Beamafilm interviews Harriet McKern, daughter of acclaimed Australian actor, Leo McKern, and director of “Lipstick.”
>> Watch “Lipstick” Now
Hi Harriet! What inspired you to make “Lipstick?”
Surface answer is a lipstick panic attack, moving through cosmetic counters at department stores desperate to find the perfect red, emerging with sore lips and red smudges all over my wrists. My other answer is wanting to explore different views and experiences and relationships that women (and men) have with lipstick, and also those that society and advertising have with cosmetics and beauty. I think it’s a very layered area, and thankfully there are lots of different faces and voices in the film.
What is your favourite scene in the film and why?
My favourite scene is the last one. It’s a film noir rip-off in visual style and the camera tracks into the main character Rita with smeared lipstick on her face repeating a list of (real) lipstick names that are also part of the music. It’s quite daft. “Red Red, Ruby Red, Parellel Red, Really Red, Matte Red, Satin Red, Soft Red, Autumn Red, Sun Red, Indian Red, China Red, Cassis, Rose Antique Rouge Cymbale, Rouge Cubist etc…Ascot Red, 44 Amour!”
What was it like working with the film cast, and how did you get them interested in the project? The main cast member is Daina Reid and she was lots of fun to work with and a very good comedienne. She is now a hugely successful director, currently doing the remake of “Romper Stomper” for Stan I think. There’s over twenty women (and men) who were interviewed for the film. I chose them because they were people who wore red lipstick. Some were friends – or friends, parents or aunties of friends – or people that somehow got referred to me, and then some I approached in other ways. Some were worried that they were going to be shown in a bad light (for wearing lipstick) and so I had to emphasise that the film is as much a celebration as it is a critique.
Do you have any standout behind-the-scenes stories from the making of the film? I followed a woman coming out of the City Gym in Darlinghurst because she had amazing lipstick and asked her to be in the film. When we went to do voice interviews we met her at her studio and she turned out to be the artist, Lindy Lee. In the film she talks about Mondrian’s search for the perfect red, which is kind of cool. Also, we had a pyrotechnics expert blow up a real lipstick, and we stepped on and squashed a Chanel one – a satisfying feeling!
How have audiences been responding to your film? Can you share any of the conversations you had with audience members? When the film came out it screened on ABC and SBS and was well received generally, and was shown at a number of women’s film festivals. I made it 23 years ago and I probably wouldn’t make the same film now because the same issues don’t preoccupy me anymore, but I am still really proud of it and the way it can still be enjoyed by contemporary audiences. I am specially pleased that people in their 20s are responding well to it.
Are you currently working on any new projects you can tell us about? I am finishing off a short doco called “Smile” exploring a community pop-up photographic project in Newtown by photographer Tawfik Elgazzar as well as writing a comedy web series ‘All Poled Up’ based on my recent short ‘Backwards Showgirl Variation.”