By Eleanora Morrison | March 2019
The creative process that feeds each issue of ELEANORA is intensive, and it’s always multi-layered. Every issue we make holds great significance for us, because our stories somehow are always reflected in the stories of the women whose legacies and impact we share. However, there was something extra special about Let Us Entertain You that felt deeply personal…for all three of us, in each of the roles that we ‘played.’ Because of this, it was important to us to include a feature in our issue this month that shared some creative and behind-the-scenes insight as to why these iconic and courageous women entertainers inspired our story, and how we incorporated honoring them into our production.
Each of these issues begins with a wild idea, then comes character research, and then the making of a visual and conceptual look book. We were so inspired by the historic images we found of so many iconic women in the entertainment industry and classic Hollywood, but because of Christina’s and my personalities, we gravitated toward vintage images of Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews, and their many duet routines for stage and screen.
First things first: our production meeting. Melissa takes all of my character research and imagery and designs everything into a polished and enhanced editorial look book, delineating each scene of the production that she feels will accomplish the overall visual narrative for the issue.
During this production meeting, we also discuss mood. We talk to the women on our covers about their personal stories, their goals, their idols, and most importantly their wildest dreams. We collectively make sure their personalities are reflected in the imagery we have pulled, and we all decide on the over-arching storylines that we want the photoshoot(s) to accomplish.
The inspiration for our lavender backdrop.
Carol Burnett is so expressive. Christina is too, and as an actor, she is as over-the-top hilarious. I gravitated toward these images to pull for her, certain that she could pay proper homage to Carol’s many faces and nail it during a shoot. She did. All we had to do was play “I’m the Greatest Star” from Funny Girl and she lip synced every lyric of the song by memory twice through. On camera, it was gold.
My role was mostly to portray the essence of Julie Andrews. With my dance background, my natural body movements and stage presence is more balletic, which matched the feel of the vintage Julie Andrews imagery. For my portraits, I tap danced to “King of New York” from Newsies. I sang it and danced it twice through, Melissa snapped away, and the results ended up feeling perfectly candid — because they were.
Then, we brought Christina back onto the lavender set and I gave her two to three simple dance moves for us to repeat in step as we tandem lip-synced (I couldn’t resist singing) to “We Both Reached For The Gun” from Chicago. It has such a great character feel and Vaudeville feel, so we knew we could get our facial expressions exactly the way we needed them in order to evoke the feel of Carol and Julie in their funny duet numbers.
The dressing room and the stage scenes…old Broadway and Hollywood glamour at its finest. All we needed was a decent dressing room and a lot of printed pictures in black and white to tape around the mirrors to achieve this.
We shot our second production day in the Saint Mary’s Hall theater, which is where I went to school growing up. They were gracious to let us have the theater completely to ourselves for several hours on a Saturday evening to make our shoot easy, and we used the various spaces in the facility for our “rehearsal” shots, our dressing room shoots and our stage shots.
Shoot number two, end of the scene list…that’s a wrap!
We are always amazed by how these features piece themselves together, in not much time with all things considered. We have paired production down to as few people as possible now that we are prioritizing being more candid and mobile. It takes a village to make anything creative, but what we have realized over the last few months is that sometimes the village effect can be achieved with a small but mighty trio. The pre-planning is essential, but once on set, the rest we surrender to chance.