Persona Project

Conversations with young women in the film business. by Taylor Hess

  • “I Think That Being Unapologetic Gets You Farther Sometimes”: Anna Weinstein on Comedy and Working with Talent

    I’d heard the rumors about Cannes. About the heels of shoes that are measured if they appear suspiciously low. About some authorized shoe detective (random festival volunteer) who is qualified to deem a heel unfit for a premiere and deny entry. About how this unwelcomed fashion consultation excludes nobody — except men. When I first heard of this supposed Cannes custom — since confirmed by recent celebrity outbursts and Facebook posts from friends in attendance — I lost interest in attending myself. It’s not about whether or not I like getting dolled up, or if I like to wear heels…  Read more

    On May 26, 2015
    By on May 26, 2015 Columns
  • “As a Younger Person, You are Also Closer to the Social Moment”: Emily Buder on Film Criticism

    I spent months complaining about the drug dealers on my doorstep. I didn’t like dodging their transactions or how they’d hover or call after me. But when one of them offered to help adjust my bike seat, witness to my prolonged and embarrassing struggle, an alliance was formed, and over the course of a few weeks, a friendship. Despite the language barrier — I speak poor German, and he, worse — I learned how he fled Senegal on a crowded boat of sick and dying refugees, and how he arrived in Italy without knowing a soul, the language, or an…  Read more

    On May 12, 2015
    By on May 12, 2015 Columns
  • “A Lot of People Don’t Know the Added Value of Publicists”: Mirjam Wiekenkamp on Film Publicity

    I can’t say I’ve had many positive experiences with publicists. I once met one who texted throughout our entire first meeting, another who pretended not to have a spare ticket for a screening, and another who set up an interview and then told me afterward it couldn’t be published. But a series of lousy experiences by no means speaks to the universal personalities that PR attracts. It’s just that I’ve found publicity in general to be more on the unpleasant side of film industry unpleasantry, so it’s somehow been easier to judge. When I think of PR, I have a…  Read more

    On Apr 28, 2015
    By on Apr 28, 2015 Columns
  • “I Strive To Be Professional with Everyone, and I Never Hold Grudges”: Corrine Aquino on Management and Production

    I remember signing with an agent. As an eleven-year-old actress, the prospect of TV and radio work was thrilling. When I didn’t book a print job, my agent blamed it on the braces. But when I landed a local Cleveland radio spot, my flair for voiceover was celebrated, but not too much. With children for clients, my agent was careful to keep any star-driven egos in-check (even though the moms were bigger hazards). What I remember most during this year-long agency exploit is not the disappointment of frequent rejection or the high of occasional validation; I mostly remember the relationship between my agent…  Read more

    On Apr 14, 2015
    By on Apr 14, 2015 Columns
  • “In a Dream World, I’d Want People to Leave with the Feeling They Could Do Anything”: Verena von Stackelberg on Film Exhibition in Berlin

    I’m walking to a bar after seeing Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin in Berlin’s progressively gentrified neighborhood, Neukölln. Our group of four is unanimously in favor of the sci-fi thriller starring Scarlett Johansson. But by the time we take our seats in the bar, rumblings of an argument have begun. When my challenger brings up male-gaze, I say that its existence in cinema may be fundamentally problematic, but for me, its presence in Under the Skin is necessary in the experience of the film. He says his issue with male-gaze actually relates to the objectification of the male subjects, not…  Read more

    On Mar 31, 2015
    By on Mar 31, 2015 Columns
  • “I Still Love Film, But This is the New Golden Age of TV, with Deeper and Darker Approaches to Storytelling”: Molly Breeskin on Developing Television

    I remember my first summer in New York. Washington Square Park was my backyard, I had an unconvincing fake ID that somehow worked, and I ate frozen yogurt for breakfast. I also remember spaceship battles and Cylons because when I wasn’t outside living the dream, I was in a Battlestar Galactica fantasy in my dorm room. And when I wasn’t binge-watching the television show, I was dreaming about it. The memories of my first summer in New York are largely constructed around this BSG association; it’s as if the context of my real life has been grounded in the memories of the fantasy one. I similarly refer…  Read more

    On Mar 17, 2015
    By on Mar 17, 2015 Columns
  • “I am Optimistic about the Film Industry Finding Alternative Methods of Distribution”: Leslie Vuchot on Non-Theatrical Distribution

    I’m sitting in a small 190°F room. I have taken my glasses off because I think they’d melt, so I can’t see. Also, I’m naked, as is everyone around me. My friend and I are whispering, most likely disturbing the neighboring nudes, but this is my first time in a Berlin sauna, so I’m not familiar with the collective sweaty silence that Germans call relaxation. As my friend escorts me through the different bathing rooms, I try to keep an open mind because a night at the Stadtbad is a Berlin staple. Twenty-five years ago, two friends also made a…  Read more

    On Mar 3, 2015
    By on Mar 3, 2015 Columns
  • “I Don’t Particularly Like Networking…. I Just Care About Making Good Films”: Shih-Ching Tsou on Producing

    I’m walking up the ballroom steps of Berlin’s Ritz Carlton on the third night of the Berlinale. Around the circular balcony are crowds of men, drinks in one hand, cigarettes in the other. Between sips and drags they survey the arriving guests. The scene is worth checking out — it’s a mix of German film celebrities, socialites and a smattering of film industry who are seduced less by the scene than by the promise of free food. But the sustenance provided during the first two hours is limited to frosted flutes of vodka and second-hand smoke. Feeling starved throughout a…  Read more

    On Feb 10, 2015
    By on Feb 10, 2015 Columns
  • “I Believe the Most Important Changes Will Come from Women Lifting Up Other Women”: Sarah Hack on Business and Legal Affairs

    I’m with a small group of friends for our inaugural weekly movie night. Thinking that a club name will beget commitment, we arbitrarily choose “Zeitgeist.” It’s the first word we see, frozen on the makeshift projector screen. Zeitgeist Films is the distribution company for our opening film, the first in Laura Poitras’ post-9/11 trilogy and a 2007 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary, My Country, My Country. For her film Citizenfour, Poitras is one of two female directors nominated for Best Documentary in the 2015 Oscar race. None have been nominated this year for Achievement in Directing. None have been…  Read more

    On Jan 27, 2015
    By on Jan 27, 2015 Columns
  • “I’ve Made it a Priority to Not Be Afraid of Evolving”: Jennifer Cochis on Producing, Programming and Directing

    My German teacher in Berlin has been hacked. In class, she violates her “no speaking English” rule to explain that for nearly a year, a hacker has tracked her digital life in order to stalk her in real life. I’ve never been personally hacked — or so I think — but, the inconvenience of it seems rather minor compared to the sense of intimate violation. The Sony leak, the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence, and my teacher’s less gossip-worthy admission all underscore this pervasive reality of digital fragility. This is a topical conversation, but it’s also a really abstract one.…  Read more

    On Jan 13, 2015
    By on Jan 13, 2015 Columns
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