Today, some of the most valuable data an individual can provide about themselves is their location data. When corporations, advertisers, and governments track your location, they can analyse and predict almost every aspect of your personality and behavior. At what point do these systems of prediction and understanding become systems of control?
In 2014, I was given a unique opportunity by John Legend’s manager Ty Stikolorous. John wanted to use the music video for his new hit single You & I (Nobody In The World) as a platform for female empowerment and to increase engagement in #OperationGirl, a non-profit crowdfunding campaign he was launching with RYOT (RYOT.org) and the Burkle Global Initiative. The campaign was to bring together the best organizations in the world focused on empowering, educating and protecting the rights of women and girls.
For my creative proposal, I chose to focus specifically on female self-reflection with a multi-platform approach. Two congruent “sister projects”, a music video and a documentary, would be created in parallel to explore the same dramatic question: “What do you see when you look in the mirror?” I directed the music video, while two veteran documentarians and close collaborators Kristelle Laroche and Ben Mullinkosson directed the documentary. We did two weeks of principal photography which took both teams to over 35 locations and introduced us to more than 60 diverse women and girls across Los Angeles.
We shot everything through a one-way-mirror, capturing close-ups of the subjects looking at the audience at the same time as they were looking at themselves. The idea was to capture women from all walks of life, with their motivations for reflection ranging everywhere from banal, comedic, or sexy, to sad, intriguing, and moving. Another goal was for each of these women to re-appropriate the entrenched conceit of the male gaze in cinema, choosing to define themselves on their own terms instead of those of others. Some prominent women included Orange Is The New Black star and prominent trans figure Laverne Cox (http://www.lavernecox.com), comedian Tig Notaro (http://tignation.com), and of course world renowned supermodel Chrissy Teigen who is also Mr. Legend’s wife.
The documentary, entitled “When I Look In The Mirror” is a behind-the-scenes exploration of each woman’s thoughts and insights into their own self-image. Laroche and Mullinkosson captured candid reactions from each of the women from the music video as they reflected on themselves and their past experiences. An interview took place with each of the women to cultivate a diverse collection of voices and perspectives. Every woman had a Polaroid photo taken of them and was asked to write, in one word, the answer to the question, “What do you see when you look in the mirror?” Their various answers, written beneath their photos, are indicative of each woman’s diverse and unique sense of self.
In the end, both pieces explore female self-image, self-judgement, and ultimately, self-love.
This was my first “professional” music video, by which I mean there was a budget over $300 and I had to write a treatment. My dad and his side of the family live in Hungary, so I’ve spent a lot of time there and Budapest felt like the perfect setting for a piece about urban isolation. My friend and creative collaborator, Daniel Molayem and I flew out with a RED package stuffed into our carry-ons and not much else. Our local producer, Peter Fazakas put together a superstar local crew and found us our incredible lead, Nóra Lili Hőrich. Tip: simulated sex scenes are about as unsexy as life can get.
I met a tired and sweaty David Perlick-Molinari at 3am in the Brooklyn Bowl after finishing his late night DJ set. I asked him if he wanted to make a music video tomorrow/today/6-hours-from-now and he said yes as long as it could have a 70s vibe. David, Deidre, our producer and I spent the next two days wandering all over Manhattan and Brooklyn lugging around a big camera and an even bigger lens, because zooms. The most amusing moment (in retrospect only) was spending a very long and very cold night sleeping on the floor of the cargo van, because I was too exhausted to lug all the cases to the 4th story walk-up by myself and too paranoid to leave the equipment unattended. Tip: Edge™ vans are poorly insulated.