BEV highlights some of the excellent work by and about women at this year’s East End Film Festival which runs in venues across East London till July 3rd… next up Laura Adams reviews CREDIBLE LIKEABLE SUPERSTAR ROLE MODEL directed by Rebecca Brand…
Our story (song?) begins with an aunt and a niece. Aunt Bry comes to stay with tween Taylor, and learns all about her life, her hopes, her dreams, and the people that have an influence over that. For a young girl in the modern world, celebrity, and for the most part, pop-stardom, is a shining beacon.
As a thirty mumble-mumble year old aunt of 3 nieces, I immediately empathised with performanceartist Bryony Kimmings, it seems like navigating the route through over-sexualised pop star role models and an obsession with celebrity and beauty is going to be a tricky one, especially when they are SO gorgeous, and SO seemingly successful. So when she sets out to learn from Taylor about what she would look up to in a person, and what she would enjoy seeing in a pop-star performer, the credible, likeable, superstar role model of the documentary’s title begins. In consultation with the gleeful Taylor, and with a similar army of stylists, make-up artists, set designers and music video directors that go into creating the mainstream acts, Bryony creates Catherine Bennett – or ‘CB’ – a palaeontologist who is a pop-star in her spare time.
In an age when (apparently) kids TV presenters are advised not to wear red lipstick, one does wonder how CB is different from the excellent personalities fronting the shows designed for this age range, but the point of course is to provide an alternative for the mainstream. This only comes into sharper relief as the now infamous twerking scandal at the VMAs is reported on at one moment in the film, with Bryony and her team galvanised by the footage. CB is carefully constructed have the familiar identifiers of prettiness, as Taylor wants her to have curly blonde hair, and make-up that emphasises large eyes, as well as colourful outfits. Bryony and her team ensure that the look is friendly and practical for bike-riding, as well as completing the glossier aspects of their tween brief.
As CB is a pop-star, composer Tom Parkinson joins the team to write music for the lyrics that Bryonyand Taylor think up – all about travelling in space, and animals, and world peace. After playing lots of genres to Taylor, who has a clear idea of what she wants CB to sound like, a mix of Lily Allen, The Gorillaz and the B52’s comes together. An interesting aspect that Taylor is certain about, is that CB is clumsy, a character trait of many a YA fiction heroine. As the music videos begin to be filmed, I realise I’ve fallen into the ‘strong female character’ trope and I’m surprised when Taylor insists that CB’s dance style should be shy, timid and soft – but having fun. I was expecting a confident character; beware the trap! Armed with a music video, dance sequences to go with CB’s pop songs, and a wardrobe of colourful outfits, Taylor and Bryony create fame aims – with a huge amount of youtube views, and celebrity friends being far more important than radio play. Setting out to build her brand, they embark on a school tour, and hit the social media feeds.
Director Becky Brand steers the journey from character creation documentary to music-video pop-umentary with confidence, a perfect mix of behind-the- scenes and stageshow payoff. With Taylor narrating, the purpose is never lost and importantly never becomes patronising, and the joy of seeing Aunt and Niece adventure together and learn about each other throughout the film is hugely rewarding.
The *world* premiere of Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model takes place on Saturday 2nd July, 1.30PM at London’s Hackney Picturehouse– see here for details and tickets.