A Blogazine, based out of Park Slope, Brooklyn, that features fun and interesting articles. Topics include: parenting, society, real estate, career, style, spirituality and more. Written contributions are always welcome!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

34 x 25 x 36: Trish Dalton's Insights into Manufactured Perfection

Melissa Lopata

Hip Slope Mama is happy to be announcing the showing of the film 34 X 25 X 36 at the Rooftop Films 2008 Summer Series @ The American Can Factory, 9:00 PM Sat, Jul 19. Address: 232 3rd Street at the corner of 3rd Avenue. The entrance is up the stoop on 3rd Street. (Call for more info: 718.237.4335).

The film is produced by Trish Dalton and Jesse Epstein. "For some, perfection on the job means achieving an unrealistic perfection of beauty. This lively and spooky documentary tour of the Patina V Mannequin Factory in Industry City, CA, shows how our perception of the “ideal” female form has been manufactured."

SPECIAL NOTE: Capacity on the rooftop is limited to 200 people. In the event they sell out the roof in advance, they will be accepting walk-up patrons for their lovely courtyard. The best way to guarantee yourself a spot on the roof is to buy a ticket in advance.

Trish Dalton is an independent filmmaker, based out of Park Slope, Brooklyn, who specializes in documentaries. Trish's documentaries have screened at various well-known film festivals throughout the country. Last year, she received the Media that Matters Good Food award at HBO for her documentary short, Farm Sanctuary. She is one of the founders of Ohms Media Collective. The collective is dedicated to using media as a tool to evoke positive change in society. For the past three years, she has also been runing a monthly documentary screening series at the Park Slope Food Coop.

HSM: You have a documentary entitled '34 x 25 x 36' that explores the idea of perfection through the design and manufacturing of mannequins in LA. There has been a lot of public scrutiny on the body ideals presented in the fashion industry. Tell us more about the film & why you decided to produce it.
Trish Dalton: It’s actually part of a series of short films about body image. This is the third one (34x25x26) and Jesse Epstein who’s a friend of mine has directed them all and we worked on a few documentaries together. The first one (WET DREAMS AND FALSE IMAGES) was on airbrushing and it was a funny film that took a comical look by looking at it through the eyes of teenage guys. The second one (THE GUARANTEE) was about a man getting a nose job.

The third one (34x25x26) is about mannequins and how they design mannequins. We interviewed mannequin designer
George Martin. Although sculptors work from life models, ­ according to the designer, they are not creating portraits of women, rather, they "take the essence of who she is and create an image that is more than what she is". This was a more serious film in a way and somewhat more poetic. We shot it with film & video.

The idea is to bring up these issues not to give an opinion or tell people what they should think. I think they are really important issues to women. Working on the project made me so much more conscious of how images and/or how mannequins affect me. There are so many levels of advertising and the way that our culture is set up and what we hold as our ideals of perfection. I myself find that I subconsciously sort of accept a lot of these images of perfection. So the idea was to bring these things up and create a consciousness of it rather then to say what’s right or wrong. And I really liked Jesse’s (the Director's) motivation and her style of shooting. We’re actually producing the forth short of this series with her as well. This film, which we are working on now, is about looking at skin and the products out there that encourage you to change your skin color. The goal is to finish a feature film about body image that is a collection of all four shorts.

Do you think this trend in mannequins and other images in mainstream media are proliferated because there are huge profits made off women’s (man-made) insecurities in the beauty & fashion industry?
Trish Dalton: One of the things that we explore is this idea that if you are constantly striving for perfection, it’s easy to be swept up in believing that whatever the media or advertising is presenting is what we want to be without thinking about that ourselves. I think most people especially women think about what things we’d like to change about our looks and we tend to put a lot of emphasis on our self image.

I think that this is more about perfection. We’re not trying to demonize the advertising industry. We’re more looking at “what are we striving for?”. It’s not necessarily bad to want to make yourself better or to want to look good. It’s just a matter of what you are trying to achieve. Is it a realistic goal or is it good to always be striving for perfection. It’s really easy to unconsciously accept a lot of what advertising presents to us.

Talking with the designer at the mannequin factory, he said that he comes up with these designs primarily based on the fashion industry and what the clients want. He told us that 34x25x36 was the perfect mean of body size. Hearing that was kind of funny because when you actually think about what/who is beautiful it doesn’t necessarily fit those dimensions or sizes. It sort of helps to look at those measurements and think to yourself “should I try to hold myself to that ideal or is that crazy!”

The mannequin designer, presented the "golden mean" of mannequin proportion (34x25x36) in a very philosophical context and told us that original mannequins were church figures that people looked up to and worshiped. In the film, he poses the question, "Is there a connection between worshiping religious icons, and worshiping the mass-produced sculptures "perfect women?" And if so, can we compare religion and shopping?
Is Barney's the new church?" That was really an interesting twist he added to the film.

HSM: After making this film, do you feel there is a long way to go before fashion officials set more realistic examples of body proportion in mannequins?
Trish Dalton:
There are varying size mannequins based on the trends (i.e.: plus sized models and smaller ones), but I would say the main “perfect sized” women mannequin probably won’t change until we stop buying or until it stops working for the client.

HSM: You run a documentary screening series at the Park Slope Food Coop. Tell us a little bit about that?
Trish Dalton: I run a monthly screening series at the PSFC that I started three years ago where I show Brooklyn filmmakers’ films (and actually a lot of co op member films) to twenty to seventy people once a month (the first Friday of every month). It’s almost always documentaries. I would say 95% documentaries (shorts and feature length). It’s really great. We have a discussion afterwards. Filmmakers are always really happy to talk about their work. As a documentary Filmmaker myself, it’s hard to find venues, especially for short films, but even feature films. A lot of times even if they show on TV or have a short theatrical run you don’t get to show them that often. So for me, because I know a lot of documentary filmmakers, it’s been a nice thing to do.

I’m actually passing the torch to Alexandra Berger
, another documentary filmmaker in Park Slope, and she’s going to be running the series from now on. The screening series is free and open to the public you can find out more about the upcoming monthly screening series at the Park Slope Food Coop Events site.

You can find out about the Director, Jesse Epstein at www.newday.com. To read more about or to purchase the first two films in the series visit the following links: Wet Dreams and False Images and The Guarantee.

Stay Tuned for Hip Slope Mama's extended podcast interview with Trish Dalton.