Skip to main content

#WomeninFilm Activists Speak: Voices From A Revolution


This year #WomenInFilm ‘how-to’ talks have flourished. The speakers aren’t the first to share, nourish and inform, of course. But until this year, there was just one standout for me: Ava DuVernay’s Film Independent Forum keynote in 2013. She brilliantly argued that filmmakers should abandon despair about not having access to what we need and move on from depression about what makes our work difficult: a ‘wrong’ gender, a ‘wrong’ race or culture, no film school training, no money, no mentors, no advocates, no time. Instead, ‘Create work’, she said. ‘Look at what you have and work with that’.

She’s also argued that ‘It’s not about knocking on closed doors. It’s about building our own house and having our own door’, and that has resonated for many women filmmakers.

installation, National Museum of African American History & Culture (Smithsonian)

In the three years since, lots of women have followed her advice — or come to a similar conclusion independently — and now some of us have articulated how ‘doing it’ is inspired and played out. Here are some of the best I’ve watched and heard. Let me know of any more that you’ve loved?
.......

Holly Tarquini and the  F-Rating Holly’s background is as an independent producer/director for television documentaries, but she’s now making a difference to the marketing of films by and about women. In 2014, after she joined Britain’s Bath Film Festival, she created the F-Rating, designed to support and promote women and redress the imbalance in the film industry (the F stands for feminist, of course). Every film which ticks ‘yes’ to the one of the following questions receives the F-rating–

1. Does it have a female director?
2. Is it written by a woman?
3. Is/are there complex female characters on screen who exist in their own right (not simply there to support to the male lead)?

A film that ticks all three gets the triple F-rating. Dozens of festivals and cinemas now use the F-Rating.

Holly’s talk is a fresh, engaging look at the facts (I had no idea about single parenthood as portrayed in American films!) and how they affect our lives and our children’s lives. She provides a convincing case for supporting the F-Rating. And she made me laugh.




.......

Naomi McDougall Jones is a writer, actress and producer based in New York City. She wrote and starred in Imagine I’m Beautiful  and is a founder of The 51 Fund, a soon-to-be-launched equity investment fund to finance films with budgets in the $1–5 million range that are written, directed, and produced by women, including anyone who identifies as female.

Like Holly, Naomi knows her facts and how those facts affect us all. And like Holly, she’s strategic, taking action to benefit #WomenInFilm and their audiences. (She’s funny, too!)




.......

Louise Hutt’s Online Heroines YouTube series is close to home for me. Louise is a filmmaker whose Hire-A-Mum short was a finalist at Tropfest New Zealand in 2015. She doesn’t speak on camera in the series, but her ideas and her voice are very much part of it.

There are thirteen Online Heroines participants and nine episodes. The series provides fascinating insights into ‘the ambitions, struggles, and triumphs of being a New Zealand woman creating video content online’. And, as Women & Hollywood  pointed out, the participants ‘use this spotlight as a way to communicate with their industry peers’.

Louise’s presentation of her work is wonderfully transparent. She notes that some of her participants pulled out, ‘unable to be a part of my project due to fear of the consequences’ and that this demonstrated that discrimination is on the minds of women working in the film industry, even when publishing online.

Louise also recorded the diversity information of those who did participate–

92% Pākehā (NZ European) | 8% Māori
69% Straight | 15.5% Bisexual | 7.75% Fluid
100% Cis gender | 0% Trans gender | 0% Gender fluid
8% Had a significant disability or illness | 92% Did not

Louise acknowledges that for people with intersecting marginalised identities, it can be even harder to speak out and she plans to do a second round of interviews, to address this imbalance. She would love to speak to any New Zealand women (or non-binary) filmmakers who don’t see themselves represented adequately in the Online Heroines.

The Online Heroines — and others like them round the world — are enriching and influencing the present of #WomenInFilm, as well as building a basis for its future. Here’s one of the trailers.





.......

And then there’s this Jill Soloway masterclass on The Female Gaze. She needs no introduction. Essential viewing.





.......

Finally, there's the WARU session from New Zealand's Big Screen Symposium. WARU ('eight') is an 80-minute film made by eight Māori women directors (and a ninth writer), now in post-production. It follows the lives of eight women all connected by a single, heart-breaking event, the death of a child, through eight self-contained 10 minute vignettes. Each follows a different lead character during the same moment in time, is told in real time, and shot in a single take. The project was instigated by producers Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton of Brown Sugar Apple Grunt, and the whole film was shot over eight days.


Some of the WARU women at work  Photo: Brown Sugar Apple Grunt

Although there are many skilled and experienced Māori women writers and directors, the last feature film written and directed by a Māori woman was Merata Mita’s Mauri (1988). WARU is visionary, as a way to provide nine Māori women with feature credits. But for me, the significance of this powerful podcast lies in its indepth discussion of how we come to our truths and how we support one another to access and speak and show our truths. It’s a ‘how-to’ talk par excellence, with eleven different perspectives. And like all the talks in this post, it is ‘how-to’ with heart, intelligence, courage, humour and spirit.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

NZ Update #13: The Brilliance of Molly O'Shea

John O'Shea of Pacific Films is a legend in the film history of Aotearoa New Zealand. He died in 2001, aged 81. His daughter Kathy O'Shea, who died in 2010, was a legendary editor. And his grand-daughter, filmmaker Molly, gave this year's John O'Shea Memorial Address at the annual conference of New Zealand's Screen Production & Development Association (SPADA).

The address would be 'delivered by Dame Jane Campion and special guest', according to the SPADA programme. And what a special guest Molly was.

Her address is an instant feminist classic. Just brilliant. Wherever you live, if you want to persuade someone to give women filmmakers a go, entertain and inform them with this clip.
I hope that some of those producers who gave Molly a standing ovation then seized the opportunity to ask to read her pilot script, described by Jane Campion as 'incredible'. Go Molly! I can't wait to see your work.





NZ Update #3: WIFT New Zealand

This is Part 3 of an NZ Update 4-part series. Part 1 was Gender Breakthrough in New Zealand Film Commission Funding. Part 2 was a letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Paula Bennett, about the New Zealand Screen Production Grant. Part 4 is a not-quite-A-Z of New Zealand women directors and some writers.

So how has Women in Film & Television New Zealand (WIFTNZ) responded to the lack of gender parity between women and men who write and direct, in particular the lack of gender parity in allocation of taxpayer funding? For example, does it endorse Telefilm Canada's statement, referred to back in Part 1 and to some extent implicit in the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC)'s latest Annual Report?–
Based on industry recommendations that these two roles require immediate critical attention, gender parity amongst directors and screenwriters was identified as a priority (emphasis added).The simple answer: No-one Knows For Sure. And because of this, I believe it'…

Saving Mr. Disney: A Lesbian Perspective By Carolyn Gage

To stay focused when I'm writing intensively, I go to the movies in the afternoons. It's a kind of meditation that includes the walk down the hill to the cinema and back up again afterwards. And a few weeks ago, I saw three women-directed movies in three days: Rama Burshtein's Fill The Void, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette's Inch'Allah and Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said. Maybe things have changed, I thought to myself, ever optimistic. But I also noticed that men wrote and directed Catching Fire, from a novel by a woman, about a young woman and produced by a woman. And then I read Vocativ's analysis of 2013's 50 top-grossing US releases. This shows that almost half were Bechdel Test-passing films and that they did better at the US box office than those that weren't. BUT except for Frozen, which Jennifer Lee co-directed (and wrote) men directed all 50. And then at the weekend, all three of the new releases reviewed in our local paper (with enthusiasm) told s…