This profile was originally published in April 2013, but with ‘Iris’ screening at both the New York and Hamptons International Film Festivals this weekend, this is the perfect time to re-run it. Congratulations Jennifer, ‘Iris’ is a fantastic, must-see film!!
Ben Franklin’s famous saying “you can do anything you set your mind to” describes Jennifer Ash Rudick to a tee. A Palm Beach native and long time New York City resident, Jennifer’s busy life revolves around her two teenagers, an adorable eye-surgeon husband, a writing career, and now, documentary filmmaking. On her resumé: Editor of WWD/W‘s ‘Eye’ column, Town & Country magazine contributor and currently, a contributing editor at Veranda magazine. She also authored two books– Tropical Style: Private Palm Beach and The Expectant Father that sold over 900,000 copies. With our publishing connection, it’s no surprise that when we met years ago at our daughters’ barn on L.I., we instantly became friends. Ringside we would share our life stories on juggling work and family (not always with aplomb), and took turns carpooling five girls to the barn every day. On my KiC radar as a chic working mom, when Jennifer casually mentioned that she was making a documentary on fashion icon Iris Apfel, I begged her to be a profile.
What inspired you to make documentary films? It was very serendipitious. Iris Apfel and I went to see the Bill Cunningham documentary which led to a half serious conversation about making a documentary on Iris and the quirkier side of fashion. I began investigating how to make a documentary which involved googling and hiding out in Barnes and Noble’s “books on film” aisle so I could read Documentaries for Dummies without actually buying it. I kept coming across the work of Al Maysles and the more I read about him, the more I wanted to work with him. The stars aligned and the producer at Maysles, Laura Coxson, happened to be a big fan of Iris’s so we partnered and got going. It’s the best job ever. While working on that documentary, I learned about Diner en Blanc, an elegant flash-mob dinner that started 24 years ago as 200 people and has grown into 13,000 friends-of-friends who meet at a secret spot annually for a formal dinner and they are all seated in 15 minutes! The fact that everyone brought their own delicious picnic seemed very locavore and relevant. There are no sponsors and the organizer had never spoken to the press. I had to know more about a person who invites 13,000 people for dinner every year, not for fame or fortune, but for the fun of it! It took six months to get a meeting with him. We finally agreed on a time and place, I flew to Paris and he sent his neighbor! Luckily we got along and he eventually introduced me to Francois. Making a documentary is really about trust between the subject and the filmmaker. Not to say you agree on everything but they are entrusting their story to you and you must trust that they will share their story as honestly and completely as they can.
How did your parents’ careers influence yours? My parents were both journalists who met at the Dayton Daily News, worked in NYC and eventually moved to Miami, Fl. in the 1950s. They moved to Palm Beach in the mid 70s. My father, Clarke Ash was an editorial writer who championed the environment and civil rights and he was occasionally threatened for his beliefs. I remember the FBI sweeping our house and cars for bombs. He was also the editor on a story that won a Pulitzer for breaking the Bay of Pigs. He understood the importance of Florida development but he was very concerned that they protect their commodity – the beaches and land. My mother, Agnes Ash, was one of the first female business reporters for the New York Herald Tribune; at the time it was the business paper of record. But the Kentucky Derby, Secretariat and the Miami Dolphins were her favorite subjects. She was best known for her last job which was as publisher of the Palm Beach Daily News. It was a society paper when she took over as publisher and she turned it into a real newspaper that served the town. She loved that job but it was 24/7! Both parents had great range and thanks to them, my brothers and I are information junkies with a lot of different interests. Something that really impressed me about my parents was their loyalty to friends and colleagues. I remember my father saying “your mother spends half of her day at the office doing her job and the other half finding jobs for her friends.” I like to think I spend as much time trying to move my work forward as I do pushing people in front of me or pulling them along. My mother used to say, “there’s room for everyone!” Like my parents, I prefer to be behind the scenes.
Fashion advice from your fashionable mother: My mother has been mixing high/low forever. For black tie events, she wore a simple black dress – a favorite was by YSL with a gathered peasant neckline – with an an enormous silver and turquoise necklace, which was not typical in the 60s in Palm Beach where they took their jewelry very seriously. She became friendly with Givenchy while pregnant with me. By then, she was pretty sick of potato sack dresses so she asked Mr. Givenchy what she should buy after I was born. He laughed and sketched one of his famous swing dresses on his lunch napkin. I still have the napkin. When he learned my mother had a girl, he sketched a wedding dress and sent it to her. In the end, Pauline Trigere designed my wedding dress. We met after hours at her 7th avenue “atelier.” I was so afraid of the cost and a little insecure about making too big of an entrance, even at my own wedding, I kept asking her to simplify. Now I wish I had let her go to it! At least I got the guy right.
Next project? “Diner en Blanc” is entered into festivals with the hopes of selling it. “Iris, New York’s Rare Bird of Fashion” is almost finished filming but I never want it to end. Working with Laura, Al and Iris is a dream. I’m helping Ashley Bush and Stick Figure Productions with a film on the Tyler Texas Rose Festival which is a debutante ball. The film is very thoughtful and surprising. I have another idea in mind but tracking down the subject will be a challenge.
5 Wardrobe Essentials? – Faded genetics jeans. – J. Crew slim fit, long sleeve, crew neck t-shirts. – A simple black sleeveless Narciso Rodriquez dress that can be worn during the day or turned up a notch for evening with chunky necklace and chunky shoes – both by Marni. I keep updating the accessories but the dress is ten years old. – Lululemon narrow pants and stretch tops with built in bras. I can wear them with ballet flats and a Barbor field coat on the way to the gym and not look like a complete slob. -A love knot ring by Aurelie Bidermann from my son and daughter. We call it the “much love knot.”
Beauty Essentials? Walking! Whole Foods Peppermint body wash, and Pecksniff’s grapefruit body lotion. Florida roots respond to anything citrus. Zittomer’s Nourish hand cream, it’s light, unscented and non-greasy.
Cannot live without? Family and friends. The Palm Beach Bike Path and the beach. I could probably live without hair ties and my Nespresso machine but it wouldn’t be pretty!
Next/Favorite destination? Our bed! My husband, kids and dog crowd in and watch Arrested Development or Law and Order and SNL reruns on Netflix. I watch documentaries alone as we can never agree on one!