If you attend Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly weekend, or the 1940s White Christmas Ball in Denver, you get a sense of the popularity of retro culture. At Viva, more than 22,000 people from all over the globe descend on the Orleans Hotel and Convention Center each spring.
The every-December 1940s White Christmas Ball attracts about 1,500 people. As you look across the audience, you see women who seem to have stepped out of an old Hollywood film, or off of the nose of a fighter jet. Victory rolls. Winged eyeliner. Red lips. Flowers in the hair. Square-heeled, round-toed shoes. Dresses with fitted waists and a slight peplum. Sun parasols. One piece swimsuits with kicky skirts, low cut legs, and wide arm bands.
You see, in a phrase, pin ups.
Inspired by the art of Gil Elvgren and Alberto Vargas, and the style sense of Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page, the pin up is, in the words of art historian Maria Elena Buszek, “a uniquely American phenomena.” But the modern pin up gives those classic men’s magazine images a contemporary twist. The style can be found in muses like singers Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani, burlesque artist Dita Von Teese, or actresses appearing on magazine covers ranging from Vanity Fair to Entertainment Weekly. The modern pinup is enticing, captivating, independent, and omnipresent – a thoroughly 21st century woman.
Pin Up! The Movie draws viewers into pin up subculture. I follow a group of women through their everyday lives, learning why they’re drawn to the retro style. There are two interrelated stories within the project. In one, a group of women compete for the title of Miss 1940s White Christmas Ball. In the other, an established pin up photographer and her crew seek a new fresh face for a magazine spread. Through it all we discover that the pin up, far from being a vision gazed upon by men, is actually a feminist icon: a symbol of the power, beauty, and solidarity found in womanhood.
It was just two years ago when I started working on what would become Pin Up! The Movie. Easy peasy, I thought. A couple of women, a photographer, a rock star expert (Maria Elena Buszek), great images - mix it all up and out comes a documentary.
What I found was a story about empowerment, sisterhood, and, yes, feminism.
The feature-length film tells the story of six women, their families, their friends, and others, who are all enmeshed in the pin up subculture.The seemingly-superficial glamorous aesthetic allure of the pin-up actually rides a fine line between sexual attraction and girl power. The pin up, to borrow again from Buszek (a producer and academic consultant on the film), has a clear feminist lineage: starting with the independent Gibson Girl of the late 1800s continuing to the do-it-yourself pin up made by women for women during World War II and even manifesting in the pin up poster art of Gil Elvgren, who painted the traditional “girl with car” with a twist: his “girls” were winning race car drivers.
The pin up has power - she's fully in charge. Modern pin ups know this lineage - and are proud of it.
You'll meet Dapper Dan Doll, a pin up who helps found a charity in order to give back to the community. Bang Bang Von Loola and Ginger Rose were "born posing," and co-own a burlesque troop in addition to their own pin up work. Miss Emilie found herself again after a life-threatening illness through the stylings of pin up and the athleticism of roller derby. Photographer Mitzi Valenzuela is the mother hen to a group of models and hair and makeup artists, who see the pin up as a road to self worth.
The film needs $15,000 in order to make it to film festivals this year and next. Beyond that my team is looking for an additional $30,000 for distribution and development of the interactive documentary. The I-doc is a web-based film that goes beyond the 90-minute feature film, including games, additional profiles and stories and other things not part of the theatrical/DVD/On Demand release. So we've set up an initial goal and "stretch" goals - stretch goals are what we'll do with our funding if you're willing to help us get past the initial hurdle.
Specifically, I'm looking for help for what I call "real" music. In post-production, my producer and I came to the conclusion that we should use popular music for the film, and specifically use vintage-inspired music by bands like Postmodern Jukebox, the Barberettes, Imelda May, Bitter:Sweet, and others. We're only using songs that feature female vocalists.
For instance, I fell in love with this version of Katy Perry's Roar, arranged by Scott Bradlee and Postmodern Jukebox and sung by the amazing Annie Goodchild. We have the agreement in place for the rights to the song: it's going to be part of our end section of the film and credits! But what we need is the cash to make it all happen.
And that's where you come in. Our initial goal will get us the funding to pay all these fabulous musicians the money they so rightly deserve.
In addition to Roar, we're using Wild Woman (Imelda May), Lai Lola (Beach Life Kings), and My Day (Bitter:Sweet). Heather Storm contributed three songs from her Kickstarter-backed musical Art of the Pinup Girl. Chanteuse (and pin up) Jenny Rieu is crafting an original song for the film.
Pin up culture is global. So we're paying attention to non-US artists such as the Irish-born May or the fantabulous Barberettes, a three-part harmony group from South Korea. Here's a video of a live version of the song Kukerichoo, performed in Toronto earlier this year. We're using the studio version.
We're also using music found via WFMU's Free Music Archive, but want to make sure to pay those artists at the same scale as the musicians with record deals. All's fair, right?
Our initial goal gets us to through the film festival stage. It licenses the songs in the film, plus provides for licensing of archival footage and artistic images. Here's the breakdown:
Our stretch goals take us even farther - helping us get enough funds to allow for DVD and On Demand distribution PLUS let us get our interactive documentary version of the project up and running.
- Stretch Goal 1: DVD and On Demand rights for music, archival footage and art
- Stretch Goal 2: Three months of production and outreach on the I-Doc
- Stretch Goal 3: Six months of production and outreach on the I-Doc
- Stretch Goal 4: Enough to take the I-Doc live!!!! Estimated completion date June 2016.
Tell Me More About This Interactive Documentary Thing
Interactive documentaries, or I-Docs, are the next big thing in the documentary world. It's almost like a game: the director creates a layered website that users visit, and revisit, over time. Some of the best include Bear 71, Prison Valley, and Hollow.
Our idea turns the "how" of the story over to viewers/users. We have interrelated story lines you can follow, but you don't have to go from A to B to C... you can go from M to D to K if you desire. The I-Doc tells the story of the same women, but adds story lines eliminated from the film. It also adds in stories about additional people and information about pin ups that weren't possible in the film. Plus we're including some games and other fun virtual "rewards" as you make your way through the story.
We're working with the same platform used to develop Prison Valley. It's called Racontr - a French-based system that just emerged from beta testing. What's cool about Racontr is that you build your project behind a wall, and then they provide you with the html code (for a fee) once the project is completed. So it's in our best interests to have the I-Doc done before going live with the final website - a placeholder is just there now.
I have a web producer who's been experimenting with Racontr for the past three months. He's going to stay on the project, if it's funded, and continue to develop the site. We also have a tentative web script: I know, it looks like a snarl of interconnected lines, but what that tells you is the story, and your navigation through it, will be very very flexible.
We're offering several premiums that will only be available during the Kickstarter campaign.
That includes the first series of theatrical posters for the film. You can chose to get an individual poster, get a version signed by the models, or get the entire series (signed or unsigned). The signed posters will only be available via Kickstarter.
We're also offering Pin Up! The Movie-branded underwear that's fun to wear (boy shorts or boxers - you choose). Plus, we made a special edition deck of playing cards, available only through Kickstarter, that features the photos in the theatrical posters plus some super-special surprise bonus images. We've also got some great swag from Kustomville (designed by MIss Rockwell De Vil) and an only-available-here dress from Heart of Haute.
And there's more!
- Slaughterhouse Roller Derby tees signed by derby pin up girl Miss Emilie.
- A limited edition photo set (NSFW) signed by Dapper Dan Doll and photographer Daemon Donigan.
- A set of collectible cards featuring Donigan's Dames.
- Mitzi & Co.'s 2016 calendar, available to pre-order before it goes on sale to the general public
- A goodie bag hand-picked by Mitzi Valenzuela, including the 2016 calendar and a limited edition copy of Retro Lovely.
- What Katie Did lingerie
- A signed copy of Maria Elena Buszek's Pin-Up Grrrls
We're most excited about our photo packages. We've teamed with Mitzi and Co. Photography, Donigan Artworks, and Sheila Broderick Photography to offer you (or your significant other) a chance to do a pin up photo shoot.
And for you high rollers, we have two amazing premiums. We're offering a private Pin Up Beauty Academy by Mitzi and her team, including photos and hair/makeup training. She'll even come to you (if you're in the United States - see the premium for details if you're a foreign donor). Selected premiums also include a DVD with all four hours of the Pin Up Beauty Academy, so you can recreate the look at home.
Finally, we have a Red Carpet Experience that includes not only travel and lodging to see Pin Up! The Movie's US premiere, but also hair and make-up for the night and a pin up photo shoot.
Risks and challenges
Ah, the best laid plans....
I initially planned on the film coming out in spring of this year, but a couple of unexpected health delays (damn black ice!) pushed back the release until summer or fall. But as of May 2015, the film is completely edited, with color correction and sound mixing completed. We also have rights agreement to all songs used in the film, for both film festival as well as all media.
The release date depends upon film festival acceptance. That's something I have no control over, but I'm confident that we'll be accepted in at least 2-3 festivals. We've also been invited to a couple of pin up events, so if the film festivals don't happen, we'll see the world debut of the film somewhere else.
Our stretch goal involves our I-doc. We're using the platform Racontr, which outputs code for websites once the site is developed. There is a technological learning curve for Racontr, but we have the staff identified who can successfully complete the project.
We have fulfilled all premiums for our last project and have all premiums in place for this one (including agreements with all photographers).
- (30 days)