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Driven By Complex Female Protagonists

Filmmaker Kate Kaminski founded the now-legendary Bluestocking Series, of films with complex female protagonists that pass the Bechdel Test.  Her ideas in this piece are American-oriented, but they inspire me to consider similar stories set in New Zealand. Maybe they'll inspire you too, wherever you are?

by Kate Kaminski  

Yesterday I was asked by @Winstonwrites on Twitter “What female-driven films would you like to see in 2015?” Because discovering films driven by complex female protagonists are a personal obsession, I knew immediately if I tackled this question, it would take much more than 140 characters so here we are.

But I still had to narrow the topic down. As somebody who sees stories wherever she looks, let’s just say, I have enough story/novel/film ideas scribbled on bits of paper to fill several notebooks.
I also run a women’s film festival called Bluestocking Film Series and this year, one of our short film categories is The Blue Collar Heroine Challengewhich focuses on working class women under-represented onscreen.
So to narrow down my response to the question posed, what follows are just a few of my ideas for films I would love to see about working women.And just for the record, I’d like to imagine that 2015 would only be the beginning of a new rosy future of female-driven films, a utopia that would see 50% of films featuring complex female protagonists.
First up, the biopics.
The untold story of African-American women working in challenging conditions and segregated offices for the NSA during and after the second World War is fascinating and begging to be turned into a major feature film. Think Oscars and Golden Globe potential. I found a slim volume about the subject online and have been obsessed with this story ever since. Go ahead, start dream casting.

Bonus picture: Vera Shoffner Russell, a mathematician.

The untold story of Bessie Stringfield, the Motorcycle Queen of Miami, who taught herself to ride a motorcycle, was a stunt rider, US Army courier, and founder of the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club. More Oscars and Golden Globes for this imagined film and a star turn opportunity.

The untold story of Alice Chandler, the first woman deputy in Orange County, California. The attitude, the pistol on her hip, the harsh white California light. Yes, her story. I want it.

Here are some ideas for fiction narratives about women at work.
This girl. I started out my career as a clerk typist. I was this girl. I’d love to see an updated film about women who work as secretaries, one that would dispel every cliché and stereotype about clerical workers. (As an aside, I’ve been noodling on a piece about portrayals of secretaries in films for a few months, so stay tuned.)

Women firefighters. It could be soapy, comedic, action-packed drama…or all three. And best of all it would be perfect for a diverse (in ethnicity and age) ensemble cast of powerhouse female actors.

Farmworkers on strike. Another ensemble picture with genre shifting possibilities. Could be a comedy, coming-of-age or coming out drama. Even a musical. This may come as a surprise, but when searching pictures of women on strike, more often than not the people look relaxed and happy. Dare I say, even joyful? Seems like you could craft a pretty original tale if the received narrative of striking workers were somehow turned on its ear.

And here’s a bonus picture of happy, sunbathing strikers.

The untold story of Japanese (or Korean) women whose careers and ambition are stunted after they have children would be about a rabble-rousing, single parent, career-minded woman who bucks the accepted role she’s given and creates change in her workplace after surmounting all obstacles. Easily accessed sources for this idea came from: The New York TimesTime Magazine and The Diplomat.

Japanese cops-in-training who are best friends. Again, genre could be fluid but I’m picturing a thriller that goes either comedic or dramatic. What about you?

Needless to say, I’d like to see all of these films. I would pay money to see these films. And I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. Listening, Hollywood?

Want more? Check out my Tribute to Working Women on Pinterest.

And if you’ve made a film about working women, consider submission to our World Premiere Party for Blue Collar Heroines at the Bluestocking Film Series in July 2015. Submit via Withoutabox or Festhome.

reprinted from Medium by permission

Kate Kaminski on Twitter


  1. I like Kate's piece. Movies about real women working real jobs both inside and outside of the home are rarely realistic, natural, authentic, exciting... It's always a breath of fresh air when people write about the actual labor that women do and then show it. Personally, I'd love to see a film about the labor of girls, the labor of international aid and international lawyers, the labor of female scientists, and the "entertainment labor" of female stand-up comedians. There are so many stories out there. Even the Women and the Silent Screen Conference this year will be focusing on the labor of women in the silent film industry, another often ignored subject.

    1. Thank you, Kyna. I like it too, (of course!) And wish now I could add an image in this comment from a fabulous book called Beyond the Battlefield; women artists of the two World Wars, by Catherine Speck. It's full of remarkable images of women working in many different capacities, as loggers, welders, intelligence workers, in kitchens and at machines, flying, driving trucks – and shows how 'different' women look when unselfconsciously working, so different than what we see on screen. With a great text, too, that deftly extends what the reader sees.

  2. I'm a man and I chanced across this website. By coincidence I'm writing my first novel (of a trilogy) about a female character. It is about the life and times of a young English woman immigrant in America 100 years ago. Why? Because it's harder to write about a woman in that era because it was tougher for them in a man's world. It's basically a writer's challenge.
    That wasn't the only reason I decided to post here. You are looking at ideas for a female driven film (apart from my great trilogy). I think a biopic of the Japanese girl-punk band Shonen Knife would be good. They've been around for 30 years years now and they're still releasing albums. Their music never gets tired or stale. It is infectious, catchy, raw, light, grungy, and other conflicting adjectives. They blow most other bands away and have outlasted most bands who started at the same time.

  3. Thanks, Dominic! I didn't know about Shonen Knife and now I'll track them down, not to make a film but because I'm intrigued. Best of luck with your writer's challenge!


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