New York Times - August 10 2005

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New York Times - August 10 2005

Post  Admin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 1:05 pm

Gwyneth Paltrow Takes Her Turn Behind the Camera
Published: August 10, 2005

Gwyneth Paltrow yelled "Cut!" as if her life depended on it. Sipping hot green tea on one of the hottest days of the year, standing in a meandering Brooklyn apartment that had been transformed into a movie set, Ms. Paltrow was directing her first film, "Dealbreakers," a short about the dubious charms of dating, with no small measure of authority.

At one point, standing at the monitor in a pink camisole that said "Mrs. Martin" (she is married to Chris Martin, the lead singer of the rock group Coldplay), Ms. Paltrow suggested a longer camera pan for a shot of Travis, a goofy hippie offering his date some gorp.

"One more shot, then on to Opera Man," Ms. Paltrow said, referring to another bad date in the film, a 10-minute short about those dating moments when you realize it's not going to work, usually because of something your date has said or done.

Such moments of command were occasionally offset by more maternal concerns. Joined on the set by Apple, her 14-month-old daughter, Ms. Paltrow looked on in delight as Apple splashed in what had been a bucket of ice for water and soda.

Ms. Paltrow, who splits her time between London and New York, called the film a chance to stretch artistically and to help a good cause.

The short was one of four stories made into movies by an advisory board of female executives and actresses in Hollywood, assembled to further the cause of women in film.

The board chose from among 4,000 fact-based 750-word essays about life-changing events submitted to Glamour magazine by its readers earlier this year. Ms. Paltrow was the co-writer and co-director of "Dealbreakers" with Mary Wigmore, a close friend and filmmaker who is Apple's godmother.

The Glamour "reel moments" entries included the usual tales of death and divorce and finding oneself after motherhood but also played with lighter moments of epiphany, like knowing when a date's number is up.

The set of films will eventually be shown in 25 markets starting in October, and a DVD containing them will also be inserted into the December issue of Glamour.

The magazine will also make a donation to FilmAid International, a charitable organization that uses film to help communities deal with disasters. In this case, FilmAid will use the money for women in refugee camps in Kenya.

"The brand is about the empowerment of women," Leslie Russo, Glamour's associate publisher said of the magazine's involvement in the project. "Today, with the culture being so celebrity-obsessed, how do we extend that message? How do we support the telling of real women's stories in Hollywood?"

Glamour picked Moxie Pictures, a bicoastal commercial and feature film production company, to develop the stories, produce the shorts and assemble the advisory board that selected the essays and helped to cast the films. The board included the actresses Katie Holmes, Lucy Liu and Julianna Margulies, as well as Meryl Poster, the former president of production at Miramax Films; Caroline Kaplan, a vice president at IFC Entertainment; and Cara Stein, the chief operating officer at the William Morris Agency.

The winning essays were matched with female talent behind and in front of the camera, including, besides Ms. Paltrow; Jenny Bicks, the Emmy-winning writer and executive producer of "Sex and the City"; the director Trudy Styler (the mini-series "Empire"); and the actresses Rosario Dawson and Debi Mazar.

Of the three other films, one fixes on a woman's quest to find the right little black dress, while another concerns a woman trusting her instincts on what's missing in her life. The last is about a housewife's accidental encounter with transvestites.

Ms. Paltrow said that she and Ms. Wigmore were both drawn to the comedic possibilities of "Dealbreakers," and structured the film as a faux documentary about the dating adventures of Fran, a 30-year-old New Yorker. They shot the film during three recent long, hot days in New York.

"It's been great," Ms. Paltrow said of her first effort at directing. "It's been really interesting to kind of get in here and see that I have an instinct for it.

"I think I'm very sensitive to the actor's perspective," she continued. "Obviously, I've worked on 30 films so I think I've learned a lot about filmmaking through osmosis. I've spent basically 12 years of my life on film sets the whole time."

Ms. Paltow, 32, who won an Academy Award for best actress in 1999 for her role as Viola De Lesseps in "Shakespeare in Love," is very much a child of show business. Her father, Bruce Paltrow, who died in 2002, was a producer and director; her mother, Blythe Danner, is an actress. Her brother, Jake, is a director.

"My parents were very discouraging of me going into it," Ms. Paltrow said of acting as a career. "I think there was sort of the sense in the 60's still and the early 70's that show business was not as respectable a profession as some others and I think they wanted me to do something more intellectual."

And yet, show business has treated her very well, indeed. There is already buzz about her next film, "Proof," which is set for a Sept. 16 premiere. The movie, one of the last projects of the departing co-chairmen of Miramax, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, is based on the Broadway play about a mentally ill University of Chicago mathematician, played by Anthony Hopkins, and his unstable daughter Catherine, played by Ms. Paltrow. Ms. Paltrow said she hoped to work again with the Weinsteins, who are starting another production company after they leave Miramax on Sept. 30.

Despite her own star power, she believes the industry has a ways to go when it comes to women.

"I think a lot of women writers in Hollywood write from their own experience," she said. "But normally in Hollywood those experiences get so kind of homogenized and put through the studio system that what started as a core idea from somebody's life often gets turned in a movie that you've seen a number of times.

"The men in Hollywood make it hard for women. I really believe that. What it means is that it's kind of like the old-boy industries. It's mostly run by men."

Ms. Bicks said that the television landscape had improved for women with the network success of ABC's "Desperate Housewives," and HBO's former hit, "Sex and the City."

"It's made a difference in pitching stories about women," Ms. Bicks said.

The Glamour project showed a group of talented women that they could handle jobs that some had not done before, Ms. Poster said. "I told Gwyneth she could tell people to move here, move there, without coming off as a fussy actress," she joked.

With women now leading the studios at Disney, Universal and Sony, "someone said to me that the male studio head is becoming an endangered species," Ms. Poster said.

She contended that the industry is much more female-friendly. Women aren't directing films in large numbers, she said, because it's an all-encompassing job that is not often compatible with the complexity of women's lives.

Still, Ms. Paltrow insisted, "it takes women to write short films about women or features about women."

"There's no reason why," she said, "if there's 'Wedding Crashers' for boys, there can't be something really funny yet intelligent for women, that has something to say for women."


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