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Have you ever found yourself in a grocery line bombarded by celebrity tabloids? Of course you have. Have you ever been curious to grab one and read about the latest affair or divorce? Maybe. Have you ever been watching the news and realize you’re learning about the latest celebrity wedding? Probably. Have you found yourself getting emotional over a celebrity’s emotional drama? I don’t know but it’s possible. In today’s society, we are continuously being exposed to the private lives of celebrities. Whether we realize it or not. The media has created a bridge into their lives that make us feel like we “know” them. We know about their love lives. We see them in intimate moments with their children. We see a glimpse into their everyday life. However, is this “persona” the media has created for celebrities fact or fiction? And why do we believe it?






When I was asked to come up with 20 ideas that I was interested in, more than half of them were related to the media. As my professor put it, I covered an entire media theory course. From there, I created a mind map on media to focus my thoughts. I centered in on the recurring theme of celebrity culture and made another mind map focused on that.

I created two separate Popplet’s during my research. The first (below) was for all the book and article research I did. I had another one for my research on Documentary Filmmaking because that was the direction I was headed at the beginning of the semester. The Popplet for my Documentary research can found under the Precedents section.





hyperreality a simulated version of reality newszak a television program containing mostly fluff pieces and gossip, but formatted to resemble a news broadcast

para-social interaction reproduce the effect of a relationship but in a one-way flow of communication

mediated quasi-interaction intimacy with others from a distance

Braudy, Leo. The Frenzy of Renown: Fame & Its History. New York: Oxford UP, 1986. Print. Holmes, Su, and Sean Redmond. Framing Celebrity: New Directions in Celebrity Culture. London: Routledge, 2006. Print. Thompson, John B. The Media and Modernity: a Social Theory of the Media. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1995. Print. Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1994. Print.





Based on my topic of celebrity culture and the research I have done, I created one mini-project within 24 hours for 5 days. Meaning, 5 projects in 5 days. They were meant to be experiments to discover a new way to explore my topic.

I wanted to focus on tv news and the how I’ve noticed their own obsession with talking about celebrities. I made a mistake and decided to do it on a Sunday which meant a lot of football took over. However, here is what I got from the bit of news that did air. They focused a lot of on local news in New York City: shootings, car accidents, missing children, sexual assaults. It was also the day of the Breast Cancer walk so they had someone there reporting live. When they did discuss relevant news, it was about the Wall Street protests. There was minimal discussion about the Republican debates. There was one hour segment that was all featured on the Red Carpet. The hosts interviewed celebrities about Halloween (that time of year). The rest focused on celebrity’s (Julia Roberts, The Thing) opening movie on the red carpet. There was also an inside look on the set of the tv show Dexter. This wasn’t quite how I wanted this experiment to go. I was hoping for the news I’m used to turning on and seeing that they are talking about some celebrity’s wedding. I’m sure my timing was off because of the football season. Plus, I think it is difficult to get that in just one day of watching news. I wouldn’t mind trying this again but for a longer duration.





I decided to focus on how we are exposed to celebrity “news”. The one place we are forever being bombarded with it is in line at the grocery store or pharmacy. I bought 4 tabloids to do my investigation and I have a feeling I was being judged when I went up to pay for them. As I went through each magazine, I made note of the theme or type of story and the words used. I thought the descriptive words they choose would be important because they are what grab our attention. So I was curious to see what it was exactly that made us interested. Based on my list by the end of all 4, I created a word cloud to represent the most used down to the least frequent used words. Without knowing it, most of these words also represented the type of story (style, love, marriage). It confirmed my notion that what we are interested in about celebrities is there everyday life and their troubles. There was a lot of breaking “news” and the most recent gossip but the truth is, I don’t think it matters if it’s true or not. Reading these stories about the celebrities divorce or whatever, it felt just like that, a story.

I decided to create a survey to get a general idea of how people are exposed to celebrities. I was only able to get 30 people to take the survey because of the time constraint. Next time, if I were to do a survey, I would make it more public. The 30 people who did take it were very diverse though. About a third were male, the rest female. The age ranged from 20 to 35. I was shocked to see the results. I thought more people got their celebrity news from online. From this survey, it seems that people are most exposed through tv which isn’t that surprising. This helps because if I were to use this data for my final project, I would probably focus more towards tv media rather than magazines.





I wanted to look into obsessed fandom through the internet and youtube videos. A few years ago, I made a documentary about the Twilight obsession and wanted to do something along the same line. I chose Bieber Fever, the newest obsession. With that, I looked into youtube for crazed fans who confess their love for him through their videos. It illustrates this relationship that fans feel they have with their celebrity. It is their form of dialogue, in hopes that their celebrity might see it. This is a very short idea of what I was trying to do. It’s like the idea in fast forward. But I think it still gets that notion of obsession across. After doing this, and then researching Jillian McDonald and Paul Pheiffer, it seems like a good direction for my final thesis. I’m actually considering this kind of work rather than a documentary to be a better route for me to go.

My last project, I wanted to explore how celebrities using their fame to get into politics. My focus was on Arnold Schwarzenegger and his rise to Governor. But rather than a serious look, I wanted to make a satire about his characters in his films and how this man is someone we decided to trust to govern a whole state. It’s a new way of looking into this relationship we have celebrities that we would go so far as to vote for someone just because we’ve seen him on tv and in films. I enjoyed doing this, and again like the Bieber video, is only the beginning of what I could do with this subject.





I started this semester convinced it would end with a documentary. I began intense research into the art and style of film documentaries. The image of my Popplet to the right is a slimmed down version of my research. It contains 4 documentaries with a very different style. I was much more interested in Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock’s humorous style.

However, as I delved further into my research of celebrity culture, I began to feel a documentary might not be the right direction for me. After my midterm presentation and critique, I was given some artists to look into that just confirmed this thought. One such artist was Jillian McDonald. Jillan McDonald is a video artist who concentrates on celebrity fandom and the cult of celebrity. She digitally manipulates film scenes (specifically romantic ones) to make her celebrity fantasy become a reality. I am really interested in this way she alters what is already out there to portray this idea of “the real” and “the illusion”.





Paul Pfeiffer is a video and photography artist. In his work above, he digitally removes the bodies of the famous sports players and leaves the focus on the audience and fans. His hope is to show the obsession with celebrity thorugh these projects and the desire of the spectator.

Candice Breitz is another video artist whose work focuses on the celebrity and the fan. In Becoming (screenshots are below), she imitates and becomes the character, replicating so close their every movement that it is hard to tell them apart. This is very reminiscent of my own project but instead it will of myself, it will be outside fans coming in to do the character’s role.





I am now heading in a new direction for my project. I have decided to take a more metaphorical approach rather than the straight forward documentary. I’m thinking about doing some kind of video art, installation piece. I will still be focusing on the relationship formed between a fan and their celebrity of choice with the influence on the media. I started to develop this new approach during my three prototypes.


For my first prototype, I wanted to bring the audience into a film. I wanted them to interact opposite another actor. I chose 5 film scenes: Mean Girls, The Sandlot, Superbad, Legally Blonde and The Dark Knight. For each scene, I chose one the characters,

they got confused about when they were supposed to be read-

removed all of their dialogue, and put that character’s lines at the

ing their lines. I need to find a way to make this clearer for the

bottom of the sceen (think karaoke). Each person would then be

“actor” because the way it was limited them from really interact-

able to choose which film they wanted to be in and read the lines

ing with the video and actors within since they were so flustered

of that character. Meanwhile, they were being recorded for my

about reading their lines. I got suggestions on furthering the ka-

own benefit to see how invested they became in their character.

raoke style with countdowns or even having the entire script in

Overall, it went really well. Just about everyone commented on

front of them.

how much fun it was. Everyone chose the clip based on how

Thinking ahead if I continue this direction I have an idea of how I

much they loved the film or because they knew it best. Everyone

would want it set up. I would prefer to have it projected on a wall

also liked being able to see the character they were playing and

rather than on my laptop that way the “actor” will be the same

ended up mimicking a lot of their facial expressions. It was en-

size and feel connected, involved with what is going on. It might

tertaining for me to watch as some of them really got into playing

also make them feel less constrained if they are standing than

the part they chose.

when they were sitting and struggling to hear what was going

I asked which films they would like to re-enact and based on

on. Plus, I would like to have the fact that I’m recording them be

their answers, I got a sense that these people wanted to escape

a secret because a lot of people seemed to get self-conscious

into a different world and to experience something else. It was

when they knew they were being recorded (which I expected). I

interesting that they didn’t choose movies that are of this time

know I want to continue with this concept of having a dialogue

period or things they could generally relate to.

with other characters rather than just a character’s monologue

Obviously, there is a lot of improvement to be made. Everyone

from a film because the interaction between the “actor” and the

had problems with saying the lines in the given time period. Plus,

real actor is what is most fascinating.




the technical aspect of all this which is why I met with her. Upon meeting with her, she also had me start thinking about the design of my booth because it has to entice people and make them want to go inside. After that meeting, I created my second protoype. I made a 3D version of what I want my booth to look like on Google Sketch (to the left). The film they select will take up the entire wall in front of them. I also want the outside to resemble paprazzi along with a red carpet. After the class, I had a lot of questions to answer by the third prototype: -How do I choose the movies? Is there a theme to the selection of movies? Or is it just popularity? -How many people can go in at once? A lot of people seemed interested in having multiple people in there with them. -How does the playback work? In what form does it take? -What does the booth look like? Can people see in? Are there

During the next week, before the second prototype was due, I

marks on the floor to suggest where they should be standing or

met with another Thesis professor. When I walked into the meet-

moving to during the scene?

ing with her I had a few ideas of what I wanted to do: I wanted a

-What happens after they are done and after the playback? What

booth that a person entered, they select a film, play the character

do I do with the video just created? Someone suggested creating

while being recorded, and then it is played back for them with

a youtube channel.

their dialogue inserted into the scene. I needed some advice on

-The name of the booth?


I made an animation of how my booth would appear to a viewer. The outside would imply paparazzi. When you walk up to the booth, there is a computer where you get to select your film. I have decided that the films will be chosen based on genre rather than a theme because I felt that would bring in a whole new element than the one I want to focus on. Plus, I think it’s fascinating to see how everyone will choose a different genre of film to escape into. Only one person will be able to go in at a time because I want the focus to be on you. If multiple people go in, not only will it get complicated for them, it becomes a different conversation and relationship than what I would want. I think it’s important to keep it between the person and the actor that’s be-

Here are some of the responses I got during class:

ing projected. I will have a choice between which actor/character

-The big black box with the printed paparazzi is intimidating.

they want to play in that scene though. They will be recorded on

-Maybe create an effect of paparazzi camera flashes with a

a green screen playing their part in the film. When they are done,

strobe light.

they will be inserted into the film in place of the actor/character

-Create the inside to look more like they are on set (spotlight,

they chose and get to watch themselves. Meanwhile, the finished

mics, etc.)

piece will also get sent out to TVs set up outside for outside view-

-The outside TVs should feel more like a theatre or movie pre-

ers to watch. This will bring their 15 seconds of fame full circle

miere. Maybe include the movie poster with that person’s face

because not only do they get to watch themselves on the screen,

inserted into it.

others or their “fans” will get to watch them as well. They have

-Have an option to run the clip once through so they can get a

become the celebrity.

feel of what the lines are and the timing.



DESIGN BRIEF Alyssa Wadley Prof. Jane Pirone Thesis 1 Draft

Film Karaoke (Fake Name For Now)

When I walked into my Thesis class at the beginning of the semester, I was very uncertain what I wanted my project to be about.

The only thing I did know was I wanted to make a film of some sort. My professor asked us to make a Pecha Kucha of 20 ideas that interest us. When I presented mine there was one common theme: the media. The media and how it affects our society has always fascinated me. I narrowed my subject down and began to focus on celebrity culture. Celebrities have been around forever but they have drastically transformed from kings and queens to reality stars. Further, I became intrigued by this relationship formed between the celebrity and the fan through the media. Through my research I concluded that I wanted to explore the intimate relationship formed between a fan and a celebrity in our simulated “reality” and the media’s influence on that relationship.

I was convinced that the way to develop this project was through a documentary film so I began researching and watching

documentary films for different approaches. Meanwhile, I was delving deep in research about celebrity culture and the celebrity’s fans. My main influence became Jean Baulliard who coined the term hyperreality, which basically means the inability for one to distinguish

between reality and fantasy. However after my midterm presentation, I had a moment of realization that a documentary film was perhaps not the best route for me to go down. I began looking into artists like Jillian McDonald, Paul Pfeiffer, and Candace Breitz. Their work had a profound affect on my project and turned it into something completely different. I wanted to do something similar to Jillian McDonald’s video pieces where she inserts herself into a film, specifically during a romantic scene where they are about to kiss. However, I wanted to find a way to incorporate the audience rather than myself.

Once I had this idea, I started looking on YouTube at fan videos where they would re-enact a scene from a film. That was when

my project took off because I had finally found a way to include the audience in my work. I want to create an immersive experience for someone to become apart of a film of their choosing almost reminiscent of karaoke. I will have a booth set up for someone to walk up to, choose a film and their character, and enter the booth for their celebrity experience. Once inside, they will be given instructions how it will work. Basically, just like karaoke, thWeir lines will be given to them at the bottom of the screen. They will be able to see their character but will not be able to hear them speaking because they have become the actor in the scene. They will be recorded the entire time on a green screen so that when they are finished, their recording and image will be matted into the film for their viewing. Also, the finished film with the new “actor” will be sent out to TVs outside the booth for other viewers to watch or rather, their fans to watch. This whole experience comes full circle from choosing a film (usually because the person is a fan of the film), becoming the celebrity in the film, and having their own fans outside watching them.

This project has a lot of technical issues I still have to work out but I’m hoping I will be able to make it happen. First, the creation

of the karaoke film videos will require me to acquire all the films I choose plus I need a program to be able to record the specific scene I choose. I used Camtasia for my first prototype however, I was using a trial and the 30 days are gone so I will need to find a new program to record the films. For creating the lines of dialogue at the bottom of the film, all I will need is Final Cut Pro or even just iMovie will work. As for the most difficult task of recording and instant playback, I am currently teaching myself MaxMSP in hopes that I will be able to learn how to record. I have requested that they install the program in the 10th floor lab so that should happen soon. However, I think I will need to find someone to help me with this whole part because it is beyond my knowledge or even what I can find in tutorials



online. There also the actual materials I will need to set the whole booth up. I will need plywood to build the actual booth that can then be painted on. Additionally, I will need a red carpet runner that I can find online for fewer than 10 dollars. Then, there’s the projector and video camera I will need which I am hoping I will be able to rent from the school.

I plan on having my booth set up and going for the Senior Thesis Show so that is my deadline to make all this happen. I have

a general idea of when I need certain things to get done and what takes the highest priority. Obviously, my first priority that I must sort out is the technical aspect of my project. I need to make sure what I want to happen can actually become a reality. I hope I can talk to someone who is willing to help me with this part of my project by the first week or so of next semester, which means reaching out over my winter break. I would also like to finalize which films and which scenes will be offered over my winter break. Hopefully if I can do that, over the course of the semester I can work on the videos. Those are my two main focuses going into next semester since the actual building of the booth won’t need to happen until the end of the semester. However, I would like to have a way to test everything so I will have to build a fake booth or something close to it to make sure it works how I want it to. I hope I will be able to start doing that by mid semester.

Celebrity Culture  

Thesis Process Book

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