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‘Picture Me’ Tells the Tale of the Model

3 Jan, 2011 By: Billy Gil

Ole Schell and Sara Ziff delve into the modeling world with their documentary Picture Me: A Model’s Diary, due Jan. 11 on DVD ($24.99) from Strand Releasing.

The film follows model Ziff as she travels around the world, modeling for such companies as Tommy Hilfiger, with then-boyfriend (and co-director) Schell.

“The film kind of happened by accident,” Schell says. “I had just come out of NYU film school and started to date Sara Ziff. She was starting her career as a fashion model and I was just sort of tagging along with her everywhere she went …. with no real intention of making a film.

“I was shooting a lot of home video footage. I would go with her to the Bahamas or to Morocco and edit together these clips for her. My father is a film journalist and said you have something interesting here — a fly-on-the-wall look into the modeling industry.”

Juxtaposed with those home videos are interviews with models, who were given cameras to create their own video diaries, as well as with others in the industry, such as designers and casting directors.

“At first I didn’t know what we were sort of trying to tell,” Schell explains. “Then these issues kept arising that Sara faced. Then we realized that almost all the girls faced these issues: age, money, objectification, sexual malpractice. Every girl faces [them] at one point or another in their career.

“Every time one of these issues came up, we interviewed other models about the issues. The film took a long time to make, so these issues kept showing themselves and rearing their head.”

Ziff adds, “I think the film is really unique in that it is a really inside look at the industry from the model’s perspective. I think Ole and I were trying to give as unfiltered a look at the industry as possible.”

While one model speaks of being sexually mistreated during a photo shoot, another model’s interview was cut from the film because the model was working at the time and was afraid it would jeopardize her career, Schell and Ziff say. They say the point of their film, and Ziff’s raison d'etre, is to achieve better working conditions for models.

“It’s sort of opened a lot of eyes, especially for people in the fashion industry,” Schell says. “Models have come up to Sara after screenings in tears.”

The DVD also includes footage from the film’s premiere at the Gen Art Film Festival.

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