I am a huge supporter of independent films, perhaps because I just happen to have a screenplay tucked away in a drawer like pretty much everyone else in Hollywood! Plus I love the indie spirit and how talented people pool their creativity to bring stories to life on limited budgets.
That's why this month I've put the Vintage Crusader Spotlight on Alexandra Roxo and her lovely indie film, Mary Marie.
Described as "guiltily enticing," "an erotically charged yet gentle growing up film," and "a competent and beautiful first feature by a new major talent," Alexandra's ethereal film was recently awarded Best Cinematography at the Brooklyn Film Festival Awards.
It tells the story of two sisters who return to their childhood home after their mother's death for one last summer together and who become entangled in a steamy love triangle. And yes, one of those sisters is Alexandra herself, who not only took on the roles of producer, director and co-writer but who also co-stars with Alana Kearns-Green.
With a professional fashion photography and filmmaking resume that includes a recent stint as director of a short film for Suzanne Rae's Fall/Winter 2011 Collection and film fashion projects with Vintage Mavens, Jill Lindsey, and Vanidades Magazine, Alexandra still clearly sees that "wearing vintage is a choice that supports not only fashion, but the environment."
And while she's busy promoting her film as it continues to show at festivals, she graciously found time to talk to Zuburbia about why she felt it was important to use vintage clothing in Mary Marie, how vintage fits into her own life and how important costume choices are for both actors and directors.
Tell me a little about your fashion background and how it influenced your decision to use vintage clothes for your film.
I have been an avid thrifter since high school and finding amazing vintage pieces for just a few dollars is something that makes me very, very happy. When I think about the amount of thrift stores out there that are full of tons of clothes, it seems so wasteful to keep buying new to me... and it's so great to find pieces that you know won't be in other films or on other people. When you find a random dress from the 60s you will probably be the only one wearing it. I've always been into fashion and paid attention to fashion photography and I used a lot of fashion photography as visual references for this film.
We made this film on a very, very tight budget and with a very specific look in mind and using vintage pieces fit into that budget and look. The house we shot at is full of antiques and family heirlooms and we wanted the clothes to reflect that so vintage seemed like a natural choice. We also wanted to create an ethereal, timeless vibe that you couldn't quite place. Vintage clothes lent to that feeling of timelessness.
The film includes scenes that are familiar to many a fashionista like scavenging closets and playing dress-up. How do these scenes add to the story you're trying to tell in Mary Marie?
The girls in the story are revisiting a family home full of history. There is something very nostalgic about going through family closets... it's a way to tap into history. When we shot the film we went through Alana's grandmother's closet. I still have some beautiful purses that Alana gave me that belonged to her grandma. And we'd open the purses and find little notes, dance cards, relics... In the film they are finding bits of history and symbolically bits of their own history as they pull on clothes and create a little world for themselves. They put on fancy dresses for outdoor picnics and campfires -- it shows their childlike nature and accentuates the innocence that quickly is changed.
The cinematography of the film has been described as lush and dreamy. How did you select costumes to help add to this effect?
Yes, Magela Crosignani (our DP) and I worked hard on the feeling we wanted to create with the cinematography. Tim Linden, the production designer, and I also made decisions about color and texture in each location. And the costumes fit with that. In the bedroom of the two main characters, Mary and Marie, we decided to go for pastels and flowing white curtains, and it just so happened we had two vintage nighties that were pastel pink and blue. Most scenes are like that... the film is very, very visual. It's a quiet film and the production design, camera work, and costumes set the foundation for a simple story to take place in a very beautiful way.
You not only produced, directed and co-wrote the film but you are one of the leading actresses as well. As an actress, how do the costumes you wear help inform the character you create?
With the character of Marie I knew that certain dresses would be very important in certain scenes. For instance, my favorite costumes, I think, were the nightgowns that the girls wear. They wear the pastel blue and pink soft nighties in their bedroom and it's all a very soft and gentle feeling that informed the characters in those moments. Mary and Marie feel safe and soft in that bedroom... and those costumes create a childlike feeling and also an intimacy. I chose each costume carefully knowing that the choice could inform the scene and character quite a bit. But really my mind is more of a director's mind -- so choosing a vintage bright green dress with big blue flowers to use in a scene in the lush forest where Marie and Peter go was more of the decision of a director putting visual pieces together.
Finally, where are your favorite places to shop for vintage clothing and what's the favorite vintage item in your own wardrobe?
I love shopping for vintage when I go to Georgia (where I grew up) for holidays. It's usually the first thing I do when I get there. I don't like going to vintage stores; I like going to thrift stores. The thrill of finding an amazing piece amidst a sea of clothes is my favorite part. My favorite item... well I have a few! Last year I randomly picked up a purse at a thrift store and it was a new Bottega Veneta... worth $3,000 and completely real! I didn't even know when I bought it. It just felt like leather and so I threw it in my cart. It was from a recent collection and thank God the person pricing things at the thrift store didn't notice! I also found a beautiful handcrafted-in-London trench coat last year that I had shortened for just a few bucks. And then there's the Italian red leather pencil skirt... I could go on and on!!! Finding well-made, beautiful things for just a few dollars is amazing. Such a better feeling than going to the Gap or Urban Outfitters... which I sometimes do, but it's not nearly as satisfying as thrifting, or as cheap.
Thanks so much Alexandra. I couldn't agree more!
If you'd like to view Alexandra's debut film for yourself, you can catch it this Friday, July 22 at 8pm at Cinema Village in Manhattan as part of NewFest, NY's premiere LGBT Film Festival. Click here for ticket information.
Or visit Alexandra's website at alexandraroxo.com to see her short films and photography work or the official Mary Marie website to watch the film's trailer.
Alexandra has signed a Mary Marie movie poster suitable for framing. All current Vintage Crusaders are automatically entered in the giveaway as well as anyone who leaves a comment or likes this post on Facebook. Contest ends Friday, August 22 at noon PDT.
(Know a Vintage Crusader who should be featured in the Spotlight? Nominate them with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org)