Literature In Los Angeles

Archive for the ‘INTER-REVIEWS’ Category


In INTER-REVIEWS on July 30, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Interview with photographer Dane Shitagi, creator of the Ballerina Project.

Violeta Angelova - Williamsburg Bridge

The Ballerina Project is a beautiful assemblé of photographs with a single theme: Ballerina.
While admiring them, I can’t stop wondering how an artist alone could create so many images with the same focus without wearing its lyricism out. Was Degas that good?
I’ve decided to go and find out the roots of the vivid inspiration behind every single picture of Dane Shitagi’s Ballerina Project.

Drew Jacoby - Riverside Park

LILA: Dane, your Ballerina Project highly captures the spirit of “being a ballerina” and its universal inner underlying. Ballerinas themselves can hardly explain it in words or show it on stage. How did you do that? 

DANE: I tried to take pictures of the ballerinas – not of their dancing. I tried to stay focused on the dancers – not on their poses. I tried to portray their souls – not their steps.
Ballerina Project is more about the dancer than the dancing.
As photographers we often try to capture “momentums” of the dancing without really acknowledging the obvious: the camera is not exactly the best instrument to do it. The camera can only take stills of something that is in its essence a flow. 

Megan - Brooklyn

LILA: How do you know ballerinas? What do you know about ballet? 

DANE: I’m not a dancer. I’m not an expert of ballet either. Though, I’ve been working on the Ballerina Project for eight years now and, in a way, I became a student of it; I developed sensitivity for it. I befriended dancers and learnt from them just by being around them. 

Brittney - Upper West Side

Kate - Chinatown

LILA: How did you pick up this muse called Ballerina? From your portfolio I saw that you take fashion pictures like any other “normal” photographer in NYC. Why did you decide to dedicate such an amount of energy to the Ballerina Project, at some point?

DANE: I picked it up for simple reasons: its grace and beauty.
I’m also an admirer of the life commitment of ballet. You can pick up a camera and become a photographer later in your life, but you cannot do the same for ballet; you cannot become a ballerina “at some point.” It just takes a stronger and longer commitment. 

Alex - Astor Place

Kate - Williamsburg

LILA: No studios and no stages in the Ballerina Project. Everything’s been shooting in New York City, from its streets to its parks, from its rivers to its tiny apartments or larger lofts, from its most hidden corners to its major crossroads. You definitely have a connection to The City, don’t you? 

DANE: We don’t live in a studio or on a stage; we live and fully display who we are in various environments – ballerinas included.
In our environment there’s so much beauty and depth intrinsically connected to our personal depth and beauty.
The ballerinas have been portrayed in their city just to capture the beauty they reciprocally give each other – a connection that is not always visible, if we think in terms of separation. 

Andrea - Central Park

Elina -- Chinatown

LILA: How can I get one of these images? Are they purchasable?

DANE: Yes, I can print and send you the pictures in different sizes. For any order, my email address is listed under Info at the Ballerina Project.

Katie -- Hudson River

Violeta Angelova - Manhattan Bridge

LILA: I will! The selection process just takes some time though, in such a huge collection. It’s even hard to decide which photo is in and which one is out for this interview. By the way, any “all inclusive” book coming out soon with all the pictures?

DANE: Maybe by the end of the year I’ll find a major publisher for a second book of the Ballerina Project. 

LILA: Nice, so I can have them all at once! Thanks for your beautiful work, Dane!

Anna - Tribeca

Violeta - Westside Highway

Interview by Liliana Isella.
All images by Dane Shitagi at Ballerina Project.


In INTER-REVIEWS on June 15, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Interview with Los Angeles artist Cristina Vericella.  

Adrift by Cristina Vericella

LILA: Beverly Hills is the place you grew up. Though, your paintings feature feminine characters submerged in a very deep, emotional and dreamy world. Not very Beverly Hills, I would say….    

CRISTINA: Beverly Hills has always been home to me. My parents created a world within a world for my siblings and I. Italy also holds a very special sense of home for me as well. I really feel that these two places: Italy and Beverly Hills, creates a strong foundation for my work and inspiration.    

Julia's Dream by Cristina Vericella

LILA: You’re an extremely young painter. You just finished your third year at college but you already produced a lot of work….    

CRISTINA: My parents and my family have always supported me with pursuing art. My first art show was at 18 and I think that after that I really wanted to continue with my dream.    

Rebecca's Dream by Cristina Vericella

LILA: Someone’s home you’d like to see your art in….    

CRISTINA: I would love to see my art in another artist’s home. That would really be wonderful.    

Red Night by Cristina Vericella

LILA: Some other place you’d like to call home….    

CRISTINA: Italy!    

Poppy by Cristina Vericella

 Interview by Liliana Isella.

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In INTER-REVIEWS on June 7, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis reviewed by Liliana Isella.

BEE by Jeff Burton (right) and Imperial Bedrooms cover (left).

Clay, Blair and Julian of Less Than Zero raised writer Bret Easton Ellis to stardom in 1985. Twenty-five years later they’re back in its sequel, Imperial Bedrooms.

It’s almost 2010 and Clay lands at the LAX to let Ellis hijack and fictionalize his Christmas time once again, but not without complaints about how he was portrayed in Less Than Zero (“…because the writer resented that she had turned to me I became the handsome and dazed narrator, incapable of love or kindness”) and in the subsequent movie (“…the book was blunt and had an honesty about it, whereas the movie was just a beautiful lie.”)

If he didn’t notice yet, Clay has excellent reasons to criticize his author also this time: in the first fifteen pages of Imperial Bedrooms he is nothing but a mere instrument in Ellis’s hands to convince Robert Downey Jr. to play Julian in the sequel movie too.

As soon as Ellis is done with his attempts to manipulate Hollywood, Clay can finally start his own. In fact, the excuse for him to be back in Los Angeles is to work on the casting of the last film he wrote, The Listeners.
But, as Raymond Chandler states in the foreword of Imperial Bedrooms, “there is no trap so deadly as the one you set for yourself”—and, Clay is just one party away from setting his own.

The fall comes through a dramatically gorgeous aspiring actress he meets at Blair and Trent’s home; very soon Clay’s stumbling ego gives her anonymous beauty the power to enforce the delusional fantasy he has of himself.
He identifies her neediness (she wants to be an actress and she wants a part in his movie; she wants to be an actress and she wants a part in his movie; she wants to be an actress and she wants a part in his movie and this is “superimportant,” ok?!) and he forces his way into it with cheap lies and childish threatens—all to control her feelings.
As a result, he just ends up controlled by her and by the people around them in an improbable twist of murderous events.

Her name is Rain Turner (well, not really, because even her name is fake) and she’s the key to open every Imperial Bedrooms’ secret door.
Her nothingness is everyone’s lust and the pale and unframed canvas on which Ellis performs his impeccable talent, his Pisces empathy and his amusing wittiness.

If Clay doesn’t know anything about Rain (“except how she makes you feel”) because he’s too self-absorbed to even ask her, Ellis doesn’t miss one single shade of the ambition that crucifies her soul and deforms her prettiness.
Rain’s sunless femininity turned into bleeding dust under the golden Hollywood light is so real to be scary.

Rain is the song Bret Easton Ellis dedicates to us, LA-shaped ladies.
To our not very bright brains (“studies have been done”); to our beauty humiliated by the stigma of its expiration date; to our ageless fear of not making it; to our anxious chase of unachievable perfection and to our desperate expectations on empty treasure cases. To us, too afraid of anything to ever trust anyone.

She is the deserted beach all our runaways end at, the mirror to our ultimate slavery and Ellis’s gentle way to suggest that alternative chances to gain self-acceptance and good luck might be around, if we look for them.

To ask our writer what these chances are or to simply bitch about the way he portrayed us (just as Clay did earlier), we can always go and meet him in person on his imminent Imperial Bedrooms tour.

Bret Easton Ellis’s warm kindness and genuine humor are usually the real treat of his lectures.
So, as Rain would hysterically text from her iPhone: “Hey Crazy, let’s hang. See ya there. Xo.”

Review by Liliana Isella.
The title Imperial Bedrooms comes from the song Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello.


In INTER-REVIEWS on April 30, 2010 at 9:54 pm

InteReview with Benedicte Schoyen on her educational dance movie for kids,  The Music Box.

What’s your mission?
Where’s your magic?
And, above all, how’s your dance?
Benedicte Schoyen comes to check on our personal fairytale with her movie, The Music Box, and guide us toward its very happy ending.

The Music Box

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Originally for kids for its clear educational structure and purpose, the story is a metaphor that fits any age and life’s stage.
Seven friends find themselves in a magic box where a prince has been trapped for over a hundred years; their mission is to dance him free by learning the steps of each of the seven characters in the box: a Teddy Bear, a Jazzy Cat, a Beautiful Ballerina, a Golden Ballet Bird, a Hip Hop Pirate, an Exotic Princess and a Tap Dancing Clown.
By pursuing the prince’s freedom through the dances, the kids will gain back their own as well and, like in every respectable fairytale, a romantic love will seal the end.

The Beautiful Ballerina and the Tap Dancing Clown

I asked Benedicte, dance studio owner, choreographer and ballet professor at UCLA, what’s her motivation behind the movie, which is her first project done since she founded Born To Play Productions in 2007.

Benedicte: I wanted to make a DVD for kids that would inspired them to dance. Kristin Proctor and I sit down and wrote the first draft of the story together. Terje Lindberg wrote the final script.

Fact is, the real magic of The Music Box is that, as the friends learn the seven dances, the kids at home learn them as well!
The DVD has interactive sections to teach and make them practice each character’s dance steps while another section features the interviews with the dancers, who share their artistic relationship with their character and, more in general, with dancing as their job and a way of life.
For those who don’t find the stage appealing, instead, there’s the “backstage” part to introduce the kids to some of the technical challenges and fun of the occupations behind the camera.

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LILA: How was your first experience as a movie producer?

Benedicte: I never went to film school, but I have gained so much experience throughout these years as a dancer, choreographer and studio owner… movie production is not brain surgery, after all.
I figured I needed to get a good crew and hold on to my vision of what I wanted the result to be.
We got friends and family to invest and tried to put as much money as we could. I had free rehearsal space at my studio, and we re-used a lot of the costumes I have collected through the years. Another huge thing is that my husband wrote all the music and he like me worked for free.
Then we got on board Stein Gausereide, who was running a green screen studio in Hollywood and Hans Mills, our set designer. I know them both from playing volleyball on the beach in Santa Monica.
All the dancers in the movie are friends from my dance studio.
Since we wanted to do a Norwegian version of the show as well, we also hired some Norwegians we flew in from Oslo; kids and crew that I had worked with over there.

Benedicte (center) and some of her dancers on the set of The Music Box

LILA: So The Music Box is available in two languages, English and Norwegian?

Benedicte: Yes, in Norway seventy pre-schools are already using The Music Box, both the DVD and the Activity Book, for their kids. 
We shot fourty minutes of film in two languages in five days. It was insane. The kids and their parents were amazing and our crew did a fantastic job. Our dancers had to stand for the longest time in frozen positions on their boxes and no one ever complained. I know how hard that is, and I am so thankful that I got to work with such supporting people.
I stepped in and directed the instructional bits in the film and wrote some of the camera directions.
I also did some parts of the Teddy Bear because my friend almost had a heat stroke in that costume.
I basically stepped in all over the place to help wherever I could, so we could get the shoot done on schedule. I think I slept a total of fifteen hours, those five days.
My biggest lesson is to schedule more time for the shoot, next time; however, then you need more money.

LILA: Talking about money, what are your plans for the distribution of The Music Box?

Benedicte: The funny thing is that it actually was easier to make the DVD than to sell it. So, now I am learning a whole new thing, about self distributing a DVD.
God bless the internet. Now, people like me have a chance even without a big company backing you.
I believe that, as long as you actually have a product that people like, it’s only a matter of time plus an extreme amount of hard work to make it happen. I am learning to be very creative to find ways to promote The Music Box on a zero budget.
It’s all about numbers and track records for the big companies to pick you up; if you can show good sales they eventually will come on board.
We were offered a distribution deal that was so bad that, for the moment, I rather sell through Amazon and go to the post office every day and ship the DVDs out by myself.
Sometimes, you gotta have ice in your stomach….

InteReview by Liliana Isella.

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In INTER-REVIEWS on March 15, 2010 at 3:36 am

Interview with bestselling author Nic Kelman on the connection between his writing and photography.

Tokyo by Nic Kelman

LILA: As a writer, in your novel Il Comportamento della Luce (The Behavior of Light), you explored and analyzed the physics of light under an interesting perspective. How is your relationship with light as a photographer?

NIC: Light is everything as a photographer and I think one of the things I try to work on in my photography is being able to not see the objects, but the light.  We are so used to accepting and categorizing what we see as the objects we identify in our field of view that it is sometimes hard to see above and prior to that to the light that must come before the object.  So I guess, as a photographer, I try to constantly look for the light that I know is there before the object and remove it from the object, find it before the object’s definition takes over, and then attempt to capture it in its more pure form.

Bangkok by Nic Kelman

LILA: In girls, your focus as a writer was mostly on the obsessive, materialistic attractions that rule social relationships in the Western society. As a photographer, your interest seems more on catching evanescent and melancholic details of objects and cities. How would you explain this difference of attention?

NIC: This is a very good question and one I haven’t really thought about before even though that distinction is correct. I think what it comes down to is that I find the abstraction of reality more “pure” an expression of reality. However, ironically, even though the use of language is the most abstract art form, it is also the most difficult tool with which to create abstractions. Perhaps this is because the very purpose of language is to remove abstraction from reality and to create definition of the world around us? Regardless, I find in-camera photography fascinating for its very ability to capture something that is concrete, that must have existed in the material, sense, that must have been palpable, and somehow make it seem unreal or dreamlike. Art, to me, is primarily the abstraction of reality through the artist’s personal lens, but when the lens is words, that abstraction must be more concrete than when the lens is, well, a lens… So in the latter case, I think I like to make the most of that advantage.

London by Nic Kelman

LILA: If you put together your experience as novelist and screen writer and your fine “camera eye,” your next step might be directing a movie… ever had any thought about it?

NIC: Definitely. It’s a big step though and one that, honestly, is very, very different from the other forms. Directing is about collaboration and making the most of what you have from many sources. In writing you have almost totalitarian control over what you produce and in photography there is just you, your camera, and the light. I’m not sure I can manage more than that!

Images by Nic Kelman.
Interview by Liliana Isella.

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