How Alma Har'el Created a Short Film Out of a Chanel Fragrance

Essentially making the sense of smell a visual experience.
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Chanel Fragrance & Fashionista
Alma Har'el

Alma Har'el on set of JellyWolf. Photo: Maker Films.

Fragrance advertising has relied on the same storyline for decades: young model or celebrity, dressed slinkily, spritzes perfume and attracts man. It's become clear that Generation Z isn't buying into the idea, and beauty powerhouses like Chanel are responding by aligning with women artists who lend their unique vision and powerful points of view to reach a new audience. 

Most recently, for the Chanel Nº5 L'EAU Fragrance, Israeli-American filmmaker Alma Har'el teamed up with i-D to create a short film for The Fifth Sense. Her film, "Jellywolf," is a mythological tale that follows two characters played by Kiersey Clemons and Lisa Bonet as they experience various scents in the form of visions, all inspired by Chanel Nº5 L'EAU. 

Based off of the experience of synaesthesia, the idea that scents can evoke images, Har'el creates scenes in the film that bring about visions, focusing on key notes of the fragrance. Elsewhere, Clemons literally sneezes images of the scents she experiences. 

Discussing the making of "Jellywolf" in a behind-the-scenes documentary called "Making Films," Har'el notes, "I like trying to find that balance between the things that are most unexplained and magical, and the things that keep us sane." 

Jellywolf

Alma Har'el on set of JellyWolf. Photo: JellyWolf.

Har'el is well-known for redefining genres with her documentary work, as well as her innovative way of looking at a topic. She is also the videographer behind that Women's March anthem video that leaked online (and resulted in millions of views). 

According to a recent interview with i-D, in order to direct JellyWolf and her other films that employ themes of the subconscious,"you need to think fast and direct the dream while not alarming your mind and causing yourself to wake up." She adds: "You can do incredible things. You can turn emotions into liquid and taste them or make gender experiments on yourself. It feels very real."

Recently, Har'el was awarded the top prize at Tribeca Film Festival in 2011 for her documentary Bombay Beach and just released her latest documentary, Lovetrue in 2016, which was executive produced by Shia LaBeouf. 

With each of her films, Har'el has stayed true to her beliefs, which align with the times. She knows that in today's world, social media plays a huge part. Anyone at any point can create and post a story. 

Speaking with i-D, she noted that she tells her subjects to try not to forget the fly on the wall. "What I mean by that is that we can't pretend we're not making a movie, and if we're going to make one, I want to make it artistic with the awareness and artistic collaboration of the people I'm filming. Most documentaries are manipulated and so are news stories but now everyone can make a film and report news so we can see the intentions are what matters. It's important to me to tell stories like this because I want to urge the viewer to confront the suspension of disbelief and her idea of truth. I also want to urge my subjects to take ownership of their stories."

Har'el is also a big supporter of women's rights – she has started an initiative called Free the Bid, in which she asks ad agencies, production companies and brands to hire female directors for their campaign commercials.  

In the behind-the-scenes doc, which focuses on the lack of female directors in the industry and shadows her Free the Bid project, she discusses working with other female directors in film and why it's a passion of hers. "The conversation is incredibly important. The more women we get behind the camera, and really become the hero of their own story and make that transition from being an object to a subject." 

Check out the full short-form documentary below for more insight into Alma's efforts, as well as how she truly transformed a scent into a visual experience.