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Showing posts from 2011

Karin Chien: Producer & Distributor Extraordinaire

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Karin Chien is a producer and distributor based in New York. She’s produced ten films to date. In 2010 she won the Piaget Producers Award which honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity, and vision required to produce quality, independent films.

Karin’s most recently released film is Circumstance, written and directed by Maryam Keshavarz, who also produced, with Karin and Melissa Lee. Circumstance won the Audience Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and has just been nominated for the John Cassavetes Award (for films made under $500,000) at the Independent Spirit Awards. In post-production Karin has Bradley Rust Gray’s Jack and Diane about two girls who fall in love, and Patricia Benoit’s Stones in the Sun, about exile from Haiti.

Karin is also the founder and president of dGenerate Films. dGenerate Films distributes films from the ‘digital generation’ of Chinese cinema, the current generation of independent filmmaker…

Make My Movie, Gynophobia & Mavericks

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In New Zealand there’s a new competition for feature films, called Make My Movie. The winner receives $100,000 and makes a movie. As a first step, participants submitted posters for their movies online, with a synopsis, and filled in a few more details, some in relation to the participants’ track records, from memory. One detail requested was ‘age’, which I questioned. The competition needed to know that entrants were over 18, but because of the potential for age discrimination it seemed more appropriate to ask entrants to state that they were over 18.** Twelve finalists were selected, from around 750.

Anyway, I became interested when I saw that the project's writer's name was the only personal name that appeared online with each submission. Aha, I thought, what a great way to find out more about the range of New Zealand women screenwriters. How many are there? So I started at the very beginning, alphabetically, and went to the 43rd entry. Enough to tell me that the numbers o…

Women and the Documentary Feature Academy Award short list (& the rest!)

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Five docos that women directed or co-directed are among the fifteen films short-listed for the Documentary Feature category of the 2012 Academy Awards. Warm congratulations to all these women!

At Circle's End

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We have lovely neighbours. Madeline McNamara is one of them. A writer, director, actor. Her current gig, for Voice Arts Trust, is At Circle’s End: The Drama of Death from Diverse Perspectives. Part of the Death and Diversity programme at Museum of Wellington City and Sea, At Circle’s End explores death and dying, grief, mourning and lamentation, in a celebration of diversity and sameness, and of life. And to create this unique production, Madeline’s worked with a group of strangers, diverse in culture, faith, age and performance experience. There will be six 40-minute performances only:

7pm Friday 18 November
3pm Saturday 19 November
3pm Sunday 20 November
7pm Friday 25 November
3pm Saturday 26 November
3pm Sunday 27 November.

Entry is by koha/donation. Limited seating, booking is essential: call 472 8904.If you saw Madeline’s Demeter’s Dark Ride (nominated for Most Original Production of the Year in the Chapman Tripp Awards that year) you’ll realise that At Circle’s End explores …

Gaylene Preston, Barbara Hammer, & Briar March

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Mary Wiles at Canterbury University edited this beautiful catalogue (34pp) for Gaylene's recent retrospective at Te Papa Museum of New Zealand. It's a great overview of Gaylene's documentaries and biographical drama. I loved reading Keri Hulme's memories of being filmed by Gaylene, Mary Wiles' interview with Gaylene and Deborah Shepard's, Bruce Harding's and Paul Sutorius' contributions.

The catalogue also includes a filmography I made as part of my archival work for Gaylene, with a wee reference to Corinn Columpar and Sophie Mayer's There She Goes: Feminist Filmmaking and Beyond, which helped me articulate how Gaylene can be understood as a feminist auteur. And I'm thrilled that by accident the filmography associates me with Gender & Women's Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, where the lovely lecturers made space for the work on Gaylene's archive, waaaay back in 2003: it was such a supportive and generous and life-and-wor…

Going Global via MAMI

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At the recent Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), women wrote and directed six of the fourteen films competing for its major competition for first-time feature makers. And Satyen Bordoloi wrote an article, It’s Raining Women Filmmakers in Mami This Year.* I questioned him about the MAMI article. Last year, I said, MAMI had an all-women jury headed by Jane Campion. The people who run this festival must be pro-women, that’s wonderful. No, he said. Until he mentioned it, the organizers didn’t even realise that there were so many women’s films. Rashid Irani, senior film critic and a selection committee member said to Satyen: When I’m talking to you, I realize that one of the most unprecedented things for any festival is that in the competition we have 6 debut women filmmakers...And each one of them is such a stunning debut that you have to see it to believe it. They’d just chosen the best films. That’s all. I continued to argue with Satyen. Women’s films are often among the best, I said, but not s…

Pratibha Parmar & Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth

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Alice Walker’s life and work have inspired me, shown me that it’s possible to be a writer and a global citizen with love, spirit, courage and laughter. There’s The Color Purple and Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation, as well as the Broadway musical. And there’s so much more: poems, essays, short stories, novels like Possessing the Secret of Joy—about female genital mutilation—and her latest book, The Chicken Chronicles. So when I heard that Pratibha Parmar of Kali Films was making a documentary about Alice Walker, called Beauty in Truth, I was very excited. And, because this is Alice Walker here, and there's a huge audience ready and waiting for a film about her, I was very surprised to learn that Kali Films needs funds to complete the project (like Arwen Curry with her doco The Worlds of Ursula Le Guin, though she has recently received some grants).

Pratibha Parmar is a multi-award-winning filmmaker with a family heritage of protest. She has lived and worked on four continents:…

Flowers for the New Zealand Film Commission: Fresh Shorts 2011

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I love working with Kyna Morgan of Her Film. And from over there in North America, she keeps me in line, often through Twitter. Today, she tweeted about the New Zealand Film Commission’s (NZFC) Fresh Shorts decisions. Fresh Shorts is the NZFC's new low budget short film scheme, run in-house. It aims to identify the next generation of New Zealand feature filmmakers by nurturing and inspiring up-and-coming talent and it has just funded eight films at the $10,000 funding level and eight at $30,000 each. Kyna had been reading OnFilm online and found the NZFC press release. Here's what she wrote:

@devt ur staying up on this, yeah? Looks like gender parity reached for funding. NZFC has no gender mandate, does it? bit.ly/oCRRWT @HerFilm Actually, I've kinda abandoned it, almost totally fruitless effort-- What's your take on this list? [I was cranky, because I HAD given up, and my mind was elsewhere.]
Kyna didn’t respond. So—of course—I took a look. And she’d done the maths a…

Why Is It Still So Bad? And What Could We Do About It?

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I.

Last Saturday, film writer Thelma Adams moderated the annual Amazing Women in Film Panel at the Woodstock Film Festival, with three women directors – Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone), Susan Seidelman (best known for Desperately Seeking Susan) and Nancy Savoca (her latest, Union Square just at Toronto), critic Lisa Rosman, philanthropist Meera Gandhi, and activist Robin Bronk.

Before the panel, Thelma blogged about questions FB and industry friends had raised. And when I read the post and saw ‘B. Ruby Rich’ I was hooked; she’s my hero, a long-time writer about women and feminism and film, and staunch activist — her book Chick Flicks is a classic. Furthermore, many of the questions offered to Thelma are relevant to Kali Films' Indiegogo campaign for funds to complete Pratibha Parmar's feature documentary on Alice Walker, Beauty in Truth. My next post is an interview with Pratibha, and somehow Thelma's post feels like a good introduction. So here it is, with a couple of wee…

Zarcquona's story, read by Meryl Streep

In a moving performance, Meryl Streep reads the words of  “ordinary, extraordinary” Afghan woman Zarcquona. This is the best 14 minutes and 51 seconds I've spent this year. I cried. I cheered. I am inspired. And loved the way Meryl Streep contextualised her reading.



Meryl Streep's reading was part of the launch of the Women in the World Foundation, a movement dedicated to advancing women and girls through stories and solutions. I hope that the Women in the World Foundation will link to and support women who tell stories on screens large and small, who are working hard to tell stories by, about, and for women. This morning, I'm thinking about Afia Nathaniel's Neither the Veil Nor the Four Walls, which addresses one aspect of Zarcquona's story, expressed in another woman's life. I'm thinking about Pratibha Parmar's Beauty in Truth, about Alice Walker.

Andrea Arnold and Wuthering Heights at Venice

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Andrea Arnold's one of my favorite filmmakers. One of the most exciting women writer/directors in the world, I think, for all kinds of reasons. Remember Wasp (2003) which won the Academy Award for Live Action Short 2005 and was described by the Guardian as 'social realist film poetry'? Red Road (2006), which won the Prix du Jury at Cannes, and many other awards? Fish Tank (2009) which won multiple awards including the BAFTA for Outstanding British Film last year?

Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights has just premiered at the Venice Film Festival. According to the Guardian, Wuthering Heights is
...stripped of its period frills and sweeping score. It comes caked in grime and damp with saliva. The script is salted with profanities, while the plot finds room for brief moments of a nudity and an animalistic al-fresco sex scene. Heathcliff, the Byronic forefather of English romantic fiction, is black.And the first reviews, in a nice roundup here on Shadow and Act, show that the f…

Gaylene Preston Retrospective @Te Papa, Labour Weekend

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Gaylene Preston’s so embedded in our New Zealand communities that we sometimes forget that as well as being one of our most prolific and distinguished producer/directors, and a legendary supporter of other filmmakers, she also has global significance as a feminist filmmaker. This Labour Weekend we get a spring-time opportunity to celebrate Gaylene’s life and work, at her retrospective at Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand.

The retrospective will feature a selection of films, including Home by Christmas and War Stories Our Mothers Never Told Us, which foreground the director’s auteurist preoccupations, including the interrogation of documentary form, the interplay of the personal story and the political film, and the use of film to create oral history. Here’s the programme:

Saturday 22 October

EARTHQUAKE! FUND RAISER FOR CHRISTCHURCH
Gaylene Preston has been making feature films and documentaries with a distinctive New Zealand flavour and a strong social message for more th…

A Drama Queen Sings, Briefly

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Lisa Gornick’s seduced me again-- When I saw this drawing, I thought There’s Me! Thin and Alone and Exposed and Worried about my Voice and my Song! There’s the outcome of This-Harshest-Winter-Ever at Our Place!

And then I laughed. Settle Down, Drama Queen! There are Freesias on the Kitchen Table! Put down your Tiny Violin! & Step Up!

Lisa's drawing’s inspired me to round up this week’s news about New Zealand’s women directors. They're pretty special.

First, Kathy Dudding. At the New Zealand Film Archive there’s a series of evenings commemorating her death a year ago and celebrating her life and work. Wednesday’s, which I missed, was called Bathe in The Light of the Pale Blue Moon. Still to come, this evening and tomorrow, screenings of Asylum Pieces, Kathy's final film, which I found very moving.


Then, Gaylene Preston. Mary Wiles at Canterbury University, who published a lovely interview with Gaylene a while back, has organised a retrospective, originally for the C…

ORIENTAL BAY – WINTER 2011 – NIGHT

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South Pacific Pictures (SPP) produces television drama series (The Almighty Johnsons, Outrageous Fortune, Go Girls, Nothing Trivial, Being Eve, Mercy Peak, Shortland Street) telefeatures (Stolen, Spies & Lies) and feature films (including Whale Rider, Sione’s Wedding, My Wedding and Other Secrets). And I loved it when I saw that half those selected for SPP's Emerging Writers Lab were women. Warm congratulations to them: Lucy Zee, Rosetta Allan, Hannah Banks, Shoshana McCallum, Miriam Smith. Who knows what projects these writers will be involved in, and as media converge, does it matter as much as it used to? But chances are, because SPP makes movies as well as television, some of the women in the lab will go on to write features. And that excites me.

I'm even more excited to know that about half of the Emerging Writers Lab applicants were women: (86 out of 175). This is a record to celebrate. Somehow, SPP’s established a culture where women writers are welcome, and flouri…

Nearly over--

I’m going to stop posting here. I’ll abandon a few part-written posts, finish one more–which may take a while–and tidy-up the sidebar. Keep the Development project FAQs page updated now and then. And that’s it.

Lately I’ve struggled to manage everything I love and everything I need to do. I’ve been making too many errors during simple processes, making foolish assumptions, asking unnecessary and inappropriate questions. (Once, I believed that no question was unnecessary or inappropriate, but I've changed.) My dysnumeracy bites in winter, too. Tax return. This year, the necessary analysis for Grow Wellington’s wonderful Activate course, almost done. AND the New Zealand International Film Festival (#nzff) gender stats. And GUESS WHAT? This year, the #nzff Wellington catalogue has a Genre Guide which includes a Women Make Features sections, so I could cross-check my counting. (Women wrote and directed 12.5% of the features selected, down from 13% last year.) I’ve noticed that the #nz…

Merata Mita's Mana Waka, coming to the NZFF.

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Merata Mita's Mana Waka (1937-40/1990) will be a high point of the New Zealand International Film Festival this year. In 1937, the Waikato leader Te Puea Herangi engaged cameraman RGH Manley to record the building of two waka taua (canoes), for the 1940 Waitangi centennial commemorations. Manley's footage was not printed. In 1983 Te Arikinui Dame Atairangikahu gave Nga Kaitiaki o Nga Taonga/The New Zealand Film Archive (NZFA) permission to repair and restore the nitrate negatives. Merata Mita (1942-2010) was appointed to construct a new film, and she, editor Annie Collins and NZFA founder and director the late Jonathan Dennis moved to Turangawaewae Marae to edit it. The festival will show a new print, courtesy of the Te Puea Foundation, and made possible through the Saving Frames Project, a partnership between the NZFA, Park Road Post Production and the Government of New Zealand.

There's no trailer for Mana Waka as far as I know. But this morning, as I looked for one, I fo…

V48 Hours: Women filmmakers working together?

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I’m a convert: V48 Hours is FUN. This year, I was marginally involved with two teams that had women directors and producers: Loaded Gunn (Francesca Jago) and Squidwig (Rebecca Barnes). And loved watching Francesca and Rebecca at work, each very different in style but each quite similar in their focus on doing the best work possible and their care for their casts and crews, all with boundless enthusiasm.

And the heats were fun too, in a crowded Readings cinema. And the discussion boards and Facebook page. And then the Wellington final. The Embassy Theatre almost full with excited people, there for screening of the twelve finalists plus The Best Incredibly Strange Film (formerly known as The Best Worst Film, won this year by Crane Style for Daemon, a Horror). Lots of applause and celebration, hugs from every prizewinner for Dan Slevin, the amazing Wellington co-ordinator and emcee for the night. Laurie Wright from the gin joints team that made Intervention, a Horror written by Gavin M…

Page Left: women playwrights working together

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The International Institute of Modern Letters’ (IIML) MA scriptwriting programme is now in its tenth year. Taught by Ken Duncum from the beginning—except for last year, when David Geary took over while Ken was the New Zealand Post Mansfield Fellow in Menton—the programme takes ten students through an intensive eight-month writing experience. There have been equal numbers of women and men on the course, and the prizes awarded have been shared among women and men, too.

Until now, because I was an IIML scriptwriting student who wanted to write screenplays, I’ve focused on the MA students who write for primarily for film. I was intrigued that although the women who take the course are strong writers, once they graduate they are underrepresented in projects that the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) funds, in comparison with the male graduates. But after years of observation and inquiry, I am sure that this happens for the same primary reason that women who write screenplays, wherever the…

Help an 'activist' today-- Questions please! (EP 4)

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Market validation, I've learned at Activate, identifies where people feel pain, in order to provide a product that relieves the pain. Help An ‘Activist’ Today: Questions Please (EP 3) explored some questions about niches that aren’t well served, where people might feel pain and go in large numbers to films that were made with them in mind. But women are not a niche; we’re half the population. Within all those niches, are there any common kinds of pain that will be relieved by films about women? And if so, what kinds of films? As I research questions to ask in my survey about films for women, am I faced with an impossible task, just as I was when trying to create questions about films that women write and direct? I hope not. While I know that it’s possible for women to DIWO (Do It With Others), to make and distribute a film with mates, I still dream of finding a sustainable way to do this, where the team gets paid and there are audiences who will pay to watch, and there’s money g…

Nearly There?

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I like the way New Zealanders play with names. A couple of years ago, our young neighbour jumped down the bank to visit after a long absence. “Where've you been?” I asked. “L’AshVegas”, he said. Down in Ashburton for the summer, at the freezing works. In the middle of the wide Canterbury Plains, without a neon in sight. Where gambling used to be done for meat packs—maybe still is. On Screentalk, Temuera Morrison talks about going from Rotovegas—Rotorua's a little more like Las Vegas than Ashburton—to Hollywood. There's Sam Cruickshank's Horiwood's blog, ("Hollywood's 1st Entertainment & Celebrity News Website Published by a Maori New Zealander"). Search for Wellywood at NZOnScreen, and there are at least three interesting examples. Down the hill is the Wellywood Backpackers. And here I am, Wellywood Woman. So what do I think of the proposed Wellywood sign, on the hill above Wellington airport?
“Wellywood” is really useful shorthand for this blog. I…

Help an 'activist' today-- Questions please! (EP 3)

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Limping my way towards questions that will help validate a market for films about women, I fell over the United States release of the comedy Bridesmaids. Written by Anne Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, directed by a guy, and produced by Judd Apatow. In an article in the Huffington Post, Jamie Denbo expressed concern about the consequences if Bridesmaids doesn’t do well, for the writers, directors and actors that she refers to as
…every creative, brilliant, funny woman in Hollywood [who] is (unfairly) being held hostage to a single film's opening weekend box office. Meaning no studio is likely to take any sort of chance on any new projects perceived to be ‘female driven comedy’ unless they have proof that it can perform. And perform well.I know that I’m now concentrating on films about women, and here I’ve strayed back into the territory of women writers and (maybe) directors. But I think that one of the issues about audiences for films about women is about the division between ‘Hollywood…