Dear Shaded Viewers,
I had a chance to sit down with the writer /director Jacob Mendel Brown about his new scripted series: Model Boy. Essentially it is a gritty drama exploring the lives of the wide-eyed young men lured into New York’s notoriously fickle high fashion modeling world. Sexually objectified, paid in little more than social prestige — which of these ‘male ingenues’ will parlay a moment of fleeting fame to achieve their dreams, and which will the industry chew up and spit out?
DP: If you had to define your life in fashion up until now into a few sentences…how would you describe it?
JB: I’ve always thought that fashion is an amazing thermometer for culture. It reacts quickly. Sometimes wildly. To me it’s always about the interplay with culture. And that’s probably what lead me into filmmaking. Perfect synthesis of story and visual.
DP: When did the idea of Model Boy start to germinate with you?
JB: It started when I was an editor at V and then the editor of VMAN. Became very involved with casting models at that magazine (one of most exciting things in my life even today was getting to work closely with Hedi Slimane, casting models and also real kids for his shoots at VMAN). I started seeing how intense these kids lives were. Moving from some small town to a city like New York. Sorta having this expectation that fame and riches were right around the corner. And then they’d be couch surfing or living with a girlfriend for years. The most interesting thing for me was seeing how becoming subject to the male gaze, objectified—things all women deal with but men don’t as much—really affected these young guys. I think that’s the heart of this show.
DP: Did you base your characters on real people or real situations or is everything entirely fiction?
JB: It’s entirely fiction. It’s definitely very authentic though. Even to the point that I worked really hard with my casting directors Sig de Miguel and Steven Vincent to find really talented actors (trained, SAG, etc) who were also real models. They had to have that look but more importantly that air to them.
DP: How do you think the life of male models has changed over the decade that you’ve been in the fashion industry?
JB: Social media has changed it by adding a new class of model to the mix. The boys always had bands or side projects. But now there’s a much better chance they can turn a little spark of fashion fame into something more lasting, so that’s great. Things are definitely opening up in terms of diversity as well, which is not only important, but makes it a hell of a lot more interesting!
DP: How much of what has been going on lately about photographers and male models, the whole Michael Jackson documentary..has influenced your drive to put this male objectification series out there?
JB: I think a lot of attention gets paid to the big name people behaving badly. Sometimes that means we ignore the smaller, less press worthy situations. Ya know, most people aren’t getting into bad situations with celebrities. It’s there co-worker at a store, that sort of thing. In fashion, similarly, I think a lot of times there are more low-level players with less to lose, that you have to keep your eye on. It can be a little more gray area in those situations too. That’s what you see in this show.
DP: What do you think it is about our times that makes this so relevant and why do you think it is happening now?
JB: Social media. I sort of hate it like everyone else. But it has made us all much more equal—for better or worse. Everyone’s voice can be much louder now and everyone has the potential to be heard. Not just the rich and powerful.
DP: Rather than going the tv/Netflix route you chose to release the series on youtube, what made you make that decision and how are you getting the word out there that the series exists?
JB: I’ve done some similar videos before—particularly a narrative fashion-y film a few years ago for Purple Magazine—and saw how much people respond to these kind of stories with male models. Typically people see these boys portrayed as Zoolander or whatever. But that’s not real. And there’s a huge audience for authentic stories about guys like this. And they’re online. So it seemed perfect to try this new format…super premium, HBO-style drama, but produced independently.
DP: It is six episodes at 8 minutes each, do you think it will be binge watched or do you release one 8 minute episode a week or how do you do it?
JB: We are going to be putting all the episodes out over about 3 days. Basically the moment final bits of post production is done on an episode we will post it. So binge away!
DP: Do you want it to stay on youtube or do you aspire to a Netflix series?
JB: I’m already working on season two for Youtube. But who know what the future holds!
A short form digital scripted drama. Created by Jacob Mendel Brown.
Executive producers Jason Weinberg and Hunter Hill
Fashion credits: Opening Ceremony, Levis, Doc Martens, Reebok, The Cast
Casting by Sig de Miguel. SAG production. We had amazing amazing acting talent. And I was able to find real actors who are also real models to play the three male models. Taylor Rosen (plays Felix) is at VNY. Stanley Simons (plays Paris) is at Next. Phoenix Jakob (plays Elias) is at Click.
Jacob Mendel Brown has worked as an editor and writer at fashion magazines for 10+ years—as Features Director at T: The New York Times Style Magazine, as a contributor and video creative director at Vogue.com, and as Editor-in-Chief at BlackBook and VMAN. He’s been gathering material for MODEL BOY the entire time.
Social handle (IG, Tw, FB): @modelboytv
Youtube URL: Youtube.com/modelboytv
Release date: May 8, 2019
Format: Season one is six episodes of about 8 minutes each
Release dates: May 8-10