I met Abigail through a friend (Bryant Martin who since introducing me to Abigail I have had the pleasure of directing in two short films, one of which he produced). I sat down with her for much longer than either of us anticipated and had a wonderful interview with her. Subsequently she introduced me to Susanna Styron with whom I also had an incredible interview. Oh the power of networking. I have never been very good at it but this project has taught me how it can work and be a positive not a selfish force. It seems only appropriate that this should be my first short interview edited by someone other than me. JC Scruggs took on the footage and wove it into this lovely little video. Enjoy!
I first found out about Lauren Tracy when I was purchasing a wireless microphone before I had interviewed a single subject for my thesis and documentary on female filmmakers. Chatting with Kevin my sales rep at Pro-Sound (a great place in New York City for sound equipment purchase and rental by the way) he asked what I was working on and I told him about my project on female filmmakers. He went on to tell me that he worked with a woman who had started a company with her Dad to promote women directors (X-Factor Filmmakers). He gave me the information about the company and I went home and immediately emailed her.
Moments later she replied to my email and we set up an interview for my first trip to Los Angeles. I watched her shorts online and read her blog and couldn’t wait to meet her. Her enthusiasm is contagious. She was my first interview. She connected me with others and kept in touch as I met many more women, some of her generation just starting out and others who had started when very few women directed their own stories in film. Stay tuned for more on all of those stories.
Lauren has taken the fight for female filmmakers into her own hands with X-Factor Films and is working on developing her own feature Sweet Desert Palm, as well Tansylvania – a webseries about a female vampire gang in The Valley, and Sheila Scorned written and directed by Mara Tasker.
Want to celebrate women making movies. Check out Hannah has a Ho-Phase. Nadia Munla with screenwriting partner Jamie Jensen directed the female-driven movie Hannah Has a Ho-Phase and made the movie with an all-female crew. I met Nadia after contacting USC about my female filmmakers project – and got the opportunity to shoot the interview above, edited by Dana Hayes.
Nadia and Jamie shopped around the script for Hannah in the traditional fashion and struggled with the consistent note, “It’s really funny. Like a female Hangover – but where is the male perspective?” …. So, Hollywood … here is the female perspective for a change!
I recently finished reading Dorothy Sue Cobble’s The Other Women’s Movement, all about women working to fight for workers’ rights while simultaneously fighting for women’s rights in the United States. An eye-opener, so many women were instrumental in fighting exploitation in the workplace for all workers (Esther Peterson, Kitty Ellickson, among others), including African American women who fought against gender and racial discrimination as well as rights for the working class. (Addie Wyatt, Maida Springer-Kemp, among others).
As a member of unions who have helped make sure that there are basic safety and decent working conditions in place, I know what a difference collective action can make. SAG-AFTRA and Actors Equity may be complex bureaucratic institutions but my work as an actor would have been much less pleasant or perhaps not even possible without them.
Not to mention the work that currently helps me to pay the bills (high end catering) which would not have been possible without those women who fought in that arena. As Cobble notes, “Waitresses historically had respected men’s claims to certain strata of food service jobs – those involving liquor service or formal dinner service, for example,” and it was only a select few who fought to change the status quo. As much as I may not be a fan of French service I am glad I am paid to do it! It helped me to pay for my filmmaking degree after all.
Which brings me to my appreciation for those women currently working to fight for female filmmakers in the DGA – Maria Giese and Lexi Alexander have both spoken out about the plight of women directors despite any potential backlash toward their own work as directors. The first time I saw Lexi in a panel and she spoke of the #HireTheseWomen campaign and solving the problem, not just talking about it, I was inspired. She introduced me to Maria who has been instrumental in helping me with my project on female filmmakers.
Today I listened to a replay of a Diane Rehm podcast about women in Hollywood. In it, Nicole Kidman described sitting at a table with Meryl Streep and other women in the industry including an agent who pointed out that what is needed is a girls club to counter the Hollywood boys club – where actresses can insist on working with female directors – and, in turn, female producers hire those directors. The ACLU is working on it. Women with a certain amount of power are not only talking about it but also doing things to change things (Helen Mirren, Selma Hayek, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman). Perhaps all of this talk is leading somewhere… perhaps things may be different in labor in the days to come. It was a fight for the 40-hour work week, for safety regulations and for women in the airline industry to not get fired if they had children, got married or exceeded the ripe age of 30.
This Labor Day I want to thank all those who fought before and those who continue to fight today for women’s rights and basic rights for all.
I have to give a shout out to two of the men who helped make the Directed by Women – Short and Fun in NYC event happen. Eric Rice who made the program, Facebook banner image and helped coordinate – and Jesse Deganis Librera who shot our Q&A for us.
So there’s the negative aspect of the title of this blog post which is that, as much as I would like to think it’s not true, women can often undermine each other. But that’s a blog post in and of itself.
And events like the Directed by Women series provide a wonderful counterpoint to that story. I have had nothing but incredible interactions with the talented women who took part in the screening series – and am inspired by Barbara Ann O’Leary’s endeavor and all of the women and men she has gathered to make this all happen.
So now for a few of the men in the equation…
Eric Rice who helped us put on the Directed by Women – Short and Fun in NYC event has a project where he watches movies by female filmmakers and puts them out there on the twittersphere with #shecandowhatyoucando. Take part in this celebration by checking out the hastag via twitter and watch some of those movies. He has some features but many are shorts (some from established directors, some up and coming or lesser known gems). A great way to celebrate works Directed by Women.
Thanks to Barbara Ann O’Leary and her Directed by Women global celebration last night I curated an evening of short films directed by women – 20 of them with Leah Abrams (a longtime friend and colleague from my San Francisco theatre days) and Custom Made Theatre Company who kindly switched up their monthly play reading series to give us the opportunity to show some movies at Ryan’s Daughter on the Upper East Side.
The turnout was great and despite a few sound glitches (oh the importance and intricacy of sound) everyone seemed to have a good time and I was reminded of why I do this whole theatre/film thing. There is something really great about getting together with people and sharing stories. I really loved all of these films and being able to share them with an audience was fantastic.
Online access is great and the advent of social media and different platforms have indeed, as director Joyce Wu pointed out last night, democratized the process to a large degree (monetizing is another issue but getting work out there for women and all indie filmmakers is incredibly doable) – but for me it doesn’t take the place of gathering and sharing the experience with others.
The films from far off lands (all over the United States, Argentina and Kazakhstan) filled the room with the laughter and moved the audience – and being able to engage with the filmmakers who were able to attend was an incredible bonus. Many of us found we had connections outside of this small screening emphasizing what a small world this global community can actually be. At the same time I met new people and was exposed to new talent and new stories which invigorated me and keeps me going on this bizarre roller coaster of life.
Thanks to Film Freeway we gathered over 440 submissions from all over the world.
Of course I am particularly grateful for the experience of last night where I got to enjoy these films with an audience and meet and engage with the filmmakers – but it doesn’t have to stop there. I plan to keep up with the work of these talented women and for those who weren’t able to attend check out the list below for our lineup and links to the directors’ work and websites.
- A DATE – written and directed by Olga Korotko
The date goes wrong, when the guy starts to have some stomach problems… (5:00)
- UMBRELLA GIRL – written and directed by Monika Norcross-Cerminara
Living in the middle of nowhere is not ideal. That does not matter to Ella, especially on rainy days. All she has to do is wait for the rain to stop, and then it’s time to play. (2:10)
- AMBIENCE – written by Mackenzie McBride and directed by Trish Dalton
Ambience is a dark comedy centered around Anna, a single, over-worked teacher living in New York. (7:00)
- BICYCLE – written and directed by Valerie Dozier
A young cyclist’s world turns upside down when his beloved bicycle goes missing. (3:19)
- UNREST – written and directed by Shannon R. Giedieviells
A young woman suffers from terrifying reoccurring nightmares of a man she feels is after her. (4:26)
- CATNIP – written and directed by Deborah Napier
A businesswoman makes a choice that turns out to be not what she expected. (0:30)
- SINCERELY, US – written and directed by Laura Birek
Jen was already having a tough time. But when burglars break into her apartment and steal her dog, she’ll do anything to get her best friend back — even if it means messing with the space-time continuum. (6:13)
- PAPER CUT – written and directed by Kanchalee Wijakpaisarn
An anxious writer tries to finish his manuscript but no matter how hard he tries, he can’t overcome his worst nightmares. (5:04)
- FUNNY WORDS – written and directed by Ananya Sundararajan
Chad’s having one of those magical days full of deep conversations and profound realizations. Oh no, wait, he’s just really really high. (1:51)
- SCISSOR MAN – written and directed by Sara Caldwell
Two young girls are left alone in a motel room and conjure up their worst fear – the notorious Scissor Man who cuts off the fingers of naughty children. But is he real, or just a figment of their imagination? (7:48)
- TIGER – written and directed by Connie Chung
Utilizing projections, “Tiger” is an experimental short film that explores the battles and life stages of a young Chinese girl after witnessing her mother’s suicide. As she grows up, we journey with her through depression, immigration to America, and love – or lack thereof. (8:52)
- ANXEYETY – written and directed by Arden Barlow
Six individuals from various cultural backgrounds, gender identities, ages, professions, and levels of social anxiety/disorders are interviewed about their relationships with eye contact. (5:02)
- COFFEE SHOP CONVERSATIONS – written and directed by Kimberly DiPersia
A comedic series of vignettes in a coffee shop, capturing moments in the lives of patrons and employees. (1:57)
- 21 STEPS TO GET OVER YOUR EX – written and directed by Julieta Steinberg
They say Tragedy + Distance = Comedy. This film tells my past tragedy stuff, with a touch of humor. (10:00)
- DROP IT – written and directed by Tania Romero
A dog wants popcorn, and he will do what it takes to get it. (1:00)
- THE DONOR – written and directed by Natasha Soto
A nervous male patient heads to his local clinic to make his first “deposit”, but with his imagination running wild will he able to deliver? (2:37)
- THIS IS JACKIE – written and directed by Anna Sampers
This video tells the story of Jackie and a couple other people she knows. It is told in four parts. (3:00)
- THE ASSISTANT AND HER LOVELY MAGICIAN – written by Joyce Wu and directed by Chris Serveld, Joyce Wu, and Eric Yoon
A romantic comedy about a young woman who must go in search of her magician boyfriend when he disappears into thin air… literally. (4:55)
- CANNED – written and directed by Ivan Joy, Tanya Zaman, Nathaniel Hatton
A street artist paints a beautiful mural of a woman on the wall, and is suddenly chased by police… through the favela’s of Rio de Janeiro. (3:03)
- NEED FOR SPEED (DATING) – written by Allyson Morgan, directed by Mary Nighy
Polly and Nate have the perfect relationship – except she’s packed up and moved to London and yearns for something (or someone) new. In this modern twist on a romantic comedy, Polly learns that what she’s searching for may not be so easy to find. (6:49)
When I knew I was going to interview Julie Dash I was incredibly nervous. I had written two papers on her at the Graduate Center and was a big fan of Daughters of the Dust when I was an undergraduate at UCLA. So needless to say I was thrilled at the possibility of speaking with her about her work. My nerves soon dissipated because she was so incredibly kind and charming.
Julie Dash made history in 1991 when she became the first African American woman with a theatrical release of a feature film with Daughters of the Dust. Before that, as a student at UCLA, she was part of a cinema movement now known as the “LA Rebellion.” The Outlaws, as they called themselves, included filmmakers such as Charles Burnett, Larry Clark, Haile Geima, Aile Sharon Larkin, and Barbara McCullough. When I was a student at UCLA I remember being exposed to the films of Charles Burnett and Larry Clark – but it wasn’t until much later that I became aware that Julie Dash was also a part of the group. Through Women Make Movies I was able to acquire a copy of her short film Illusions – and learn even more about the wonderful talents of Julie Dash.
Watch this short video of Julie Dash speaking to me about the LA Rebellion and the opportunities presented by the digital revolution (edited by me and camera by Robert Reber):
For more on Julie Dash:
http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/dashJulie.php (includes a full filmography and books by and about Julie Dash)
For more on the LA Rebellion:
Spirits of Rebellion – a documentary in progress on the LA Rebellion by Zeinabu Irene Davis
SPECIAL THANK YOUS
Kelvin Garvanne and Nanci Isaacs for introducing me to Julie Dash
Dan Watanabe for introducing me to his student Robert Reber who worked the camera during this interview (most interviews I haven’t had the luxury of having someone run camera so needless to say I was very grateful)