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Anna Taylor, Screen Queen

Anna Taylor

New glamorous career goal – glamorous movie programmer…

Anna Taylor is an Event-Cinema producer and film programmer, known throughout Dublin for her dab and elegant hand at producing film-themed nights and vintage events including Film Fatale — a glamorous film screening with a vintage after-party that turns a night at the movies into a big night out, and the upcoming Prohibition, Dublin’s largest 1920s/1930s vintage event. Taylor runs regular classic film nights in The Sugar Club, which vary from a simple fun screening complete with beer, pizza and funny trailers to interactive screenings with props and games and is currently fund raising for Ireland’s first Science Fiction and Film Festival. She really likes cinema. You could call her niche field of expertise Immersive and Event Cinema, screenings that fuse film, fashion, music, set design and performance to transport the audience back to the era of the film. She writes about her love of vintage at www.vintagehandbook.com

We caught up with the possessor of the coolest job in existence for a shoot and a natter in the Woolen Mills on Liffey Street.

What movie switched you onto all the old school glamour?
I grew up watching old movies and would watch anything with Vivien Leigh or Marilyn Monroe. Nineties fashion wasn’t for me (excluding the sartorial power-house that is Clueless) and I loved the elegance of the past. I think a lot of people would love to emulate old Hollywood glamour but it’s not something you get to do every day. Film Fatale and the upcoming Prohibition event in IMMA lets people do just this — to dress up in timeless vintage fashion and let out their inner Grace Kelly or Cary Grant, own it and feel good.

You’ve a job in the arts and your husband is a novelist — how does a creative coupling switch off and not be constantly working?
What we do is deeply ingrained in who we are, so there’s a lot of shop-talk. I understand the importance of switching off but I’m terrible at it. I think it’s a huge problem when you’re self-employed and trying to grow a business. My husband has taught me to switch off after business hours but to always have your notebook out when inspiration strikes. I’m still working on it. There’s nothing like a film and a well-made cocktail to forget the day’s stresses.

You’re consistently dressed in fabulous vintage outfits for the events – where do you find all those amazing dresses?
I have some dresses that were my mum’s and some vintage that I’ve picked up from all over — mostly whims on holidays or shopping for a special occasion. I’ve had luck finding some great bargains because they needed a little repair. I have a lot of vintage style stuff that I’ve picked up on the highstreet over the years. Fashion is forever looking back and putting a new take on classics so I love that you can always find something inspired by another era. There’s a huge amount of 1960s style in the shops at the moment, which is brilliant because I can wear it every day without having to worry too much about maintaining it. But I always feel more special in a vintage dress and love that I’m helping to continue its story. These clothes are essentially antiques and so well-made and cared for that they’ve lasted the test of time.

When we first met at one of your events we discussed the December-May relationship in Funny Face – do you ever feel uncomfortable watching some of these movies where women haven’t yet checked Betty Friedan out of the library? Or is it all harmless and beautiful looking nostalgic fun?
There has always been clichéd films with two-dimensional characters and paint-by-numbers plots. You cannot judge history by the standards of today. Films from the 1920s to 1960s come from a different world and yet, despite that, I often delight in how modern and boundary pushing some films were. I think Scarlett O’Hara is a lot more complex and gutsy than a lot of contemporary characters. Hitchcock’s ladies were always strong and sophisticated. And the femme fatales of film noir were always in control. All About Eve resonates with me in a way that a lot of modern films haven’t been able to. The huge issue with mainstream cinema at the moment is that its being made for teenage girls and boys where as the golden era of Hollywood made films for grown-ups.

Your favourite movie wardrobe?
I adore Edith Head. She designed some of the most iconic dresses in film history. The partnership of Head with Hitchcock brought about some of the movies’ greatest sartorial achievements — Tippi Hedren’s Pea Green Suit in The Birds, Grace Kelly’s monochrome ball gown inRear Window and Kim Novak’s white coat in Vertigo. She also created many of Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic looks. In modern film, I loveClueless — it was the film that started many a love affair with fashion. I’m also in love with Anita Ekberg’s dress in La Dolce Vita. I recently had the opportunity to commission a version of the same dress for Peroni Nastro Azzurro’s Cinema Peroni screening of La Dolce Vita.

What was the best outfit to grace a Film Fatale event?
Everyone pulls out all the stops for the 1920s — it’s definitely one of the more glamorous nights. There’s everything from sparkling flapper dresses, beautiful beading, smoking jackets, braces and dickie bows, feathered headbands and waxed moustaches. You’ll also have people who re-create famous outfits like Ruby who re-created Cyd Cerise’s famous emerald green dress from Singin’ in the Rain. I cannot wait to see what people come up with this year for the Prohibition party at IMMA.
My favourites are always people who put their own spin on it — for our Halloween Speakeasy last year (the perfect opportunity to go OTT) we had flappers, 1920s Parisian show girls, silent film stars with black and white faces and 1920s outfits that fused different eras with their own personal style to create something new. They just owned it. They are such a creative audience and really love authenticity. They often look like they belong in one of the films, not at a dress-up party. The ladies generally have it down to a fine art so when a man goes all out they really stand out. I love a man in a tux or an army uniform, but the standout gents have to be the DJs Przem and Piotrek who will pair a morning suit with a modern statement necklace, dress up as the Marx brothers or wear a 1920s boating hat and striped blazer with golf trousers. I’m always excited to see what they’ll wear — they are the epitome of having fun with fashion.

You have the cinema all to yourself — what movie do you settle in to watch?
I’ve twice had a cinema to myself and watched Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Tarkovsky’s Solaris. Next time I would choose something I’ve never seen on the big screen that would be sacrilegious to watch on a laptop or a TV — probably Stalker, The Red Shoes, In The Mood For Love and every Sci-Fi film that I haven’t had the opportunity to see on the big screen, especially Return of The Jedi.

What’s next for The Producers, Film Fatale and Anna Taylor?
My focus now is to create bigger, better film and vintage events from what I’ve done before.  This year will see our third Back To The Future and The Enchantment Under The Sea Dance. This has become hugely popular — it’s an iconic scene in the film and people love getting a chance to be a part of it. This year there will be a real Delorean parked outside for the audience to hop in and have their picture taken in. We’ll also have a baby-blue tux-clad band playing Johnny B Goode. The Sugar Club will be dressed as a re-imaging of that famous nautical school dance.
I’m currently running a Fund It campaign for “Metropolis” which will be Ireland’s first festival dedicated solely to Sci-fi and Fantasy film. This will have many of the fun elements of a comic con such as props, costumes, events and cosplay parties. There aren’t any film festivals like it in Ireland, so this is going to bring something fresh and new. It will be very much fan-focused and lots of fun with an emphasis on the social experience where people can share their love of film.
As well as continuing Film Fatale, I have a new event called “Prohibition” that will build on the excitement of Film Fatale. On 31 October, we are going to transform The Royal Hospital Kilmainham into an opulent 1920s party, the kind of elegant yet wild soiree that would do Jay Gatsby proud. It’s not based around a film — it’s all about bathtub gin punch in tea cups, live entertainment, fan dancers, old-school dancing and lots of interactive elements such as fortune tellers, “gambling” and our silent film photo booths. But it will draw a lot inspiration from films, their music and fashion such as The Great Gatsby, The Artist, Singin’ in The Rain, the Fred and Ginger Films and Midnight in Paris. I think it will offer people something very different for Halloween night in Dublin City Centre. I can’t wait to see people losing themselves in the 1920s for a night.

Coming Soon: Metropolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Festival

Questions by Jeanne Sutton @jeannedesutun

Photographs by Ailbhe O’Donnell ailbheodonnell.com

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