Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gender & the Terms of Reference for a Review of Film Commission Act 1978

Often, New Zealand feature filmmakers want some version of this New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) logo in their credits. It signifies investment from our state-funded film agency, which may also have helped the producer(s) find other investment. Over the last 30 years the NZFC has developed, funded, marketed and sold most New Zealand films that are well known internationally—Heavenly Creatures, Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider. And many other movies that New Zealanders love to watch. The NZFC also provides 'pathways' to making features, programmes like the Short Film Fund and the First Writers Initiative.

But, as I showed in my PhD Report for People Who’ve Helped Me and discussed in a recent interview in TAKE, the Screen Directors Guild magazine, the NZFC’s programmes tend not to work well for women. 

Women filmmakers' low participation in state-funded programmes 

Between 2003-2008 women wrote and directed only 16% of features the NZFC funded for production, although in 2008 NZFC investment in women’s films in advanced development showed an unprecedented spike. Women scriptwriters also fared a lot better in the First Writers Initiative than in the previous five years.

But our position on the pathways to making a feature worsened in other ways, for complex reasons. One reason may be that decision-makers have increasing expectations of applicant experience (see for example Big Shorts' call for short film submissions). Women have historically sometimes been less able than men to meet these expectations.

Between 2006-2008 the Short Film Fund invested $1.7m in projects men wrote and directed and only $500,ooo in projects women wrote and directed. In the same period, women’s participation in short film projects with mixed gender writer/director teams dropped, and in 2008 not one Short Film Fund short had a woman writer and director (though two had women directors and one a woman co-writer). 

In addition, the Independent Filmmakers Fund (IFF)—with increased funding for low-budget feature films—has replaced the Screen Innovation Production Fund managed by Creative New Zealand, where women’s participation was traditionally strong, except as low-budget feature filmmakers. Unlike the Screen Innovation Production Fund, the IFF excludes emerging filmmakers, a group where women are disproportionately represented. 

After almost three years of close study I'm certain that women writers and directors want to use the relevant state-funded pathways to feature filmmaking. But the cumulative effect of NZFC programmes and practices, in association with external factors, is that few women writers and directors reach the end of a pathway, with a feature film up there on screen. 

So, because of all I've learned, I was very interested to learn that the Ministry of Culture & Heritage is preparing the terms of reference for a review of the Film Commission Act 1978. Will the terms of reference include a direction to consider gender? 

Gender & the Film Commission Act  

The Film Commission Act does not mention gender. (New Zealand on Air’s legislation, in contrast, at least requires it to consider women as audiences, which may be one reason the participation of women writers and directors in its recent telemovie series has been comparatively high.)

The NZFC's recent Statements of Intent, which describe its current goals within the statutory framework, ignore gender too. The latest one makes reference only to 'diversity' without giving a definition, and without providing for programmes to encourage diversity. In contrast, the UK Film Council is committed to an Equalities Charter and "to create ways of working that support equal opportunities and diversity in the film industry", though there is no evidence that this commitment has resulted in more UK features with women writers and directors. Maybe gender's got a bit lost there, too; a catch-all 'diversity' may not be enough to ensure gender equality. 

The latest NZFC Statement of Intent does record an intention to measure participation by Maori key creatives each year, a system that could be extended to measure Maori women writers' and directors' participation, currently much lower than Maori men's. But at the moment, any consideration of gender issues depends on the uncertain goodwill and commitment of individual policy- and decision-makers, who come and go.

And those individuals come and go uninformed by gender statistics, as the NZFC does not have to record or publish statistics about the gender of writers and directors who apply for and receive funding (though it has helped me to record them over the last few years). Nor does it require those to whom it devolves funds and decision-making powers to keep gender statistics—Creative New Zealand for the Independent Film Fund; three executive producer groups annually for the Short Film Fund; and the Devolved Development Fund and Producer Overhead Funds for experienced producers who develop feature projects independently of the Commission. 

Without transparency through publication of all relevant gender statistics, including the amounts invested in each programme by gender, it is impossible to analyse which Film Commission programmes redress or reinforce the present gender imbalances.

Why the review's terms of reference should include gender

For me, the imbalances I've described make it imperative that the terms of reference for the review of the Film Commission Act direct the review to consider gender issues. It is necessary to identify how to remedy the present situation through legislation. It's a human rights issue. It's a cultural enrichment issue. And in the contemporary global environment it's also a commercial issue.

The human rights argument

New Zealand ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1985. So, as a state, it must encourage the participation of women in public life on equal terms with men (article 7). Telling stories on the big screen is one way to participate in public life, and the Film Commission's status as a state entity means that the review must consider, because of CEDAW, how to encourage women's access to state-funded filmmaking programmes. Women's participation in public life as feature filmmakers matters in principle.

The cultural enrichment argument 

And it matters because the whole community misses out if women filmmakers don't participate in our storytelling. As a Writers Guild of America West report puts it (p. 51): 

The importance of the stories scriptwriters tell and of the people telling them cannot be overstated. These are the stories through which our society defines what it is, what it is not, and what it hopes to be. The scriptwriters are the people whose experiences shape the underlying reservoir of ideas.

(And of course the way directors and everyone else involved bring these stories to the screen is equally important.)  

If we continue to have few films written and directed by women, New Zealanders miss out on a broad, rich, vision of who we are, who we are not, and all that we might be. And opportunities to convey that vision to the world. 

The commercial argument

The international context provides a commercial argument for more equality in state investment. Gender's important in the global industry. It divides the market into quadrants: women over and under 25, men over and under 25. And after the recent commercial successes of Mamma Mia, Twilight, and Sex and the City worldwide—echoed here by Secondhand Wedding's outstanding success last year—the industry is increasingly attracted to the market represented in the women’s quadrants. 

If the Minister for Culture and Heritage includes gender issues in its terms of reference for the review of the Film Commission Act, that would help fulfill the nation’s CEDAW obligations. But it would also be a first step towards a legislative structure that, through its awareness of the significance of women's stories and of women as a market, would help enhance New Zealand’s reputation for astute development and use of its cultural capital.

(For a wider view of New Zealand women's participation in public life, see the Human Rights Commission's New Zealand Census of Women's Participation 2008.) 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Katrina del Mar from New York, courtesy cherry bomb comics

You lucky Aucklanders. A visiting filmmaker, organised by those wonderful women @ cherry bomb comics. And some local shorts. The Wine Cellar. Thursday. 8pm. (Tx Heather, will be in touch soon.)

Twittering (cont'd) & Blogging; & A Parallel Universe for Women's Filmmaking

Twittering
I'm still uncertain about Twittering. I like sending little messages when I can't manage a full blog post. But other people's tweets frustrate me. What about cooktips' fondued leeks? What was he eating them with?  What's the best bread for his Sunday chicken and mayo sandwich? What about melsil's dog Duke? What does he look like? Do people in New York ever have big dogs? And what about all those voorgreen messages about Standing Woman? If I send emails every time I wonder at a tweet, I'll be emailing for ever.



But after many mentions of Standing Woman I couldn't stop myself. Who, I asked voorgreen (scriptwriting maven Linda Voorhees) is Standing Woman? Here's her response, with Standing Woman's photo above:
The Standing Woman is positioned in UCLA's Murphy Garden which has become the crown jewel of the campus.  She remains in vigil at the base of the footbridge, which means virtually every person who walks through campus must pass her.  She has become the Patron Saint of Screenwriters.  So when our writing students walk past her, they tap or touch her for luck.    It is a ritual of membership.  Only the writers do it. We think it gives us courage.  And we think she has deep and profound secrets to share with us.  
 
The Standing Woman was sculpted in the 30s by a French artist named Gaston Lechaise.  
Now how about that? Isn't Standing Woman gorgeous? I'll keep tweeting for more stories like this one!

Blogging; & A Parallel Universe for Women Filmmakers

As for the blogging, I'm still getting these lovely responses. And some nice serendipitous things. One of my favorite scriptwriters sent me a link to writer Stella Duffy's blog (I don't think he knows I'm blogging too.) Stella Duffy's The Room of Lost Things was long-listed for the 2008 Orange Prize and won Stonewall Writer of the Year. I haven't read it but I love her Saz Martin crime series. Here she is on the maleness of the British BAFTA awards:

Yes, there were French & Saunders, and yes, there was a major award for Jane Tranter, but it isn’t really about the very few who stand out, is it? It’s so much more about the fact that at every level, but primarily at the level that MAKES DECISIONS, that BUYS WORK, that ACTUALLY EMPLOYS, the people making those decisions are men, blokes, male-identified-black-suit-(or kilt)-wearing chaps.

If every time a group of people get up to receive an award and 75-80% of those people standing up there are men, what does that say about the state of our film and tv industries? Does it say we are in a place of equality where women are as likely to be producing/creating work? I think not.

If the people who are producing and creating the work are men is it any wonder that they then employ men writers to write more work about men? What we know from publishing is that men readers prefer to read men writers and are primarily interested in male protagonists, while women readers will read both men and women, and will also engage with male protagonists (yes, there are always exceptions, this is though, what current statistics tell us) - I see no reason to assume that men producers/commissioning editors are any different to the rest of the male readership. And so it makes perfect sense that we see, time after time, men producers and then men writers associated with them.

And I love the comments that follow, including one from filmmaker Campbell, whose blog masthead reads: "When the lioness can tell her story, the hunter no longer controls the tale". WOW. 

Then there's Birds Eye View (aka BEV). They send out a great email full of useful stuff. And today's email encouraged me that the parallel universe of women's filmmaking is gathering in strength. Here's some of Rachel Millward's blog  about the statistics from the latest BEV festival, the fifth, which took place about a month before the BAFTAS, also in London. (That's Rachel in the middle of the pic at left, with Sally Hawkins and Gurinder Chadha,  with the opening night audience in the pic below.)
Audiences flocked to all events, nearly 11,000 of you altogether. Our box office stats show an average of around 90% capacity - the majority of events through festival week selling out. The average audience rating across all films and events was 4.5 out of 5. And, demonstrating fresh outreach, 83% of the audience were new to Birds Eye View this year, 98% said they would come again. This is a huge compliment to Birds Eye View, to the strength of our programming, the appeal of the brand and the success of our grass-roots marketing campaign. Three cheers to team BEV! It is also a huge vote of confidence in female talent. There is a clearly strong and ever-increasing market demand for a better balance of content on our screens.
From far away, on the other side of the world, I believe there's always been a demand for a better balance of content. In the past, the demand hasn't been heard. But activities like the ones BEV organises are making change. I hope that the influence of BEV's keen audience will affect what happens at the BAFTAS. Or, that in future what happens at the BAFTAS won’t matter, because the parallel universe of female talent has all the exposure it needs. 

"Development" Reading

It was a bit messy at the beginning. I had to hand round my ethics forms, give a quick update on the progress of my PhD (the larger context for Development), assign some small parts. I struggled more than I'd thought I would in a room filled with people I knew; I was clumsy. Too many days alone at the table, tapping away on my laptop. 

But I enjoyed it. A little. And it was lovely to be able to say that the Victoria Foundation will be our charitable umbrella, so donors—here and in some overseas countries—get tax benefits. To be able to mention Women Make Movies and fiscal sponsorship, that we're experimenting with a model that may also work for other women filmmakers here.

Then the actors read. It was just like Monday, when two of the actors practised. The 34 pages I selected—the arc of Emily's story—took on a life of their own. Again. Wow, I thought. These actors, all of them also writers and/or visual artists and/or directors, will do it extra specially well, add so much. They are wonderful. And they all live in Wellington: they know the city, the seventh main character, intimately. This matters, to me anyway.

Then at the end, as I was thinking, Will that end work? How will it work? there was this sudden noise. People clapping. With enthusiasm. I love to clap, almost as much as singing Happy Birthday To You. Am often the first to clap, with delight. But I had to will myself to clap. What was that about, after that beautiful reading?

And then, as the audience spoke up, something more astonishing happened: the range and generosity of the responses told me (among some other stuff) that there's an audience for Development. I was so glad Erica was there, the producer and shining anchor, taking copious notes and then chatting with everyone after the reading, because I was stunned.

So on Saturday, the first rainy day for a very long time, I put on my green boots decorated with stars and lightning, unfurled my umbrella and went down to Oriental Bay to get a newspaper. Stood on the seawall, looked at the people hurrying along the footpath, at the waves and the seaweed. And ran the promenade & beach scenes through my head. 

Looked up at the art deco apartment-for-sale that I imagine is Emily's apartment. Would the owner let us use it—no trucks, a very small cast & crew—as a location, before it changes hands?  Or would Iris at the window—blowing Emily's rape whistle—be invisible from the beach? Obscured by that big pohutukawa tree?  

Stop it, I thought then. We've got enough ticking clocks; that apartment will be sold and occupied in no time at all. 

Went home. 

And slept.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sally Potter & Money; & John Berger



Sally Potter's last blog entry was her stunning Barefoot Filmmaking manifesto. I'm not going to quote from it. It deserves to be read as a whole. 

Her latest response to a comment on her site is about money, money, money and films. 

Her clarity and her courage make me cry.

(Her The Gold Diggers (1983) was an inspiration for some bits of Development. And I can't wait to see her latest film, RAGE. Here's a still from it, of Judi Dench.)



When I saw the picture of Sally Potter's boots that seemed an ideal way to show her. These two recent postings are so generous; I can now imagine a little of what it means to stand in those boots (while filming barefoot).

And then, still looking at photographs, I found this article about her, in Vertigo, by John Berger, another of my all-time heroes.

So I'm sitting here in the twilight thinking that these gifts may be a sign, just when I need one. 

Tomorrow some amazing actors will read 34 pages of Development for a little audience of writers. At the moment I'm excited and curious and expecting to learn. But if I get scared or anxious I'll remember to think "What would Sally Potter do?" "What would John Berger say?"

You can buy Sally Potter scripts and films here.

Massify and Killer Films want you!

Remember when Christine Vachon from Killer Films visited to New Zealand last year (& the impressive way she juggled two Blackberries, according to my Auckland mate who went along to hear her speak)? She didn't give a talk in Wellywood but I love her books and always go to see a new Killer film asap.  And now, via the San Francisco International Women's Film Festival, here's news about an initiative we can take part in (if we can manage the May 14 deadline). 

Christine Vachon writes about the project on Indiewire and the details are here (including some comments from New Zealand's own Leo Woodhead). This is the intro:
Massify and Killer Films (Boys Don't Cry, Kids, Far From Heaven ) have joined forces to create a provocative and humorous short film developed entirely through the Massify production network. At the forefront of independent cinema, Killer is looking for an outsider's story, the kind you don't normally hear about. But this project really belongs to you, because you're going to make it happen - from the concept, through production, cast, crew, and post - everything will be done by members of the Massify community. And before production begins, we need to find someone to take the reins. So if you're a filmmaker with a great story, pitch your concept now. 
Massify (Connect Collaborate Create: A production network for people who make film possible) seems to be the US equivalent of Britain's Shooting People. To date, no surprise, many more men than women are pitching their outsider stories. What would happen if Killer created a similar project just for women?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls (cont'd)

Best opening day, best opening weekend for a doco in New Zealand, ever, according to an article on the big idea/ te aria nui (home of NZ's creative community, I read it with enthusiasm, every week). 

Just for fun, I looked at how Mamma Mia went in New Zealand cinemas, on Box Office Mojo. Its opening weekend here ranks at 65, way down the list. BUT its final gross was THIRD, behind Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Shrek 2. 

So I'm cheering. Because I love Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls and because it may provide a local example of a 'women's' film that opens comparatively slowly (though wonderfully for a doco) and then goes for it. If that happens, it should help all New Zealand women filmmakers. 



Here's another pic of them, by Sally Tagg, to celebrate.

Aren't blogs wonderful?

I'm thrilled. All these responses. 

Two quince-related requests. I'll drop the paste in town when I'm passing, carry some jam up the coast to Otaki on the bus, soon, on a sunny day . 

An experimental tweet from a non-Twitterer:
My turnips are like white balls of black pepper. Wilt the greens too, gloss with extra virgin and taste the time of year. alexmackay.com
137 Characters, he said. Do the spaces count? (Yes.)

And someone's asked me: What do I think about the review of the New Zealand Film Commission, being done by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage? 

There's lots I have no idea about, and I haven't read much about what others think since John Barnett's piece in OnFilm.

But I have some ideas—of course—about how the Film Commission could improve women writers' and directors' participation in feature making. 

The present 'pathways' to making a Film Commission-funded feature are not working for women. We're well represented as documentary makers I think, though I haven't measured the statistics. As producers we do well. And as writers for television.

But our 'pathway' representation as writers and directors is otherwise really low, for example in the 48hours contest (registration closes in 13 days). Last year for the first time there was a prize for an all-women team, which Gaylene Preston Productions sponsored. This was great, because Muriel Niederle from Stanford University and her co-researchers have shown that women and men compete differently; affirmative action programmes  where women compete among other women can be very useful in making change.

And I suspect that one factor that influenced the strong participation of women writers in New Zealand On Air's recent telemovies is that NZOA has to consider women as an audience. It has to "to ensure that a range of broadcasts is available to provide for the interests of women and youth and children and persons with disabilities and minorities within the community including ethnic minorities", according to the Broadcasting Act. 

Could the Film Commission try some affirmative action? Could it be required to consider women as an audience (and the other groups NZOA has to think about)? I'll write more about this topic when I have more time.

(& I've changed the settings to simplify making comments.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Twittering & Writing

Last week, the lovely script whizz Linda Voorhees invited me to Twitter. And having followed her through her stunning exposition of master scenes, taglines and page 60, I'd pretty much follow her anywhere (and am thrilled she's now got a channel on YouTube—Voorgreen, and is teaching online). So I joined.

But I'm ambivalent about Twitter although I love watching the character countdown: 140, 123, 81, 2, 1.  It could be a lot of fun, getting the most out of those 140 characters. But I'm feeling a bit of keyboard overload: scripts, thesis, three email addresses, txt, and now Twitter--

And I've just read a 2003 interview with novelist Zadie Smith (pictured) that helped me understand why. I can't wait for her new book Fail Better, about writers, due this month; I read her stunning "Fail better" article in the Guardian ages ago, and it helped me understand my writing process, but the link no longer works. According to her, writing "is a wonderful job..."


"...but it's not always a wonderful job to wake up every morning and face a computer, and there's nobody to talk to, and there's nobody around. It's not always the cheeriest job in the world. It's an odd job when the work's not going well, which happens to me quite a lot. Then, it's just a lot of sitting around and sadness... When I'm writing properly, that's my life every day. You forget to eat, you forget to do anything. And it doesn't feel completely healthy.
Q (Camille Dodero) : After those periods of isolation, do you find it hard to relate to people?
A: Yes. If I'm let out to go to a party, say, and I haven't been out for three or four weeks, I don't realise that most people have colleagues and they know how to smooth things over [in conversation]. You don't always have to tell the truth, for instance, about how you're feeling every second of the day.
When I finished White Teeth and had to start doing press, I would always say the wrong thing. I didn't know how to be a person with other people. And there's all kinds of linguistic things, tics, to make a conversation smooth and natural, and I really didn't know what I was doing because I never saw anybody... I think [writing] sometimes has a bad effect on your social skills."
I never forget to eat. I enjoy it too much, and my brain fails if it's not well fed. But when I'm writing most of the time, I do sometimes forget how to be a person with other people. I say the wrong thing. I do the wrong thing. So I've learned to make sure that I sit at a kitchen table with a real live person or two, and a cup of tea, regularly. And I cook for a friend twice a week, who's very understanding when, sometimes, I can't sustain a conversation. Twitter, like email and txting, takes time from being with people-in-the-flesh.  On the other hand it's a great way to stay in touch with people like Linda who live far away.

So I've decided to Twitter, a bit. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Trouble the Water

Down at the Paramount, this year's World Cinema Showcase has just ended.  Sixteen features, just one with a woman writer/director, Joanna Hogg's Unrelated. I'm sad I missed Unrelated; I don't want to miss a single opportunity to see a film a woman's written and directed, because I think about how we work, all the time at the moment. Jenny Lumet wrote the screenplay for another Showcase film, Rachel Getting Married. Women co-writers on Quiet Chaos. Fugitive Pieces came from a novel a woman wrote. Missed all those, too.

But I got to Trouble the Water last night and am so glad I did. I haven't seen Age of Stupid yet. But reading about it and watching the making-of doco, and feeling proud that New Zealand woman Lizzie Gillett produced Age of Stupid, I've tried to imagine how things might be here because of climate change. How I might cope in a climate disaster. Always a possibility in this wild and windy city, at the edge of a little Pacific island.

If you haven't seen it, Trouble the Water's a grim and inspiring story from New Orleans' Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina. Kimberly Rivers Roberts and Scott Roberts filmed their neighbourhood as people prepared to leave (there's several wonderful sequences shot by one of them riding a very squeaky bike). They then took refuge in their attic, were rescued by a neighbour, and eventually left town. 

Watching Trouble the Water I learned that I'll have to up my compassion quotient. I thought Kimberly, Scott and their friends were amazing and generous and resilient and funny while experiencing a terrible event and its terrible aftermath. What heroes. They inspired me to practise being a little kinder and to laugh more, because they showed me how much kindness and laughter—and patience—are survival skills.  I'm glad I've been warned.

I think I'll start my kindness with the neighbourhood cats and dogs. No more hissing or shouting when one of them befouls the silver beet or the strawberry bed. It's easy to leave some apples for the birds. I'm so glad their summer absence is over. It's easy to shift a stick insect from one leaf to another less risky. To welcome a spider onto the kitchen window, to take another to a safer space than the laundry basket. To share Uncle Bob's bean seeds, the Italian parsley seeds, even the night scented stock seeds.  But could I offer one of those cats a sardine? Some water to that big and roaming dog? Time to find out, now.

Read about producer Tia Lessin here.

See the trailer here.

"It's not about a hurricane. It's about America.", says the poster. I think it's about all of us.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls @ the Penthouse

It was a gorgeous Easter Sunday. No wind. I picked some apples and tomatoes first thing, wrote like crazy. Picked the most perfect late quinces for a mate, who brought me some coffee grounds for the compost.

And then, off to the Penthouse. Not a huge audience, but very diverse, from some little kids to the very old, couples—some apparently heterosexual, some apparently gay, some recognisable activists and some (since the film's 'a love letter to New Zealand' and we New Zealanders don't like to mention this group the next word's a whisper) intellectuals. Maybe Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls is going to follow a known pattern with 'women's' films, and it will take the audience a little while to go to see it. And a wet day or two. 

At the end, just before the credits, the cinema was silent. And out of the silence came a single voice saying "Lovely". And it was. Just lovely. 


I was especially moved when I saw and heard singer, songwriter and activist Mereana Pitman, up on stage singing with the Twins. Maybe her appearance will inspire someone to make a documentary about her. Or if they've made it already, I hope to see it soon.

And I want to see Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls again. It left me wanting more, hoping that the DVD will include the full concert that's the backbone of the film, and maybe more about how the Topps work together when they write their songs, how they started to write songs all those years ago. All I heard is that they've realised that nothing much rhymes with 'cancer', but maybe I missed something. So I'll be back.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Jane Campion on fearlessness and common sense

After a couple of months there, I'm used to my little office at the Institute of Modern Letters, no longer feel so awkward. I'm familiar with the machines, know that the toaster takes the same time to brown the bread as the photocopier takes to print a 90 page script.  And the flowering cherry tree's right outside (leaves just starting to shrivel) if I glance up from the computer. I can see people going into the gym next door or down the stairs at the side of the building. Sometimes they glance in and smile at me and I smile back, wave. Sometimes, unnoticed, I watch passersby and eavesdrop.  Sometimes, perhaps, unnoticed by me, people look through the window and see some tomato slide off the toast as I lift it to my mouth. When I'm reading.

Almost everything I've read for the PhD is now in my server-based  bibliography—621 items—creative industries, autoethnography, ethics (complicated because of the continuum from social science to creative writing to film production—those insurance issues), women's feature making, scriptwriting, writer/activist/theorists Virginia Woolf, Tillie Olsen, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich. 

And best of all, just before the Easter break, a wonderful supervision session. I can't wait to do the next Development rewrite. The slight trembliness that's always there is there. But I'm trembling more from excitement than from fear.

So on Maundy Thursday I closed the office door and ran down Allenby Terrace's long run of steps and into the city. Easter eggs and hot cross buns at New World Metro with a couple of newspapers, across the road into Unity for a quick look, then on into the library. And there was a new book about Jane Campion, Jane Campion, by Deb Verhoeven, an Australian. 

In it is a long, rich, interview where Jane Campion talks about her approaches to filmmaking. In the middle of it she discusses the qualities that she believes distinguish her from others. Fearlessness is one. She says:
When I talk to people and I listen to other filmmakers or students talking about themselves trying to get work together, the thing that I constantly hear and recognize is that what's really difficult for people is dealing with the fear that they have about their work. Quite often that feeling is so great, it completely obscures them; they kind of lose themselves in their fear and they can't really do the work... Whereas I have got some kind of capacity that when I'm engaged in a project or an idea, I have enough sense of love and charm for it, that I don't think about what could go wrong. So when I get excited about an idea I can't think negatively. I just think it's only going to work out well; of course it's going to work out... I can be critical as well but on the whole I think, yes, I've got to fix this and that but it will work out. And then it's not till it's really completed that I start to freak and be able to see the other sides or the negative positions that people could take on it. What I've said doesn't sound like very much, but it's probably the single best quality I've got. 
I went "AH", because Greta, one of my filmmaker characters in Development spends a lot of time talking about her fear to Jasmine-the-shrink. And she overcomes her fear. And as I've said, there are days when I'm pretty scared myself, especially when I'm about to take a script to pieces.

The second quality Jane Campion identifies is common sense:
Common sense is also very underestimated. the very word makes it sound like it's just hanging around everywhere, but it's quite rare; that sort of practical ability to find a middle line. The quality of my enthusiasm being greater than my fear and my common sense are the two only real qualities that I have that distinguishes myself as someone who can have an ongoing career as a filmmaker. And to know what's achievable. All those sort of very dull things. I'm really practical. I'm very, very deeply practical and have great capacity to work out what can fit into what size box. I think so many people are creative; everybody is and I'm just only as creative as anybody else, but just with those different qualities of being fearless at the right time and having lots of common sense.

A big thank you to Deb Verhoeven for Jane Campion; I'm finding it fascinating. 

Jane Campion's new feature Bright Star will be released later this year (June, in Australia first, according to imdb).


Ah, it's not just Petone and Pauatahanui

And then someone suggested "But isn't the Topp Twins a Penthouse-type movie"? So I checked the next day's paper. And so it is. Lots of sessions, not too far from home. But I'm still a bit cranky. I wanted the occasion to be like the first night of Scorcese's Shine a Light Rolling  Stones film, a packed and excited Embassy, a wander home along Oriental Bay afterwards.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls @ the Penthouse


Today's the day. 

Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls is opening in Wellywood. I can't wait to see it. Even the trailer brought tears to my eyes AND made me laugh. And remember the past.

It reminded me a little of Margot Francis' classic Two Gals from Tuatapere and another 1987 film, Mangawhai Film Festival. It gave me the same wonderful feelings as "Young@heart". 

And I predict it'll be New Zealand's Mamma Mia here and in Australia and maybe in a whole lot of other places. 

So why is it not opening in central Wellington? Just in little neighbourhood cinemas far away from me, at Petone and Pauatahanui, those lucky people there. Can I get there, on this wintry pre-Easter break day? 

Here's the trailer.

video

Monday, April 6, 2009

Harvest time


Waiting for some quinces to heat. They drop to the ground outside my window: THUMP. It seems no time since they and my poppies were in full bloom.

And this year I've been using Elizabeth David's recipes from her French Provincial Cooking, a book I love to read before going to sleep. Marmelade de coings (quince marmalade—the word 'marmalade' reached French and English via the Portuguese name for quince, 'marmelo', according to Elizabeth D) and Pate de Coings, quince paste. Lots and lots of it and I've run out of people to give it to.

The other thing I've been doing in the evenings is watching Charlie Rose. I think his interviews are magic, with film writers and directors as well as lots of others. My favorite so far is the episode with three Mexican filmmakers, including Guillermo del Toro, who's here in Wellywood working on The Hobbit right now. Their love and support for each other just shone and provided a great model for generosity among artists.

I thought of this interview when I read a Women & Hollywood post from a young woman in the industry (her story is so familiar to me from my own research, could fit right into my thesis script, Development). Do women filmmakers love and support one another in the same way? I have my wonderful mates from my classes at the Institute of Modern Letters but we haven't yet supported one another right through a film project. Well, in another W&H post, here's news of a support group of US women screenwriters: the Fempire.  Made me smile. Gave me ideas.

Sunshine Cleaning

A new film from New Zealand director, Christine Jeffs (Rain, Sylvia) written by Megan Holley. And from the trailer it looks great. Hope it gets to New Zealand soon. 

It's doing well in the United States. 

Women & Hollywood has the details and a review



The weekend of  3-5 April, Sunshine Cleaning was 10 at the U.S. box office, had the fourth highest average take per cinema and was expanding into more cinemas.