This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The September Issue: There's More Than Anna

Fashion is ridiculous, but fashion is a business: a serious, multi-billion dollar business and no one knows this better than Anna Wintour. She's been at the helm of American Vogue magazine for twenty years. Some may view her as "the ice queen, the devil in prada..." but what everyone can agree on is the very truth that she breathes fire into every issue of Vogue magazine.

The new documentary by R.J. Cutler, The September Issue takes viewers inside the editorial offices of Vogue magazine like never before. We can listen in on staff meetings and see the creative teams and editors come up with the spreads and proposals for the gigantic tome of fall fashion: Vogue's September issue.

From the get-go, we learn that Anna Wintour likes color and is never without her Starbucks. While her siblings may be, using her word, "amused" by what she does, Anna damn well knows what she's doing. She lives and breathes her magazine. Her weakness though, she tells the documentary crew, is "her children," namely her daughter, Bee Shaffer, who has no real interest in following her mother's high-heel steps into the fashion world.

However, if you want to see Anna spitting venom, you may be disappointed. In the film, Wintour gives you a peek at who she is and what Vogue's about, but she's not about to reveal too much. She lives by the cardinal rule: Less is more. At Vogue's offices, we see Anna gaze at the layouts and photo spreads of the issue as it comes to fruition like a film in which she has not only creative power, but final cut. She has no problem making up her mind or expressing her disapproval. Her strength, in fact, she says, is her "decisiveness." For her, it's all about business and never about emotions.

Thakoon Panichgul, a young fashion designer and prominent figure in the film, expresses his excitement and fear upon meeting Anna Wintour for the first time. During his presentation, he says that his hands never stopped shaking. At a press event, Wintour comes up to congratulate him [after getting him a gig with The Gap.] There is a sense of genuine warmth in her tone and even a smile and then she's gone. Some of his fashions even make the September issue. I doubt that Wintour reveals a soft spot here. She can recognize talent when she sees it. Again, business is what makes her heart beat.

It may be a surprise to even Anna Wintour herself, but The September Issue is not all about her. Instead, it becomes a story about passionate people and the creative process-- with a healthy dose of rivalry thrown in. There is no other magazine that can come close to touching the quality and artistry of Vogue's fashion editorial. Much of this credit goes not just to Wintour, but to Vogue's creative director, Grace Coddington. Grace, a former model herself, has been at Vogue for just as long as Wintour. Coddington and Wintour respect each other immensely, but both are equally stubborn in their own way. When many of Grace's photos are "thrown out," she's not at all afraid to make her opinions well-known, even expertly manipulating the documentary's film crew to get the scoop on Wintour's reactions to her latest photo spread. Coddington may well be one of the only people who can pull her own weight in the room with Wintour.

As Coddington remarked in the September issue of French Vogue: "Anna and I, we've known each other a long time....We have a real mutual respect for each other, even though sometimes I feel like killing her."

This spark, this rivalry, is the spine that holds The September Issue together. Wintour says that fashion is all about moving forward while Coddington looks to the past for inspiration in a markedly more romantic and passionate way. They have a certain understanding-- pushing and pulling and balancing each other. It is a necessary rivalry that, in essence, creates the perfect mix for Vogue.

Even if you have no interest in fashion, couture, or model runways, check out The September Issue. It's not just about spoiled fashion mavens, ex-models turned editors, or luxurious fabrics and couture that no one can afford: It's about quality, artistry, creativity, and the long and often difficult process that brings it all together.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

With Online Entertainment: Your Vote Counts!

Back when studios picked the movies and television networks picked the tv shows, consumers didn't have much of a say in what was presented to them as entertainment.

Pilot season was big business. Money was lavishly spent on producing a good pilot and networks could afford to be choosy. Even so, less than a quarter of all tv pilots ever saw the light of day and even fewer went on to become successful series.

I once worked on a pilot for CBS that had a good premise and script, a known film director, and an excellent cast. It never seemed to have a chance and was gone...completely vanished into the vault of never-to-be-seen-TVLand. Some TV shows, like Judd Apatow's early "Freaks and Geeks" aired, but got jerked around by the network so much that even die-hard fans didn't know when (or what day) to tune in. To the TV shows that never made it and those that didn't make it for long, there never used to be an afterlife. It was all about money, ratings, and advertising dollars. Quality content without a sufficiently large base of viewers just couldn't cut it.

Then, the DVD craze hit big as did the DVD box set. Critical darlings like "My So-Called Life" and "Freaks and Geeks" achieved cult status on DVD. Then the internet went BOOM! And with it came American Idol, Total Request Live, On Demand, Netflix, Cable channels up the wazoo, Youtube, and HBO original programming. On-demand entertainment was suddenly at your beck and call. You there, in your recliner: Who is your American Idol? What's in your Netflix queue?

The internet leveled the playing field and essentially gave the reins directly to audiences. We don't need a network executive to choose our programming line-up. Now, we have seemingly unlimited choices for entertainment. Increasingly we have even become content providers ourselves. Pick up a camera, upload a video, and voila-- you have final cut in the pilot of your own creation and instantaneously, it can be shared with the world. For better or worse.

With this comes an obligation of sorts. There's so much out there right now-- from videos of drunk squirrels to bad celebrity impersonations to funny home videos of peoples' kids that may or may not be funny at all. Then, there's the sheer number of online video sharing sites. Whereas, it started with there's Hulu,, Veoh, Crackle, My Damn Channel, Tubemogul--the list goes on. A quick search brought up over fifty well-known video hosting websites.

It would be impossible for one person to see every Youtube video, let alone everything out there. As entertainment consumers, our obligation is to help the 'cream rise to the top.' If you like a Youtube video, rate it! If you think a Funny or Die video is funny in the truest sense of the word: Click the Funny or Die meter to 'Funny' on the video's page. If it's worthy of forwarding to every one of your Facebook friends, post the link-- give it a Digg. Pass it along. Become a fan.

Because it's not just about getting hits anymore. Now, it's all about the quality. In the new age of online entertainment, reality is slowly being replaced again with original, scripted programming-- much of it independently produced by people who have no known Hollywood connections, but they can write and they can tell a story. They're anxious to hear your comments and get your votes. They're putting in the time for free because they're passionate about what they do and they hope to do it a lot more.

Even Hollywood talent agencies like UTA/Veoh are starting online entertainment divisions and scouring the web themselves. Let's make it easier for them to find the best: VOTE, COMMENT, SHARE, SEND. Entertainment is now a democracy.

Copyright 2009 by Kliedle