Celebrating genre films with women at the helm: Etheria Film Night 2018

Etheria Film Night has been presenting genre short films directed by women since 2014 and this year’s selection proves to be an eclectic mix honoring the world of genre films of all sorts; from the dark comedy of Skin Deep (dir. Elizabeth Serra) which illustrates the extremes of sibling rivalry to its bloodiest conclusions, to the subtle horror of Creswick (dir. Natalie James) which with its exquisite sound design stays with you much like the presence of the house lingers with the characters of the film.

Each of the films not only epitomize the genres they fall into but also entertain and engage the audience intellectually with excellent performances and production values. Laboratory Conditions (dir. Jocelyn Stamat) stars Academy Award winners Marisa Tomei and Minni Driver and leaves the audience wondering what the conclusion of the tale will be – as with any good science fiction the possibilities are numerous. Ovum (dir. Cidney Hue) is another sci-fi film with wonderful acting by Michelle Beck and a thought-provoking scenario. The Agency (dir. Macarena Montero) rounds out the science fiction of the evening with humor – and a distinct lack of romance – as the search for a partner becomes a high-end transaction.

The Drop In (dir. Naledi Jackson) gives any Marvel or DC Comics series a run for its money in terms of fight choreography (although my superhero expert/consultant has pointed out to me the fight style is different than those tent pole favorites) with an intriguing plot and captivating performances by Mouna Traoré and Olunike Adeliyi. Lady M (dir. Tammy Riley Smith), a personal favorite because of my affinity for Shakespeare, theatre and fantasy, has exceptional performances by the entire cast and an especially nuanced and delightful one by Samantha Bond as an actress defying age with the magic of theatricality.

Bride of Frankie (dir. Devi Snively) mixes horror and comedy for a refreshing recipe which pays homage to Mary Shelley’s tale of transformation and gives it a modern twist. Instinct (dir. Maria Arida) rounds out the horror fare, a psycho-sexual thriller which depicts the art world as a bloody tough business. C U Later Tuesday (dir. Anca Vlasan) on a humorous note brings out the ridiculous in romance.

There really is something for everyone at The Etheria Film Night (co-presented by American Cinematheque) at the Egyptian Theatre Saturday June 16th. Tickets are only $15 and include a cocktail reception and Q&A with the filmmakers. Rachel Talalay will be honored with the Etheria 2018 Inspiration Award.

Lauren Tracy & The Making of a Director

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.

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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.

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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.

 

RELEVANT LINKS:
Check out the Award Winning (for the Sweet Desert Palm Design) Cambridge Design Group
Videos by Lauren Tracy on Vimeo

Short and Fun in NYC – celebrating women directing movies from all over the world

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Thanks to Film Freeway we gathered over 440 submissions from all over the world.

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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.

  1. A DATE – written and directed by Olga Korotko
    The date goes wrong, when the guy starts to have some stomach problems… (5:00)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. BICYCLE – written and directed by Valerie Dozier
    A young cyclist’s world turns upside down when his beloved bicycle goes missing. (3:19)
  5. 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)
  6. CATNIP – written and directed by Deborah Napier
    A businesswoman makes a choice that turns out to be not what she expected. (0:30)
  7. 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)
  8. 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)
  9. 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)
  10. 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)
  11. 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)
  12. 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)
  13. 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)
  14. 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)
  15. DROP IT – written and directed by Tania Romero
    A dog wants popcorn, and he will do what it takes to get it. (1:00)
  16. 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)
  17. 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)
  18. 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)
  19. 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)
  20. 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)