After Hydra and perhaps the Parker in Palm Springs (the latter for aesthetic reasons only), this sensational house in Malibu designed by Harry Gesner for his wife Nan Martin (be still my beating heart) was one of my favourite shoot locations of all time. When you’re producing shoots long-distance, and don’t get to do a real site recce until the morning of, it’s difficult to judge a space from aggressively wide-angled and photoshopped shots on a film location website. Like Airbnbs apartments, you often arrive to subpar light, no access to facilities and counterintuitive rules like don’t touch anything ever please and thank you all crew must be outside the house all day. I’ve truly never understood why people would rent their house as a location if they’re unwilling for people to so much as lean against a doorframe.
But you know what – expect the worst, and be pleasantly surprised.
Of course, we were far beyond pleasantly surprised. The feeling was mutual: compared to the 50-head crew productions that had stormed the place the week prior, our little Tory Burch girl gang (plus Tim) and our kale salads and
our Tim’s class act Spotify playlists were basically a vacation for the man of the house and our new favourite person, Zen – who is indeed, the most zen human being you will ever meet. But also, how could you not be if it were your birthright and your home could be described as below.
For us, the property was straight-up visual stimulation. From the rotund pug
bumbling into shot after shot to the spectacular vista of a hazy flat horizon; the guest appearance of a pair of whales; the stoically beautiful paintings of the aforementioned Mrs Gesner hung around the circular living room; the entirely reclaimed building materials; and Harry Gesner’s neighbouring crown jewel 2.0 (seen in the background of opening shot of yours truly reclining) that in some beautiful cross-continental bout of inspiration, formed Jørn Utzon’s sails and curves on the Sydney Opera House.
Sold to the blonde in mum jeans and a blazer.
My lame excuse of “but I wear them everywhere – even on the subway” did not apply in Malibu. For each new arrival on set, it was all “hey Marg, nice to see/meet y-love love the beach lewk girl”.
Cut to: our styling deck. Consisting entirely of wicker bags, ribbon wrap espadrilles, Moroccan slippers, sunglasses, and every name, shape, and cultural iteration of tunic under the sun. By the time we wrapped, I had conjured a scenario in which I – that is, she who only wears pants, aggressive shoes and avoids anything remotely frilly like the plague by virtue of her baby face – I was strolling a boardwalk, espadrilles in hand, off-shoulder blouse, resort palazzo pant billowing in a sea breeze, a Hemingway text and a spare hooded tunic readied for après-swim peaking over the edge of a basket bag of primary colours and fluffy ornamentation.
My producer’s laugh in response was justifiably mirthful. The extend of my commitment to beachwear is usually a bikini under the assassin outfit I wore to meetings earlier that day, with a low block heel instead of a lethal boot. After submergence, I will walk well past the radial threshold from the coastline beyond which it is entirely unacceptable to still be wearing just a bikini and a towel – assassin clothes in hand.
I need a holiday. And a lesson in tunics.
PHOTOGRAPHY & STYLING // MARGARET ZHANG for Tory Burch
HAIR // DAVID STANWELL
MAKE UP // TAMAH KRINSKY
TALENT // ZOEY DEUTCH, NIKIA PHOENIX, ANNIE MCGINTY, KENYA KINSKI JONES
PHOTO ASSIST // TIMOTHY MAHONEY + MARK UNDERWOOD