Marchesa's Georgina Chapman on Her Directing Debut and Getting Advice From Ron Howard (Q&A)

Georgina Chapman Ron Howard - H 2013

Georgina Chapman Ron Howard - H 2013

"I'm extremely excited and extremely nervous," says the designer, one of five celebrities taking part in Canon's "Project Imaginat10n," of helming a love story/fantasy inspired by 10 user-generated photographs.

Marchesa co-founder Georgina Chapman is taking on a new role.

The designer has partnered with Canon U.S.A. Inc. and Ron Howard to direct a short film for Canon's "Project Imaginat10n." The initiative sees five famous faces -- Chapman, Jamie Foxx, Eva Longoria, former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone -- step behind the cameras to director shorts inspired by 10 user-generated photographs they have chosen centered around 10 storytelling themes, including setting, time, character and mood (one of the photos, chosen by Howard, will be used by every celebrity). Photos were judged based on the most inspiring, imaginative and overall impression.

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Chapman's film, "A Dream of Flying," is a love story/fantasy about a girl who will spend her whole life trying not to fly, and a boy who would give his life to teach her. Author-screenwriter Neil Gaiman wrote the script for the film, which is produced by Freestyle Productions.

Starring in the film are Aaron Tveit, known for playing Tripp van der Bilt on The CW's Gossip Girl and Enjolras in Les Miserables; Dree Hemingway, the daughter of actress Mariel Hemingway and Stephen Crisman and great-granddaughter of author Ernest Hemingway; and Kathleen Chalfant, a Tony nominee for Angels in America whose TV credits include House of Cards and Rescue Me.

Ahead of the film's shoot -- it's filming this week in various locations around New York -- Chapman talked to The Hollywood Reporter about how she got involved, what inspired the story and seeking advice from Howard -- and her movie-mogul husband, Harvey Weinstein.

The Hollywood Reporter: How did you become involved in this project?

Georgina Chapman: I was approached, and I was so excited. I've always been a fan of Project Imaginat10n and Ron Howard. They've always impressed me with the whole concept, so when they came to me, I was beyond thrilled, especially being in such amazing company: Eva Longoria, Jamie Foxx, James Murphy and Biz Stone. It was just such an exciting opportunity. I work a lot with photographs with Marchesa, so this idea really spoke to me. It was really a fantastic idea, and something I was keen on doing.

THR: What was it about these photos that you chose that spoke to you? How did you make your decision?

Chapman: I had no idea what I wanted the story to be. So I specified with Neil, let that be open and let the photographs take us to the story. I didn't want to try to make something fit. We both gravitated toward the same thing. When the photos were given to us, they had 1,000 photos and presented us with different options. We went through each category, Neil and myself, and decided on the photos. We had no story in mind. We wanted the photos to lead us. We didn't want to put ourselves in a corner and decide to do something [that we had to] try to really fit with the photos.

THR: How did you come up with the storyline? Is this a genre that you tend to gravitate toward as a moviegoer?

Chapman: I didn't really think about this as a sort of movie that I would want to watch. That wasn't really my intention. I approach my collection in the same way; I had a vision that I ran with. It wasn't so much about [doing a particular genre]. It was following the photographs, just like working on a collection, and building on that, creating a piece of art like any other, a painting or a collection.

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THR: Did Ron Howard offer you any directing advice?

Chapman: I haven't had that phone call yet with Ron. I'm excited to pick his brain; I have a million questions, so I have to figure out what it is I want to ask. I'm excited to have the opportunity to speak with him. What's so interesting to him as a director, he's done all genres of movies, and he's a former actor as well, so he has the whole thing covered.

THR: Will you also seek advice from your husband?

Chapman: Absolutely, that what's husbands are for. And the advantage is he does seem to know what he's talking about when it comes to movies [laughs]. When he designs [an outfit], I hope he would come to me [laughs].

THR: Will you also be in charge of costume design?

Chapman: Absolutely. I have a very particular aesthetic and vision in mind, and that goes for the costumes, the set, everything. I'm working with a really fantastic team. It's a very collaborative experience.

THR: Overall, how are you feeling about your first directing experience?

Chapman: I'm extremely excited and extremely nervous. It's a great combination of the two. I can't imagine anyone starting a movie without feeling nervous. Even when I'm doing Marchesa shows, I get nervous. It would be a bit strange if I didn't. I am very excited, and I can't wait to see how it comes out.

THR: You also recently launched a collaboration with JC Penney, called Pearl by Georgina Chapman. Will you be continuing that line?

Chapman: Yes, definitely. I've really enjoyed doing this line, and I'm just having so much fun. It's so enjoyable for me. I really do believe in the brand I've created with them. I see a longtime future with them; it's not something I'm going to leave or give up.

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THR: You're also returning as a judge for the third season of Lifetime's Project Runway: All Stars.

Chapman: It's been really great. I love doing All Stars. I have such a good time with that. I love with working with [fellow judge] Isaac [Mizrahi], and [new host] Alyssa Milano is wonderful to work with. It's a really exciting season, with really talented designers, and we have an amazing array of guest judges.

Meanwhile, the public can now take part in the same creative exercise and direct films (from one to 10 minutes long) based on the same pool of photographs. Howard and daughter Bryce Dallas Howard will choose the final five consumer-winning films. 

Their films, along with Chapman's and the other celebrities’ films, will premiere at Canon’s Project Imaginat10n Film Festival in the fall. Submissions for the film contest is open now through July 23 at