Wednesday, January 9, 2008

WOMEN, MAKEUP, HOLLYWOOD (if only ... at least 51%)

Sophia, our producer, has asked me to ramble about our choices regarding makeup in Racing Daylight.

Melanie Demitri is a gifted makeup artist and has worked on Emmy award winning teams for soaps, news, and has crafted public faces for many celebrities; Barbara Walters, Meredith Viera, Star Jones, and currently Cynthia McFadden ... she knows how to give glam. Melanie is an old friend. We were neighbors for over a decade in brownstone Brooklyn, she held my son when he was a week old, and he'll be 18 soon. So when we sat to talk about the makeup for Racing Daylight we knew each other well enough to talk in shorthand.

We both agreed immediately that if we could get our female actors to work without it, or the bare minimum, powder, it would help to establish the character of the piece. A story about a woman in her everyday. Many of of us, women I mean and some men, do enhance with a pencil, give ourselves lipcolor, but most of the women I see in my day to day do not wear much if any. Who has the time?!

Melissa was delighted! We gave her fake lashes, the kind that last for a bit and are placed one at a time. Not the full stripper set, much more modest. Melissa's lashes are very fair so the choice was to dye them or enhance, just so we wouldn't lose her eyes on camera. We used street makeup when Sadie becomes Anna, her more confident, sensual id. It's funny to think that the choice to tone down the makeup was considered novel even risky by members of our crew.

We shot the first Anna-Henry truck love scenes after we shot the Sadie-Henry truck scenes, where barefaced Sadie expresses her longing for the Civil War anecdote spouting Henry. Anna's hair was loose and she had a redder mouth, but the transformation from Sadie to Anna is all Melissa.

Stephen, our d.p., directs a lot of commericals and he was concerned that we would shoot Sadie so raw. Terrified that we were making a big mistake to the point of mutiny when Anna showed up without a glamor transformation armed only with an attitude. He asked,

"Aren't you gonna glam her up?"

"Nope. I'm making a point ..."

"But ..."

"... And that point is, that what makes a woman beautiful and sexy to somone is not what's on her face or body, but how she feels about herself."

Here he frowned, considering, so I continued,

"Let's get through a take, and after that, if you think it needs something more, well, then, we'll talk about it, then."

He seemd to think that was reasonable so we shot the scene. He turns to me after we cut and says,

"Female. This is a very female perception."

I'm not sure whether this is a 'chick flick' comment, but he continues,

"I like it. I feel like a voyeur to how women think. I like it. Very female."

We shot a couple more takes and moved on, issue vanished.

And this is why, as Gloria Steinam has said, "it's not a question of gender but of consciousness." We need to learn AND teach as we go, in the day to day.

All of our female actors were very comfortable with very little on their faces in front of an HD camera, which shows EVERYTHING. Brave souls. And they all look FABULOUS!

We want women to identify with themselves in our film. Since we didn't have to answer to anyone to make it, we considered what we wanted to say that would be subtly revolutionary in a film made by women who think for women who think, and the men who think with them.

As a footnote* John Seidman wears the most makeup in Racing Daylight as the transgender dress shop owner. But that's another story...

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