a year now. It’s crazy to look back on where the world was at that point in time versus where we are now. It feels like a blessing to have had the time to build out the visual world of what we imagined Feels could be. The process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t has been a really formative and beautiful learning experience. The longer we spend crafting the world of the brand, the deeper it becomes. It has been such an elevated experience for me to work with a brand that wants to challenge the orthodox creatively.
Tell us about the brief for the emotive Feels films you just worked on, and how you responded to it:
The brief was to create an emotive piece about creatives that embody Feels as a brand but also individually as each drink. The aspect of this botanical spirit that excites me the most are the worlds that are being built around each drink and how they all interconnect with one another. For example, Rouse and Vivify represent such different emotions yet can easily connect to one another. I find there is endless possibility in this.
I was immediately drawn to the idea of the overall feeling being reflected through the romance of memories and small moments—through simple thought processes of creatives in my life who I find most impressive. I knew I wanted to start there and trusted that the structure would build itself in so to speak. I personally love when I watch something and it is equal parts profound as it is simple. I hope that comes through in the master emotive, it was important for it to feel personal.
Earlier, you spoke about challenging the orthodox creatively. How has working pushed your approach to your own work?
Oh, I could write an essay on the answer for this. It was surprisingly challenging to have the subject of this project be so close to home; it was foreign to me to put any type of structure around that. It’s inspiring because this feels like it’s just the beginning of a really special journey. The stories we tell this next year through film will showcase how profound the world of Feels is.
The most memorable and moving moment on that shoot:
A lot of these moments were some of my most precious memories of last year. If I were to choose one, it would be the scene of my partner, Zilla, dancing beside me at our production company, Vaults one year celebration. Our friend Sam was dj-ing and he started playing an unreleased Jungle track that she’s in love with. Once I heard it play I picked up my camera and glided towards her, knowing she’d be up in the front dancing and singing. It moves me because I captured the essence of someone who I know has worked so hard to get to this moment. Her smile transfers across the screen and it’s a priceless moment.
You’ve said you’re a romantic at heart. During your creative process, what role does feeling and logic play? Is one more important than the other?
What a question... Feeling is always what I lead with and for me it is more important than logic if I had to pick one over the other. Although, in my creative process the two feel like they’re happily sitting on a see saw. Some of the most beautifully creative things are done when there is no logic behind it. I find what I’m most attracted to in regards to my own work are the moments when I’m not thinking and I’m simply responding to my feelings towards something.
A person or artist(s) that made you feel something you’ll never forget:
Lately it’s been Fred again.. highly recommend listening to his only album Actual Life.
When do you feel most creative...
Listening to music. There is no cap on creativity for me when I’m listening to a song. My mind goes wild.
Where do you look for inspiration:
- New places
- The unknown
It’s time for romance, you’re going all out. What’ve you got in store for your significant other (or friend)…
A bottle of Rouse, a puzzle and the perfect mix. The night would end at a speakeasy where we’d spend all night writing love notes on a typewriter and reading books and getting lost in conversations with friendly strangers while sipping cocktails.
When I’m drinking Rouse, I set the mood with this song:
This song is a deep love of mine.
The person (dead or alive) I’d most like to drink it with...
My grandma Chet. I’d do anything to have a bottle of wine with her and ask her all the questions I never got to.
Advice to those wanting to break into your field:
Don’t let the technological aspect of this field stop you from continuing with it. Cling to what makes you love it and have the patience with yourself to find your groove and focus on what works best for YOU. Create your own formula (or structure) and most importantly, work on your relationship with time—it’s a precious one that needs nurturing and finessing in order to make the most out. It’s something I’m constantly working on.
READY TO PONDER YOUR NEXT CREATIVE MOVE OVER A POUR OF YOUR OWN? SHOP LEAH’S BAR CART: ROUSE, A PERFUMED BED OF ROSE, HORNY GOAT WEED AND DAVIDSON PLUM. THE FEELS BOTANICAL - MOTION FILM LAUNCHING 5.09.21