Sunday, May 8, 2011

Help an 'activist' today-- Questions please! (EP 2)


lisa gornick the female gaze

Fixing pain, I’ve learned, is what every entrepreneuse aims to do. After measuring the pain through the market validation process. But when it comes to entertainment and the arts—as Luci Temple and Meg Torwl explained in their comments the other day—market validation doesn’t work in the same way. If it works at all. So what am I to do?

I have an intimate acquaintance with women filmmakers’ pain, so powerfully conveyed in today’s Lisa Gornick image. I also have an intimate acquaintance with the imaginative ways that they/we transcend the pain—we assert our right to tell stories, develop myriad problem-solving strategies, and forge creative alliances. But the reality is that it’s consistently harder for women than men to make and distribute their feature films, in every country except perhaps France, because of the entrenched industry preference for (often white) men’s projects. It’s especially hard if women want to tell stories about women. It’s old news that women storytellers—of every culture—inherit centuries-long story-telling traditions where central characters who are male appear far more often than central characters who are female, where male characters are more active than female characters, and female characters are often referred to in terms of their ‘beauty’ or lack of it. Just this week, I read a fascinating article* about how even the animals in children’s books are far more often male than female.

But women filmmakers’ pain is irrelevant in the market, even to women filmgoers who are interested in films by and about women. When it comes to buying a ticket, or paying for a download or a DVD, it’s the story that counts, and the quality of its execution. If I had any doubt about that, it went away this week, when Women Make Movies (WMM) campaigned on Facebook, seeking online votes so they could win money. Here’s how the organisation describes itself:

Established in 1972 to address the under representation and misrepresentation of women in the media industry, WMM is a multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization which facilitates the production, promotion, distribution and exhibition of independent films and videotapes by and about women. The organization provides services to both users and makers of film and video programs, with a special emphasis on supporting work by women of color. WMM facilitates the development of feminist media through an internationally recognized Distribution Service and a Production Assistance Program.

Pretty terrific, huh? Delivering its unique services for almost 40 years. Not surprisingly, WMM has 10,111 FB members when I last looked. Women from all round the world love its work, including me. But did lots of women vote, so that WMM could carry on its great work with a little more ease? No! 698 votes, 7% of its Facebook members. (Fortunately that got WMM a slot in the top 100 (at 51), $25,000, and a chance at more, in the next voting round. Look out for it!) I don’t know whether the demonstrated indifference was because those FB members didn’t care enough about movies by women, or didn’t care enough about movies about women, but it’s bad news for women filmmakers who hope that women will support their work.

I’m going to make a big effort now to put women filmmakers’ pain aside (most of the time). Forget about films by women and concentrate on potential audiences for films about women. I hope that if I do this I’ll move further towards questions that will help validate at least something about the market. 


Next episode coming asap. Please, keep those questions & comments coming!


*An easier read re animals in children's books, from the Guardian.

3 comments:

  1. Love synchronicity. Here's some questions from Kid in the Front Row, just up: http://www.kidinthefrontrow.com/2011/05/five-questions-for-you.html. What do you think?

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  2. Hmm. Thank you! How did I not know about the WMM fb challenge? This only underlines (for me, once again) how difficult it is to make work and stay on top of everything else critical to supporting the work.

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  3. Yep, I'm learning how difficult it is-- Glad you know about the WMM campaign now. Ask all your mates to keep an eye out for the next round? Tweet & share on FB when it happens maybe?

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