Advanced Style—popular blog and book—is now a DOCUMENTARY (released in theaters September 26 and on VOD and DVD October 7 from BOND/360). Last week, we chatted with director Lina Plioplyte. Now, with blog founder and photographer Ari Seth Cohen. Enjoy the trailer for the film before catching up on our talks with both.
Why do you think people love Advanced Style so much? What is special about the subjects you feature?
Ari: I think its because the women I feature are so dynamic and full of life and they give us all hope for a bright and colorful future. We are bombarded with so much negativity and with so many images that portray beauty and style in a very unattainable way. The ladies I feature are very relatable, even with their penchants for oversized jewelry and accessories. Their spirits just burst out of the camera and provide joy and inspiration to anyone starting to worry about getting older.What is special about the subjects you feature? They are so comfortable with being totally themselves and they know exactly how they want to express this to the world.
Lina: I think people want to hear that aging is ok, that it could be a beautiful thing. We are so bombarded with images of youth that seeing these older women that are having a blast gives you and me and everyone else a hope that it is going to be ok when we get older. We can relate to it and I breath easier when I see Tzipora and Ilona do what they love and be active and creative in their 60s and 90s. It gives me a great hope for a future.
Have you found your personal style influenced by the women you feature? If so, how?
Ari: Yes definitely. I’ve become more outrageous, wearing sequins and sparkles. I don’t want to totally end up looking like Liberace, but I’m well on my way.
Lina: Absolutely. My style has been immensely influenced by the “Advanced Style” women. They give great tips on how to really shop your style and make it your own. Throughout the 5 years of hanging out with them, I’ve definitely gotten lots of eye candy through their outfits but I also get lots of advice on how they do it and come up with these outfits. They inspired to me look into my own closet and play with more colors, prints, ethnic outfits… The biggest tip I’ve received is to dress for your body and be wild!
Any favorite stories from the making of this documentary?
Ari: Just being with the ladies and witnessing their daily lives was very special. There is a moment where we were filming 94-year-old artist and performer Ilona Royce Smithkin on the beach in Provincetown. Her oldest friend, Karen, then 91, came into the shot and they started holding hands and belting out old songs.
Lina: My favorite scene is Ilona and Karen on the beach singing and feeling so carefree. That DAY was a very special moment in time because Karen has now passed away. It’s two good friends enjoying life. It’s inspires me a lot, it seems to say, You can have dementia or issues with your hips, but as long as you can sing, everything will be all right.
What was the biggest challenge you faced with this project?
Ari: Telling the stories of several characters while trying to balance the overall story of the film.
Lina: The biggest challenge I faced was to make the subjects comfortable with the camera and to make them forget the camera is there because these women were natural performers- it was about warming them up and exposing myself to them and overtime I gained their trust and they shared some beautiful intimate details which may not have happened if we had a big crew of multiple people. The intimate setting is what allowed them to shine in the film.
If you HAD TO PICK (like, really, really, HAD TO PICK) a favorite outfit/woman featured on the site/documentary/book….who would it be? And why? (Please attach photo.)
Ari: That’s impossible! I love them all or I wouldn’t take their photos.
Lina: I love them all so much—I can’t choose a favorite!
Tell me about the beginnings of the blog and how it’s evolved—into a book, and, now, a documentary.
Ari: My appreciation for older people and style started with my wonderful grandmothers. My grandmother Bluma as a librarian and she always told me that there is no such thing as a stupid question. She encouraged my creativity and exposed me to old movies and music and I developed an almost obsessive interest in the decades of my grandmothers’ youths. I moved to NYC in 2008 following my grandma’s advice that ” Everything creative is happening there.” I had no idea what I was going to do in the city, but as soon as I hit the streets I was instantly aware of a rich community of incredibly vibrant and vital older people. I began to take photos of the people I was meeting with short interviews. Initially this was a personal project, but after compiling a folder of images I realized that they people I was photographing had the power to change our perception of aging. I started the blog in 2008, and was quickly approached about doing book which I published in 2012. The film came about as a collaboration of videos I was working on for my blog with Lina Plioplyte. We had no idea that we would be making a full length documentary when we started, but once we picked up the camera we couldn’t stop shooting.
How did you connect with Lina? Was it your idea, hers, (or a collaborative one) to make extend Advanced Style into a documentary?
Ari: I would have never made a film if it wasn’t for Lina. We met at a coffee shop in Brooklyn when I first moved to the city. We appreciated one another’s mix of crazy colors and patterns and I asked if she would be my friend. A few months later I started my blog and Lina asked if she could make a few videos of the ladies to feature. 400 hours of footage later and here we are!
What’s next for you and, more broadly, Advanced Style?
Ari: The film is launching and will be playing through October, so there is a lot of traveling until November. I am working on the very beginnings of a lifestyle book as well.