Skip to main content

A short master class... & women as producers and decision makers



Love this Clare O'Leary ScreenTalk interview with the versatile Vanessa Alexander (producer, writer, director, academic, one of two women on the eight-person NZFC Board). Writer/director of the female buddy film Magik & Rose. Producer of the multi-award-winning Being Eve, nominated for an Emmy. And so on.

The interview's like a short master class about what's worked for her as a filmmaker. She talks about:

· Being persistent;

· Taking risks; and

·  How men helped her early on.

The help from men especially interests me at the moment. One of my research findings (to be written up for mid-September) is that women producers, and other women decision-makers, are often not interested in films written and directed by women, or in helping develop women’s scripts with women as strong central characters. It’s the same in other parts of the world.

I learned a little bit about how this happens last year. I was concentrating hard on a challenging left-brain task. And someone in the industry interrupted me with a question: “Does it make a difference that women producers don’t prioritise working with women writers and directors?” I blinked, slightly startled. And from deep inside out flew a spontaneous response that shocked me. “Well,” I said, “if I were a producer I’d choose a man’s project, because it would be more likely to succeed.” I knew immediately I’d told the truth.

Now I know about my own ingrained bias I’m less judgmental of women producers and other women decision makers who prioritise projects that men write and direct. And even more supportive of women writers and directors who want to tell stories about women. And very appreciative of the men who support my work, like my wonderful supervisor who’s been right there for me over the last few years as I slowly learned to write a story with a single protagonist—which I found hard—and experimented with other ways of writing that suit me better.

Sometimes, women producers, who are strongly represented in the film industry in New Zealand and elsewhere, are grouped statistically with women writers and directors to show that women’s participation in the industry is high. However, because women producers so often prefer projects that men write and direct, I think it’s essential to keep the storytellers separate from the producers, however creative the producers are, though some film writers and directors are also producers of course.

See Clare's Docobug blog for another great interview, with legendary editor Annie Collins, one of my heroes.

Vanessa Alexander's ScreenTalk interview was produced by NZ On Screen.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Safety in Paradise?

Children play in safety on the beach beyond my window. Some aren't safe at home, but they do not die in rocket attacks. Along our promenade, this year’s most sustained sirens wailed from motorbike cavalcades, as they escorted royalty to and from the airport. At school, our children may arrive hungry. But they're safe from abduction. The closest I’ve ever been to a war is my parents' silence about 'their' war, refuge women's stories about men returned from wars and Bruce Cunningham’s stories, after I met him selling Anzac poppies. (He was a Lancaster pilot in World War II and then a prisoner-of-war and I’m making a short doco about him.)

Yes, in many ways Wellington, New Zealand is paradise and I’m blessed to live here and to benefit from love and generosity from women and men, my beautiful sons now among those men. But in an interview with Matthew Hammett Knott earlier this year, I found myself saying–
We have to deal with serial violation, direct and subtle, on…

Women Directors of Feature Films in New Zealand

Last week, two lovely people questioned me about my work. I don't look back at it often, but returned to my PhD thesis and various statistics-oriented posts I'd almost forgotten, like this one and this one. And then remembered a survey that I wrote for Geoff Lealand, the New Zealand editor of the second edition of the Directory of World Cinema: Australia and New Zealand. When I looked at it again, I realised that even in the year since I wrote it lots has changed. (I think you can also tell that I don't enjoy writing 'academic', am much happier in real-time immediate responses). 

So here it is while some of it's still relevant and to accompany Matthew Hammett Knott's interview with me, for his Heroines of Cinema series (blush). 

If I were writing a survey today, I'd include all the short films New Zealand actresses write and direct and theirpotential as multihyphenates. I'd include Marama Killen's self-funded feature, Kaikahu Road. I'd add mor…

NZ Update #3: WIFT New Zealand

This is Part 3 of an NZ Update 4-part series. Part 1 was Gender Breakthrough in New Zealand Film Commission Funding. Part 2 was a letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Paula Bennett, about the New Zealand Screen Production Grant. Part 4 is a not-quite-A-Z of New Zealand women directors and some writers.

So how has Women in Film & Television New Zealand (WIFTNZ) responded to the lack of gender parity between women and men who write and direct, in particular the lack of gender parity in allocation of taxpayer funding? For example, does it endorse Telefilm Canada's statement, referred to back in Part 1 and to some extent implicit in the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC)'s latest Annual Report?–
Based on industry recommendations that these two roles require immediate critical attention, gender parity amongst directors and screenwriters was identified as a priority (emphasis added).The simple answer: No-one Knows For Sure. And because of this, I believe it'…