Drop Dead, Gorgeous

For assignment five of 20: Character. Do a character study of someone who interests you. Concentrate on this person’s dress, behavior, and company. The portrait is to be built through what the character does and by how they react—a character is based on his or her actions, not their thoughts. What choices does your character make and how are they carried out?


I started off this project with one of my earlier ideas from the list of Sight and Sound ideas I had created over the summer break, about Anne St. Patience, the protagonist of Invisible Monsters, a novel by Chuck Palahniuk I had kept very close to my heart. I wanted to boil down the events that took place before novel that led to the creation of her character. We know from the book and its unreliable narrator that Anne St. Patience is really Shannon McFarland, a former model who shot her jaw off in the pursuit of escaping beauty. I thought that this was an incredibly strong character trait and motivation and thought it perfect to pursue as a Character assignment.


The film I was aiming to create was that ridiculous and the world established within it was far too big to exist within the confines of a three-minute black-and-white short with no dialogue. So I took one of the many scenes I wrote for the previous script and boiled that down and distill it into a more pure, strong, concentrate form. I decided to take on the challenge of adapting the first scene of my original script, a photoshoot, into a film that could breathe well within the confines of the class.


I also went back to the source material to see if there was anything useful.

 

There was this:


Most of my adult life so far has been me standing on seamless paper for a raft of bucks per hour, wearing clothes and shoes, my hair done and some famous fashion photographer telling me how to feel.


Him yelling, Give me lust, baby.
 

Flash.
 

Give me malice.
 

Flash.
 

Give me detached existentialist ennui.
 

Flash.
 

Give me rampant intellectualism as a coping mechanism.
 

Flash.
 

My point is, unless the meter is running and some photographer is yelling: Give me empathy.
 

Then the flash of the strobe.
 

Give me sympathy.
 

Flash.
 

Give me brutal honesty.
 

Flash.
 

Give me attention.
 

Flash.
 

Give me adoration.
 

Flash.
 

Give me a break.
 

Flash.


This is just a taste of Shannon McFarland’s cynical inner monologue. And while the novel goes into some depth about how she became the way she is, it was about her deep backstory, never about the way that the industry treated her. I can’t imagine that those pressures were completely inconsequential in creating her the way she is in the novel: a resentful, twisted person who sees herself as so bound by her beauty (which, is incredibly irrational and privileged, but an interesting perspective to dissect in a film) she feels the need to destroy her face. I wanted to cut into this aspect of her character. What about modeling broke her so bad that she would become like this?

              

Crew
 

Director of Photography
Rhea Dudani

Assistant Director
Hal Schulman

Assistant Camera
Dylan Lenze

                                                               

Technical specifications

 

All NYU Tisch Sight and Sound projects shot Fall 2018 make use of the Canon C200, as well as a kit of Zeiss Distagon prime lenses (21mm f/2.8, 35mm f/2, 85mm f/2).

This project was cut and delivered using Adobe Premiere Pro CC.