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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.


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