As Palatine native Lewis Meyer’s education at the School of Visual Arts in New York City comes to a close, his film “In the Grass” will be screened at the school’s annual Dusty Film and Animation Festival, which begins May 6.
A member of Palatine High School’s class of 2007, Meyer will graduate from SVA in May. “In the Grass” is his senior thesis film, and the Dusty festival is a showcase for students’ thesis film. Members of the film industry attend the festival, which culminates in an award ceremony on May 10, to scout for talent. “You definitely do get jobs out of it,” the 21-year-old Meyers said from New York during a phone interview.
A press release from the school describes “In the Grass” as a luxury media production – “which basically means fashion film,” Meyers said. Fashion is integral to the 26-minute film. Several big fashion designers and houses, including Issey Miyake, Carolina Herrera and Missoni, donated clothes from their newest lines. Professional models from Q Model Management in New York play the lead roles.
Meyer said the film, which is live action with animated accents, is highly stylized. It is told in four vignettes “that glamorize the Midwest and women’s roles in America.” In part, Meyer wanted to capture the look of mid-century magazine fashion advertising. He admits “Mad Men” was an influence. “I love ‘Mad Men.’ It’s one of my favorite shows.”
Meyer worked on “In the Grass” for two years. Part of it was shot in a home in Palatine. The film also includes music by Palatine resident Kris Piepenburg. Meyer was impressed by the experimental music Piepenburg created in his garage. “This sounds just like an ambient music score,” Meyer said. “There’s tons of people in New York who would love to have this kind of music in their films.”
Meyer is the son of Eugene and Marianne Meyer. Like his father, Meyer grew up in Palatine. “I’m Palatine born and bred,” he said. Both his parents work in the healthcare industry, but his father’s hobby is painting. Meyer’s older sister, Maddy, is a sculptor. “I come from a creative family,” he said.
Meyer was interested in film and video for as long as he can remember. He was not, however, an obsessive movie geek along the lines of Quentin Tarantino. “I was never that person who knew every single film,” he said. “I was more inspired by film as a moving medium.”
His influences include Federico Fellini and David Lynch for their striking, highly stylized compositions. The film that has inspired him most is Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums.” “It was a great film for understanding composition as well as being involved in a complicated story.”
Meyer pursued his interest in film and art at Palatine High School. He still praises his high school teachers for their support and encouragement. “I consider that Palatine High School gave me a phenomenal education,” he said. “Specifically, the art program is incredibly invaluable and phenomenal.”
When choosing a college to study film, Meyer knew he would go east, not west. “I was always interested in things that were realistic, and Los Angeles always seemed kind of fake,” he said. “And I also knew I wasn’t going into film for Hollywood.”
Studying in New York was also pretty much a foregone conclusion for Meyer. “Since I was a little kid I knew I wanted to go to New York.”
Although the School of Visual Arts is little-known in the Midwest – “None of my friends had ever heard of it,” Meyer said – it has a strong reputation on the East Coast. Bryan Singer, director of “X-Men,” is an alumnus.
Meyer will release “In the Grass” on the Web on May 5 – the day after his 22nd birthday and the day before the Dusty Film Festival. From that date on, the film can be found at www.InTheGrassFilm.com.
After his graduation, Meyer plans to remain in New York, pursuing a freelance career as cinematographer and photographer. “In the Grass” will be a calling card he can show potential clients, which will include magazines and advertising agencies. “It’s a lot more difficult to have a freelance career,” Meyer said. “You have to get your work out there and be efficient.”
Even before graduating, though, Meyer has found freelance employment. He worked on a Victoria’s Secret commercial and in March was hired as head cinematographer for a Danish television program when it filmed four episodes in New York. It was a cooking show featuring Danish celebrities, although the only one Meyer recognized was Brigitte Nielsen (briefly famous in America in the 1980s when she married Sylvester Stallone and starred in “Red Sonja”).
Meyer is confident the niche he carved for himself in fashion film will serve him well. “Not only is there a big market for fashion film,” he said, “but [magazine] publication is moving to the Web.”