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Topanga stories

THE GOOD LIFE Extensively traveled Director and Photographer, PETER KAGAN, finds a place in Topanga where his food store, CANYON GOURMET, nourishes the local community. INTERVIEW BY ERIN CASTELLINO PHOTOGRAPHY BY BUNNI WYLDEFLOWER

Peter Kagan and Argus

Opposite Peter Kagan in front of his store on a bench that he made. Canyon Gourmet presents a selection of cheeses, organic Farmer’s Market produce, fresh bread from Gjusta Bakery and Topanga Table, and a selection of housewares curated by Peter.

Erin: I’d love to know about your background and what brought you to Topanga. Peter: I came to Topanga on a motorcycle. At the time I had a little cabin in the woods in Connecticut, where I grew up, and thought that’s where I was going to go when LA and I were done with each other. The trees are bigger up here in Topanga, as they are on the east coast, and something just clicked in me. I had been directing commercials for years, and the process was getting to me. I was able to harness a sense of contentment here that had escaped me before and it’s been amazing. It’s really changed me. I went to a traditional prep school in Connecticut and then to Rhode Island School of Design where I experimented with videotape, back in the late 70s, often with the intent of rephotographing the sequences on a black and white monitor. When I moved to New York I showed those video-sequences to Arthur Elgort looking for a job. He had video equipment of his own and happily, he saw the potential in having me around. That began our collaboration. While Arthur shot pictures I’d be loading all of his cameras, making sure the readings were correct, and then I’d shoot video. I was only twenty-four going on all these fantastic trips with Vogue. Artie shot the stills, I shot video and then later at night, we’d all meet up at the hotel with, for example, Polly Mellen, the legendary editor of Vogue. I’d set it up in the hotel room and all the models and Arthur would gather round to see what I had shot that day. It was crazy pressure. No editing. Straight out of camera to the Vogue audience. I hadn’t set out to make narrative stories, my first objective was to get stills to re-photograph on a monitor with Arthur. I began to edit in-camera knowing I was gonna have to show the raw dailies that night. Great training, I learned how to pace it, get coverage, and make it entertaining without going into an editing room. Then shooting video for designers became a thing, and I got jobs working for Comme des Garçons, Issey Miyake, and Karl Lagerfeld, who just recently passed away. He had hired me to film him preparing his collection in ’84. I was waiting in a hotel for Karl to summon me to his atelier when Arthur’s agent in Paris called me and asked if I wanted to shoot another little video. It was for a small, very cool magazine called Jill, kinda like the Paris version of that famous little New York magazine, Details. The budget was four-hundred dollars. I shot it on super 8 and brought it back to New York. I never got the $400, but an editor at Condé Nast saw that little film. It was three minutes long, all black and white. She said, “I’m gonna send this to California”. Soon afterwards, Warner Brothers Records called and said, “That is what rock videos should look like, here’s sixty-five-thousand dollars, go back to Paris and do exactly the same film over again but there’s this band in London and they’re going to meet you there.” The name of the band was Scritti Politti. The song was Perfect Way. It was the first music video I ever did – the same camera, same super 8 same everything, shot in Paris. And it started from there. I made a lot of music videos – Duran Duran and Steve Winwood and started a great run. This was when MTV was just getting figured out. As young art students, there was nothing that you could do with a three-minute film, until music videos. Suddenly, MTV created a whole new format of three or four-minutes for young people with a camera and an idea. It was an amazing time. Around that time advertisers asked, “If the scene looks just like a Duran Duran video except everyone’s holding my beer, it’s a commercial, right?” I didn’t even realize that directing commercials was a job, but it found me and I made a lot of them. At first for Barney’s NY, then Nike, then the beer, cosmetics, cars, and so on. The thing about commercial production is that there are all of these meetings. The casting the scouting,


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