August, 25, 2008

an article about the body image film project

From Filmmaker Magazine
http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/summer2008/25faces.php

Thought the writer summed up the mission of the film project, so instead of writing a “mission statement” I thought I’d post it…..

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Jesse Epstein remembers exactly when her life changed. “It was before my grandmother died,” Epstein recalls. “She said, ‘Look, you could either inherit $500, or I can spend it now and get you a camera.‘ It totally changed everything.”

For most of her life Epstein has been fascinated by the perception of beauty. Growing up in Boston, she moved to Mozambique for two years, where full-figured looks are celebrated. Moving back to the U.S., where the media promotes a punishing standard of beauty on women, Epstein enrolled in NYU Film School and decided to explore different issues surrounding body image.

For Wet Dreams and False Images, Epstein‘s thesis, which went on to win the Sundance Online Jury Award in ‘04, she filmed men in a Brooklyn barbershop who adore the glossy magazine pinups of J. Lo and Beyoncé hanging on their walls. But in a clever twist Epstein takes the same images to a touch-up artist who reveals their heavy amount of airbrushing and tweaking. Next came The Guarantee, a funny look at a male ballet dancer‘s decision to have plastic surgery told through the drawings of a sketch artist, and, this past year, 34x25x36, a visit to a company that makes unrealistically perfect mannequins. “What I love about short films is you can get in there, raise some questions, tell a little story and get out, leaving it all open for discussion,” Epstein says.

With financing from the Chicken and Egg Fund, she‘s currently compiling the shorts into a feature film about body image. There will be one more short comparing a California girl who tans with a girl in India who bleaches her skin. “Body image is such a huge topic,” Epstein says, “and I‘m trying to raise the discussion through different styles and different cultural definitions of what‘s attractive.”

Before getting financing, Epstein found money to make her shorts through being an instructor at Sundance‘s Reel Stories youth program for three years, as well as working in the art department, acting and being a cinematographer (she shot Astra Taylor‘s Zizek!) on other independent features. She‘s also involved in the filmmakers network Shooting People. Though Epstein is working on a narrative feature, she still loves to just pick up her camera and shoot everyday people. “A lot of times people come up with something that I could never think of,” she says. “I love the exchange between the person being filmed and the filmmaker — the camera makes them feel special.” — Jason Guerrasio