Flagship Fumble: HTC one (M8) vs.
Samsung Galaxy S5 vs. Sony Xperia Z2

By Kia Dargahi

Ahh Spring: the birds are singing, the grass has never been greener, the skies clearer; it truly is a wonderful time of the year. Not for the aforementioned reasons though… It’s smartphone season! Around the turn of spring, most of Android’s top dogs release what is known as their flagship smartphone: the most premium and well-rounded smartphone that the companies can conjure up. And this year, the competition is fierce, with specs, competition, and ingenuity at all-time highs. Well, we’ve got a lot to cover, let’s start shall we?
Before we dive into the smartphones of today, let’s go back in time one year. Samsung, HTC, and Sony had launched the GS4, One (M7), and Xperia Z respectively. Specs wise, they all ran the same processors, had the same screen resolutions, had similar dimensions, and were all around 5 inches in screen size. Each had its own party trick: The GS4 had its motion gestures and eye tracking to scroll the screen, plus all of Touchwiz’s utilities and quirks. The One had its famous “boomsound” stereo front facing speakers, “ultrapixel” camera (essentially has bigger pixels in the camera sensor), and “blinkfeed,” a process that would condense news and all relevant information into one scrollable screen. The Xperia Z had its first “first 1080p smartphone” gimmick as well as the fact of being water and dust resistant. Overall, the Xperia Z got the least limelight and there was a stalemate between the One and the GS4. For every advantage on one device, there was an equally important one on the other. 
Now, our history lesson complete, it’s time to get to the present and talk about some specs. Here’s a table that compares the three devices:

HTC One (M8)

Samsung Galaxy S5

Sony Xperia Z2


Android 4.4

Android 4.4.2

Android 4.4


5.64 ounces

5.11 ounces

5.75 ounces


Aluminum unibody

Plastic polymer (water and dust resistant)

Glass (water and dust resistant)

Screen Size

5.0 inches (diagonal)

5.1 inches (diagonal)

5.2 inches (diagonal)

Resolution/ Pixel Density

441 ppi

432 ppi

424 ppi


4.0 MP (duo camera)

16 MP Camera

20.7 MP camera

Front Facing Camera

5.0 MP

2.1 MP

2.2 MP


Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 (2.3 GHz)

Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 (2.5 GHz)

Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 (2.3 GHz)

Built in Storage

Starting from 16 GB

Starting from 16 GB

Starting from 16 GB

Battery Capacity

2600 mAh

2800 mAh

3200 mAh


Improved boomsound, advanced focus, on screen buttons

Heart rate sensor, 4K video at 30 fps, physical home button

Noise cancelling software, 4K video, on screen buttons

Purely from a specification point of view, it appears as if the Z2 is the best. This being said, the specialties from the other two devices are not to be ignored. 
Starting with the Z2, it improves on the Z1 on a software point of view and that’s about it. Yes, the processor has been bumped up to an 801, but that won’t be entirely noticeable for your average user because the noise cancelling software is only compatible with newer Sony products and might be too small of a niche to really tap into. The phone feels similar to the Z1 in hand and I can tell you, it is a premium feeling device. The all glass front and back (reminiscent to an extent of the iPhone 4 design) does add noticeable weight to the device, but this is all in good reason. There merely is no going back to plastic products once you’ve used a device with premium materials. The high quality does come with a downside however. Other than the added weight, the battery is not removable, a sacrifice that is almost the norm for devices with luxury materials. This smartphone, with all of its impressive specs and tech may just be the most premium of the three devices, but it might not end up being the most practical. 
The Samsung Galaxy S5 visually differs from its predecessor by a chamfered back with small holes scattered throughout. While most argue that the gold version of this device has a back similar to that of a band aid, it is up to user interpretation at the end of the day to decide. The GS5 is without a doubt productivity oriented. With all of its gadgets and gizmos, some that may never see the light of day depending on the user, is without a doubt the most utility filled device of the lot. The removable battery, expanded storage, and swappable backs are not to be taken for granted either. For the power hungry user who can’t seem to make the 2600 mAh battery last throughout the day, this could be a make or break for a new smartphone purchase. Touchwiz keeps its same form factor with minor tweaks that can be seen in the settings, but not the design overhaul that many users were expecting. All in all, it can be said that this phone offers best overall performance and productivity, but is it practical?
The all new HTC one, M8, flagship (whatever you want to call it), serves as the middle ground between the two behemoth smartphones. The design is ideal, the features are there, and the power is there. The only thing that is relatively lacking is the camera performance. While HTC say that they have drastically improved the camera, at the end of the day, it is a 4 MP shot. No matter how many software improvements the camera app will make, zooming in and sharpness won’t come near the performance of 16 and 20 MP cameras. This being said, blinkfeed and boomsound are practical features that have room for use not in a niche but in a majority. Blinkfeed could potentially replace readers such as feedly or flipboard and boomsound speakers are the best sounding speakers on any smartphone device. Now, this would be the everyday man’s smartphone (granted you don’t use your smartphone as your only camera). It’s the second lightest, smallest screen, but, most importantly, the best front facing camera. As the song “#SELFIE” portrays, many individuals make use of their front facing cameras. The executive decision on HTC’s part to include a high MP count for the front facing camera makes video calls better, pocket mirrors more realistic, and selfies sharper (make sure the camera doesn’t catch unwanted details!). It is a compromise between power and practicality.
The disappointing news is that there is no clear cut winner. The real winner is the consumer. If you want a spec’d out elegant powerhouse, go for the Z2. If you want a phone that is as productive as your multitasking self, the GS5 is all yours. If you want a good looking device with loud speakers and extreme selfies potential, you’ve found the One (M8)
Well there you have it. Do you think there’s a clear cut winner? Are you satisfied with the fumble? Chime in below in the comments!
Like Tweet

Meg Caswell
So Much More Than A Design Star!

By Shirley Craig

Even though Meg is about to give birth to her first child in a couple of weeks, she found time to talk to Reap about competing on Design Star, Meg's Great Rooms, her private design work and how it all began.
Meg, I read that you were going to become a lawyer, so how did you switch gears from law to design? It couldn’t be two more different occupations.
Exactly. You’re absolutely right. What happened for me was design and art and painting and anything creative was always a passion in my life. I always participated in it in my own personal life but when it came to education and a career, I never really thought I could have a successful career at doing something that you loved. Of course, I was wrong about that. I also had a passion for criminology. That was actually my degree. When I went to college and signed up for classes, I started picking all of these fun criminology classes and I really enjoyed it and I actually ended up working for Congress for about six months as an intern and helped them run a human rights caucus. And I thought this was a direction I want to go in; I want to go into law and government.  
So when I graduated, I was going to go to law school. I sat down with my grandfather one day, who was a big influence in my life, and he lived across the street and he said, “Meg, you’ve always been creative and into art and design and interiors. Why are you going into law?” He really made me sit down and ask that question. He said, “One of the things I can do when I look back at my own life is realize that I did something I loved every day. It didn’t feel like work, for that reason, and I also gave back while I did what I loved for a living.” He said, “If you can find that combination where you’re passionate about it but you’re also contributing back to society, you will be successful.”  
He said, “I want you to really take some time this summer and think about it because you need to really be sure that law is where you want to go.” And I thought he’s giving me a second chance to really look at this and that’s where I decided, that’s it. It took about two months and I’d always loved design and I applied to a bunch of art schools including the Art Institute of Chicago and that’s where I ended up going and my degree was in Interior Architecture. So I learned a little bit more in interior design. Not architecture, by any means, I’m not claiming to be an architect, but I dealt with a lot of structural stuff, which I loved as well. So that’s sort of a long roundabout way.
What did your grandfather do, by the way?
He was the CEO of Baxter which is a pharmaceutical medical supply company. He took it from a one office company and built it into an international company. He rented the dialysis machine, lots of life saving medical supplies.
Wow, he certainly had a passion and he certainly gave back, that’s for sure.
Exactly and he left a really great legacy for all of us. Yeah, he taught us to strive for more than what, I think, people expect from you, which is also something that my siblings and I are all trying to do.
So after you got your degree, you went and got a separate degree in design and architecture.
Yes, correct.
Where did you go to school? 
The Art Institute of Chicago. It’s the school that’s part of the museum, so that was a fabulous classroom to have on a daily basis.
So you’ve always been in Chicago? You were born in Chicago?
I was born in Chicago and that’s where I went back to school the second time. And after I graduated, I went to work for Ralph Lauren in his home collection and that’s where I learned about designing for a lifestyle; I think Ralph Lauren is the master of helping people create a lifestyle that they want to live and selling that lifestyle. So I was able to not only sell amazing gorgeous furniture, but I was also able to learn about how to incorporate that full complete lifestyle for my clients. One of the things that did happen at Ralph Lauren though, was I very quickly learned that I couldn’t sell an entire house of Ralph Lauren furniture to anyone. The budget wouldn’t allow it for anyone’s project, no matter who you are.  
So I started taking on clients on the side who I would meet there and they would say, “Can you come and help me finish the rest of my home?” and that’s what turned into me opening up my own design firm; and then I left and opened up my own store in Chicago. I had a home store in Chicago for many years in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Armitage at the boutique shopping area and that was a lot of fun because I was able to work with all kinds of clients, not just high end clients which are lovely, but I think having more diverse clients really pushes you as a designer to think in different ways and to be more creative and find affordable ways to create beautiful design. So the store allowed me to work with everyone from college students to people building brand new homes, so that was a lot of fun.
That must’ve been fun.  So when you started with Ralph Lauren, you werer basically in the sales area in one of his stores?
And how long did you work for Ralph Lauren?
Several years. If I remember correctly, maybe four years, approximately. I’d have to go back and look but it felt like about four years.
Then you had your own design company and from the design company, you created the store.  Do you still have the store?
When I went on to television, I kind of saw it as an omen. The same month that I was supposed to start shooting Design Star, my lease was up for my first home store. So I decided to close it to focus entirely on television and once I won, I came back to Chicago and opened up a design studio, which was still in a retail location but it didn’t have the inventory my first store had. It’s just almost impossible to run a store and film a television show. So I moved my store online to my website. So my shop is now accessible to people all over the country.
So tell me about Design Star. First of all, what made you decide to audition for Design Star?” How did that all come about? 
Well, like I said, we were always sort of pushed to dream big as kids in our family and we were never told there was really anything you couldn’t do and I always wanted to be on television and I didn’t realize that I had been telling people this for quite some time, that I wanted my own television show. It wasn’t until later that a lot of people reminded me of that. I was talking to a client, we were in her home one night, and she said, “What’s next for you? You always have something going on” and I said, “Well, I really want to have my own TV show” and she said, “Well, how are you going to do that?” and I didn’t really know how. I said, “I think if I just put it out there, it’ll happen. I don’t know, a production company might hire me. I don’t know how it really works” and she said, “Maybe you should just try out for Design Star.” And I thought, “That’s a really great idea” because when you win, you win your own show. I thought, “Fantastic. That’s so easy.” Well, it was not easy whatsoever. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, but the very next day I showed up in my store and I was going through my emails and there was an email from HGTV saying they were coming to Chicago for an open casting call for Design Star and that they want me to come try out.
Are you kidding?
The very next day.
The stars wer aligned for you.
Yes and I said, “That’s it. I have to do this.” So that night, my husband and I closed down the store and opened up a bottle of wine and we got my portfolio together and we worked through the night getting everything ready and went shopping and found an outfit and next day went to the audition and it just felt right. Of course, I was nervous and I didn’t know if I was going to make it. There was lots of different steps to the audition but it just sort of felt like everything was coming together.
So you auditioned. What did that involve?  Obviously you have to show your portfolio but what do they ask you to do on the audition? I’m always very curious, as I’m sure our readers are, of how the mechanics of it all works.
Right. So the first audition, they just want to meet you and it takes two to three minutes. They just want to see if you have that spark and what your portfolio looks like at first glance. So I walked in with just myself and showed them the portfolio, told them about myself, told them an abbreviated version of what I just shared with you, how I got to where I was, and they looked at me and said, “Is your hair red?” and I said, “It sure is.”  “Oh okay. Do you like what you’re doing? Is this where you really want to be, on television?” and I said, “I've always dreamed of doing it” and they said, “Okay, we’ll call you.” No, this is what they said, they gave me a piece of paper and they said, “We want you to come back on Monday,” because it was a Friday, “but we want you to leave from this room and don’t go back into the other room and don’t tell anyone.” So I left and I had already gotten my callback. They kind of told you in that moment you were called back and on the piece of paper was a list of ideas of what I could do to present a presentation to camera.  
So the next step was a camera challenge, essentially. I came up with this idea to talk about drapery and different pleats and the best way to hang them and really it wasn’t necessarily about the content, it was about how you presented yourself on camera. So I went back Monday and that’s what I did and they asked me a ton of questions on camera and filmed it and it was about an hour long. Then I had to wait a month and a half and they called me and said they were flying me out to New York for the steps and that was an audition in front of the executives at Chelsea Market, a food network studio, and we had to do another type of presentation of a room that we had to design in like five minutes. They wanted to hear how we designed it, what we did, what we came up with, and of course, they were looking to see how you came across on camera. Then I had to wait another month and they called and said, “Get ready. You’re leaving in two weeks. You’ve made it.”
Wow, you didn’t have much time to prepare from the Friday to the Monday and then, I guess it’s all then about how are you on your feet performing.
Exactly, how do you speak off the cuff and are you entertaining and do you have that energy that comes through the camera? That’s part of what I got from it.
How was the actual show itself? Was it grueling, fun, difficult?
So grueling. We had, I think, one day off every eight days and every day, you woke up and you had to always be on because you have to think about this, you have a camera following you all the time. So in my mind, I saw this opportunity as a two month longer interview process and they’re watching everything you’re doing.
So for two months, you shot the entire season?
And where did they shoot it?
In New York, which was also very difficult from a design standpoint because it’s difficult to get around New York with traffic and vehicles and loading and unloading them and getting furniture. New York has a lot of limited space, so a lot of furniture companies don’t keep a lot in stock. So it was difficult on many different levels, physically, design-wise, and also they would give you a challenge that morning and say, “Okay, this is your challenge. This is what you’re going to do but before you go, we want you to pick your paint colors because we’re going to get everything painted while you’re gone.” Well, from a design standpoint, that’s totally backwards.  You pick your paint once you have your fabrics and everything else together. So we were just hoping that you picked colors that you could then find pieces to go with. From that perspective, they really put a twist in it, more from a production standpoint, not to really mess with you as a designer. So that was difficult.
Right, they have to paint the walls of the set before they shoot.
Exactly. So the other thing is that every designer that made it to Design Star, the final show, they’re all great designers. So in addition to just competing, you’re competing against people that are already at a great caliber of skill when it comes to design. So you really have to think outside of the box and present something that people haven’t seen before with limited resources.
Was your husband able to go or you just went off for two months and did your thing?
I went off for two months. We were actually only dating at the time. That was one of the hardest parts, especially for the other designers. You could only talk to the outside world maybe once a week and it had to be through Skype. We had no television, no phone, no magazines.
You didn’t have your cellphone?
We had nothing, a cellphone, nothing, because they didn’t want you to be influenced by the outside as well. We didn’t have any magazines, nothing, no music, no television. I mean, you’re working on something nonstop too.
You’re in design jail, solitary confinement.
[Laugh] Exactly.
Did you all live together?
We did.
In a house or hotel rooms?
In a fabulous penthouse in Brooklyn that overlooked all of Manhattan at the very top of, I think it was called The Tower Building. It’s an old warehouse factory building at the end of, sort of right across from the end of Manhattan, the financial district. It was an absolutely beautiful view. That was our first challenge: we had to design our own living space because it was a blank slate.
So you lived there for basically two months with all the other designers essentially in the same house, right?
Well, very quickly, they all started to go away. The very first day someone was eliminated and then three days later, another person was eliminated, another three days, another person was eliminated. So before you know it, it got down to a group of like eight, then six, then four. It just sort of started to snowball. I have to say it was more like a month and a half, because if I’m correct, I left on March 13th and I was finished May 1st, so it was about a month and a half.
Did you at least have your own bedroom?
No, I shared a bedroom with two other people.
Oh god.  That’s pretty brutal.
It is. You know what though I made friends that I’ll have for a very long time. Even though we’re competing against each other, we all had the same dream to win and I was fortunate enough to win. Our friendships are still pretty strong.
That’s great. Now, that must’ve been an amazing feeling at the end of the show when you find out you’re the design star. What were the first thoughts that came to your mind?
Totally overwhelmed. A feeling I don’t even think I could put into words because here I was in an environment where I was completely shut off from my entire support system and everyone that I love in life and I was so focused on winning that when they actually called my name, it was like this amazing euphoric feeling because not only had I accomplished what I was so focused on and dreamed so long for, but I was finished. I had completed this task that I was so wrapped up in. So it was a relief and it was also the best thing that ever happened to me. I won my life’s dream. I always wanted a show and now I've done it. So I was shaking, I couldn’t breathe, it was very overwhelming, I cried for like two days straight afterwards. [Laugh] I don’t know if it was a combination of post-traumatic stress disorder from going through a reality show competition or if it was really, you know, it was just a relief of emotions and I was so excited about the future.
How long after Design Star did you start your show, Meg’s Room?  
Well, I started about four weeks later and I had to film entirely undercover because Design Star hadn’t aired yet. So now I had to go home and I couldn’t tell anyone that I won. My mom didn’t even know.
Oh, you couldn’t tell her?
No, you have to sign a confidentiality contract.
So you only knew, you and those other people there, but did you come home for that month?
Yes, I did. I just told them it was going to be a live event like Survivor and no one knew yet. That was the way I kept everyone from asking all the time.
That was smart. So then four weeks later, was that shot in New York too?
It was shot in Chicago. The best part about Meg’s Great Rooms, my show, is they followed me back to my real design world. I reopened up my studio in Old Town and I got to use all my vendors and contractors and it wasn’t just a show where I had to use whatever production wanted me to use. I was able to actually bring people into my world. The viewer was able to actually watch how a real designer does their job and that was really fun, I think, for everyone, including myself.
That must’ve been amazing, to be able to have had that experience. Talk about your dreams coming true. Have a TV show in your own backyard?
Yes, exactly. David Bromstad, when he won the first season, he had to move to San Francisco and I think that was very difficult. They eventually moved him back to Miami where he was from, but I think that was where they kind of learned a happy host is a happy show.
And that show ran for two seasons? Is it coming back or it was just the two seasons?
It was the two seasons. The ratings were excellent. Then I took about a year to film a bunch of specials for the network, like America’s Most Embarrassing Living Room and I launched the HGTV furniture line, through that special, the HGTV Home Makeover and that finished airing last March and then I've taken some time off for multiple reasons. One, I had a double mastectomy and reconstruction last January and that was a long recovery and that’s something I've been very vocal about.
Were you diagnosed with breast cancer or did you know you had the gene?
I have the gene. Before I started a family, I wanted to take care of it.
Wow, well that was incredibly brave.
How long ago was that?
That was a year ago January. That was about a three month recovery. Then I got pregnant this summer and I've just sort of been designing for private clients for the last several months.
Do you have a lot of breast cancer in your family?
Yes, my mom is a survivor and we lost my grandmother and my cousin to breast cancer. It was my cousin who died when she was 48, a year before my surgery, that really kind of prompted me to take action and do the surgery.
Well, you’re very brave.  Good for you.
Well, thanks.
At least it’s one thing you don’t ever have to worry about.
Yep, I rewrote my future.
Now, I have to ask you a question, is your grandfather still alive?
No, he is not. He actually passed away, I have to think about it, but I think in 2006 or ‘07 maybe seven years ago.
Did he know about Design Star?
No, he passed away prior to Design Star.
Aw, shoot.
Yes, but I felt him with me through the end of that whole challenge, I really did…I felt him kind of watching over me and I knew he was proud of me when I won and that I was doing what I wanted to do. Not only that, television is a way to give back to society. One of the best parts about having your own TV Show is truly the joy that you bring to people’s lives. I had no idea until fans started approaching me in airports, writing me letters, and saying “I was going through the hardest time in my life but I looked forward to your show every Saturday night. You brought me so much joy and you made me laugh” and other people say, one woman said, “You remind me so much of my daughter who passed away and watching you brings back so many memories.” And I have a few young fans who are battling through cancer who reached out to me and I was able to help them through therapy and through their treatment. I just, being who I am and being a designer was bringing joy to people’s lives, just by the fact that they were able to join me on my television show in watching it and kind of step away from their own lives a little bit. I feel like I’m accomplishing what my grandfather has given me the best advice to follow, “Do what you love. Give back while you’re doing it and you’ll be successful at it and have a happy life.”
Now, what are the plans for the future? Obviously baby is coming but are you going to hope to do more TV?
Yes. There is hopefully a new show very soon on the horizon. That’s about as much as I can share. [Laugh]
That’s terrific.
Yes, television is definitely still a part of my life.
Good and your studio is still doing well?
Yes. Well, actually, for this past year that I've been recovering and doing design work, I've also been living in North Carolina at the beach, where my husband’s from. So I go back and forth and I do design work in Chicago, I’m doing design work here. Right now, I’m actually doing a show house here in Wilmington, North Carolina and I share my studio now with a designer that I mentored for many years, just because I wasn’t there very often, but my design company is still very much thriving, almost to the point of that I need to hire more people to help me. [Laugh] It’s a lot of fun. I’m very fortunate that I have a lot of business, but for me to be in my studio every day, I’m not there all the time, if that’s what you’re asking.
So what advice do you have for young people who want to get into design and be successful in interior design? Is it all about education?
I think you brought up a really great question. It’s not all about the education…I think it comes from within, it comes from your gut, and it comes from what you already know. As you start designing, you obviously learn more about what to do and what not to do, but that’s the trial and error of design, but you can’t go to school to learn how to visually put things together. That’s something that, I think, is built into you when you’re born, that you’re creative and you understand the spatial relation of either colors to each other or patterns. And so to people who are in a position right now where they’re not happy in the job that they have or they’re thinking about going into design, I say they need to start somewhere and even if that means they do it for free for friends and they help them, that’s what you do. And you just start building upon that and you tell the next person that you want to help their friends and to give you referrals and then you start building a foundation and you don’t even have to build a portfolio to really even feel like you’re able to go out and look for clients.  
Of course you want that and that’s why you can help friends for free, so you can photograph it and show some of your work, but I think referrals from people who you’ve made happy in their home is the best recommendation that you can get. And also I think that any young designer, they need to team up with an older designer as a mentor. I've helped a lot of younger designers get to where they are now through just guidance, things that I wish I knew early on that would’ve saved me a lot of time and money and mistakes. So learn from the people who’ve come before you, is another bit of advice.
And never give up on your dream, right?
Never give up on your dream and dream big. The bigger you dream, the better.
Okay and so ten years from now, Meg, where do you see yourself?
I see myself with my own television show, preferably a daily television show, and still doing what I love, design, but continuing to give back in an ever bigger way.
Is there anything else you want to add?
Just that I think if you follow your dreams, stick to it, even when you feel like you’re failing or about to fail, success is right around the corner. You just can’t give up and that makes for a happy life. I think I’m fortunate that I had someone like my grandfather share that advice with me early on versus learning that so much later in life and I think that’s why I've gotten to where I am today at the age of 36.
You are obviously going down a path that you really understand where it’s leading you…I think that's amazing. 
Well, thank you so much.  I loved meeting you.
You too!  Good luck with the baby.
To learn more about Meg Caswell, visit her website here.
Like Tweet

Chemical Cut
Interview with Marjorie Conrad and Barret Michael Hacia

By Karen Melgar

Marjorie Conrad is currently working on her feature film debut. The French born filmmaker wrote and is directing as well as starring in Chemical Cut. The film follows the story of a young woman, Irene, who is scouted and goes into the world of modeling while she grapples with identity and perception. Her childhood friend, Arthur, sees this as less of an opportunity and her rival, Spring, contributes to the self discovery in this coming of age film. Conrad, a model herself, is probably best known for her own modeling career which got its start on the hit television show America's Next Top Model. I had the distinct pleasure of talking a little bit with Conrad and her friend and producer, Barret Michael Hacia, of the film Chemical Cut, which is still in production.


How did the idea for this movie come up? I know that Marjorie, you were on America's Next Top Model, how did that influence the writing of the movie?

Conrad: Well, it had an integral part in it. I was interested by the modeling world, I've been scouted ever since I was twelve but I never took up the offers. When I was scouted for this reality show it added a different dimension and it was kind of intensive modeling bootcamp and it definitely shaped the story. I didn't opt to write about someone who experienced a modeling bootcamp that was televised. I instead chose to write about an anonymous model, so it's more based on my experience after the show when I was signed with an agency and seeing how it worked.


Where does the title Chemical Cut come from?

Conrad: The Chemical Cut title is referring to the inciting incident. It's about this girl who is stuck selling retail and decides on an impulse to bleach her hair. She bleaches her hair off, hence the chemical cut and because she goes through a second round of bleaching, she has platinum hair which makes her more noticeable and she is scouted very quickly after. That propels her into the modeling world, which is actually very close to what happened with me. I bleached my hair and suddenly everyone saw this white bob all the time. It reflects a lot of light, as it happens.

There are a lot of possibilities for this film to be about self-image, does it veer in that direction or do you keep it about identity and self-discovery?

Conrad: It's definitely more about identity. It's not really about insecurity as in someone's looks. It's more about how should a person be and her trying to figure out what's worth pursuing in life.


Is the character of Arthur a foil for Irene, the main character, or is Spring more of a foil?

Conrad: Well, they're sort of two sides of the same coin. Arthur is her sounding board, he's her childhood friend, and he's a wannabe art star. Spring is more of a bulimic commercial model which is kind of commonplace but someone whose eyes you could stare into and it feels like you're staring into an abyss. Arthur is much more animated and much more frustrated and not necessarily sold out in the same way; someone who has a lot more ambition than he does talent whereas Spring fits in.


Does Irene fit in?

Conrad: No, I would say that she's a failed model but that's ultimately not where she finds that her interests lie. I think a lot of people don't really ask a girl many questions when she says she wants to be a model. I mean, I didn't really get that many questions as to why I would want to do this. People just take it for granted that it's something that girls would normally want to do. So, in this film, I actually have her interrogated by everyone as to why she wants to do this because you look at it, it is a bizarre thing to desire. Especially when you're not necessarily fitting that commercial model, it's not necessarily going to be easy to make that decision and to try to please clients. It's definitely a rat race.

Can you talk a little bit about the technical aspect of directing and starring in a feature? What are the drawbacks and what do you think will be most difficult?

Conrad: Technically, I would say, it's difficult to work within the limited budget and to try to give as much production value as possible. We're shooting digital, we're shooting with a very hand-picked skeleton crew and keeping our days pretty full. But everyone's really motivated and so far the quality has been very high. We have three more shoots to go in March and April, so we'll see how this goes but thus far everyone is really devoted in making this work out and look great. I think technical aspects will be difficult especially after the completion of the film and trying to make it go through the festival circuit and trying to advertise it. You have to be seen and that's always a challenge. There's an inundation of visual stimuli everywhere. It's not like people need another movie, so convincing people it's worth watching is definitely a challenge when you don't have much money.


I read that you shot your first short film at the age of thirteen. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Conrad: Yeah, I immigrated when I was small, when I was seven and when I was ten we decided to stick around and really settle in America. My parents, a graphic novel artist—well my dad, worked at Dreamworks at the time so I was around the animation studios. I decided that I wanted to study film and I went to a film school and I decided to make a twenty minute based on a Guy de Maupassant story about, actually something kind of similar. This girl who borrows a piece of clothing from a rich friend and ruins it and has to work her entire life to pay it back. Then she meets the rich friend, looking wretched after years of working off her debt, and the friend declares that it was just a piece of costume jewelry. I just adapted that to high school. It was actually kind of successful, everyone liked it for a thirteen year old, making a movie. It was kind of a similar theme with appearances deciding what’s illusory, what isn't. What's worth working for, what's not and honesty, integrity, all those things that you would be concerned about.

What are your influences as a filmmaker?

Conrad: I have a lot of very different influences but mostly I really love Catherine Breillat, who made Fat Girl and who made Anatomy of Hell. I really like Lars Von Trier, I really like David Lynch. I tend to gravitate toward visual filmmakers, And actually recently I really like Paolo Sorrentino. I think he has an amazing, distinct style and can really hold your attention for an elongated period of time with just a very fragile plot.


Barret, can you tell me a little bit about what goes into producing an independent film like this?

Hacia: The thing about independent film right now is there's thousands of projects going on right now and lots of people are trying to get you to work on their film and one of the hardest parts is trying to find material worth making or putting your time into it; and something that is new and you want to share with people and that people want to see. So, in the case of Marjorie's film, her and I, we went to school together and she approached me with this project and I was immediately interested by the content and I think one of the biggest things about this is that if I'm not excited about this, I can't get other people excited about it. If you have a really great project, it's a lot easier to convince people to do it. So whether it be crew or locations or a potential investor, I think you really just need to be really passionate about it. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty; it doesn't matter what your title is, I think the most important part is you have to be dedicated to get this film made so it doesn't matter, I could be doing craft services or producing and talking to managers. It doesn't matter, whatever needs to be done. That's the mentality that I think I need to have. So, I think the most important part is creating a strong team with limited resources but you know with a strong team that if they have the right energy and motivation, anything's possible.

Is there any take-away message you want to give? Anything you want to say about the film that might explain the heart of the film a little bit?

Conrad: I suppose, to know yourself you need to take risks. That pretty much sums up the film. She takes a lot of risks.

Hacia: Yeah, I think one of the really interesting things is that it's a film about coming-of-age in tandem with being in a spectacle industry. I think that's a really interesting thing that Marjorie is playing with. I think it's turned out really well.

Like Tweet

Dominique Schilling's Reasons
And An Interview With Marion Ross

By Mary Carreon

“No matter how big our cultural differences or geographical distances are, we are all connected and are a lot closer to each other than we know.” so says filmmaker and director Dominique Schilling.
Dominique Headshot1Schilling grew up in Germany, Switzerland and Italy, giving her a uniquely beautiful perspective on the connection of mankind. Now residing in L.A, Schilling incorporates an open mind into all phases of her work, highlighting the well-rounded and culturally experienced aspect of her personality. Her sensitive outlook on the way people are connected emanate through the universally powerful themes embedded in her films. These themes create a sense of unity and focus on the fact humanity is a tight knit interdependent web.
Touching on the vulnerability of fear, love and regret in her latest film, A Reason, Schilling centers the story on a character named Aunt Irene who is meant to cause people to dig deeper into their emotions. Aunt Irene battles cancer, among other family issues, bringing to light the importance of appreciation and how people deal with the idea of death. 
“I'm interested in people's life stories and what moves them emotionally,” she said. Finding inspiration in the things and events that people care about, Schilling’s creative inspiration especially comes from observing everything. “Growing up in 3 different countries with different cultures and languages,” Schilling said, “I was forced to observe —without judgment—in order to understand and find my way…”
A Reason Poster
Schilling’s inspiration for the film came from a decaying villa in the Palisades that was about to be torn down. Learning from an architect that an elderly couple had lived there prior to their death, she went to the property and was overcome with inspiration. “I went into a trance and wrote what I saw in my head,” Schilling explained, as she completed the entire project from start to finish in eight months. 
Extensive travelling has also played a major role in Schilling’s creative inspiration. Learning early on that everyone feels human joy and suffering, Schilling has a deep understanding of how people are linked at the very core.
Along with her compassionate awareness of people’s relation to one another, Schilling has an impressively tenacious attitude toward work and accomplishing what she sets her mind to. From the time she was a little girl, she knew she wanted to pursue film. “I visited Los Angeles with my parents when I was nine years old and fell in love with the city,” she said. “[Everything from] the colors, the ocean, the variety, the arts and all the different cultures living together in peace in one city.” 
From this trip she promised herself that she would move to L.A when she grew up. Unlike most people who lose sight of their childhood dreams, once Schilling turned 21, she packed up her things and moved across the world. Arriving in L.A with only one suitcase, she attended U.C.L.A where she majored in English/writing. From there she studied stage directing at the Beverly Hills Playhouse and then went on to film school at the New York Film Academy. 
Schilling’s dedication and passion has resulted in her films being screened at festivals across the globe and receiving nominations in best film, best documentary and best director. Along with her success at festivals, Schilling co-owns a production company with friend and business partner Caroline Risberg named “Risberg-Schilling Productions.” 
Schilling’s passionate understanding of humanity and strong work ethic are at the root of her success, and light the pathway for a promising future. 

We wanted to ask you a few questions about your most recent movie, A Reason. What attracted you to the project?
Marion: Well, we always want to act and it was a good script. Usually I play such nice sweet people, you know, and this woman appears to be the villain. She’s old and elegant and wealthy and dying and she’s going to see that the will is read to the family and who gets left out and who doesn’t. So she has a lot of power and it was fun to be somebody that you don’t just adore. [Laugh]
I’m sure it was.
This was not Mrs. C. from Happy Days, right?
Right! Were you drawn to the character because it was somewhat of a villain?
Yes and also it was a very good script. It’s a mystery. You can’t quite figure out who to root for and lots of the family members gang up on each other, especially when there’s a lot of money at stake. It’s the way families betray each other, which is really sad, you know? It can be rather typical, especially when somebody dies and there’s money at stake, you know? And how the generations have disappointed each other and you carry it on into the next generation. I thought it was a very good script.
Dominique Schilling directed the film. Was it a good experience for you?
Oh, I loved working with Dominique because she was thrilled with me, which was wonderful! I could see she has such a passion and such an emotion and cares so much. All these young people, they’re not burned out at all. They’re just at the beginning of their careers. Somebody is making a fantastic film all the time. 
I think the fact that it intrigued me that we were around this dining room table shooting eight people around a table. Now before, in the old days when we would film with one camera, we would reset, reset, reset for each person.We had a very interesting cameraman. He would set up a track, a long curving track, and he would get the master shot and keep shooting and get the two-shot ending up in a close-up all on one shot, using this curving track, and I loved that. These young people have new and different ways to shoot things, new and easier cameras.
Since the digital camera doesn’t have to be so careful with the lighting, maybe a general lighting for the room was sufficient, you know? In the old days, you’d have to stop, relight, this takes forever.  Stop, relight, stop, relight.  
During your long career, have you worked with many women directors?
I must say, it’s a man’s world out there and even on Happy Days, back then, the wardrobe woman was an older seasoned wardrobe woman and she would say, “Here’s your new outfit.  Now, don’t go out there asking them how they like it.”  You walk out there and you say, “I love this” and, in other words, you had to constantly be manipulating these men to get what you wanted, right?
Do you think you’ve seen much of a change?  You’ve been working since the late ‘50s.
I wouldn’t say that women in big studio features have made a big dent. But, young women are making smaller, independent films so it’s wider open as far as that goes, but I wouldn’t say that it’s been much of a revolution.
Were there a lot of women on your crew for A Reason?
Oh yes, almost totally women. There was a cameraman but other than that, I think it was very much dominated by women.
That’s good to hear.  A woman director supporting other women crew members.
Yes, I enjoyed the shoot very much.
What was the most challenging thing about playing your role in A Reason?
It was sometimes hard for me to remain unlikeable, you know? I’m naturally likeable and so I want to humanize. Everybody has a back-story, you know, and I could show you a chink of humanity in her or should I still be this cold heartless sort of person who’s dying and is pissed off about it? [Laugh]
I think when people think of Marion Ross, the first thing that comes to mind is Happy Days. What would you like us to know about you that you don’t think we know?
Brooklyn-Bridge-show_l.jpgWhat a really serious actress I am. One of the proudest shows I did was a show you may not have seen. It was called Brooklyn Bridge. I did that for CBS but we only made about 20 episodes. It was Gary David Goldberg and I played a Jew; I had an accent, it was a real breakthrough for me. We didn’t run long enough at CBS. It was the immigrants’ story. We had hundreds of letters of immigrants from every stripe saying, “This is the American story, when two generations come here and the grandparents live downstairs in the apartment and you live up there and you’re all together and you conquer this country together.” I was very proud of it.
It was a one-hour drama?
Yes, it was a family drama. It was very warm and amusing and real and it was one camera and I guess it was just too expensive for everybody. It was a great disappointment to me, but it got me out of the whole Happy Days mold.
Do you stay in touch with the other cast members?
I keep in touch with the Fonz, with Henry Winkler.  Ron Howard is a pretty busy guy. I still treat him as if he were my son and I always say to him, “Oh Ron, you’ve got to get better clothes.” [Laugh] I treat him like he’s mine.
Well, he was for ten years.
He’s gone on to being one of the top guys around.
Yeah, he certainly has.  So outside of acting, what would you say are your passions?
I have a wonderful house that I call Happy Days Farm. It’s really not a farm, but I call it that. It’s like two acres and I’m constantly doing something to it, changing this, getting this all cut down, do this, do this. It’s like I can’t be stopped. I've always got some big plan afoot.
Any big regrets during your career?
Oh, of course I wish that I were a far bigger star, but I led my life very carefully early on. I decided that my life was not going to be the battleground. I was going to put it in my work. I was married, I have children, I have a beautiful home. I could send my kids to college. I could get their teeth straightened. I could have a normal life, like everybody has, and still get to do this thing that I love to do.
You’re an inspiration, continuing to work constantly at your age. Do you have any secrets about how you stay healthy?
Yes, it’s like, here’s how I live:  I wake up in the morning and I say, “Ah, I've got the greatest idea!” Now, it could be a really stupid idea, but I like to live kind of with a high adrenaline, like something wonderful is going to happen and let’s do this and let’s do this. I don’t wait around for somebody to come and find me or if I’m not working, then let’s tear all this hedge out here and let’s do this, you know? [Laugh]
I think that’s a terrific philosophy.
And I try to be healthy, you know? Try to take care of yourself. I’m not a very good cook, but today, what I ate was in the blender. I put protein powder and apple juice and a banana and great handfuls of raw spinach and then great handfuls of some other green business and the protein powder and mixed it all up. I don’t like it very much, but that’s what I ate.
You’re obviously definitely on a healthy trajectory.
I don’t do that all the time, but I make an effort.
Are you into social media stuff?
No, no, I have an assistant who does everything for me.  I’m not learning anything.
One last question.  What was one of your most memorable experiences with Happy Days?
There was so much playfulness going on, it’s a wonder that we ever got the scripts made, but they were very tight. At one point, Henry starts to, because I did something, picks up this whipped cream can and starts after me, right?  So the audience is there.
The live audience?
Yeah. Shooting is going on. So he gets me and sprays me. Well, he’s ruined my clothes. Now we have to stop.  I have to be all fixed up again.
That’s funny.
Yeah and you know, we had a softball team, Happy Days.
Oh really?  Was it with the cast?
It was with the cast and crew and writers and, in fact, you couldn’t get a writer’s job on Happy Days if you couldn’t hit, you know? We had uniforms. We played for the media, for all the major ballparks in the United States and not only that, we would win. We went to Europe, we went to the East German border, and played with the first infantry in Germany and then when the show was finally over, the last, last show, the next morning we all got on an airplane and flew to Okinawa, all of us, and played softball with U.S. Marines. Can you believe that? Because the guys didn’t want to give up the team. Henry did all the pitching. Gary Marshall was first base. Ron Howard was right field. I was rover. Rover, in softball, rover, like you “Get over there, Marion. Get over, over, way over there,” but I could hit.  
That’s sounds like so much fun.
It was. It keeps the cast together.
Yeah, everyone must’ve just had a great time.
They didn’t want to give up the team, so we went eleven seasons.
What a great story to end on.  Thanks for so much for your time. We really look forward to seeing you in A Reason.


Like Tweet

From Monuments Men to Iron Men:
Louise Frogley Has You Dressed Perfectly!

By Bridget Brady

In this candid interview with famed costume designer, Louise Frogley, she shares her immense knowledge and experience with us.  She talks about design, gardening, travel, the Oscars, and her somewhat personal life. With her delicious British accent and humor in tow, we sit down for a chat.
I would love to start with why you do what you do, and what drives your passion for costume design?
I ended up doing it by accident. It wasn't what I thought I'd be doing. I thought I'd be a gardener. I ended up working for an advertising photographer in London as an intern. I ended up doing his styling. Then I left him to go freelance and ended up doing commercials. Then the commercials led to films because a lot of English commercial directors were going onto films in those days. Doing films led me to LA 27 years ago, and I just stayed.  I love it.
We have to rewind...You thought you were going to be a gardener?
Well, I was hoping. I didn't know. I think I was a bit more hippie in those days. Things just rolled on by and you went with what was going on. I still do gardening like crazy; I find it extremely relaxing. It's another aspect of design. You're putting things together and planning things; it's not dissimilar.
What is your educational background in the realm of design?
I trained as a textile designer, and then did my further degree in Art History. To me, it's all very, very similar. I used to use gardens a lot. I used to draw plants for my textile design. It all links together.
You just finished the costume design for The Monuments Men that did quite well at the Oscars!  That was great for Cate, and everyone!
Yes, and she's so nice. She's so normal. Nice husband, three sons, completely sensible and down to earth. She's really great. I worked with her before on The Good German, and she's just fabulous.
How much do the actors and artists have a say in their own wardrobe and costume design for a film?
It depends entirely what sort of film it is. In the case of The Monuments Men, it was a very specific period, plus we were following the look of the original lady who Cate Blanchett was playing. So, what I did under those circumstances, I got a fitting model in, so I could play and get the look right. So, when I did the fitting, it was the opportunity for Cate to apply what she thought. We discarded a lot of things that wouldn't work. It made a lot of things more pure and to the point. It's a way to short-hand a fitting so you're not dealing with stuff that doesn't stand a chance. That way it gives you time to build in their observations. Nobody could be more respectful of an actor than me. I think their job is so stupendously terrifying. What I really want to do is be as supportive as I possibly can. With George Clooney, he has a shape of suit he prefers, so we work around that. I fitted him in some period suits, got the ideal shape. If it was a film involving for instance, space suits, although you would tend to adjust so that it was as flattering as it could be on the actor, the actor would be a little bit controlled in what the look was going to be. If it's modern day, then the actor has a lot more input because they know what suits them; they go shopping too. You have to try and find out what they like, what they fear about their body, what they like about their body, who they see the character as, who the Director sees the character as, and you try to work within that so you can do it between all of you. I don't believe in being autocratic, I think it's very unproductive.
Louise Frogley  Gerorge Clooney
You seem to work with a lot of the same people, over and over again.
Yeah, I like to. You know who they are; you know what they want, and they are sort of friends. It's pleasant; it makes the whole experience enjoyable. The hours are long, the pressure is great, the experience, if possible has to be enjoyable; because it's your life going by, so you want it be as perfect as it can be. The Monuments Men was lots of fun. I loved living in Berlin. The company rented me an exquisite apartment in an old mansion. It was fabulous, the whole thing.
How do you find balance between your professional and personal life?  Or do you??
Well, it kind of becomes one and the same, because you're away so much. I only worked in LA last year, under two weeks. Because of the tax incentive, and various reasons, you're almost always away, whether it's in the US or Europe. I've just come back from Australia; I'm doing Unbroken with Angelina Jolie. You're just away all the time, so you just have to kind of accept it, run with it, and make it fun.
I know you have a grown daughter, are you currently married?
Not at the moment, not for some time. I very much have settled into having a lovely house and garden, lovely friends, terrific daughter, and when I'm not working, I travel a lot. I just came back from Sri Lanka; I went to one of those Ayurvedic health spas and had the best time. It was heaven. I just love traveling.
You've had an incredibly successful career, and it seems there are very few "spots" in this industry, and sometimes it seems like they are all “taken.”
I'm always terrified I'm never going to work again. I think I'm at the top of the “B-List.”  I never think of myself as higher than that.
Are you kidding me? You've done so much amazing work...The Monuments Men, Iron Man 3...
That was my favorite film! Those people are marvelous. They're smart, they read, they're completely up-to-date with everything. Books, film, theater, everything. They're the smartest guys, I just love them.
So where do you go from here? Professionally and personally?
I just want to carry on doing it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I'm entirely happy doing it. I love living in LA. I love my friends. I'm so, so lucky that I've landed in a way that makes me so happy. I like doing houses as well, I've flipped a few. It's so similar to being a costume designer, being super organized, and figuring out the look. If costume designing ever went away entirely, I think I'd do houses and gardens.
How many films do you typically work on in a year?
Two or three, three if possible. That's all there's time for.
As the costume designer on a film, are you part of the "family" on set?
Yeah, absolutely! I was friends with Bob Balaban and Bill Murray on The Monuments Men, plus friends with the others. We just all had a great time.
Who are some of your all-time favorite people to work with?
I really love working for George Clooney; he's ever so nice. He was brought up properly. His mom and dad are absolutely great. You can tell he's so well adjusted because he had a really happy, good family upbringing; he's just a good person. I really enjoy him, he can be so silly, it's brilliant. When you work with the same Director, you end up working with the same Production Designer, and the more you can work with the same people, the more you understand what it is the other people like, and how they work. You can make it all fit in together, so it's extremely harmonious and a very pleasant experience.
The ones who are the most stable, like Brad Pitt for instance, what he and George have in common is they were both working in Hollywood for about 10 years before they made it big. They both came from stable families, and I think that kind of background means that you know all the ins and outs. You don't arrive like Bambi in the middle of something and get lauded, and praised and enabled right away. The longer it takes for that to happen and the more stable your background, the more ready you'll be to be a film star, or a powerful actor. I think background is very, very important. You see a lot of people who can't cope with it.
It's interesting that you talk about the time it took for them to become famous. We see a lot of people who get fame very young, or very quickly and it can kind of destroy them.
It's not good for them, and they're not always surrounded by the right people who will help them. It's very sad. I really like actors, even if they've been through difficult times; most of them are just so great to work with.
Speaking of actors who've been through hard times, how was it working with Robert Downey Jr?
He's great! He's just great. He has a system, and once you know his system, and what he needs, he’s incredibly great. The poor man has to do fittings so, so much, it must be annoying.  He really loves everything, and you just get on with it. It's marvelous; I really love working with him, he's fab.
What do you mean, “Once you understand his system?”
Each actor has a system. If you work as much as he does, you find yourself either at home, or at a designated fitting place having to put on racks, and racks, and racks of clothes with somebody you may, or may not know; telling you what to put on, with stuff you may or may not like. Inevitably over the years, you cut that down a bit by letting the person know what cut you like, or what kind of jeans you like. He's good, he really helps, and he's interested. On Iron Man he had to have this sort of American-Mid-West-Country-Winter look. The Japanese have been copying American period work-wear for quite some time, and it's pretty great. It's much better cut than what we have here, so I was doing a lot of his stuff from Japan.
What's your biggest challenge as a costume designer?
It's trying to assess what the Director wants, and finding a way to do it that's right for him or her, and the film, that stills feels right for yourself. More often than not, what they're asking for is entirely correct, and entirely do-able.
What are you working on now?
Nothing. I just did two and a half years without a break. I just turned down a job because I wasn't quite ready.
What's your dream project?
A cowboy film. I'd love to do that more than anything. I love Mexico. The cowboy look came from Mexico. I love it; it's so elegant.
Who's your dream Director?
Wes Anderson, but I’ll never work with him because he always works with Milena Canonero.
Who are your favorite costume designers?
Patricia Norris, I think she's absolutely genius, and of course Milena Canonero. I love Patricia Norris; I love the integrity of her work. And Alex Byrne, she did all the films about Elizabeth the First, and the Marvel films.
What awards have you personally won?
None. I hate awards. I'll never win anything. I'd rather be at home doing something else. I don't mean [to] be disrespectful to the industry, but I'd rather be just working. I'm sure I'm being unduly negative, but I just like the process of working so much.
Outside of working, and gardening, what else are you passionate about?
Traveling. When I was in Sri Lanka I unearthed a lot of antique fabric from the 18th and 19th century. I spent a lot of time going through all that, and buying tons of it. I can't fully explain to you why, but it's so beautiful. Just going through funky antique shops there, I ended up buying a bag of hands and feet from 19th century puppets. I feel a bit embarrassed, because I don't quite know why, but they're just beautiful objects, and I love finding things like that. I love meeting unusual people that I wouldn't end up meeting.
Finally, what would your advice be for costume designers who want to get into the film industry?
Quite honestly, I know it's really boring, but I would go work at a costume rental house. Even though the work is hard and ill-paid, you learn a lot about the subject, and you meet a lot of people.  If I was to start again now, I'd go work at Western Costume as an intern. My daughter did that, it's a great entry, and you learn such a lot.
We wrapped up our chat, and I secretly hoped I would run into her someday in an antique shop on the other side of the world. This way I could catch a glimpse of her process, her brilliance and how she continues to create and organize beauty.
Like Tweet


Back To Top