Conrad’s ‘Chemical Cut’ inspired by her modeling experiences
Filmmaker Marjorie Conrad graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor of arts in filmmaking and her thesis film, "Limehouse," capped the 51st SFSU Film Finals and brought her to the attention of the Sundance Institute.
She was a finalist in the 11th season of the reality TV show, "America’s Next Top Model," hosted by Tyra Banks.
So, it would seem logical that she would eventually make a film about modeling, which is what she did with her comedy/drama "Chemical Cut," which will premiere at Slamdance on Saturday, Jan. 23, at 12:30 p.m. An additional screening will be held Monday, Jan. 25, at 9:45 p.m.
Unlike Conrad’s experience on "America’s Next Top Model," "Chemical Cut" is a fictitious film, albeit based on her experiences.
The film centers on Irene, a 23-year-old woman who works in retail and answers phones. One night she is scouted out and agrees to become a model, while still working her other jobs. After a series of events, Irene finds her true passion and embarks on a new creative project.
"I would say that everything in the film is inspired by true events although the modeling gigs are altered," Conrad said during a telephone call to The Park Record from Austin, Texas. "The reason for that is because some of the things I did in real life didn’t translate well on film."
There were some scenes that paralleled what happened on "America’s Next Top Model."
"The interesting thing about modeling is you rarely know what each job will entail," she said. "You are always kind of ambushed and that was similar to my reality TV show experience. You never knew what Tyra had in store for you.
"That was good, because it kept you on your toes," Conrad said. "That experience was so fast, intense and sleep depriving."
The idea and goal of "Chemical Cut" was to convey that modeling was a job, and that was no easy feat.
"It was challenging to make people think that there would be a problem with modeling," Conrad said with a laugh. "Not that I wanted to make this indictment on the fashion industry. This isn’t a definitive theory of the fashion industry at all."
Still, there are exploitive aspects in modeling, according to Conrad.
"You are exploiting people’s desire to be beautiful and exploiting people’s looks," she said. "Irene is complicit in this. She is agreeing to these jobs with no pay and running around trying to figure out what she’s doing."
Another goal for the film was to take the perspective of the model.
"What does modeling mean?" she asked. "Is it being a just a blank slate? Is it being passive? Is it being submissive, and why would someone find this appealing in the first place?
"I don’t hate the fashion industry, but I don’t love it unconditionally, so, I felt I was in a good place to discuss it openly," Conrad said. "Making this film a fictional film was empowering for me. it was the first time when I was in control."
Conrad’s fascination with filmmaking stems from how movies affect lives.
"I’m also interested in things that helps you, not necessarily escape life, but enhance your life or helps you look at life in a different way," she said. "The cinema does that and film allows you to explore different things. It helps you become more sensitive while going through your own existence and live it a different way.
"As I keep making films, I will become more sensitive to the world around me," Conrad said. "To me, it’s important to have concrete and imaginary experiences."
Conrad was honored that "Chemical Cut," which she paid for by herself, was accepted into Slamdance.
"I’m very grateful and excited for this," she said.
Slamdance will screen Marjorie Conrad’s "Chemical Cut" at the Treasure Mountain Inn Ballroom, 255 Main St., on Saturday, Jan. 23, at 12:30 p.m. An additional screening will be held Monday, Jan. 25, at 9:45 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.slamdance.com .
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In the closing scenes of the about-to-be released documentary “Public Trust,” environmental journalist Hal Herring says this of the battle over public lands: “You only have a right to what you are willing to fight for.”