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Talking to Celeste Thorson at the La Jolla Fashion Film Festival by Amy

This post originally appeared on my blog

Recently I attended the opening night film presentation at the La Jolla Fashion Film Festival, billed as the “world’s largest gathering of fashion film professionals.” There was, of course, a momentary panic over what to wear but once I got over that I was off on an adventure. One liberating part of being at the stage of life I am, is that the panic over what to wear was momentary and fleeting, no longer debilitating. And the prospect of attending an event where I was going to be completely out of my element and alone was also, happily, no longer debilitating.

The event was at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, one of my favorite venues in town. The event had all the trappings of a fashion event complete with the red carpet, beautiful, model-thin young women in black evening gowns, a photo area and lots of camera flashes popping. Once inside, I felt much more comfortable in my theater seat, one of the places I most love to be. I took my film guide, appropriately exquisitely designed and settled in for the evening’s 20 short films.

I know — I, too, thought, “Twenty films in one night?” I am a film lover, having attended many varied and diverse film festivals, and I was a little taken aback as the program continued to unfold to four panels. But many of the films were the length of a long TV or web commercial, as that was the intent for which they were produced and used. But .make no mistake, they were far more art than commerce, unlike many fashion magazines which are filled with, in my opinion, artful commerce.

Celeste Thorson

Photo by YC Wong

Each film was as unique as the filmmakers themselves, who were men and women of every age and ethnic background, coming from as close as Los Angeles and as far as Europe to attend the evening’s festivities. Each film was filled with fashion, of course, but also passion, art direction, cinematography, editing, music and sound that creatively and artfully pushed the boundaries of both art and craft.

I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Celeste Thorson, a talented, gorgeous model, actress, writer and producer, who wrote and starred in one of the films, The Madam, directed by David Christopher Lee.

You started in front of the camera — how and why did you make the transition to behind the camera?

I did start in front of the camera as a model. I think most girls love to play dress up, right? My family has a background in fine art and, after trying my hand with the brush, I realized I should move on to other mediums and leave that to the pros. After falling in love with photography, I did a bit of theater, a few commercials, then moved on to a travel adventure show, which gave me the opportunity to contribute as a writer. After a few seasons, I helped write and produce a show about teens in the music industry. I did a few comedic cameos on How I Met Your Mother, Jimmy Kimmel Live and, most recently, TV Land’s The Exes. Since then, I’ve been developing projects like The Diamond Ring, a fashionable crime drama spin-off of The Madam. I also wrote-produced-directed and just released a new sitcom series for the web called Yogaphiles, which was a ton of fun.

What were/are your biggest challenges as actress/model and as writer/producer?

One of the biggest challenges as an actress/model is persistence! It’s easy to get distracted with life, travel, family and all of the amazing things that lead to a balanced, happy lifestyle. The truth is the entertainment industry requires a lot of attention; you just have to keep swinging to get a home run.

As a writer/producer, I find a similar dilemma: focus — so many creative ideas and hardly enough time to express them. The cream does rise to the top though and eventually, after sifting through pay dirt, you may find a little nugget of gold to polish into a story that makes it to the screen.

How do your talents in front of the camera help you write and produce and vice versa?

One of the best things that has helped me as a performer is writing and directing. When you’re an actor you can be in your own world, live just the life of your character. It’s awesome. As a writer, you live the lives of all your characters and their experiences. As a director, you get a dose of reality when you have to think about the full spectrum of production and collaborate with all the artists to bring that vision to life. I’ve always enjoyed many mediums so it felt very natural for me to try on these various hats. Being an actress made me a better writer, being a writer made me a better director and being a director — well, I think you know where I’m going with this.

Which do you enjoy more?

Tough to say, but I’ve found it mostly depends on the company you keep. When you have a great group of people that can just fly free and be creative, there’s an incredible sense of camaraderie. I feel I will enjoy writing for the rest of my life; in my youth, I’d like to experience these characters first hand. I enjoy acting and writing the most since directing can be a bit of a headache, but is also extremely gratifying.

What did you enjoy most about the La Jolla Fashion Film Festival? Any favorite films — aside from your own?

The festival was a lot of fun, and it was great meeting with people that appreciate both fashion and film. I loved several of the movies that were there; it’s just too hard to pick one! I worked with Jonas Akerlund on a Rolling Stones music video once, so when I saw his Duran Duran Girl Panic video, I knew it wouldn’t disappoint — and, of course it was fabulous. Roshar, one of my favorite makeup artists whom I’ve worked with for years, did a beautiful piece called Bloom directed by Charlie Wan, which was very sparkly and glamorous. The artistry of Damien Krisl’s film, underwater fashion, was quite beautiful and poetic. Oliver French’s Black Box was awesome — great visuals, story and lots of latex. A couple of other friends, Markus Klinko and Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri, produced a gorgeous tribute to Alexander McQueen called The Legend of Lady White Snake which featured some exquisite fashion and incredible photography.

What do you love about the fashion industry? What don’t you like?

I love the art and beauty of expression, confidence and individuality in the fashion industry. I’m not too fond of the egos and judgmental nature of some of the taste makers. It would be wonderful if the fashion industry could think outside the box a little more, which is why I love the La Jolla Fashion Film Festival.

What do you think the La Jolla Fashion Film Festival is important?

I think it’s fantastic that it gives filmmakers a platform where they can let go of the traditional rules in cinema and explore a story through the eyes of fashion. The results are always beautiful, sometimes moving and occasionally spectacular. They did a great job of curating artistic content from some very talented filmmakers.

Tell me about your charitable work.

I first moved to L.A. when I was 17 and started working with charities like Calpirg, Save the Children, Human Rights Campaign, Greenpeace and Sierra Club. I’ve always been passionate about human and environmental rights. Though I no longer work for those amazing organizations, I’m very active in sharing my beliefs when it comes to freedom, equality and environmental preservation. I love twitter — you can follow me at @celestethorson — and because they allow me to connect with other activists, share petitions and mobilize people toward the change they desire. Activism is so empowering when you can see the little butterfly effect of contributing a solution and improving the lives of those suffering the most. That’s why I love Formerly Flip Flops. It’s an amazing way to empower people and help the environment!


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