A Hollywood Moment with Georgina Chapman: Fantasy and Fairytale on Film

By  July 29, 2013

As the Marchesa co-founder who’s more prone to be in the public eye, Georgina Chapman balances a hefty load. Aside from running a red-carpet favorite, the mother-of-two recently launched a nail art collection with Revlon and is wed to one of Hollywood’s biggest players, Harvey Weinstein. Still, none of that has stopped her from conquering a new creative feat: film.

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Last November, Chapman teamed up with Canon’s Project Imagina10n and filmmaker Ron Howard to delve into her directorial prowess. The challenge called for Chapman, Jamie FoxxEva LongoriaBiz Stone, and James Murphy to draw from a pool of user-generated photos that would, in turn, inspire their respective short films. Eight months later, Chapman’s cinema debut sees her taking flight. A Dream of Flying melds love and fantasy in a tale about a girl (Dree Hemingway) who spends her life trying not to fly and the boy (Aaron Tveit) who would risk his to see her spread her wings. Though she didn’t set out to produce a romantic spin, Chapman admits that designing for a brand like Marchesa rubbed off on her filmmaking technique.

“I did know that I wanted to take the essence of what I do at Marchesa, which is always a little bit of fantasy and fairytale, and I think that’s what I lean toward naturally,” she said, later adding that “it was very much an organic process.”

While we have to wait until fall to see the Neil Gaiman-penned script come to life, we were able to get Chapman’s first-hand account of how her story developed, the challenge of letting actors “do their own thing,” and how wardrobe weaves its way into her project.

Q: It must have been a lot of work to sift through photos from the Canon contest and narrow it down into a mood board of sorts. How did you get going?
A: I found two photographs from two different categories that really bookended my movie; one was of a young girl, one was of an old lady, but they were dressed in almost identical outfits. So really that was the starting point. It was sometimes the emotion that I went for in the photograph, other times, it was the color and just the sheer beauty of the photography [that drew me in].
Q: Ron Howard served as a mentor for this project. What’s the best piece of advice he had for you?
A: What I was most nervous about was getting the actors to convey the emotion I wanted. Literally speaking, I work in visual arts, so I felt more confident in that area; but it was definitely working with actors that I felt more nervous. He was just wonderful in talking me through that process and told me to let them breathe and do their own thing—and don’t over-direct.
Q: As a clothing designer, wardrobe obviously played a role in this project. Tell us a little bit about that.
A: Because it’s a short movie, I really wanted to be tight on the costume, and the color story, and the story of the characters. The movie follows three people through three different stages of their lives, so being able to link them through costume is very important. I think when you see the movie, the colors are very concise, even with the backgrounds and the sets; I’m very happy with how it’s all looking.
Q: We were really excited to hear that Marchesa teamed up with Revlon for a nail art series. Is there any chance that we’ll see those products in the film?
A: I would have loved to have used them for my character’s nails, but it’s a period piece; part of it starts in the ‘50s, so I don’t think they had nail appliqués [laughs].
Q: What about the setting for the piece? We know you travel a lot between New York and London; would you say that either plays a part in your story? 
A: I don’t think this story is really set in New York or London. It’s in a timeless place.
Q: Now that production is done, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?
A: Sleep and then maybe have a nice glass of wine! I have to go straight back to the office—they’re missing me at work. I have Project Runway as well.

If you’re looking to be part of Chapman’s creative process, log on to Long Live Imagination to submit photos based on the film’s costume descriptions. Entrants will have the chance to win a Canon EOS Rebel T5i camera and lens kit, signed memorabilia, and two tickets to Canon’s  Project Imaginat10n festival later this year.