Alex Marx is a British Actor, Writer, Director, Producer and Creative Coach today we sit down with him to discuss his upcoming feature film, “The Queen of Fashion”. A raucous celebration of the late great British artistic visionary and style icon: Isabella Blow.
Photo: Diego Uchitel
Can you tell us a little bit about the project?
Sure. The film tells the incredible true story of Isabella as she attempts to restore her family’s name and fortune. She climbs the slippery slope of success in the fashion industry, while battling her mental illness and the male dominated status quo. Issie reached her professional heights during the decadence of the late eighties and maintained them all through the naughty nineties, remaining a significant cultural figure right up until her untimely death in 2007. Most renowned for discovering gay cultural icons like ALEXANDER McQUEEN and milliner PHILIP TREACY, Issie’s story is a rollicking rollercoaster through English country houses, dingy London warehouses and behind the curtain of the international fashion scene.
And this is something you’ve written?
It is a script I’ve written, but I’m also one of the producers and will direct the film as well.
"Fashion is a vampiric thing. It's the hoover on your brain. That's why I wear the hats, to keep everyone away from me. They say "Oh, can I kiss you?" I say, "No, thank you very much. That's why I've worn the hat. Goodbye." I don't want to be kissed by all and sundry. I want to be kissed by the people I love. "
So this is your baby. How do you write a screenplay?
I know that’s a big question, but where do you start? Well, I’d made some short films and knew that the next career step was for me to make a feature. I had already done a huge amount of research on writing and written a really bad first spec script, but I’d learnt a lot, so my eyes and ears were open for a story that I really wanted to tell. Around that time I went to TIFF in Toronto, my first major international film festival, and it totally changed my life! I met an amazing group of people, many of whom are still involved in this project six years later. Someone suggested at the time that I look at Isabella Blow. I googled her and from a few paragraphs I knew immediately this would be an extraordinary film and a story I could tell.
So that was how it started?
Your call to action? Exactly. My first thoughts were how do you turn forty eight years of someone’s life into less than one hundred and twenty pages? started to make different timelines of her life: her work, her family, her husband, her relationship with McQueen. When I laid the timelines on top of each other I noticed that the most interesting activity occurred from the age of twenty eight onwards. So I would cover twenty years, from 28 to her death.
So the parameters of the story revealed themselves that way?
Right. But, so did the structure. I noticed when a negative happened in any of her other timelines that there was always a flurry of work activity. Peaks and valleys began to emerge. The details of that timeline formed a canvas to work with. An architecture over which to lay it.
Ok. But how do you go from a timeline to a script?
I didn’t! I went from the timelines to index cards! I bought a bunch of index cards of different colours. Each colour represented one of the timelines. I would write episodes of her life on different cards with a basic scene idea. I put them in chronological order and I would shuffle my way through the story. Some scenes weren’t helpful to the story, other pieces were missing and cards had to be added. So, I was weaving the different story strands together like a tapestry. I would look at the micro, the scene to scene transitions, then at the macro, whole sequences, whole acts. I wanted the colours to be in harmony.
It sounds like a visual exercise?
It was. I figured if the colours looked good, then so would the story.
So then you wrote the script from the cards?
Nope. Then I wrote an extended treatment, which was an expansion of the cards. So, the scene notes on each card, each turned into one, two or three five line paragraphs on a word document. Each paragraph represented one minute of screen time, or a page of a screenplay.