Aspirational is a new short directed by fashion filmmaker and photographer Matthew Frost, the mastermind behind Fashion Film and a longtime VICE pal. Following his trio of Vogue shorts Best Actress of All Time, Slow Motion, and Scripted Content—starring Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, and Jessica Chastain, respectively—Frost is continuing his examination of celebrity and isolation in the modern age. In Aspirational, his star is Kirsten Dunst, who gets bombarded with unwanted attention from two bratty fans who want to use the actress merely as a prop in their selfies. It's a reminder that stars get into awkward situations just like the rest of us, and that people have a breathtaking capacity to be assholes.
We gave Frost a call to talk about his short and wound up chatting about social media and why he works with "Slamming Babes" so much.
VICE: This video has really blown up, it’s everywhere!
Matthew Frost: Dude, I know. I've been trolling the Internet today! So many amazing articles! I use Twitter to get information, but I don’t really share anything on Twitter. I’m not like, Oh my God, like, this is so cool! You can’t share shit on Instagram [that way.] There are no links, you can’t pre-promote anything. Some people just promote themselves. Like they actually promote their physical beings, but you can’t really promote anything that you’re doing with actual words. It’s just like blurbs and things. Just pictures, stuff you see.
Like, if you see Kirsten Dunst on the street...
Yeah. That’s it, like you can’t say: Hey I wrote this. I wrote this essay. There’s no link, you can’t link, or even if it’s silly, you can’t go deeper than just that picture. I mean, it is what it is. It’s just funny.
How did you come up with the storyline for Aspirational?
The story came from the same sort of series of films that I've been doing lately where I'm offered the opportunity to work with a massive actress, and it’s like: What are you gonna do with her in a short period of time?
It sort of became these fictionalized portraits—sort of what I think that these actresses would be doing if they were confronted with things that everybody does. Say, googling themselves, or checking themselves online, or having people take a picture of them. And, in this case, it's not discreet. Someone's going up to Kirsten and taking a selfie. I'm imagining what that interaction would be like for her.
I guess it's a continuation of these little stories, but it’s all fictionalized and pretty scripted. But the fact that they're amazing actresses, they also sort of make it seem like they're completely playing themselves. So I’m not sure what their opinions of these real-life situations are. I think Kirsten agrees that people taking selfies with her kind of sucks. I think it’s more fictionalized, and I'm trying to get a feel of what that would be like—how random this would be. You see people taking selfies all around you. Say you’re in a restaurant and you see people taking selfies, it's still weird to me. It's become OK. It's cool. And it's just weird to observe, right?
That’s how Aspirational came about—through observing people. And it’s even more creepy when people want to take selfies of a celebrity, or a person they think is a good person and want to be seen with, you know? It’s like the ultimate popularity thing. And it’s quantified in actual numbers. You can assess your popularity with numbers. Pretty fucked up, man.
Why is it that so much of your work focuses on females?
Well, what you’re trying to say is why do I keep shooting slamming babes?
I don’t know, it’s an interesting question. I mean, I tried shooting slamming dudes, but I just feel sort of increasingly uncomfortable when I have work on their poses. Working in photography, especially today, there’s definitely a lot of babes. You know I see people personal art photos and I can hear them saying, "Yeah, in my personal work I just like to document my friends....and some of them just happen to be babes who are cool and just like to chill.." There's always that thing where it’s babes instead of dudes. But now I do more film stuff, and I think the opportunities I’ve gotten have been with girls. I think if you’re looking for little films with fashion outlets or clothing brands, they’re kind of geared toward women. But then I think personally it’s always been a very natural sort of gravitation towards girls. I grew up with four sisters.
I think with guys, there’s a distance. With women, it goes beyond just seduction. I think that just a distance, a sort of a quiet observation of how that mechanism works, and how you could imagine they’re feeling at a certain time is... I don’t know. There’s a distance with women, and from a guy's perspective it’s always from the outside looking in. But it just depends on the distance, and some people are more comfortable getting a little closer. And other people are able to do a portrait from a little bit further back.
I feel uncomfortable objectifying, though it is inevitably [objectifying]. Even though you’re selling clothes and stuff, there’s still a weird thing, like hypersexual and stuff. And my films are what happens after that, and when [the women] are alone. There’s this isolation, and I think it’s exacerbated by celebrities because there’s an extra element of them being these hyper-women. These strong women of today, these big actresses, like Kate Blanchett—she commands a lot of respect. She dominates the space, and they all do. OK, I love women, fine!
But I think it’s more about being interested in those particular characters, but also the opportunities that I get through these brands and these things that are women-centric, you know? And then the tone is what we’re really working in. And you try to be consistent with it. That’s the thing that I want to go back to, which is I think a mood, a mood throughout the films. Beyond women or men, I think it’s just this space or zone—the way you think in your head—that I’m trying to execute through that filter.
I feel that that’s very obvious throughout all of the pieces, they all seem to have that kind of connection. Do you have anything else coming up that you’re excited about? What’s next for you?
Well these films have come up in a way where it’s so last-minute and also part of the exercise where you come up with the idea, and then you just execute it the best you can. It's a quick turnaround. I’ve been really fortunate to have these opportunities sort of just thrown on my lap. It’s really nice that I don’t know when the next one comes up. There are a couple more of these films that could happen, but I don’t know how many of these you can do. My time is sort of divided between writing another screenplay and trying and extend and push the opportunities I’ve had with these shorts into a longer format. It's hopefully not too far away. And then I have the photos and commercials. I’m lucky to be very busy.
Yeah, you’re the busiest person I know, I think.
I know. I don’t have two or three of these shorts under my arm waiting for dispatch. But, I think it would be nice to have something that connects overall, just a little bit longer—in a short format, but still a little bit longer than two minutes. I think that would be quite interesting. But, but my main goal is to get into long form with a similar tone to these shorts. Trying to preserve that in something long is the goal.