Celebrity stylist Tara Swennen has worked with everyone from Gwen Stefani to Emily Ratakojwski, but has perhaps gotten the most attention for her collaboration with rule-breaking actress Kristen Stewart, who most recently was the reigning dare-devil of the Cannes red carpet. And that's exactly what Swennen loves about her. "One of my greatest goals as a stylist is to create a balance of what my clients would like to wear, what styles are trending, and how I envision their fashion evolution," she explains. Here, the stylist opens up about how she introduced Stewart to Chanel, what she thinks of the actress's new buzz cut, and why sustainability is more important now than ever.
How did you get started in the business?
I studied fashion design at Cornell University. Once I graduated, I moved to New York and worked in the studio services at Barneys NY, where I met my first stylist, Andrea Lieberman. I started my styling career with her... and then rest is history. I moved to Los Angeles right after 9/11, and began working for Rachel Zoe. It was great as it was the during the Lindsey Lohan, Mischa Barton red-carpet era. After about five years I branched out on my own, and that’s when I began working with Kristen Stewart.
How did you first meet?
Her publicist of 15 years, Ruth Bernstein, put us together when she was only 14 years old for Into The Wild. We have remained tried and true ever since. Kristen was one of my first clients I got within the first year I started styling. It's funny because the first look I dressed her in happened to be Chanel.
Kristen Stewart has great personal style. How do you take that into consideration with your work?
One of my greatest goals as a stylist is to create a balance of what my clients would like to wear, what styles are trending, and how I envision their fashion evolution. It is paramount to me to showcase their personalities, so the end goal is to refine and elevate whatever their own tastes may be. Kristen's fashion sense has evolved as she has grown into an ever-expanding repertoire, so it makes it that much more fun for me!
How does a new beauty look, for example Kristen’s buzz cut, influences the styling of their look?
A new beauty look can have an enormous effect on the styling. I welcome this new bleached buzz cut on Kristen. It suits her perfectly and allows us to go in a new direction. I feel my part in it is to facilitate their evolution as its coming.
The Cannes Film Festival is known for having super strict dress codes. How have you been able to work with the rules and maintain a look that feels appropriate?
Kristen simply happens to not really be a gown person, so we have adapted her unique style to the event by keeping her dressy yet with her own unique twist on it. What is your day-to-day like as a stylist?
There is no set day to day in this business, which is one of the reasons I love it! Some days I am researching online, others I am pulling and fitting, and others I am on set... it's ever changing, but yes, I am always planning.
What are some of your goals?
I would really like to become more of a spokesperson for ethical fashion. I became a vegan last year and feel that we need to be more conscious. Fashion is not a necessity. If you want a fur stole, you can achieve that look just in a more responsible way.
How does this more conscious way of styling work when you're dealing with a client?
Lately, I will just reach out to vegan brands I see on Instagram or hear about and will ask them to send me things to dress my clients in. Most of my clients share the same thinking, which is great. For example, Kristen won’t wear fur or wear snakeskin, but sometimes will wear leather – so we can be more responsible and shape the look. We are in an age where we need to become more responsible on all fronts and as a passionate fashionista- I think it's part of my job to help from within now.
What else are you working on now?
Tons of things! Kristen is launching a new project with Chanel, so tons of stuff for that. I also just picked up a few new clients like Ashley Benson and Bella Thorne!
Who is your dream client?
My girls are my dream clients. I am a very lucky woman.
The Hepburns - Katharine and Audrey.
Okay, let’s get personal. What are three words to describe your own style?
Classic, elegant, and fun.
Favorite vintage stores in the world?
I love flea markets worldwide. That's where you can find the best and most unique treasures!
Style pet peeve:
Bad tailoring and not leaving anything to the imagination. Best recent discovery:
A pet pig named Sprinkles ;)
Any other plans down the line?
I would love to get back into men’s styling!
Few directors’ first short films entail work by an Oscar-winning visual effects company, music by St Vincent, and a three-person stunt team. But few directors are Kristen Stewart. Only one is, in fact, and she has brought her 17-minute debut to Cannes this year: an abstract piece called Come Swim, in which a man (Josh Kaye) who remains nameless in the film itself, but is identified as Josh in the closing credits, wrestles with an unquenchable thirst – sometimes within a dream, and perhaps sometimes not.
It’s an earnest, sombre, often unsubtle work – but it’s also disciplined, sharply coherent, and cine-literate in an old-fashioned surrealist way. And its commitment to its own weirdness itself feels bold, given its director’s profile as a young actress (who got her break in a vampire romance franchise, no less!) who’s dared to stray to the far side of the camera. In other words, it would be an easy film to mock.
Easy, but wrong. Come Swim is significantly better than some of the ill-advised actor-directed projects the festival has programmed recently – perhaps, you sometimes wonder, as a prank (step forward Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn). Cannes has spent the last five years nurturing Stewart as a world cinema star to be reckoned with, and that plan came off: in 2015, she became the first American to win a César from the French Académie. So if they now also want to give her a platform as a filmmaker, more power to them, and her.
Come Swim opens with a silky-slow shot of a rolling, charcoal-coloured wave, before cutting to sea-froth washing quickly across the screen, an image heavily reminiscent of that old avant-garde staple, the melting film strip exposed for too long to the projector’s heat and light.
Then comes Josh: first suspended undersea, then is in bed, blearily reaching for a glass of water, which he spills, jolting the film into another room, where he laps the stuff straight from the tap. Josh is beset by a disembodied, critical (and female) voice, which sounds variously like his conscience, his nagging super-ego, his ex-lover, perhaps even some kind of victim of his. The voice overlaps with his own, and the words both speak are by turns critical and intimate, though ambiguously so: “I’m getting water in my mouth,” “It just feels stupid,” “This is my body, eat it,” and most enticingly: “A lie is never a lie, just a code you can’t crack.”
Meanwhile, Josh finds himself in various scenarios, always drinking, often in cars, sometimes moulting and desiccated, until relief, in the form of bodily submersion, finally arrives. Some shots involve a digital overpainting technique which achieves an effect not unlike painting or scratching on celluloid which a smaller production could have achieved for a fraction of a percentage point of the price. But as I say, this is no ordinary first film.
Cynics may scoff that anyone with Stewart’s budget and calibre of crew could have made a good film. But even just a second’s reflection throws up countless examples where they didn’t. (Again, hello Gosling and Penn.) The truth is, she has something – and when there's something more, Cannes will no doubt make room.
Little White Lies Kristen Stewart presents her visually arresting directorial debut at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.
There is always something enthralling about a long-time actor’s decision to step behind the camera. Is it a bid to prove something? Do they really have an artistic vision, or are they existentially struggling with the fact that they are a mere puppet rather than a full-bore creator? The results of these directorial dalliances have resulted in some astounding films. For every Warren Beatty (Reds) or Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind) though, there’s a Sean Penn (The Last Face) or Ryan Gosling (Lost River).
The latest screen icon to jump behind the camera is none other than Kristen Stewart, star of Certain Women, Personal Shopper and the Twilight saga. Instead of launching directly into making a full length feature, Stewart has opted to turn her hand to short-form filmmaking with Come Swim. The film details a man’s struggle with loss; perhaps the departure of a lover, though it may just as likely be this lover’s death. With his significant other absent, a man (Josh Kaye) is left simultaneously drowning and dying of thirst. The identity of this lover remains unclear until the film’s finale, yet most will recognise the woman’s voice as belonging to Stewart herself.
Like many actor-turned-directors before her, Stewart wears her influences on her sleeve. To express the interior crisis of her protagonist, she invokes the surrealism of David Lynch along with the body horror of David Cronenberg. The film’s aquatic metaphors remain appropriately ambiguous in the first segment, in which Stewart’s storytelling is purely impressionistic. Yet as the story progresses it begins to hint at a big reveal, one that dampens the enthralling mystery set up at the outset.
While Come Swim begins as an exercise in surrealism, it eventually exposes its transparency in what seems like an attempt to concede to the expectations of a more generalised audience. The vivid depictions of thirst and drowning are replaced by matter-of-fact storytelling, with Stewart’s own voiceover becoming less cryptic and more of a guiding light.
These script contrivances aside, Come Swim is a beautiful looking piece of work. With the help of cinematographer John Guleserian, Stewart has crafted a rapturous visual wonder that far outshines the deficiencies of the screenplay. While the images may not coalesce to any conventionally satisfying measure, they nonetheless hint at a young filmmaker with real talent. As a debut, Come Swim is admirable. It may not be entirely effective, but it does serve as a reminder that the best way to learn filmmaking is to pick up a camera and shoot.
Come Swim, the experimental 18-minute short film from actress-turned-director Kristen Stewart already premiered at Sundance and screened in the Special Screening section in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. The short is Stewart’s ambitious directorial debut and is structured into two parts.
Josh (Josh Kaye), the protagonist and basically only character on screen, is introduced in the impressionist first half of the short. The film opens with the image of a slowly-moving wave and then cuts to Josh floating underwater. He is about to drown but wakes up on a mattress in a run-down and cold room. Dehydrated he tries to satisfy his immense thirst by chugging one bottle of water after another but it doesn’t have any effect on him. While he stumbles around the apartment, a woman’s voice can be heard. It keeps on repeating the same sentences over and over again and starts to overlap with Josh’s own voice. Josh then is seen driving around in his car visiting several locations, always drinking water yet he dehydrates and deteriorates at the same time.
The nightmarish first part is followed by a realistic take of Josh sort of re-living his previous nightmare. He wakes up in his now nicely furnished apartment and gets ready for work. Similar to before, he keeps on hearing the same voices again – this time around they don’t seem threatening but intimate and also flirtatious. It’s obvious that he is struggling with a recent break-up and its painful memories. Driving around, he passes by the same locations we have seen before and eventually ends up at the beach, ready to jump into the waves of the ocean and take a swim.
Stewart’s short, to which she has also written the script, is a solid and unconventional debut. Despite its experimental form, Come Swim sticks to a sort of linear narrative structure. It explores the heartache and pain caused by a break-up and coming to terms with it through abstract and often haunting visuals, accompanied by an electronic score composed by musician St. Vincent.
The 2017 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour is a 95-minute theatrical program of seven short films selected from this year’s Festival, widely considered the premier showcase for short films and the launchpad for many now-prominent independent filmmakers for more than 30 years. Including fiction, documentary and animation from around the world, the 2017 program offers new audiences a taste of what the Festival offers, from laugh-out-loud comedy to contemplative reflections of the world we live in.
Come Swim Written and directed by Kristen Stewart. 2017, U.S.A., 17 minutes.
This is a diptych of one man's day, half impressionist and half realist portraits.
The Guild Cinema, Albuquerque - coming soon
Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor MI - coming soon
Cinema Detroit, Detroit MI - coming soon
FilmScene, Iowa City IA - coming soon
Bryant Lake Bowl pres by IFP, Minnesota Minneapolis MN - coming soon
Belcourt Theatre, Nashville TN - coming soon
Enzian Theater, Orlando FL - coming soon
The Tower TheatreSalt Lake City UT - coming soon
Roxie Theater, San Francisco CA - coming soon
Loft Cinema, Tucso AZ - coming soon
IFC Center, New York NY - Opens June 9
The Parkway, Baltimore MD - June 9-15
Austin Film Society, Austin TX - July 1 and 3
IndieMemphis MicroCinema Club, Memphis TN - July 12
Denver Film Society, Denver CO - June 16
Speed Museum, Louisville KY - July 16-18
PhilaMOCA, Philadelphia PA - July 17-18
Cleveland Institute of Art Cinemateque, Cleveland OH - July 29 & 30
UK actor Jim Sturgess has joined Kristen Stewart, Diane Kruger and Laura Dern in Justin Kelly’s upcoming JT Leroy biopic, which is shooting preliminary footage here in Cannes. Fortitude International is handling sales on the project and has struck a multi-territory deal with a studio, which can’t be announced yet, as well as a deal with Pony Canyon for Japan.
Cassian Elwes is financing and producing the film with Julie Yorn, Patrick Walmsley, Mark Amin, and Thor Bradwell. Executive producers are Fortitude’s Nadine de Barros, with Cami Winikoff, Tyler Boehm, as well as Wayne Godfrey and Robert Jones of the Fyzz Facility, which is fully financing the feature.
It’s based on the true story of two women who created a fake child author persona, tricking the literary community and the Hollywood elite before the hoax was exposed. Kelly adapted the script from a book by Savannah Knoop, who was the public face of the fictional character. Production will get underway in July.
The film climaxes at the Cannes Film Festival, and director Kelly is here with producer Elwes and DP T.J. Williams filming footage which will be adapted in post-production to be used for the final sequence. If you find yourself looking down the lens of ARRI camera while queuing up for a Cannes screening this year, you may well end up in JT Leroy.
“We’re keeping it small so we can move quick. It’s a hectic place, but there are so many cameras around so it’s easy to shoot,” commented director Kelly to Screen.
Read all the updates on 'JT Leroy' at our previous post here.
In a suite at the Hotel Majestic Barrière in Cannes, every surface heaves with haute couture. Chanel dresses spun from gossamer threads are draped along the walls and chunky, diamond-studded bracelets are scattered across the dresser. Only the suite’s occupant doesn’t seem to have received the memo. Kristen Stewart, dressed in a vest and black cargo pants, her hair in a blond crop, looks almost defiantly out of place.
But Stewart is not quite the incongruous presence she might seem at the festival. In 2014, she became the first female American actor in 30 years to win a Cesar, for best supporting actress in Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria. More recently, there was her bewitchingly odd performance in Personal Shopper, Assayas’s strange, sad, ruminative ghost story.
And Stewart has now decided to do the one thing this auteur-worshipping town regards more highly than anything else – become a director. Her debut short film Come Swim, which she wrote and directed, has been handed a plum special screening slot. “I feel like they’re just being nice to me because I come here a lot,” she laughs. “Like they’re saying, ‘Sure, you can show your little short here.’”
Stewart may be underselling herself. Irrespective of who made it, Come Swim is the sort of daring avant-garde fare Cannes usually laps up. An abstract tale of one man’s quest to satiate an unexplained, unquenchable thirst, the film never lacks for arresting imagery, from the hyper-vivid opening shot of a wave cresting in languorous slow motion, to the sight of the film’s central character literally cracking up in a moment of Cronenberg-style body horror.
The film, Stewart says, stemmed from an image that seemed permanently lodged in her head – of “a person sleeping contently on the bottom of the ocean floor, and getting such satisfaction from that isolation. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty dark.’ You want to know the situation that would put someone so deep.”
The idea of sinking to the bottom of the sea, away from all human contact, might be an enticing one to someone like Stewart – no paparazzi to deal with, for a start. But the subtext concerns something more universal: heartbreak, or more specifically “that first bout of pain where you’re just like, ‘Nobody has ever felt this’ – when actually we all have”.
So the film plays out in two halves, with the opening, more experimental section expressing the extreme sensations we feel after having our heart broken, when even breathing air and drinking water can seem impossible, and the second depicting the more mundane reality of the situation. “I just wanted to externalise a very internal feeling that you don’t really talk about until it’s past and then you go, ‘God, I was losing my mind. It’s so crazy, I was such a weirdo for six months, I’m so sorry to all my friends.’ Not to be too heavy about it, because it’s not clinical or anything, but it is a form of depression.”
The subject matter is matched by some bold stylistic choices. Art rocker St Vincent provides a menacing, throbbing electronic soundtrack, and the film is edited in a series of discombobulating quick cuts. Meanwhile, a complex digital technique known as neural style transfer has been used to superimpose Stewart’s original sketches of her submerged man on to the footage. Stewart even co-authored a research paper on the technique for Cornell University.
Come Swim is a bit rough around the edges – some of the film’s whispered dialogue has a hint of perfume ad pretentiousness– but, for a debut, it’s impressive. Certainly, it’s been better received than some of the bloated actor-director projects that have washed up at Cannes in the past, such as Sean Penn’s The Last Face, which elicited howls of laughter when it premiered here last year.
As the daughter of a screenwriter/director and a producer, Stewart always saw herself ending up behind the camera rather than in front of it. When, aged 11, she appeared in the 2002 David Fincher thriller Panic Room, she made the rather bold claim to that film’s star, Jodie Foster, that she would become “the youngest director that exists”. The sudden leap in her acting career brought about by the Twilight movies put paid to that, but the desire didn’t go away.
Stewart concedes she’s in a fortunate situation, aware that Come Swim probably wouldn’t be at Cannes if its director wasn’t an A-list actor. “People who are much more talented and inspired couldn’t ever have the opportunity to make a short film for the amount of money I was given to make this,” she admits. “I had eight days to shoot it. It was the most comfy process.”
If opportunities are limited for first-time directors, the situation is markedly bleaker if they’re women. Come Swim was produced as part of the Shatterbox Anthology project, run by US lifestyle website Refinery29, which aims to redress the disparity between male and female directors. But it’s an uphill struggle: only 7% of the top 250 films in 2016 were directed by women, a figure that’s lower than it was in 1998.
For Stewart, the only way to correct such an imbalance is with pure intensity. “The coolest female directors I’ve ever worked with are such compulsive freaks,” she says. “You ask Kelly Reichardt [director of Meek’s Cutoff and Certain Women] what it’s like to be a female director and she’s just like, ‘I don’t have an answer because I couldn’t do anything else with my life.’
“The female artists who do the best work, they’re just so focused that nothing is going to get in their way. Kelly, fucking Patti Smith, they’re just workers. It’s hard to talk about, because you need to talk about it to change it, but at the same time it’s like, ‘Just do it.’” She pauses, reconsidering this call to arms. “That’s the most ridiculous thing to say. Of course, people would just do it if they could. I’m in the craziest, most lucky position.”
Whether Stewart will continue making her own films is unclear. She still has plenty of acting commitments, including a drama about the hoax writer JT LeRoy, created by Laura Albert. What’s more, she doesn’t just want to stumble into any old directing gig. “People keep asking, ‘So what’s next for you? Do you want to develop projects?’ I feel they have to just come to you. I don’t want to do an impression of a film-maker. I don’t want to do it for the sake of it.”
If Stewart does return behind the camera, it’s likely to be on her own terms. “I don’t like the idea of making movies with any regard for an audience. Because I’ve worked with people who have been like, ‘I want the audience to think this at that moment.’ Well, who are you making this for then? Because if you start making this for everyone, you’ll end up with something generic. It needs to be its own animal. You can package and deliver an idea after the fact, but if it’s what informs you in the first place... pffft, don’t make movies!”
W&H: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Women and Hollywood focuses on feminism and the business. Here’s one of our pins.
KS: “Educate. Advocate. Agitate.” Damn right.
W&H: I figured you’d be into it. So, where did the inspiration for this film come from?
KS: I was sort of fixated on one image: a person sleeping on the bottom of the ocean — which is obviously a very inhospitable place for a human being to sleep — and seeing this oddly placed contentment, the satisfaction in that isolation, and wondering why that would be something pleasurable for him.
Everyone — young people, in particular — go through this kind of thing: your first disillusionment or heartbreak that puts you on the outskirts of life. You feel like you can’t participate in normal things. You ask yourself, “What the fuck? I’m here, I look like I’m here, but I’m fucking not here. I’m saturated. I’m moving through water.” It’s not necessary depression as much as it is anxiety and the inability to participate in ‘normal’ things. You aggrandize this pain when you’re little; you believe that your pain is different from the norm.
So, the idea was to source that pain and then watch someone, in a moment, just realize that they are actually completely fine. To see that one day from two different perspectives. One of which is his, and it’s so graphic, surreal, and abnormal. Then, you step outside of that, turn the lights on, and realize that, in fact, everyone has done something like that.
W&H: The beginning of the film definitely connotes the feeling of simply being overwhelmed and underwater, so that explanation helps a lot. If you had to describe a log line, what would you say to people? “Come Swim” is…?
KS: I would say it is two perspectives of one man’s “coming to.” Also, in terms of the film’s use of voiceover, it speaks to perspective and the way you remember a situation. You can absolutely attack yourself with memories, and then if you look at the same situation from a slightly different standpoint, it can actually appear [very differently.]
Essentially, I had my two actors hang out in a pool and play-fight; they would pretend to drown each other, which sounds dramatic, but it was actually cute. In the film, the main character is a little stiff and unwilling to swim; he doesn’t like water. Theoretically, they broke up, and all he’s doing is thinking about what he could have done differently to avoid messing that up. He keeps asking himself, “Why didn’t I want to swim with her? What did I say? God, everything about me is terrible.”
You just start going back into your memory bank, asking yourself what you could have done differently. But, if you get past that, you realize that those were actually fun memories that you repurpose as being awful.
So, I used the same voiceovers in different places with slightly different readings. Some would be ominous, aggressive, and scary, and then the same exact words would be said through laughter to create a different, lovely memory.
W&H: Was this personal for you?
KS: 100 percent.
W&H: What made you decide to write and direct? When did you know that you wanted to do this?
KS: I’ve wanted to make movies since I was about nine or ten years old — as soon as I wanted to act. I’ve watched the process since I was a baby. My mom , Jules Mann-Stewart, is a script supervisor, and my dad, John Stewart, was an AD for television. I was always on set with my mom, and she’s always worked very closely with directors.
I wanted to be on set. I loved the team effort of it all. I really loved that people would do crazy, crazy things, and I thought that the grind of it all must have been worth something. To be a part of that was really attractive.
As I got older and started actually being a part of that process, I realized how spiritual it can be; the only thing that would drive someone to work this hard is this compulsive, artistic, protective nature: the need to protect a story, to make sure that one’s experience with it can be transferred onto others because it’s worth it.
The best directors I’ve ever worked with always make you feel like you have a hand in holding this bowl of water. You need to get it to the end of the line, and it’s tipping in every direction. But, if we all hold an equal part, we can get it to the end, and all of the water will still be in the bowl.
W&H: That’s a nice image. I’m sure you’ve worked with some directors that you’ve loved and some that you haven’t loved. What have you learned from directors — both good and bad — that you took into this project?
KS: Directing is kind of a strange word because it implies that you’re telling people what to do. The best feeling in the entire world is wanting something, transferring that desire to others, and watching it become a selfish thing for them — something that has nothing to do with doing me a favor or satisfying a job. It’s actually this transference of desire. All of a sudden, they reach a place where they start to own it for themselves.
Directing is never correcting; that’s the worst. You can influence people, but, at the end of the day, you’ve put people in place because you’re inspired by them. You want to watch what they do.
W&H: The other day during a Women in Motion talk Robin Wright said to “never say no.”
KS: Right. Because even if you don’t like something, don’t tell them. Just don’t use it. If someone is on a path, don’t derail them. The whole reason you are there is to explore something. It is not to finitely control this experience. You want someone to discover and experience.
I don’t want to package and deliver ideas; I want to get everyone in a room, meditate on a subject, capture it, put it together, and put it out. I’m not too precious about it.
W&H: That’s why I think women are such good directors; we know how to bring lots of people together because that’s how we’re socialized.
Speaking of women directors, you did “Twilight” with Catherine Hardwicke. Even though that was the highest grossing movie by a woman at that moment, she had to take a pay cut for her subsequent film. Even now, she continues to struggle to get to that next movie. What are your thoughts on that and opportunities for women?
KS: There is utter value in a commercially-driven decision making process. I want people to see the movies that I work on. I want them to reach as many people as possible. But, people that really get it done are just so compulsive.
Look at someone like Andrea Arnold. She tells her own stories. She’s not a hired hand. Nobody could tell the stories that she’s telling. They are hers. They come from her.
It is undoubtedly annoying that it’s still taking a long time to balance out. There is no equality in this business.
W&H: It’s not even close to it here. Women directors made up four percent in the top 100 grossing films last year.
KS: This is always kind of hard to speak to.
W&H: I know. There isn’t an answer, but you’re a person so steeped in it. you’ve worked with both men and women, like Kelly Reichardt. Everyone wants to work with her, yet she gets so little money for her films.
KS: I know, but that speaks to who she is as well
. W&H: She’d like a little bit more money.
KS: Definitely, but if you look at the types of movies that she does, they don’t make a lot of money.
W&H: Well, I also believe it’s a vicious cycle. If it were in more theaters, then more people would see it, and so on.
KS: Sure. Do you think that they’re not in more theaters because she’s a woman?
W&H: I think some films are not in more theaters because they don’t have enough of a budget to warrant more theaters; they don’t have the marketing budget to push them over the edge. But, even Andrea Arnold’s last film, “American Honey,” was pretty commercial. It could have played more, and it could have been an Oscar consideration.
KS: I was shocked it wasn’t.
W&H: Right. It doesn’t rise to the occasion, and that speaks to the overwhelming amount of male critics on some level. It’s a very hard cycle to break. You’ve seen so much of it, and now you’re entering it. You’re going to be a director, and you want to continue to act and write as well. You’re going to be in this world. How do you navigate that?
KS: I’m so lucky. I have people who listen. I’m in a very lucky place.
W&H: It’s interesting because I live in New York, and I write about feminism and Hollywood. I’m always a bit shocked when I come to a place like this or go to LA and see the machinery behind it all. That’s something that you live through. You seem like an incredibly happy, lovely human being. I don’t know you, but people weirdly think they know you. How do you keep your own identity and yet give people what they need to promote your movies?
KS: Right now it’s strange because I’m not working for anyone. I’m less nervous here because I’m not overtly concerned about representing a director and the way he wants a story to be spoken about.
W&H: Because the director is you.
KS: Yeah. That’s a trip, and that’s fucking amazing. I had to sort of relinquish the notion that you can control the way people see you. You can’t. When you try to, you start becoming oddly and ironically disingenuous because you want others to think a certain thing.
Honestly, you literally just have to be protective — but not guarded — and be honest about what you care about and what you don’t.
I can talk to you because this is a conversation — but I have to abandon the idea that anyone is going to read this, because then you start thinking about what it will sound like to everyone else. This conversation can exist right here and people can read it for what it is, but addressing the world at large is [overwhelming]. I don’t think about it. I just try to have individual conversations with people, and when I don’t have to do press, I work.
W&H: So, you probably get tons and tons of scripts, and you’ve made such interesting decisions. I loved “Clouds of Sils Maria.” What a great movie. Talk a little bit about how you make your acting choices.
KS: It’s always really instinctive. I never know what I’m going to be doing. There may be a subject I want to explore, but that’s typically as a filmmaker rather than an actor.
As an actor, I want to read something and feel like it lives so fully that I need to preserve that life. It’s hard for me to develop projects with people because it needs to preexist in me in order for me to honor it.
W&H: Are you interested in producing as well then?
KS: No. That’s the last thing I want to do. I hate development meetings. If a character doesn’t exist yet, I of course would be interested in writing and directing that project. But, I don’t know if I could necessarily act in something like that because I’d know it’s a farce — I’d know that I made it up.
I need to feel like a character literally existed, like I’m reading a history book and people need to know this story.
W&H: So, you had a lot of female crew members on this. Was that something that you wanted, or were they just the best people for the job?
KS: To be honest, they were the best people for the job. It wasn’t totally intentional. But, I think if I had a fully male crew, I would have noticed and done something to fix that.
Kristen, the theme of ocean-going existence is a reminder of her own life?
"It is what we all feel when we feel separated from the others, but I was not afraid to confront the issue of separation and alienation, even of my own separations ... I wanted to translate an inner process into images."
What is the protagonist?
"The awakening, I would say, inner life does not reflect daily interaction, what you can not communicate and that is a normal thing, and one day you feel so saturated that it looks like you're trying to walk underwater; You can breathe, but two inches further and breathe, and we're all the same. And you say, but I'm sure I'm able to live among you. "
What did she want to communicate with Come Swim ?
"My desire to expand, I was fixed on the image of an outcast, isolated male who celebrates his isolation and sleeps on the bottom of the ocean. There is rubbish at the bottom of the ocean, I have seen images of that whole Dirt that makes me turn the stomach.I remember the image of a chair down there, and I put it in my short film on a mattress, yes, there is also ecology. "
"We are subject to water in every way - she adds - we need to survive, and yet he is stronger than us. The idea behind the movie is that the only way to stand up is to surrender to something you can not win I am a maniac of control and I personally hate water, I do not like the beach, I'm claustrophobic, so for me it made sense for someone who has lost the ability to be normal, as the protagonist of my movie, To be immersed in an epic state of submission, if it fights it. "
Why does this look "hard"?
"Because inside I feel very delicate, very feminine, and I wanted to play with contrasts."
"Trying to look harder and more aggressive has opened my mind, but I also want to say that my next project, JT Leroy , about a young man who pretends to be a transgender writer named JT Leroy, Asking for various wigs to wear, so it was worth getting to almost zero and oxygenate me. "
You meanwhile are making the Underwater thriller: a coincidence?
"Again underwater, true, but surely it's a coincidence. We are turning in chronological order, and it's a movie that really is getting rid of me, since I have to run scenes underwater, dressed in mud and cylinders weighing 50 pounds, I'm destroyed ... It's the story of a submarine research lab threatened by an earthquake. It's an all-action movie, very male, but that's where I discovered the female side of the character inside me. "
And then, what will she do?
"I'm writing, and I'm looking for a movie to run as a director, but it's not easy. I liked the short film experience because there is no form, you do not have to entertain in a standard way, which allows you to incorporate the visual story To the esoteric spirit and the emotion.If you have an hour and a half or more time you have to start a start, a half, and a end, and the length of the narrative structure is short: a short no. With a music video: you can do and experiment with anything, but I'm exploring the idea of stretching short to a movie, seeing my character when he wakes up, follow him. "
"It's always an unpredictable Russian mountain: you never know what's waiting for you, so I like it."
Her relationship with Chanel?
"Every time I go to Paris is like finding myself in the family on Thanksgiving: Everyone loves you and they're coming, and everyone wants to know everything about you. I really admire the creativity of their team -" Hold the bag on the ground, okay, Click, done! "- and I aspire to that same endless creativity."
Or read the original article in Italian at the source here.
Kristen Stewart is in Cannes making her directorial debut with her short film Come Swim. Stewart, 27, is not new to Cannes - she was here as an actress with Twilight and Café Society and again last year in Personal Shopper - but this is the first time she's here as a director and screenwriter.
Come Swim is inspired by a series of paintings and poems that she herself developed over the course of four years - as she told members of the HFPA at the Cannes Chanel suite, for which she's a model and testimonial. She was transfixed by the image of a man sleeping at the bottom of the ocean, an image which she had found “disconcerting” and which inspired, in many different variations, most of the poems she has written and the sketches she painted over the last four years. The film, which Kristen hopes to eventually expand to a longer version, follows the story of a thirty-something man (Josh Kaye), caught in various states of pain, depression and despair. He drinks water endlessly, and yet cannot calm his thirst. He's over-saturated, finally sinking to the bottom of the ocean, while a female voice (whispered by Stewart herself) repeats the same things, while dryness and extreme wetness blend.
During our interview, Kristen wore a tiny white sleeveless top, short black hotpants and leather strap boots around her legs (Chanel of course); her hair - super short –is dyed gold. It's a shock to see her ... but her magnetic green eyes are the same as the ones half the world has fallen in love with. “I am more relaxed this time in Cannes, I feel I don’t have responsibility to a director, like in the past. Thierry (Fremaux, director of the festival) was nice, he said ‘we love you here, come as early as you like and enjoy it’!”
And so she is, on her second day in Cannes, happy to talk about the film and water. “You are subject to water in every way, you need it to survive yet is so much stronger than you,” she says. “The idea behind the movie is that the only way to really float is to give yourself to something stronger than you. I am a control freak and I hate water, personally, I am claustrophobic, not a beach person, so it makes sense for someone who lost inability to put their fingers on the pulse of normality, who cannot communicate, which is so common to so many of us, to put him during an epic subject state. if you fight it you are going to drown.”
The film, she continues, is also a reflection on the state of the ocean: “I have seen images of dirt and plastic at the bottom of the ocean, I remember the picture of a chair down there.”
The short hair, she explains, was brought about at first by the requirement of the character of the film she has been shooting, coincidentally titled Underwater, where she plays an underwater engineer; the film, an action thriller directed by William Eubank, forces her to wear a 100-pound suit – helmet included - which has left her whole body in aches and pains: “I am exhausted and physically need to rest for a while,” she says. But not for long: her next project, JT (directed by Justin Kelly), is coming in the fall: it is based on the true story of JT Leroy, a woman who wrote a fictional memoir pretending to be a transgender writer, a role which will require for her to wear several wigs - hence the decision to keep the short buzz for a while longer.
And after that? “I am writing,” she says, “and looking for a movie to do as a director, but it's not easy.” The short film experience was great because “in a short there is not shape, you do not have to entertain in a standard way, and this allows you to incorporate the visual narrative into the esoteric spirit and emotion. If you have an hour and a half or more, you are forced into a narrative structure. Obviously as a director it's better to start with a short! Like with a video music, you can do and experiment with anything.”
Kristen Stewart’s directing ambitions go all the way back to when she was an 11-year-old performing in the 2002 David Fincher thriller “Panic Room.”
“I was working with Jodie Foster and I was like, ‘I’m going to direct. I’m going to be the youngest director that like exists,’” Stewart recalled in an interview at the Cannes Film Festival.
It took longer than Stewart expected, but she has now made a short film titled “Come Swim” that, after debuting at Sundance, she has brought to Cannes.
It announces her filmmaking ambitions and opens a new chapter in the fast-moving career of the 27-year-old actress. Stewart is already developing several other projects and plans to turn “Come Swim” into a feature-length film.
When she told Foster she was finally making something, Stewart says, “She was like, ’Dude, the first thing you’re going to realize is that you have nothing to learn.”
“Come Swim,” which will later debut on the women’s website Refinery 29, isn’t your standard actor-made directorial debut. It’s a 17-minute metaphorical rendering of a feeling, of the overwhelming oppression of heartbreak and grief. A man is submerged, literally, by water everywhere.
Stewart describes the film as about “aggrandized pain” and says its imagery has haunted her for four years.
“You don’t realize when you’re trudging through that water, you feel so alone,” Stewart says on a balcony overlooking the Cannes coastline. “We’ve all been there. But when you’re in it, you feel like you can’t participate in life.”
In many ways, “Come Swim” reflects something essential about Stewart: she is hyper alert to her surroundings and her emotions. It’s a quality that has probably helped make her, in the eyes of many (particularly the French, who made her the first American actress to win a Cesar award for the Cannes entry “The Clouds of Sils Maria”) a performer of twitchy, alive sensitivity.
“I am so sensitive it drives me crazy,” says Stewart. “It’s funny (that) the first movie I wanted to make was basically just a movie about somebody who is like, ‘You don’t get it! It’s horrible!’”
Cannes has been an especially meaningful place for Stewart, having come here with her two Olivier Assayas collaborations, “Personal Shopper” and “Clouds of Sils Maria,” and the Jack Kerouac adaptation “On the Road.”
Still, coming to Cannes as a director is what most filmmakers dream of.
“Oh my God, I’m like tripping out. It’s crazy. I mean honestly, I think Thierry (Fremaux, festival director), is being nice to me or something,” says Stewart. “He’s just like, ‘OK you can show your little movie here.’ I’m like, ‘Thank you!’”
Getting behind the camera was also a way for Stewart to be the kind of director she herself appreciates — one that favors discovery over heavily scripted control.
“The worst is when directing becomes correcting,” she says. “It’s like: ‘Do it all yourself then. Why are you even making movies?’ I don’t want packaged and delivered ideas.”
“Come Swim,” abstract and impressionistic, is certainly not that. For an actress who remains a considerable box-office draw, her film is little concerned with matching audience expectations.
Right now, she’s trying to carve our more time for directing — a challenge for a performer drawn to independent productions.
“I mean I love acting too, though. Like I don’t want to trade one for the other. But acting in movies is so time consuming that I need to sort of be like, ‘No.’ I need to sort of allow myself to not be greedy or something,” says Stewart.
Making “Come Swim,” she says, is the most fun she’s had on a set.
“I look at it and it’s its own thing and it’s like, ’I’m so proud of it,’” says Stewart. “It’s not even like I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of it.”