Skip to main content

Christine Vachon comes to Auckland; & my washing machine and laptop die


Christine Vachon's giving a one-day seminar in Auckland tomorrow, thanks to Script to Screen. I want want want to go. Asked to interview her.  But the washing machine died. And then my laptop died. Not just another of its recent small deaths. Dead beyond resuscitation.

I love Christine Vachon's books. In Shooting to Kill  published twelve years ago, she identified financing entities’ gender—and image-oriented—beliefs as problematic:

[They scrutinize] your project for marketable elements that will distinguish it from the morass of independent films…they want a director about whom good copy can be written… It helps if they’re attractive. And it helps if they’re male. I’m usually reluctant to spout stuff like: “If you’re a female it’s so much harder, if you’re a male it’s so much easier” —I hope it’s a little more complicated than that. But I do think that the machine works better with boys. People are more familiar with the whole idea of a male director, especially when he’s a maverick who’s kicking the system. We did, however, get lots of ink for Rose and Guin from Go Fish because they are extremely presentable and very articulate.
One reason I'd like to interview her is to find out whether she thinks anything has changed.

And I love many of the films Christine Vachon produces, including Go Fish. I watched Go Fish, long ago, in a women's audience in Toulouse. The audience gasped now and then, at places that surprised me. Then I realised that these strange gasps were at the 'bad' language. Taught me something about French women at that time; things may be different now. (And am now waiting impatiently to see a new film, The OWLS, written by Sarah Schulman and directed by Cheryl Dunye. In my mind The OWLS is a kind of successor to Go Fish, though not produced by Killer Films. It features Go Fish actors Guin Turner and V.S. Brodie. And Lisa Gornick, whose drawings I include here now and then. And I enjoyed this blog entry about its making.)

As I plow my way through an analysis of the Film Commission review submissions—almost done, looking for more work now—Christine Vachon's statement reproduced on the Script to Screen email refreshes me, takes me back to the reason I'm living this life:
These days, it's getting harder to remember that film is an art form. Movies get treated like a commodity business, some abstract uptick or spiral down on the Hollywood stock exchange. Small-town newspapers print box office returns in the Arts pages so even your parents can know that Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid opened big. I'm not sure when this happened, or why, but I'll tell you this: it misses the point. For me, film isn't about the margins, boffo weekend numbers, or the back end ... Film is about the process -- a long, complicated, passionate process toward something larger than the sum of its parts. In production every film is different and most are accidents waiting to happen. Amid all the chaos and cold coffee of production, the art of film can be hard to keep in mind. But it's what I live for -- the flash of magic that eclipses everything.
And today, I also read most of Lorraine Rowlands' thesis on the life of freelance film production workers in New Zealand. Based on interviews, it makes grim reading about the many problems that face contract film workers here, including lack of financial security and opportunities for career progression, and exhaustion from physical and psychological stress. The thesis explains that the freelance contract situation that dominates the New Zealand 'industry' (some interviewees did not feel that there was an 'industry' in New Zealand because there are only short-term contracts, and no real structure in place) differs  from film production contract arrangements elsewhere. In Australia, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, contract film workers receive additional benefits which include holiday pay, superannuation, and in some cases sick leave, in addition to their negotiated hourly rate. In New Zealand these benefits don't exist.

Adding to these generally depressing findings, the thesis also states that "for women working in film, the personal difficulties of this work are even more intense".

Keep living for that flash of magic, I'm telling myself. Hang on tight. Tomorrow, we'll prepare a little more of Development's PassItOn clip.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

'Water Protectors', by Leana Hosea

Leana Hosea's Water Protectors isabout ordinary women in Flint, at Standing Rock and on the Navajo reservation who have had their water poisoned and are at the forefront in the movement for clean water.

Water is a big issue in Aotearoa New Zealand, too– the degradation of our waterways; drinking water contamination; the offshore sale of our pure water; the debate about Maori sovereignty over water, under Te Tiriti o Waitangi/ the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840.  Partly because this has raised my awareness about the significance of access to water, my heart is absolutely with the women in Leana's work. And with Leana, editing through the night as I write this.

Leana is a reporter/producer for BBC's World Service Radio and has held many other roles within the BBC. As a highly experienced multimedia journalist she's originated ideas, fixed stories, written scripts, filmed and edited them.

She was a shoot/edit/reporter/producer for the BBC in Egypt during the revoluti…

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…

The NZ International Film Festival – 1. New Zealand Women

The Context
This week, the United Nations women's agency, UN Women, joined forces with activist and Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis, to support the first global study of how women and girls are portrayed in family films. The study will examine the top-grossing international movies in Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom. According to Geena Davis, the current dearth of female characters of substance in family films means that children are being taught that girls and women 'don't take up half of the space in the world'. And for Lakshimi Puri, acting head of UN Women:
Gender representation in film influences the perception of women and girls, their self-esteem and the relationships between the sexes... We cannot let the negative depiction of women and girls erode the hard gains that have been made on gender equality and women's empowerment.Also this week, in a  report for CNN, Melissa Silverstein of Women &…