Women's film activism now has real depth. And the networking that goes on gives it real strength. Women's film festivals are a vital part of all this (and, yes, I know I haven't finished the update of the film fest page here, but intend to as soon as I've finished my tax return!)
One of my favourite women's festivals is Bluestocking, directed by Kate Kaminski, also one of my faves, as a human being. She began Bluestocking as an experiment that asked the question: 'if I brought female-centered, female-directed films to Maine, would the audience show up?'
When it began in 2011, Bluestocking was the first of its kind: an all-narrative short film festival that requires films to feature a female protagonist and to pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test (at least two female characters who talk to each other for more than a few seconds about something other than a man, men, or boys). It celebrates complex female protagonists and filmmakers who place them front and center, and amplifies female voices and stories.
And the audience did show up! To date the festival has screened 84 films, brought 43 guest artists to Maine and presented in 16 venues to an audience of thousands. Noteworthy, generous sponsors and grantors have shared the vision and distinguished selectors and jurors have given strong support.
In 2017, Bluestocking has expanded its mission and is building capacity by focusing on organizing presentations in areas where support for that mission is strong and vital, in Los Angeles, perhaps in in Montréal, Indiana and Philadelphia, and again in Boston, Sweden (last year in Stockholm and Goteborg) and the U.K.
|Ellen Tejle, of Sweden's A-märkt, and Kate Kaminski|
And sustaining its relationships with a wide variety of activist individuals and organisations.
How’s it been going at Bluestocking, since we last spoke, for a podcast five years ago (with Briony Kidd from Stranger With My Face, in Tasmania, another real stayer)? What keeps you going? What are the enduring challenges?
It’s hard to believe that Bluestocking is seven years old, not to mention that it’s been five years since our original podcast interview! So much has changed — going from a twice yearly event in 2014 to an annual multi-day festival, and turning our focus strictly onto short fiction narrative films. But, one thing has and will continue to remain constant: our mission of finding and screening films that center women and girl characters and offer filmgoers an alternative from tired tropes and stereotypes.
Our 3-day fest last year drew #womeninfilm luminaries, up-and-coming filmmakers and bloggers to Portland and screened 22 diverse female-driven films in venues across the city.
panel event, fun parties, and a networking event sponsored and led by Tema Staig of Women in Media. The positive feedback from attending filmmakers and audiences was truly uplifting. It was our biggest, most visible and riotous weekend celebration, forging connections and camaraderie among the festival goers and participants that is still resonating.
The other thing that definitely keeps me going is that moment when I receive a submission that blows me away with its artistry and fully rounded representation of female characters I haven’t seen before. The films (and filmmakers) are a major reason I continue in such a challenging endeavor.
We did hit some serious snags arising from sustainable funding as we approached planning for 2017. When Michelle Kantor offered us a chance to become a Cinefemme* program, we found a way to keep Bluestocking moving forward.
How do you select the films?
We curated about half of the eight short films officially screening this year. Part of the curation process is that I spend a significant amount of time throughout the year researching, looking for films originating from across the globe that I think might be a good fit for our program (and my own taste in female protagonists). If a synopsis or review really calls to me, the next step is to get in contact with the filmmaker and ask for a screener. At this point, we also have friends, other filmmakers, and programmers who kind of know what we’re looking for and send suggestions or introductions to filmmakers whose work we should see. By the way, we do the same in return.
There have been many times when a film doesn’t fit Bluestocking, but we can suggest other film fests in Maine or elsewhere that might be a better venue. This year, we also ran a short, 6-week call for submissions and that brought us the rest of the films.
Because of our unique requirements (female protagonist + Bechdel-Wallace Test compliance), it isn’t always easy to find and screen excellent female-driven films that focus on a female protagonist’s journey that doesn’t involve men or boys. But the call for submissions process is really exciting because you never know when that perfect Bluestocking film is going to come through and bowl you over. It’s an honest to goodness 'eureka' moment — a feeling for me of 'this is IT'! Our calls for submission have introduced us to some very fresh work that wouldn’t have come to us via curation.
Why have you got fewer films this year?
Last year we showed those 22 films over four screenings, but this year, as a traveling fest, we know we need to keep it lean and mean, so we kept it to a one-night booking with a 107 minute running time.
Are you travelling with the show?
I will be in Los Angeles on June 23. Whether I travel with the show or not, Bluestocking 2017 will pop up across the country and around the globe. (If anybody is interested in sponsoring a Bluestocking screening in their area, we want to hear from you — email us at bluestockingfilmseries[at]gmail.com!)
Plans to put Bluestocking online?
That isn’t on the horizon right now. I still believe in the power of face-to-face connections made between filmmakers and audiences at a screening. I’ve experienced the energy of those interactions and they are incredibly valuable on both sides of the screen.
What about the future?
Our origins and our heart will always be in Maine; at the same time, we’re excited to connect with a film industry audience in Los Angeles that is invested in the long-term success of women-directed, female-driven filmmaking. One of Bluestocking’s goals has always been to introduce fresh voices to the film industry and to have a positive influence on what kinds of films get to the marketplace. And, selfishly as a film lover, I just want to see more films that inclusively represent women and girls in all our glory, and all our messiness.
*Cinefemme is a 'non-profit charitable organization that provides fiscal sponsorship, real project support, mentorship, community, and other programs empowering female-identified and non-binary filmmakers, artists, and key creatives. Founded for us, by us, in 2002'.