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FILMARTICLE

Watch This Short: UNBRANDED, Directed by Alina Gozin'a

Before she turns heads in the Coen brothers' HAIL, CAESAR!, newcomer Natasha Bassett stars in this provocative look at celebrities' public personas.

Leave it to Joel and Ethan Coen to school modern-day Hollywood fans on how the game used to be played.

The esteemed filmmaking siblings are back this weekend with Hail, Caesar!, a star-studded comedy in which Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, a 1950s Hollywood "fixer" tasked with finding big-screen star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), who's gone missing while filming a sword-and-sandals epic. Brolin's character is based on the real Eddie Mannix, a New Jersey thug turned Hollywood problem-solver who buried potential scandals for A-listers like Spencer Tracy, Joan Crawford, and Judy Garland. Hail, Caesar! also channels the period-specific glamour that populated '50s cinema, from Channing Tatum's character's Fred-Astaire-like, song-and-dance flamboyance to Scarlett Johansson's Marilyn-Monroe-like radiance.

Another bit of historical accuracy comes through Gloria DeLamour, a spunky up-and-coming actress played by Aussie newcomer Natasha Bassett. "Gloria is a '50s starlet who's very sassy with her studio head and gets herself into a whole lot of trouble," says Bassett. "[Her experience] was very different to my experience as an actor nowadays. In Hail Caesar! , she was on a contract, and you didn’t have any control over what your face was going to be in, or what movie you were going to do. You were just on contract with a studio, and basically had to do what the studio said. That’s why my character gets into so much trouble, because she acts out."

Hail, Caesar!'s references to identity-limiting studio contracts demonstrates just how different the business was 60 years ago, decades before the rise of social media. Now, thanks to Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, celebrities are able to control how their audiences and fans see them on a daily, if not minute-by-minute, basis. Contracts still exist, of course, but they’re no longer powerful enough to turn movie stars into puppets. But as social media continues to dominate people’s lives, what happens to one’s self-perception? Is it healthy to value your worth by how many Twitter followers you have, or what your face looks like the pint-sized Instagram app?

Those questions are the driving force behind director Alina Gozin'a's new short film Unbranded, which we're premiering exclusively here on TribecaFilm.com. In Unbranded, Hail, Caesar!'s Natasha Bassett plays an introverted young woman reckoning with her more glossed-up public persona as she's projected against the flashing lights of New York City's legendary Chelsea Hotel.

"Unbranded is about facing different aspects of yourself," says Bassett. "We all have different things that we put out into the universe, and other things that we may hide. Everyone does that, no matter what industry you’re in. [In Unbranded], you're seeing this character’s public personality, and then she's confronted by her own identity. Nowadays, we see that all the time, especially with the younger generations. People will place so much value on social media and how many likes they may get on pictures or media, and how many followers they have. I just go on Instagram and think, 'Wow, these people have such amazing lives!' But everyone's putting together the highlights of their life, and kind of putting together a fantasy too, to impress people."

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