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.