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Pause. Reflect. Cherish.

Chantal Akerman (image: Liberation)
Chantal Akerman's Death
I tried to write about why I felt so deeply sad about Chantal Akerman's death, then read a post from poet Ana Božičević, who got it just right for me–
No one knows for sure why a woman takes her life but that Chantal A might have done so in part because her No Home Movie – about her mother Natalia an Auschwitz survivor, which was grueling to make – was booed...really breaks my heart this morning. I wonder always, who cares, as in provides care, for the women artists who go to deep dark uncommercial places? Which intimate understands the skill, of craft and emotion, necessary for the work that they do? I wrote in some napkin or tweet once 'they only love the Sylvias after they are dead'. Give care to the woman artist in your life even and especially when she does the hard depth work that challenges the mind and body, yours and hers. And if you are that woman, thank you today & every day.
Thank you, Ana. And many thanks for letting me reprint your words. An extract from No Home Movie is at the end of this post.

Short Film as Pipeline to Features: New & Old Research
On the same morning Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California (MDSC) released its new study which shows this–

This reminded me that in 2007 there were similar issues for New Zealand women, according to the New Zealand Film Commission's (NZFC) research, which I wrote about in my PhD
...making a successful (usually NZFC-funded) short film is an established pathway to feature making. Analysis of the director information in the NZFC’s Review of NZFC Short Film Strategy shows that over the last decade fewer women (37% of the total) than men directors make NZFC-funded short films. However the women directors make a proportionately higher share of films accepted for ‘A’ list film festivals (42% of all accepted) than the men; and as individuals are significantly more likely to make an ‘A’ list film: 60% of women-directed short films get accepted for an ‘A’ list festival, but only 48% of those with male directors. I don’t know whether women from other countries use short films as stepping-stones to features more or less successfully than New Zealanders. [In the last ten years, New Zealand women directors made 13% of all our features, or 17% if we include features they co-directed with men; women also directed 20% of our all-time top-grossing films.]
It's probably time the NZFC repeated their short film research.

Now, thanks to the MDSC I know more about the United States' pathways. And about the barriers the women in the MDSC research identified (I wish the research had had a male control group: would they have had greater or lesser concerns about 'General Finance', which I think is an issue for every single filmmaker? If they were not white men, would they have had greater or lesser concerns about stereotyping?)

Radical Change at Screen Australia?
And then an article suggests that Screen Australia 'is considering a radical push for a quota to ensure 50 per cent of the directors of funded films are women'. And the suggestion has come from the Australian Directors Guild! It has proposed that the agency adopt the target introduced by the Swedish Film Institute in 2012 – equal representation by women and men as screenwriters, directors and producers – which was reached within three years (and as a result, 80% of Swedish films at Toronto this year were directed by women). I'm amazed and thrilled. In admitting that the proposal will be controversial, guild director Kingston Anderson said–
We all felt that unless we pushed a hard agenda, nothing would change...And nothing has changed: that's the problem. The imbalance is so huge that it's pretty clear.
The article reports that the guild received 'a sympathetic response to its proposal in a meeting with senior executives at Screen Australia, including chief executive Graeme Mason'. And a Screen Australia representative said–
We are looking at best practice internationally and ways that we can incentivise, facilitate and evaluate change so that our industry and our audiences all benefit from a more expansive approach to our creative life on screen and our rich cultural legacy.
O wow. Huge. Yay all those Australian women who've been agitating. And yay all the men who are supporting them. 

Big Screen Symposium
This weekend, New Zealand's annual Big Screen Symposium is on. The NZFC's CEO, Dave Gibson, (who replaced Screen Australia's Graeme Mason) will give a speech. Jane Campion will be there, giving one of her amazing and generous masterclasses and in conversation with Philippa Campbell. Will New Zealand's very own gender policy be extended? I always hope hope hope.

In response to  Chantal Ackerman's death, the new research and the news from Australia, I want to celebrate two things. The first is the extraordinary Raising Films initiative based in the United Kingdom.

Raising Films: 'Making Babies, Making Films, Making Change'
In view of today's research findings, Raising Films may just be the most important women filmmaker site around.

Raising Films has quickly developed an extraordinary resource and are now working in association with the powerful European Women's Audiovisual Network. The website includes series of interviews (this Sophie Mayer interview of Beeban Kidron is superb – '4am I gave birth. 11 am I was at the screening'); riveting testimonials (from women and a man who work in 'the industry'); and case studies 'looking at films where parent-filmmakers are developing innovative strategies for childcare and work-life balance' (the first is Hope Dickson Leach's fascinating account of shooting her first feature, The Levelling).

Raising Films on Twitter & Facebook.

New Zealand Women In Film
My second celebration is of recent achievements of New Zealand women who work with moving image, as writers and directors. One of these writers, Harriet Margolis, doesn't write for film, but is the co-author of a fine new international publication on women cinematographers.

Here's the news about as many as I can easily access, mostly alphabetically by first name (what is it with all those that begin with 'A'?), including some who go to deep dark uncommercial places.

As always, because New Zealand is so small it's possible to embrace a lot of what's going on. But if I've missed you out and you have something to celebrate that you'd like me to include, please don't hesitate to get in touch. I'll add you, with pleasure! I'm concerned that I can't find any news re Maori women writers and directors. Am I looking in the wrong places?

Anyway, here are those I can find. I hope you enjoy it all!

Aidee Walker
Director/ actor Aidee Walker (short films include Friday Tigers, which won Best Shorts Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the New Zealand International Film Festival 2013; and music videos for Anna Coddington), is joining Westside 2 television series, as a 'director attachment', shadowing Michael Hurst. This is what the scheme, funded by funded by NZ On Air and the production company involved [for Westside 2, SPP] and managed by the Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand, intends to do– give emerging drama directors the opportunity to shadow an experienced director through the pre-production, production and post-production process as a means to improve their craft skills. Three emerging directors will attach to New Zealand drama productions in the 2015/2016 year. The intended outcome is for the attachments to find work on domestic and international productions in New Zealand.
Director Alison Maclean is shooting The Rehearsal, adapted from Eleanor Catton's novel. I'm enjoying their instagram. Here's Alison's co-writer, Emily Perkins, on set. Fascinating.

'Seems the writer's work is never done! Happy to have Emily Perkins on set.'
And here are some of the cast.

'Red curtains, short shorts, high buns and DJ sets. What a killer day!'

The Rehearsal on instagram

Writer/director Alyx Duncan won the Best Shorts Jury Prize at this year's New Zealand International Film Festival, with The Tidekeeper; and now it's just won FIPRESCI Critics Prize for Best Short Film at the 13th Vladivostok International Film Festival of Asian-Pacific Countries.

Facebook for The Tidekeeper

Writer and co-director Andrea Bosshard's new feature, The Great Maiden's Blush, has just been color-graded. Looking forward to seeing it now!

'Victor Naviera, DOP Waka Atwell, Director Andrea Bosshard and Camera Operator Charles Edwards keep a close eye. No pressure Victor!'
The Great Maiden's Blush on Facebook

Anna Francino & Siobhan Marshall
Anna Francino & Siobhan Marshall won the Best Unproduced Feature Film Script competition at the New Zealand Writers Guild annual awards (SWANZ) this week, for Bara.

The Candle Wasters collective (Sally Bollinger, Elsie Bollinger, Minnie Grace and Claris Jacobs) has received New Zealand On Air (NZOA) funding for their next webseries, Bright Summer Night, inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Academic Harriet Margolis is co-author (with Alexis Krasilovsky & Julia Stein) for the just released Shooting Women: Behind the Camera Around the World, a follow-up to the interviews she's helped gather for Women Behind the Camera (both book and film) since 1993. Harriet wrote to me–
Over 100 professional camerawomen generously gave us stories of their experiences –from learning their craft to practicing their art – and the struggles along the way. I tried to structure their information into a journey through the process, with young women who might wish to be camerawomen in mind.

Our interviewees come from India and Iran, from Mexico and Australia – from around the world (although it was impossible for us to be comprehensive). Among the New Zealand camerawomen involved, the late Margaret Moth and the very much alive Mairi Gunn are the most senior and best known. Younger women, such as Kylie Plunkett and Ginny Loane, responded to a questionnaire I sent out, having gone through the WIFT list of members at the time who identified themselves as camerawomen.

Here's a quotation from the book–
Although this book is many things, it is neither a report on work relations nor a work of feminist film theory. On the basis of what camerawomen say, we reach some analytical conclusions throughout the book as well as at the end, when we sum up what this history has taught us about strategic options available to increase women’s role in the media behind the camera. Along with a history of women’s involvement in camerawork, we provide information on how the professional camerawomen got to be where they are and what advice they have for women who would like to work professionally behind the camera.
What this quotation doesn't cover is the personal aspect of the stories these women gifted us. For example, I never expected we'd have a chapter on what camerawomen wear, but many of our interviewees talked about it from different angles. Other subjects include family life (or the lack of one), the toll sexual harassment at work takes, and their individual and collective aspirations. Despite the difficulties they've confronted, and sometimes the dangers they've survived, their strength and their wit remain part of the story.
What a thrill to see that Joanna Margaret Paul's work is part of the London Film Festival's Experimenta 2015 (18 October) and to see the women among the group commissioned to respond to her work.

image of Joanna Margaret Paul work from LFF Experimenta

Here are the details–

JOANNA MARGARET PAUL: I AM AN OPEN WINDOW — Experimenta Archive Screening
Working across the mediums of film, poetry, painting and photography, Joanna Margaret Paul (1945-2003) quietly observed the intimate poetics of the domestic and the modest grace of her bucolic surroundings in small town New Zealand.

Her beautiful short cine-poems have been called ‘domestic portraiture’, silent meditative studies of environments and/or the people within them. CIRCUIT Artist Film and Video Aotearoa New Zealand have produced new digital restorations of her films, which are presented here alongside six newly commissioned films from NZ-based artists made in response to her work, which create a conversation between past and present. —Benjamin Cook

Curated by Solomon Nagler and Mark Williams. Commissioned by CIRCUIT Artist Film and Video Aotearoa New Zealand with the support of Creative New Zealand and the estate of Joanna Margaret Paul.
ABERHARTS HOUSE Director Joanna Margaret Paul, New Zealand 1976, 3 mins
NAPKINS Director Joanna Margaret Paul, New Zealand 1975, 3 mins
I AM AN OPEN WINDOW Director Rachel Shearer, New Zealand 2015, 6 mins
BY SEA Director Sonya Lacey, New Zealand 2015, 9 mins
STILL LIGHT Director Nova Paul, New Zealand 2015, 7 mins
BOSSHARD FAMILY Director Joanna Margaret Paul, New Zealand 1976, 9 mins
THIRD REVISION Popular Productions, New Zealand 2015, 15 mins
JILLIAN DRESSING Director Joanna Margaret Paul, New Zealand 1976, 3 mins
SKY Director Miranda Parkes, New Zealand 2015, 3 mins
THORNDON Director Joanna Margaret Paul, New Zealand 1975, 5 mins
UNTITLED (EPILOGUE) Director Shannon Te Ao, New Zealand 2015, 5 mins

Kim Webby and her producer Christina Milligan have just won the Alanis Obomsawin Best Documentary Award at ImagineNATIVE 2015 for The Price of Peace.

From the programme note–
Activists are now considered terrorists and the story of Maori activist Tame Iti’s arrest has an echo that can be heard and felt around the world. When he and his village fall under illegal police surveillance and heavily-armed special police raid his community, Tame Iti and others get wrapped up and accused of very serious crimes. In this seminal and fascinating documentary, director Kim Webby follows the trial and Tame Iti’s six-year fight to clear his name and that of his people.

Leanne Pooley's perhaps best known as the director of Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls; it is the all-time 13th highest-grossing New Zealand feature. Her latest, 25 April, appeared at Toronto and is innovative feature documentary created to bring the story of the New Zealand experience at Gallipoli (Turkey) to life for a modern audience through a reimagined world. Using graphic novel-like animation, 25 April brings First World War experiences out of the usual black-and-white archive pictures and into vibrant, dynamic colour.
I love animation and look forward to seeing this.

Lisa Reihana has just won Best Experimental at imagineNATIVE 2015 in Toronto, for Tai Whetuki –House of Death.

Lisa Reihana accepts her award.

From the programme note–
Enigmatic and poignant, Tai Whetuki – House of Death’s mythological imagery examines current and ancient Maori and Polynesian traditions associated with death and the process of mourning.

from Tai Whetuki – House of Death (image from imagineNATIVE)
She will also represent Aotearoa New Zealand at the Venice Biennale in 2017, with her In Pursuit of Venus [infected].

from In Pursuit of Venus [infected]
Louise Hutt's masters thesis at Waikato University explores the experiences of New Zealand women filmmakers who produce and publish work online. She has her ethics approval and has started interviews, but if you're making work online, and she hasn't been in touch I'm sure she'd love to hear from you! Here's what it the project, from her tumblr
Women are hugely underrepresented in the film and television industries worldwide [just a couple of stats: and New Zealand is no exception to that. What are New Zealand women filmmakers doing if they aren’t participating in our traditional industries? I struggle to make it to the cinema, let alone the New Zealand film festival each year - so I certainly don’t consuming a lot of traditional cinema, and most of my television shows are watched through my computer, not through my television. Unless I want to impress my grandma, my knowledge and career interests, aren’t rooted in traditional forms of filmmaking anymore, but the Youtube channels, webseries, and short films I watch by the bucket-load online.

'…so you’re going to talk to a bunch of people about making stuff?'

Yeah! I’m going to interview New Zealand women who have made some type of online visual media in the past two years, and use those interviews to look at key elements of their experiences. What processes do they use to create their work? What do they consider successful? What influences their choice to make and publish media online? What limitations still exist and what challenges do they foresee in the future of online video publishing and production?
Louise Hutt
'…and then what?'

Since I am doing a creative practice thesis, I am not just writing a big document that no one will ever read, but also creating a web series to go with it. Each episode will feature an interview with one of the participants, strengthening the community of New Zealand women filmmakers online and allowing for both aspiring film makers and those currently making work to have get hear the experiences of other women and learn from their shared knowledge and understanding. It also gives me the opportunity to reflect on my choices and experiences making the web series, and see if they align or contrast with any of the participants.
I'm very much looking forward to watching Louise's webseries and reading her thesis. And in the meantime, I'm following her on twitter.

Nikki Si'ulepa's Ma, 'about an elderly Samoan grandmother trying to survive on her own in a house filled with her life's collections', is travelling all over. Look out for it here–
- ImagineNATIVE Film Festival, Toronto, Canada (18 Oct 2015)
- Pasifika Film Fest, Sydney, Australia (4-8 Nov 2015)
- Pollywood, Auckland, New Zealand (1, 4, 14, 20, 26 Nov)
Thunder Productions
Ma on Facebook

Parris Goebel choreographed, produced and directed Justin Bieber's latest video, Sorry.

Her Palace Dance Studio on Facebook

Pietra Brettkelly's A Flickering Truth screened at Venice and Toronto, unwrapping the world–
...of three dreamers living amongst the dust of Afghanistan's 100 years of war as they struggle to protect and restore 8,000 hours of fragile film.  What truths will emerge from the cloak of time?
Here's a review from The Hollywood Reporter. I couldn't find a trailer I could embed. I hope A Flickering Truth reaches New Zealand cinemas soon.

from A Flickering Truth

Writer/director/producer Rose Goldthorp is seventeen and at school in North Auckland (via Wales and France). She writes, produces, directs and largely edits her own 'no budget' features. Her first, Watcher, is a sci-fi, with two young heroines. She’s currently entering it in festivals. Her second, Silverville, is an Edwardian rom-com ready for editing (she’d love an editor!) and she’ll shoot her third, Ghosts, at the end of 2016, with a DOP and composer already on board.

from Silverville
Rose is delighted that people kindly consent to play with her and hopes that feature film no.4 (a fantasy – no screenplay yet, but lots of ideas!)  will be her last 'no budget' film. She'd welcome a collaborator in Auckland, who's starting out in production and wants feature film production experience.

Rose Goldthorp
Rose hopes to study film at the University of Auckland next year; and that by her fifth feature she’ll attract investors, so that she can pay people for their work.

Dark Rose Films website

Writer/director Roseanne Liang (of the feature My Wedding & Other Secrets) and the other producers of the Flat3 webseries  also received NZOA funding, for Friday Night BitesHere's one of their pilots. And Roseanne last night won Best Television Comedy episode at SWANZ, for Flat 3: The Game, I think the first time this award's been won by a webseries writer. Fantastic.


Director Sarah Grohnert's Ever the Land (edited by Prisca Bouchet) is now in cinemas in New Zealand. Ever the Land 'explores the sublime bond between people and their land through a landmark architectural undertaking by one of New Zealand’s most passionately independent Māori tribes, Ngāi Tūhoe'. 

Director Loren Taylor's video for The Phoenix Foundation's Give Up Your Dreams, a homage to Andrei Tarkovsky, was reported in The Guardian. This is what Loren said about the video–
I like the ambiguity of watching someone dig a very deep hole. Is he burying something (his dreams)? Or is he digging a grave? Or is he digging a tunnel to somewhere? I think there is something compelling about watching him get incrementally more exhausted as he gets deeper and deeper into the earth. At the point of utter fatigue and despair he cracks open and falls into the infinite/space/void/a portal to another realm – and wakes reborn where he started, but with a new perspective.
Loren's words touch me as I reflect on Chantal Akerman, now in another realm, reflect on all the women directors who 'who go to deep dark uncommercial places' and celebrate all New Zealand women who make films.

Chantal Akerman