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Ron Gilbert


I am now living in the heart of the film industry and have been involved in the film and theates industry for almost 50 years.I started out in New York City which was where the acting scene at the Actors Studio (I am a lifetime member) included Robert DeNiro,Dustin Hoffman ,Al Pacino,Robert Duval and other name actors like Martin Landau ,Rod Steiger,Shelley Winters,Paul Newman,Ben Gazzara and the list goes on. That was then and the picture has changed. A stage play in New York names a name Hollywood actor to make a profit. The independent film scene has also changed. Steven Soderbergh commented on that recently at the San Francisco International Film Festival and major companies have taken over the studios.

I still work as an actor in commercials,TV and mostly independent films. I ahve worked with the major directors like Francis Ford Coppola,Sydney Lumet, and  Bryan Singer whom I met on his first feature and the relationship is same even now.

Currently I can be seen on reruns,commercials,short films and indie films.

We are currently shooting this web series

www.mamaluke-tv.com

I have 2 award winning  films on the festival circuit American Bred and Courier X 

http://pro.imdb.com/name/nm0003003/

In addition as a member of the Actors Studio I have taught at Strasberg Institute and Theatre of Arts and created 2 acting academies in Italy and have done workshops in London and other cities.the I have been a judge on many film festivals and worked with Independent Film Projects West as a producer on the feature film program and the Spirit Awards.


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Bill Cunningham New York

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Bill Cunningham New York

Documentary on a Legendary Fashion Photographer

By Ron Gilbert

The preview opening at LACMA presented
by the Costume Council was the best venue to view this film. The Costume
Council provides extraordinary resources to expand audiences’ awareness of
fashion, design, costume and adds to the LAMCA World class Costume and Textile
Collection.

Needless to say all the fans
of Bill Cunningham whose work has graced the fashion world for 5 decades were
in full force on this rainy night in
Los Angeles. Since most of the film takes place in New York we all felt like we were in New York in this fully packed house. Weather doesn’t stop New
Yorkers particularly for this film about Bill and how lucky we were the have
the presence of director Richard Press and his life partner/producer Phillip Gefter
to discuss their deliciously entertaining film.  The film opens with Bill Cunningham riding his
bike in the streets of
New York
and stopping anywhere to snap pictures of anyone who is wearing clothes or
shoes that catch his eye. So we see Bill just taking leg and shoe shots first.
Here is this 82 year old always smiling genius who has the energy of a teenager
and is so loveable you want to hug him. Being a New Yorker, I was missing my
hometown and wanted to be there riding my bike alongside Bill through
Central Park, passing Lincoln Center and along 5th Avenue

So lucky for me I was able to
have a chat with Richard and Phillip prior to the Friday opening at the Nuarte
Theatre in West Los Angeles where they will be in attendance for a discussion
after the 7:30 PM screening.

Ron

First off I must express how
much joy your film gave me. And what you captured on film.

Richard and Phillip

Thank you.

Ron

Thank you. So I heard it took
you 8 years to convince this icon who shuns publicity and 2 years to get Bill
to agree.

Richard

Yeah.

Ron

Why did you come up with Bill
to begin with?

Richard

Well I grew up in New York
and have always followed his work and know what he has done and I had the impetus
to make this movie was too find out about this guy as a person and how he lives
his life and his obsession with his work, his ethics, the joy and what he does.
I really want to capture that single thing. He is like a rare bird...he is like
a singular...

Ron

He has no ego.

Richard

He has no ego and is living
his life on his own terms and it is very inspirational.

Phillip

I write about photography so
Bill has made a chronicle of the intersection of the fashion in society for
over 50 years. It is not only cultural anthropology, but for me it’s important
in the history of photography as well and he does not care about anything and I
recognize that and so that to me was the impetus.

Ron

Because he is so different
from the Richard Avedon and Bert Stern who were basically focused on the
stars...and the comment, “I don’t care about the red carpet or their fashion.”

Phillip

Bill quotes” I am not
interested in the stars and celebrities, just the clothes”. 

Ron

Does he get permission in taking
pictures on the ground floor? I mean this tone girl in the film used an
expletive word telling him not to take her picture. You must have short a lot
of footage, you must have left a lot out.

Richard:

 I shot over 120 hours so the DVD extra footage will be great. Bill is called “The Forrest Gump of
Fashion”. He knew everybody in fashion and knew the Duchess of Windsor and was
at the first Yves Saint Laurent Show and all the significant moments of fashion.

Phillip

He made the masks for Truman
Capote’s Black and White Ball for the people. So he has touched many.

Richard

 He was there at the Studio 54 Days Society and
the clubs downtown, so if you want to know
New York in the last half of the 21st Century, It’s
his photographs He is the top in the city.

Ron

Recently I had seen a
documentary on the visual artist Herbert Matter which mostly showed his work

Phillip

I did not know about that.

Ron

I should really hook you with
the director Reto Cadoff but with Bill.You really went beyond the work
by exploring his personality and how open everyone is to him.

Richard

That is what everyone is
responding to.

Ron

 How you tried to get him on TV Shows

Phillip

He won’t do any of that he
shuns the spotlight

Richard

He’s never even seen the
movie

Ron

You’re kidding?

Phillip

We promised him that he would
not have to do publicity whatever.

Ron

And he doesn’t want to? So that
other footage or stories did we miss. I heard about the outfit that Jackie
Kennedy wore to JFK’s funeral and that was an outfit that Bill had designed but
what else is there? You must have a lot of stories.

Ron

I am just digging for more
because I just know it has to be there

Richard and Phillip

Well he is not really
interested in celebrities like most people and is empathetic about them and
more about fashion trends

Richard

He doesn’t really know who
they are.Ok. Here’s a story.His first column had Greta
Garbo on the street wearing this amazing Nutria coat. It was this beautiful
coat and he has these photos in his column and he did not know it was Greta
Garbo because he was looking at the coat and he sees everyone starring at these
photographs and then he realizes it is Greta Garbo. That photo is what got him
in the NY Times; here was this guy on the street who photographed Greta Garbo
so he must be special.

Ron

I know. When I would see
Greta Garbo on the street in
New York she would always be wearing a pants suit or be
covered up.

Richard

I know.

Ron

So Bill goes to church every
Sunday. Did you ever find out which one? St Patrick’s Cathedral which is nearby
his residence?

Phillip

We never found and he
probably wouldn’t go there.

Ron

That moment in the film when
you asked he about Church and he just keep his head down and you could feel his
emotion as you just keeps the camera rolling. How always shows his joy but not
his sadness.

Phillip

Yes.

Ron

What really impressed me is
when he would show some current fashion designer a picture of the same design
years before.

Richard

He meant it in a good way and
not be mean. He was being honest

Phillip

He has this storage of
history.

Ron

He wasn’t digging?

Richard

What is amazing is this?
Imagine Mary is sitting in a runway show and a dress comes down and he knows in
his head. ”Oh! That is from 1929. He just knows that off the top of his head.

Ron

Here is this 82 year old that
has the sharpest mind like a teenager

Phillip

Yes. His mental faculty is
astounding.

Ron

So you have this footage of
him and when I saw that bicycle crash, I thought the next scene would be in a
hospital and I was pleased that it wasn’t.

Richard

That was archival footage and
the filmmakers were in a car filming him and they just kept moving so they
didn’t get the end result.

Phillip

Bill has had a number of
bicycle accidents and that was not the first.

Ron

He says in the film that he
has had 29 bicycles and 28 were stolen.

Phillip

Yes

Ron

What also was wonderful about
your film is how you captured
New York. It made me homesick

Phillip

Thank You

Ron

And showing the Carnegie Hall
Studios where Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler taught also hit an emotional point
for me and I did not realize that there were other studios there.

Richard

Bill said that there were
always actors rehearsing in the halls and he would shoot them with his camera
when they would come inside his studio and try on his hats.

Phillip

Bill had started out as a
milliner and a hat maker in the late 40’s, early 50’s until women stopped
wearing hats in the 60’s and that is when he started writing.

Ron

Last night at the reception
there was a woman with a muff designed like a duck.

Phillip

Annie Flanders. Yes made
that. His masks are at the Museum of the City of
New York now, these masks are exquisitely beautiful and not
like anything you have ever seen.

Ron

Isn’t there an exhibition of
his work somewhere?

Phillip

Only his designs.

Richard

People have been trying for years
to do this and Phillip tried to get to write a book.

Phillip

A fashion critic and I  actually got a 
book contract for him to do a book for a very significant publisher and
I go to Bill with the contract to sign and he says” No child I cannot be
bothered with that” I am just too busy.I still have the book
contract and the editor still emails me every once in a while 10 years later
and says has Bill agreed yet?

Ron

It is not about money with him,
is it?

Phillip

Or fame.

Richard

He just doesn’t want to take
the time it would require to do a book and dive into his archives and all the
pictures. It would take him away from shooting and he wants to be on the
street. How many people turn down an exhibition or the opportunity to have a
book published?

Ron

And the French Government bestowing
the Office of Letters and Arts to him and how he didn’t feel that he was
important enough. That scene where is attempting to enter this Fashion Show in
Paris and having difficulty and the French official coming out and saying “This
is the most important person here”.
I just want to thank both of
you for this film which has inspired me and given me great joy.

All I can say in closing is
that anyone who has any interest in fashion photography must put this film at
the top of their list and see it a few times as I will.

Bill Cunningham New York

WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY RICHARD PRESS
CINEMATOGRAPHY BY TONY CENICOLA & RICHARD PRESS
EDITING BY RYAN DENMARK W/ADDITIONAL EDITING
BY  BARRY ALEXANDER BROWN
PRODUCED BY PHILIP GEFTER 
A Zeitgeist Release (March 2011)

Opens

Friday March 25 at the Nuarte
theatre
11272
Santa Monica Blvd
, West Los Angeles, CA 90025

http://zeitgeistfilms.com/billcunninghamnewyork/

 

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