“We live in a culture that adores fame, the Kardashian’s are hugely popular, their every move watched. We like reality shows. They ask for what they think fame is, not what it really is.” – Amanda EliaschNever one to hold back, Genlux editor turned filmmaker, Amanda Eliasch, shares her her fantastic journey through fashion and film as her new movie “The Gun, The Cake & the Butterfly” (GCB) hits the big screen.
Part autobiographical and part instruction manual for anyone set on a life in the spotlight, GCB is an unfiltered look into the rise of a woman who has seen her share of fortune and heartbreak. In this incredibly heartfelt and honest one-on-one, Amanda took time out of her busy schedule in London to share her thoughts on life, career and love sharing deeply painful memories.
Your life seems like quite a whirlwind tale. Can you share the “Cliff’s Notes” on how you went from fashion editor to filmmaker?
When I was twenty I was sitting in the garden in Wiltshire, England with my Grandmother, the pianist, Beryl Gilliat who was wearing a red dress,she was a vision of glamour when actually she had only months to live. At the time she did not know, sadly she died of breast cancer. She turned to me and said “I don’t care if I die today as I have done everything in my life I have ever wanted to.” That inspired me to me do the same, so that when I am asked “Have I any regrets” I will say “No, I shall put on my red dress and say, I am ready to go”. I must stretch life.
She was a lover of life. She married my grandfather, Sidney Gilliat, who was a film director writer and producer of films, including The Lady Vanishes, which he wrote, and Hitchcock later directed. He also directed and wrote many thrillers “Green for Danger”, “State Secret” and several comedies including “Only Two can Play with Peter Sellers. My grandfather told me from the age of seven that “it was no use being just pretty, you had better be interesting” Film and photography were in my bones, writing too. I have kept a diary since the age of eight. I loved Samuel Pepys and used to read his diaries as a child.
I am passionate about clothes, I have 64 feet of cupboards full of my favorite black dresses or my favorite jackets. I may have the largest collection of mini skirts in the world. I love them all. I wanted to always work in the industry, from the age of two, I would stamp my feet if I did not like what I was wearing. I was offered a job with Italian Vogue’s Editor, Franca Sozzani, to write a book on British Artists. Which I did and luckily had a lot of luck following the successful book, published by Assouline. The artists inspired me. They had so little, yet they followed their dreams. The book included work by Tracey Emin, Marc Quinn Gilbert and George.
I saw that anything was possible. I put this into my work and thought pattern. Voila I can be a fashion editor, I can make a film, write poetry, take photographs. I also had the luck to meet Rushka Bergman who was a stylist for Michael Jackson. She quickly reminds me to this day that we are 28 forever.
How your involved in the industry today? Has making films gotten in the way or has it been a perfect mix?
The fashion industry embraces the artist, and when they don’t, The Fashion Industry leads the way. Nowness is an online video magazine which, as you know mixes all fields, as does V magazine and now Genlux. Italian Vogue, Franca Sozzani, embraces all art forms, and I especially admire L’uomo Vogue. Look around you and you will see magazines are creating small trailer sizzler films, so I think it was excellent to have stretched myself in this way. I had never made a film before but with The gun the cake and the butterfly, my life’s story, I proved I could do it. I wrote, directed and produced it, so appreciate the costs, and excellence that it takes to do anything well. Luckily I won some awards, so without being self satisfied I am very happy I achieved so much from an idea I had lying down.
Are you still working with Genlux? For all the future “Anna Wintours” out there could you share
I love Anna Wintour and Franca Sozzani. I appreciate their enthusiasm. Their total dedication. Fashion is an industry, which is so fast? You can never give up?. You must naturally have boundless energy mixed with tact as there are politics? It is an industry that you have to have non stop fresh ideas. Also you must give a chance to the new, and always keeping fresh and vital, whilst still supporting the old.
As a fashion editor it is good to try and stretch yourself. To remain up to date. To see what clothes sell. In fashion you have to balance of eccentricity with reality.
How does one juggle fashion editing, writing, film and life?
It is not juggling, it is living life to the full, It is what I wish to do. If I did not, it would not be easy, but I so enjoy everything, that I love every minute of my day. I also like to decorate, play the piano. I like to stretch myself. This is my one and only life, and I want to love every minute. I need only 3-4 hours sleep.
If GCB is about your life what are 3 themes or life lessons you’d like people to walk away with?
Change is guaranteed in life so you have to enjoy being flexible.
There are no limits as you can always do better.
A sense of humour, don’t take yourself too seriously.
Trailer for The Gun, The Cake & The Butterfly
Why put your life on display, especially the painful parts?
Life has many shades, and it is not just about the flowers and sunshine. Reality is that it can be a battle, but you have a choice to be a winner or not? I would rather smile at my defects. As I said it is changeable. Art is only interesting if it is truthful and it is only the perception of the viewer.
The worst thing is to be a crashing bore.
Was this meant to be autobiographical or cathartic?
It was written for my father who I met only ten times, so I like brutal honesty. Actually it sends shivers down my spine when I watch it. Sometimes I half listen with a pillow over my head. One of my friends left in tears. Others laugh. Was it cathartic? Depends on my mood, it can be a nightmare too.
Let’s explore some themes from your movie and life. A favorite quote from the the film was: ”The moment a woman learn’s to be ugly she becomes interesting.” When and how did this happen for you? Does every woman go through this at some point?
This actually happened when I was in an acting lesson with Oleg Tabakov from Moscow. He was teaching us the art of Chekhov. He was explaining, after I did a scene, that I had no reason to rely on looks when playing the role of Yelena in the “Uncle Vanya” so I decided to go with raw emotion, that it was more interesting. I did not need to rely on what I looked like anymore. What he was saying was don’t be obvious? Be deeper, go inside.
It reminds me when I girl has had her hair done and she is in convertible car, and instead of enjoying being with her boyfriend, she is more worried about her hair being messy. The man was loses interest because of her vanity. Vanity is a deadly sin. I did a neon exhibition of my 7 deadly sins, in Los Angeles at the Leadapron Gallery.
Explain the significance of dressing in black? Statement? Random preference? Does it leave you dying of heat exhaustion in the summertime?
[Laughs] No, I am a bit of a punk nun…I like the sexiness of uniforms. It is not the obvious. I have little black dress syndrome. It suggests naughty and nighttime. Burlington Birties does funerals. I wear black to create a illusion of mystery that I might not automatically have.
Who are the heroes and villains in your story? Are there surprise protagonists?
You ask interesting questions, the villain could be me, I overthink things. The names are changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent. So I can’t tell you who the real people are. There is someone called the tooth fairy, the bag man, and the money runner. If I tell you more than that I will have to stab you. My heroes could be a conman who gaslit me, but stretched my imagination and my budget.
How do you feel about your life being so heavily in the media spotlight? For people who want fame are they asking for more than they are bargaining?
We live in a culture that adores fame, the Kardashian’s are hugely popular, their every move watched. We like reality shows. They ask for what they think fame is, not what it really is. You have to be realistic and take the rough with the smooth. Not everyone can be a fan. We are after all just “grains of sand” on a beach. I just am lucky to have a sea view and a palm tree.
Explain your love life and where it ranks among other key factors like career and being a socialite?
A love life is hugely important. Just kissing makes me look prettier, so I liked to be kissed alot. I like to be sociable as I have just said, a socialite in the real sense of the world, which is you are a philanthropist, and supporter of the arts, which I am. Work is important as I know no other way of life. All my family worked, and that is what I need the most. I like occupations that totally consume me.
How was divorce? It’s devastating for some, a relief for others. What was it for you?
Devastating? Yes in many ways it was. It made me explore life and showed that a broken plate is difficult to mend, even with the strongest glue.
How do you balance watching someone else’s ambitions versus your own, esp when it comes to a lover or family?
Actually thinking about that, I love people with ambition, that my sons know what they want to do. I love that they do not need direction. I check when the boys are around, and make sure that I am there. After all children like to see you doing the same thing, they like to feel they can call you any time of the day and night and you will be there. I manage I hope to do this.
How should people define success?
Being at peace with yourself.
From the eyes of your experiences? What’s missing in millennial culture?
Technology is not going to give you a cuddle.
What could they learn from your story?
What not to do.
You’ve had the roller coaster of conquering or attempting to conquer music, theater, business and even depression . Name some of your tougher challenges that you’ve beaten. What was the DNA required to achieve this victory?
I was fat. I had an eating disorder. I lost 64 pounds.
This was one tough battle. I actually got fat after I was raped. I decided it was safer that way. I think many writers suffer from depression. No matter what happens each day I need to find time to walk round a park. When I was 28 I could not get out of bed. After having my son Jack I suffered too. I did not take pills, I became addicted to the benefits of Yoga and fresh air. However if I feel bad I just accept it, and actually it makes me work more. I think is easier if you are disciplined and you quite strict with yourself. My Mother used to say to me if I asked if she got depression “I have no time for that”
What’s a victory you would haven’t had yet but would like to have?
There are so many wonderful things to do, life is like a toy box full of new and fascinating ideas.
What are ways readers can experience you and The Gun, The Cake, The Butterfly (GCB)?
My film is in the process of being sold. You can buy my books, Cloak & Dagger Butterfly can be bought on amazon. British Artists at Work, printed by Assouline can be bought on Amazon.
From your article Crash the Red Carpet on Huffington Post you said, “When you go out remember Coco Chanel’s wise words; take one thing off and work the costume. She had good ideas to follow if you wish to climb far.” Would you expand on the significance of these words?
I was playing with ideas, however Coco Chanel did well, at a time when women were not treated equally to men. She seems an ideal person to follow, if this is what you wish to do
You also wrote: “One last word of advice…. If you find time to go to the beach or hang out in Topanga Canyon you are never going to make it. This is a working city.” Why was this such an area of focus in summing up your thoughts?
[Laughs] I think I was being controversial. “Making it” if this exists at all, is an illusion. Making it really is just feeling happy within yourself. Topanga would therefore be the ideal place to live. However in the context of that article I probably was thinking of a Harvey Weinstein type of person who would need the buzz of city life.