Bidisha

Writer, critic, BBC broadcaster and 2013 International Reporting Project Fellow, funded by the Gates Foundation and run by Johns Hopkins University. Social justice, arts and culture, international affairs, international development and human rights.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

I was looking for a good film and I found Perfection

Am writing this in the same week that there has been great news from the Underwire film festival and the Birds Eye View film festival, a couple of months after the London Feminist Film Festival, around the time Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were brilliant hosts of the Golden Globes, just after strong women led comedies like Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids, after The Hunger Games struck and impressed me, in the same broader period that there have been stunning films directed by UK and US women including Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, Floria Sigismondi, Lynne Ramsay, Lone Scherfig, Debra Granik, Phyllida Lloyd, Sarah Gavron, Madonna (yes, I loved WE and it was one million times more chic, more historically accurate, more sexy, woman-positive and less sexist than The King’s Speech – 2 hours of speech therapy! I ask you), Lisa Cholodenko, Andrea Arnold, Joanna Hogg, Diane Biers, Kathryn Bigelow, Samantha Morton and Sam Taylor-Wood….Now I’ve found Perfection:

Perfection, directed by Christina Beck – latest one on my long long list of coolest women in the world, and her web site will lead you to many more – is a multi award winning film which has been a hit at festivals worldwide. It is now receiving its UK premiere on Saturday February 9 at the Rio Cinema, 107 Kingsland High St., London, E82PB at 2.30pm. You can buy tickets here and, no, Christina Beck is not a personal friend of mine although hey here’s hoping.

Perfection is a smart, contemporary take on LA life, freshening up the old myth of the city of angels and its anxious, constantly-striving inhabitants. As well as the sexy love story it also tackles grittier matter: ageing, pain, self-harm, self-obsession and self-criticism. Says Beck,

Perfection is an eye-opening portrayal of the city rarely seen in mainstream Hollywood movies. The film tells the story of Kristabelle, a 30 something who still lives with her mother and cuts herself to feel alive. Her mother is addicted to plastic surgery, trying to regain her youth. Through the help of a pot smoking young lover and a newly sober British stand up comic, they all find that love can be more than skin deep.

INDIE WIRE; In the Works: Cutting in “Perfection,” Personal/Economic Crisis, Quiet Riot, “The Next Cassavetes”
Brian Brooks and Bryce J. Renninger (August 11, 2010)

Christina Beck in a scene from her film, “Perfection,” currently in post-production. Image courtesy of the filmmaker.
In this week’s in production column, we speak with writer/director/actress Christina Beck about her Adrienne Shelly grant-winning film “Perfection,” about the difficulties of moving to image-obsessed southern California. We also take a look at a fiction feature about a man who must deal with being a manager in the face of the financial crisis, a documentary about 80’s hair band Quiet Riot, and a film about “The Next Cassavetes.”

EDITORS NOTE: “In the Works” is a weekly column taking a look at upcoming films, in addition to projects in production. It spotlights films in development, as well completed films that are taking creative paths towards distribution and occasionally ventures away from films to look at other types of projects, such as interesting new film distribution, funding, or exhibition mechanisms.

“Perfection”

Director/writer/star: Christina Beck
Other cast: David Melville, Robyn Peterson

“This is a culture where looks are everything. There is this inflamed obsession with external beauty here, and I have found it insanely fascinating,” writer/director/actress Christina Beck told indieWIRE by phone from her home in Los Angeles about her feature debut. Tinseltown provided the inspiration for Beck, who first appeared as an actress in Penelope Spheeris’ “Suburbia” back in the ‘80s and has a few shorts under her belt. Among them was 2004’s “Slice,” which was originally developed as part of Fox Searchlight’s New Directors’ program. The short later screened in Cannes and is the inspiration for “Perfection,” currently in post-production.

The story centers on Kristabelle, who still lives with her mother and cuts herself to “feel alive.” Her mother, addicted to plastic surgery, also cuts herself trying to maintain her youth. Through the help of a pot-smoking young lover, a newly sober British stand-up comic and Chinese medicine they all “find that love can be more than skin deep.”

The feature script was nominated Best Screenplay at the IFP film market and then selected for their rough cut labs. Beck was subsequently awarded the Adrienne Shelly Female Directing Grant and her film was selected for IFP’s 2010 Spotlight Sneak Preview Screening of the Year.

“I’ve met or run into many women who cut themselves or who are into altering themselves massively,” said Beck. “I tried to make the script as emotionally truthful as possible.”

“Perfection” has had a relatively long road. Following “Slice,” the IFP caught wind of the feature script in 2007. “The IFP has been insanely helpful,” noted Beck. That interest proved helpful, culminating in the project winning the annual Adrienne Shelly director’s Grant last year. The grant, named after the late writer/director/actor Adrienne Shelly, provides an unrestricted cash grant to a female director of IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Labs.

“The grant helped with the principal photography,” said Beck who has been shooting the film on weekends for over two years. “We never had [much of a] budget and only had five or six people on the crew at a time.

Shooting took place primarily in the San Fernando Valley beginning in 2008. Following a family death, Beck put the project on hold, but resumed last year.

“I’ve had the same hairdo for the past two years,” said Beck who plays the title role, Kristabelle. “I have an acting background. I started out as an actress and went from there to writing and directing. I pictured myself in that role – it’s how I write…I was happy to have myself in the lead role because I was always available. Also, the economics of the situation made it the way to go.”

Playing the male lead is David Melville who also acted in “Slice.” Melville runs a Shakespeare company in Los Angeles and Beck was excited to bring him back for “Perfection.”

“He’s a wonderful actor. I was so happy I could keep David, and God willing, this film will get some exposure and he’ll get the acting recognition he deserves.”

Actress Robyn Peterson (“The Sopranos”) plays her mother. Though she is still quite striking, she is no longer in that ideal age coveted by the Hollywood machine. “The tricky part of casting this role is that actresses who ‘were once beautiful’ can be crazy,” she noted with laughs. “You have to get someone who is willing to play along for the whole ride. We met through a mutual friend [after the previous actress had to drop out]. She was such a team player and went along doing what was needed to make this little movie with very little money.”

Now in the middle of post, “Perfection” will be 87 minutes in length. Beck will be applying to festivals where she hopes to debut the feature that has been years in the making.

“It’s a take on how people come to L.A. to be something other than what they really are…It’s a comedy…It’s absurd,” said Beck, adding, “We just inched our way into finishing this film. I guess that’s how it’s done right now.”

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