Can a drastic haircut change who you are, and how you feel about yourself? In Alexis O. Korycinski’s award-winning short film “The Haircut,” the act of taking scissors to long flowing locks symbolizes both commitment and a change of identity. The main character, a petite and feminine eighteen-year-old girl (played by Bailey Noble from “True Blood”) is one of the first women to attend a military academy in the 1970s. She endures brutal harassment and persecution from her commanding officer and male cadets, and must cope with endurance exercises designed for male, not female, physiques. When she succumbs to a military haircut, she reveals a commitment to change and a new identity that is free of pre-conceived notions about strength, courage and womanhood.
“I’m all about advocating for women,” Alexis Korycinski, who directed and produced the film, said in an interview with L’Etage. Her interest in the trailblazing military women of the 1970s grew out of interviews with her Army lieutenant colonel cousin and women who were at West Point in the 1990s. “It made me wonder what it must have been like to be one of the first?” said Korycinski. She became hooked and found a story she needed to tell, one that has gone largely untold.
“The Haircut” is Korycinski’s first narrative film and has garnered strong support. It’s been shown at thirty-five film festivals and just last week won two “Best Short Film” awards, from the 2015 Catalina Film Festival and The Chimaera Project. The film is a bold move for the former documentarian, who is currently working on a full-length feature film version to be titled “The Point.” Korycinski’s first film, in 2011, was “Defining Beauty: Ms Wheelchair America.” Her stance on gender equality plays out behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera. Many key positions on her cast and crew are equally divided between men and women and have earned her recognition with the Chimaera Project.
As a female filmmaker and a US Army Veteran myself, I was impressed by Korycinski’s passion for the film, for its balanced look into an often sensitive topic and by her dedication to “putting it out there.” She is blazing trails for women who wish to break through that glass ceiling and tell our own stories with our perspective. Getting “The Haircut” made on a shoestring budget required a lot of “asking” for favors, says Korycinski. Much of the film was shot at Fort MacArthur Military Museum in Los Angeles, which closed in the late 70s and still has the feel of that period. She asked, and got, antique car enthusiasts to lend her cars from the era, and asked and got help to make her film accessible to people with disabilities.
“Pick up a camera and tell your story!” Korycinski advises. “You don’t have to go to film school. If you have a passion to tell a story, take an internship or join a theater group.” These are all things Korycinski has done and as she puts it, “You’ll find out along the way if you want to be a writer, producer or director.” She has a mirthful enthusiasm about encouraging women. Be bold, be beautiful, and don’t be afraid of “The Haircut.” Her message is: “Take risks, that’s how we learn. Mistakes are beautiful.”