Gidget on the Couch

    By Peter Lunenfeld
    Design by Dmitri Siegel

    Open Project

    Gidget, the book that started it all, has been back in print or more than a decade, Kathy, the one and only original Gidget, has been profiled in other documentaries, and is a guest of honor at surf festivals all over the country.

    - Peter Lunenfeld, Author's Statement

    Lunenfeld with the "real" Gidget Kathy Kohner Zuckerman on the beaches of Malibu
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    Designer's Statement
    Finding the form for Gidget on the Couch was tricky. In reading the original essay, I was taken by Peter's transitions between different ideas. It was the strength of the transitions that to me created a cohesive statement in the same way that an invisible image, projected from the mind, connects a group of stars into a constellation. I wanted to transpose or even transcode those segues, creating a piece that could crossfade between surfing and modernism, Malibu and Vienna.

    The transitions in the essay are deft but they are also very specific, even idiosyncratic - they are part of the overall voice of the writing. That led me to think that a first person approach was the way to go. The cadence of Peter's voice also attracted me and I wanted stay true to that. This pushed the project towards film/video as the medium rather than something more interactive.

    Some of my favorite sequences in the video are the maps which combine actual cartography with psychogeography. We were inspired by Peter's collection of Dell Mapbacks, cheap paperback mysteries from the 1940s that map out the locations and sometimes even the timing of the crimes. In our case, Sunset Boulevard is not only the street that links Schindler in West Hollywood to Peter at UCLA to Gidget and her father in Brentwood to Dora in Malibu, it is also the conceptual spine for the transitions between the constellations of ideas. Places mix with concepts, and the device of having Peter drive to the beach was partly determined by our desire to do a drive-by history of LA modernism. The route forms a through-line that becomes the motion carto-graphic. The drive is a Post-Situationist derive with the top down through Los Angeles, and the map makes explicit the connections that are laden in the original text.

    I should mention the director here, Matt Nourse, and our cameraman and jack-of-all-trades, Quetzel Aguilar. All of us work primarily in commercial contexts, and it was really fun to stretch with this content in the context of a Vectors piece. Matt in particular was attracted to creating a critically-driven rather than narratively-driven video. Matt, Quetzal and I also functioned as a mini-focus group for the language and approach Peter adopted. It was a form of democratic cultural production. A critical text translated through the lens of a team of makers, recrafting Peter's written style into spoken voice, making critical theory more accessible without dumbing it down.

    I wasn't looking to resolve this piece as neatly as short form documentaries tend to. The last thing we wanted was to make was a "Behind the Music" mini-drama. If we had a model, it was Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles, which the great British architecture critic made for the BBC in 1972. It's kind of shaggy, but that's what's great about it. There's a heroic but knowing view of the critic: Banham's not a talking head behind a desk or a disembodied voice, he's out driving around LA, and loving every minute of it. In the end, we wanted to make an action movie about a scholar thinking and talking. We were excited to see the critic in action and Peter was willing to do his own stunts.

    — Dmitri Siegel, September 21st, 2011