Model Sara Ziff and her then-boyfriend Ole Schell started filming a video diary a few years ago. As their interviews with other models, designers and fashion insiders began to reveal some ugly truths about the industry, they decided to turn their footage into a feature. Picture Me is now making the rounds on the festival circuit and is picking up a lot of buzz along the way.
In an interview with The Guardian, Ziff explains that young, aspiring models are caught up in a system where intense competition combined with a lack of support and supervision creates a recipe for exploitation. "Vulnerable girls are being put into a potentially predatory environment," says Ziff. "What's in the agency's interest is not always best for the girl, and if she's in a compromising situation, she doesn't necessarily have anyone to turn to."
In one scene of the film, model Sena Cech desribes her experience of being coerced to perform a sex act on a photographer. According to Ziff, these incidents are rampant in the industry. Unfortunately, they are rarely discussed.
"It doesn't happen in front of anyone. It happens in the dark recesses," she says. "Pretty much every girl I have talked to has a story like it, but no one talks about it. It's all under the radar because people are embarrassed and because the people in the industry who are doing these things are much more powerful, and the model is totally disposable. She could be gone in two years."
Unlike actors, models do not have the protection of a union. Sure, there are still plenty of shady goings-on in Hollywood casting offices. But there also strict on-the-job regulations for child actors. Even though a 14-year-old model might be treated like she's older, she is still a child.
"Sara Ziff talks to Louise France about the world of teen modelling" [Guardian]