Daily updates from the first annual AFI DALLAS International Film Festival presented by Target, founding sponsor Victory Park, March 22 to April 1, 2007

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Actor's Corner: Michael Beach, AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

What is pretty? Who looks good? Who are we trying to please when we scrutinize ourselves in the mirror? Darryl Roberts' documentary AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL (7:15 p.m., March 26 @ Magnolia and again at 10 p.m. on March 28) poses the big and intimate questions about the assault the beauty industry makes on the female psyche on a day-to day basis. Actor Michael Beach steps behind the camera to support Roberts' film and mission after a career with successes on the big screen (from Short Cuts to Waiting to Exhale) to television (E.R. and Third Watch).

Q: After a decade of constantly being on screen or on TV, why become a producer now, and why executive produce a documentary about the psychological abuse of the beauty industry for your first time in that role?

A: Hard as it may seem, I've been on TV and film screens for over two decades now. But I decided to become one of the executive producers for this film because Darryl Roberts, the director, came to me with such a strong idea and some interesting footage. He had an idea but wasn't sure what direction to take it in yet. Of course, it made the rounds about which specific direction it should take but he always knew he wanted to investigate the problem that America had with our images of beauty. That was very interesting to me. And when I saw the footage of Gerren and a couple of other little girls, I thought immediately that it should center around what this "hard sell" was doing to young girls. Mainly because I have three daughters. We talked a little more and I was in. I never thought about this being my first time behind the camera or anything like that. I just thought that it was a strong subject and something that would be interesting to examine.

Q: Did you come into this project having a strong personal opinion about the beauty industry and its effect on the women in our country?

A: I've always thought that this country had an unhealthy obsession with the idea of beauty but have never actively done anything about it. Until now, I guess.

Q: After this experience, do you have a different appreciation of what it takes to get the cameras rolling?

A: Well, making a documentary is very different from making a narrative film. I've made a couple of short narrative films and am about to make a feature-length film. Documentaries are, or seem to be, primarily created in the editing room. Even though you have a strong idea about your subject from the beginning, things start coming together as you start editing. Then you start to realize that if you could get an interview with this type of specialist or someone from this line of work or someone with this point of view it would really help your piece. It starts to make sense and gain shape and come to life the more you edit. But Darryl did so much of that work. It really is his film. I just helped him out. But I definitely have an appreciation for the patience and tenacity it takes. Darryl did a hell of a job.

Q: Tyra Banks - Groundbreaking influence on young women who should be celebrated or dense self-promoting ex-model leading girls like Gerren down the wrong path?

A: I think Tyra Banks is continuing her career and trying to hold the industry that made her famous to a higher standard than they had when she was coming up. She knows so many inside details and I think that trying to take the industry down is useless. She seems to be letting the average person get a glimpse behind The Wizard's curtain and allowing everyone to see that none of these people are perfect. She has her own personal flair in the way she does it and that's okay with me. She has earned the right.

Q: After working on this project, do you watch commercials and look at ads differently?

A: Honestly, I don't watch much TV anymore. I have come very close to cutting it out of my life entirely. And the couple of shows I do watch are TiVoed anyway. So no commercials for me!

Q: Finally, could the French ever convince you that you weren't good looking?

A: Nothing against the French but I don't really listen to anything they say or do. So the answer would be no.

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, 7:15 p.m. today (and again at 10 p.m. Wednesday) @ Magnolia. Michael Beach will appear at today's premiere screening.

By John Wildman, Staff Writer