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#DirectedbyWomen is back! For all of September!

Barbara O'Leary

Women’s film activism goes from strength to strength. 

Part of this is due to sustained commitment from organisations like Bitch Flicks, Le Deuxieme Regard, the European Women’s Audiovisual Network, Raising Films, the Swedish Film Institute, Women Make Movies and many others; and from women’s film festivals and scholars within the academy. 

There are also many individuals, like Beti Ellerson at African Women in Cinema, Destri Martino at The Director List, Melissa Silverstein at Women & Hollywood and the Athena Film Festival, versatile independent film writer, critic and poet Sophie Mayer and Maria Giese, the extraordinary director who initiated the American Civil Liberties Union investigation into discrimination against women directors that has blossomed into a United States federal investigation. 

Among these brilliant individuals there’s also director, producer, activist, distributor Ava DuVernay who has effected – with collaborators – a one-woman revolution for black women directors. Here’s a recent instagram from her, with two of the six women directing episodes of a series adapted from Natalie Baszile’s Queen Sugar.

Barbara O’Leary is another of these activists. Last year, she initiated a two-week worldwide viewing party, to encourage us all to watch and celebrate films by women directors. Now she's sent out her invitation to a second party–
We’re throwing a WORLDWIDE FILM VIEWING PARTY… and you’re invited!
#DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party | September 1–30 
You’re invited to co-create the party… wherever you are… 
This is a joyous celebration… an opportunity to notice, explore, share, and delight in films/tv/webseries/expanded cinema and all other forms of motion picture creativity #DirectedbyWomen and Girls! 
We threw the first ever #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party September 1-15, 2015.  … it inspired a sense of togetherness across the planet. We decided once wasn’t enough. 

We want ANOTHER! And we wanted to spread out and take the WHOLE MONTH. Of course we love to watch films by women directors all year long, but the global party gives us a chance to SUPERSATURATE the planet with awareness of and delight in films women have directed in a concentrated period of time. 
You get to choose how you want to celebrate. Solo Celebrations, House Parties, Twitter Chats, Community Screenings, Festivals, Panels, etc. etc. etc. What would you like to do? Look around in your community and get something going. 
Criteria for participation: Activities focus on films by women directors, respect intellectual property rights, and are celebratory in nature. #DirectedbyWomen is a mixed gender community open to EVERYONE who wants to explore, celebrate and enjoy films by women directors.

I interviewed Barbara back in 2014 so I was eager to catch up again. I asked her: How did the first #DirectedbyWomen go? What were the wonderful things and the difficult things?

The first #DirectedbyWomen was very invigorating. The celebrations, over 15 days, ranged from personal film viewing commitments to house parties to local community screenings to multi-day, multi-city festivals arising just for the occasion. Film Viewing Parties took place in Spain, UK, Canada, USA, India, Australia, Turkey and many other countries. Festivals, film clubs, cinemas, etc with regular screenings dedicated programming to the global party as well. I loved that Portland Film Festival joined the party! The month-long cinema celebration Scalarama reached out and embraced the project. Some women filmmakers waived streaming fees for their films during celebration. Many men embraced the initiative and contributed significantly to creation of film viewing parties, sharing the word, and inviting film lovers to relish the work of women film directors. We’re building a culture of appreciation within the global film community and that’s something we’re doing together.

There was a lively online component as well. We collected community reports from a lot of the events and shared them on a Tumblr. There was a lot of Twitter activity; people live-tweeted films and held Q&As with filmmakers. Something I really noticed — and others frequently commented on — was how aware we were of the other parties that were happening around the world… not just the events we personally attended or organized. I love that we used the new OSoMe social media research tool to create a video showing the flow of Twitter mentions of the hashtag #DirectedbyWomen in the days just before, during, and immediately after the event. It’s a vivid depiction of the way the distinct events that made up the global party created linkages between and among participants.

One of the difficult things was keeping track of everything that was happening. People were leaping in and creating activities on the fly. I’m sure some of what happened never made it into our community reports. But this year I’ve set up a new online calendar with a global map, to help share what’s going on more comprehensively. The calendar can import content from Facebook Event Pages, which will help streamline information sharing and it’s open for year round content.

What’s different about this year’s event?

This year’s party has expanded to fill the entire month of September — 15 days didn’t feel long enough. Another difference is that people who threw film viewing parties last year already know they want to do this again and started making plans earlier than they did last year. Many more people are just finding out about it or have yet to hear of our open invitation… so it’s an ever evolving process. Word has continued to ripple out into the film loving world and I’m aware of more people and groups who are eyeing film viewing possibilities for their communities. It seems crucial to me that we notice, explore, and celebrate films #DirectedbyWomen wherever they arise — particularly because there’s an ever-expanding number of women stepping up to make films but the film industry has not yet cultivated an environment of inclusion.

One of the key components of this celebration is that the epicenter of the global party is located wherever you are. It’s a grassroots, non-hierarchical, D-I-Y experience, so no permission is needed to make plans. If you choose to participate, you are the center of the worldwide film viewing party… and that’s the same for everyone else. It’s a complex system… woven together through intention and the power of social media sharing. This isn’t something that is happening elsewhere. And it’s not about one activity being tuned in to by everyone at the same time. It’s a rolling, vibrant wave of film love unfolding in distinct ways. It’s happening everywhere that film lovers step up to engage and create.

Anything is possible. There’s a lot of room for all sorts of activities including events in cyberspace as well as local screenings, panels, workshops, etc. We’ll see what emerges. 

Each event focuses on different themes, filmmakers, films… each fosters distinct conversation…. each is reported on and shared about through social media so others can get a taste of what those film viewing parties and related experiences. No one person can properly appreciate all the work women directors have been creating, but together we can. 

Let’s turn the global film world’s attention to the films women have made… and put to an end once and for all the myth that there are very few women film directors. Celebration is a powerful force for transformation. Let’s see how many film lovers we can unite in common cause… in celebration of women film directors and their amazing films! 

The online sharing of activities — whether the events themselves are online or local — weaves the #DirectedbyWomen community together and creates a sense of togetherness and communal purpose.

What has changed for you since you launched #DirectedbyWomen?

I’ve learned SO much since the summer of 2014, from the incredible results that can come from floating an invitation out into the world via social media in an open, expansive way. There’s power in trusting information to reach the people who are ready to receive it and willing to take bold action.

The list I’ve been building for the past 3+ years of women who have directed films has continued to grow. The list is now up to 8,927 women directors. I add to it almost every day. Whenever I discover another woman who has directed, I feel so excited to find out what I can about her work, include her in the list, and share with others. I have a vision to expand the website to display more comprehensive information about each director and to interweave the directors with the events calendar, conversation series, video of the day, film viewing possibilities, 366 Days of Birthday Celebrations, and other features that have emerged over the past 2 years. There’s been a lot of growth.

Nothing from the original vision has fallen away… although there are several initiatives — books, screenplays, and a web series — that I set an intention to create, but haven’t had time to get to yet. Perhaps soon!

I’ve gained wonderful new friends through the process and I’m very appreciative of everyone who has engaged the process so creatively. I wish I could teleport around the planet to visit with each of them in person… and to attend their film viewing parties!

There are so MANY ways in which this project has changed me… and continues to. I’ve met — mostly virtually — so many film lovers. I’ve learned about so many women who have made films. I also became a film director, with an experimental Super8 short film Attention to Detail Guides the Dreamer, streaming free on Vimeo.

How are you managing with resources? Are you working with Seed & Spark again?

I just launched a new crowdfunding campaign on Generosity, which is run by IndieGoGo. I like the way it is open ended in terms of time… and they don’t take a cut of the funds. Contributors are welcome to give the Generosity site money to support their operations, but that is optional. It’s a much more fluid set up than many other crowdfunding platforms, which seems in keeping with the fluid nature of the #DirectedbyWomen initiative. I hope people will visit and chip in. I see the campaign as serving four major functions–

1– to mobilize financial resources that will support outreach, enable development of enhanced functionality to the #DirectedbyWomen website (, and cover other coordination costs
2– to help inspire and energize film lovers and filmmakers to create screenings and other film viewing party events
3– to raise visibility for women who have directed/are directing film
4– to demonstrate widespread support for women film directors and their work.
Gathering financial resources is important, but this last function is at the heart of everything I do… and is the most exciting part of this campaign for me. I REALLY encourage everyone who values the work of women film directors to contribute. My vision is to get at least 8,903 people to support the campaign with $1 (or more).

Why 8,903 contributors? That’s one for each woman director listed on the #DirectedbyWomen website on May 1st when the campaign was launched. I’ve set $8,903 as the goal, but I’m really aiming for 8,903 individual contributions to the campaign to help raise visibility of the ever growing number of directors. If everyone who hears about the campaign chips in $1 (or more) and personally invites friends to do the same, we can achieve this goal. It’s simple, not stressful on anyone’s wallet, and has the potential to make a big impact. Let’s show the global film community that there are thousands — millions? — who value films #DirectedbyWomen. And the resources will be put to use in service of a vibrant #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party to include as many film lovers as possible.

Since the launch of the campaign — only a few days ago — the number of women directors listed on the #DirectedbyWomen website has grown to 8,948. I expect that number to continue to rise. These really are exciting times. When the global film community’s awareness expands to fully embrace this understanding, transformation can unfold more rapidly. That’s what I see. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but it’s something we can accomplish together.

I hope everyone who hears about the #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party will step up to make something fantastic happen… and share about it with the world. Please invite all film lovers and filmmakers you know to take part. And meanwhile… please be part of the ongoing celebration. Follow #DirectedbyWomen on Twitter and Facebook. Let’s celebrate.

I also have a few openings for interns this summer. I invite people to get in touch if they’d like to be considered for an internship. Interns can work from wherever in the world they are as long as they have access to the internet.


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