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Filmmaker Mike Perrone’s ‘Kurt’ Provides a Harsh Inner Look into the Fashion Industry

June 9, 2019

ATM: Explain the viewpoint of your film Kurt from the perspective of a person who only knows the basics about the fashion industry vs. someone who is a part of it.

MP: Any time you are knowledgeable about the topic of a film or you live in the world, you come in with your own stigma. You are not escaping into a world that is being provided. You know your world and your perspective. We are trying to create something that is so real that it might offend. This is why we are making the movie. It is a topic that needs to be spoken about. There is a lot of brutality in this world and this is what we are engaging in.

ATM: How is the cutthroat energy related to the cutthroat atmosphere that is present in the writing in the directing world?

MP: Great question. In the writing and the creating of a world in cinema, it is not just about the physical appearance, or the vanity behind the project, but you are judged on the emotions you evoke. However, it is similar because your work becomes you. People don’t have time for bad scripts, but people also do not have time for bad prints. Things are at the same speed. The movement is consistent.

ATM: From your perspective, do you believe a model’s perception of love changes once entering the fashion world?

MP: The fashion and film world can both be emotionally numbing. Although, it’s something you do sign up for. You know you are going to be constantly judged and living with your work. Your job really follows you for the whole day. As a model, your prints are there forever. As a filmmaker, your films are there for people to see forever. There is no running away from it. To go back to love, it can be case by case. I am not saying every model or photographer cannot fall in love. Although, there are aspects of it that definitely take this emotion from you.

ATM: From your viewpoint, do you believe it is more likely in these industries to mistake love for sex?

MP: Yes, definitely. This is a constant thing social media has caused. You see someone that you are sexually attracted to and say, “Wow, I love this person.” You have not even met them or had a conversation with them. You just looked their name up because of their beauty. This is a societal problem more than it is a problem in the fashion industry. Yes, the modeling industry promotes on social media. You have seen multiple talented models who blew up within the past five or ten years, but this is just a new market for people to make money. There is nothing wrong with this. Does it promote some sickness? Yes, anything that makes money does. It is up to the person and their ethos.

This is also a great way to talk more about what our movie is trying to communicate. We are talking about power. The idea is if you get into the wrong hands of someone, or in our case you get in front of a photographer, and perhaps it could be your first time; when he or she starts to use their power in a negative way, you become this negative reaction. The power they can have over a model can really dominate someone’s career, sensibilities for their career, and their personality. This is what this movie is about. It is about a misogynic photographer who has emotionally numbed all these models over the years. This seems as if it is a stigma of the industry, but in no way are we saying this is how it always is. We are promoting the fashion industry, but in the same time also taking down the misogyny, older thought, and self-proclaimed – power hungry photographers who have taken steps in this industry to make themselves seem as if they deserve to live in a kingdom of their own.

ATM: What is the relationship between a photographer and model while alone in a room?

MP: When watching this film, you will see a multitude of different setups based on what you are asking, which is a model and a photographer alone in a room. They are shown in a different way depending on who the photographer and the model are. You can see the power dynamic throughout all the different people which is a nice juxtaposition of this question. There are male photographers who will take off their clothes while shooting a half-naked girl. This is probably not a positive scenario to create. There are things photographers say to girls while they are up there to create this vulnerability, and also some directors have used the same language over the years as well. I think this is wrong. The safe way to have a photoshoot is to work together 50/50. The model has to have the same level of a creative element as the photographer. They are playing with each other and having a dance. It is actually artistic but shouldn’t be sexual. We will see this as well in our movie. It is about creating a safe environment, but so often it is not done.

ATM: Did writing and directing the material affect you in any form?

MP: For me, I wrote this feature after shooting my thesis, Evol, while in college. I needed something to jump into very quickly. I wanted to have a feature to pitch as my first film was being distributed. Before getting started, I began to immerse myself into the world. I began working at a high profile fashion studio in New York City for nine months. I had to become the modeling industry by living. I saw everything I needed to gain my research. I lived it emotionally, so It is powerful for me. I watched it firsthand. I wrote some of the stories and of course fictionalized them a little bit. I got to watch the movie already. This is the most emotional film I have made to date. You become the movie, when writing something so dark. It is kind of hard to smile some days. This is a film that is not trying to baby anyone or the topic at all. I take it extremely seriously.

ATM: How did you use film mechanics to carry out the responsibilities for Kurt?

MP: Our plan is to stay off dollies and to stick with handheld movement and the easy rig. We wanted to keep the raw element of reality. The camera will be always breathing. Every frame does not have to be perfect, it is about connecting with the actors and the emotions of the project. Luckily, New York and New Jersey is our backdrop, this will add a great texture. We have about 40% of our scenes outside. Shooting the exterior in the summer is going to provide a wonderful element to this film. We are not going to be on a tripod outside. It will always be in the hands of the cinematographer.

ATM: How does the cinematography help the story?

MP: It is in movement. When I close my eyes to think of the fashion world, there is a constant steady movement. I see constant walking. We are using elements to ignite this. We are trying to find the tone of how it will go with the shots. The movement of the camera work will keep the movement of the script and of the characters stories. We do not stop moving for 100 minutes. Walk with us.

ATM: What time period does the set decoration give off in the film?

MP: In the film, the photographer is fading. He comes out in the 90s and this was when he was prevalent. In our current climate, he has become a liability to work with. The set decoration in this studio is stuck in the 90s. It is a huge reflection of this character. He is still living an old life.

ATM: Explain how the scenes that start out into focus and fades into blurriness compliment the storyline.

MP: I am not sure how much of this is used. This is definitely a creative element that references some emotions. It is a vehicle to transport the audience from here to there. It takes you out visually which also affects you emotionally. You get the opportunity to see this transition. It can be distracting, so you have to pick and choose your moments for sure.

ATM: Was there a balance with the work you did electronically and the work you did manually?

MP: I write scripts on the computer. I take notes every day. There is something about writing it down that helps your memory. The storyboard is the same with every artist that draws them. If you visualize it, then it takes less time to pull it back up out of your memory ban. You have to pick and choose your battles. Sometimes you might have to handwrite a script, or you might have to type it.

ATM: Do you believe Mickaela being naïve in the fashion world is why she gains notoriety?

MP: She is the type of character who is not doing everything for vanity and success. She is doing it for power. It is similar to our other main character who is the photographer abusing his power. You are watching the same person but at different times in their life. This is not necessarily being naïve, but it is a different breed of a person. You are not looking for notoriety, but you want the power to be able to live at a level above everyone else.

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