Glamour Helps A-List Actresses Get Behind the Camera

Kate Hudson, Others Create Short Films That Are Backed by Brands

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NEW YORK -- While it's become increasingly easy to get famous actresses in front of a camera for high-profile ad campaigns, convincing them to try their hand behind the lens is a rarer occurrence. Yet Glamour magazine has been excelling at doing just that for the past two years via its "Reel Moments" initiative, which has enticed the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Bryce Dallas Howard to add "director" to their resumes.

Jeanne Tripplehorn stars in 'The Trap,' directed by Rita Wilson, one of Glamour's 'Reel Moments' shorts sponsored by Clinique.

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This year the program returns, with A-listers Kate Hudson, Kirsten Dunst and Rita Wilson all making their directorial debuts with short films starring equally marquee names like Winona Ryder, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning and Virginia Madsen.

Hollywood treatment
Conceived in 2005 by Glamour Publisher Bill Wackermann and Associate Publisher Leslie Russo, the project was created so the Condé Nast mag's readers could share their personal stories in hopes of having their tales spun into a fully produced short -- one that happened to be directed by a Hollywood actress with a blue-chip advertiser footing the production budget and providing an overall theme for the three winning stories.

The first series in 2005 featured "Dealbreaker," directed and co-written by Ms. Paltrow and sponsored by Nokia. The short was eventually screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006, among other notable festivals that year, which considerably raised the profile of the nascent program.

This year's sponsor is Clinique's Happy perfume, which lends its brand to the project's theme through three different takes on happiness: Ms. Wilson's "The Trap" is about a surprise birthday party thrown for a woman (Ms. Tripplehorn) who can't handle spontaneity; Ms. Dunst's "Welcome" is a chilling ghost story with a last-minute twist; and Ms. Hudson's "Cutlass" is a mother-daughter tale about bonding through the art of salesman negotiation (hence the carmaker in the title).

Not a long-form commercial
As with last year's love-themed shorts inspired by Cartier's line of jewels called Love, Mr. Wackermann wanted to keep the projects' emphasis more on creative filmmaking rather than trying to make a long-form commercial.

"What the films are not are blatant product placement," he said. "That's what's happening too often, marketers going and saying their branded content feels authentic to the watcher. But people can watch those projects and say, 'I feel like I don't buy any of these things; the actress is clearly here for the paycheck.' [This is about] the essence of what the brand is about. The filmmaker gets the artistic leeway to interpret what love means, so Kirsten's made a very cool ghost story [Ed. note: Spoiler alert!] but it ends with Jason Schwartmann re-recording 'Happy Together.'"

The films are currently only available for screening on Clinique.com, but will eventually be available for free download on iTunes in the coming weeks. Mr. Wackermann said last year's series accumulated 850,000 downloads, a home run by his estimation.

"The success of branded content is being seen in places you've never been seen before," he said. "That's getting your message and your brand embedded in a film to reach women and men in ways you've never spoken to them before. Instead of you chasing this consumer, saying, 'Let me show you my advertising,' the consumer is really chasing you."

Sincerest form of flattery
"Reel Moments" has already spawned at least one major copycat, Elle's "Raving," a Julia Stiles-directed short starring Zooey Deschanel and sponsored by Armani Exchange. "We take it as a sincere form of flattery," Mr. Wackermann said. "We think the concept's amazing, but it all comes down to the finished product. Did you want to watch the film? Did it have a point of view? Did it have a message? Were they a great storyteller?"

But Mr. Wackermann really knew "Reel Moments" was reaching critical mass when he returned from this month's Los Angeles premiere to a voice message from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office. Apparently, the Big Apple mayor wanted to see how the city could work together with Glamour to be a part of next year's "Reel Moments." Said Mr. Wackermann: "Clearly, the visibility for the project has gotten to a place where it's recognized as a Glamour project, taken seriously by women in Hollywood and created a community for women to write for the first time. When we started, only 7% of the directors in the [Directors] Guild were women. We've brought 11 new directors to add to that."

As a result, Glamour will soon be expanding its branded-entertainment efforts in film to an even larger level in the near future. Mr. Wackermann said there's potential for the magazine to develop feature films, two-hour TV movies or create "Glamour presents"-type projects while still "finding ways to bring advertisers into that process to ultimately produce something that works." Already set for 2008: "a new type of film, something where we've not played in that type of arena before."
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