Thursday, October 29, 2009

Here She Comes



I can't wait to read this new book. It will arrive in the mail very soon. And there's a Facebook page associated with it where—according to Sophie Mayer one of the editors— "we're going to try and gather and share lots of news and ideas about women's cinema and visual media":  (see her comment a couple of posts down, & the link to her site on the sidebar to the right here).

Here's what the publishers say about the book:

Following in the footsteps of the filmmakers whose work it features —including Miranda July, Janie Geiser, Tracey Moffatt, Sally Potter, Cindy Sherman, Samira Makhmalbaf, Sadie Benning, Agnès Varda, Kim Longinotto, and Michelle Citron— There She Goes: Feminist Filmmaking and Beyond seeks to make trouble not only in the archives but also at the boundaries between artistic, industrial, political, critical, and disciplinary practices. Editors Corinn Columpar and Sophie Mayer have assembled scholarship that responds to women’s work in the interstices between different branches of the film industry, modes of filmmaking, national or transnational contexts, exhibition media, and varieties of visual representation in order to assess the exchanges such work enables.

Essays in the first three sections of There She Goes explore connections at the level of curation and exhibition, while the subsequent four consider local connections such as those between the film and the audience or between works within an oeuvre, down to those occurring on the surface of the film. Contributors reach beyond traditional screen cinema to interact with a larger field of artistic production, including still photography, music videos, installation art, digital media, performance art, and dance. Essays also pay particular attention to a variety of contextual factors that have shaped women’s filmmaking, from the conditions of production and circulation to engagement with various social movements and critical traditions, including, but not limited to, feminism.

By foregrounding fluidity, There She Goes presents an exciting new appraisal of feminist film culture, as well as the intellectual and affective potential it holds for filmmakers and filmgoers alike. Scholars of film and television studies and gender studies will appreciate the fresh outlook of There She Goes.

I'm most looking forward to reading what the book says about the conditions of production and circulation—the contextual factors—because so many books about women and film ignore these.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Celebrating women-loving women: 2

Here's Gaylene Preston on Screen Talk, talking about her life as a filmmaker. I think she's probably made more films—nearly forty—than any other New Zealander, an amazing mixture of features and docos.

Gaylene has often made, as she says in the interview, "some of the invisible things visible", and those invisible things have often been about women's lives. And she's been very supportive of many women—as well as men—so it's not surprising that she says in this interview "There are still less women working in all sorts of areas in filmmaking than I would have hoped then (in the 70s)".

I've had experience of Gaylene's generous support myself. She took me to Films de Femmes in Creteil (Paris) one year. And more recently when we met by chance she explained in great detail how I could use the Screen Production Incentive Fund, sketching out the details on one of the cafe's paper serviettes. I smile every time I see it floating in a file, among pieces of A4 paper.

So she's this week's women-loving woman to celebrate. Her next feature, Home by Christmas, is based on her father's memories of serving in World War II, a companion piece to her classic War Stories: Our Mothers Never Told Us. There's a link to her website on the bar to the right, a list of her films to 2005 here, and her entry in NZ on Screen here.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Development-the-movie

Playwright and screenwriter Andrew Bovell (Lantana, Blessed—directed by Ana Kokkinos, an interview with her here—and the forthcoming Edge of Darkness) visited the Institute of Modern Letters the other day, a great place for treats-for-students. In a workshop, Andrew Bovell suggested that it's useful to look at what a main character first says and first does in a screenplay, and then at what she says and does at the end. "Is there a reversal, or a question answered?" If so, the writer’s done her job.

And because I’d just finished my thesis, I wondered whether Andrew Bovell’s question would be useful there, too. In the thesis' Introduction, I described the evidence that shows a general problem—in New Zealand, it's more difficult for women to tell their stories as feature films than it is for men:
From January 2003-December 2008, New Zealanders working in New Zealand produced at least seventy-five feature films. Women wrote and directed nine percent. The national state film body, the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) and its associated charitable trust, the New Zealand Film Production Fund Trust (the Film Fund) funded the production for thirty of these features. Women wrote and directed sixteen percent of these.
That's how it is, though the NZFC figures have improved recently. Yesterday's Women & Hollywood story on foreign features up for an Oscar indicate that it's pretty much the same everywhere: sixty-five films on that list, and only seven with women directors.

(And Meryl Streep recently provided another of her insights into how it all works. She thinks that the industry is 'scared' of making films that appeal to women. “It’s always a shock to the studio when a film like Mamma Mia does well,” she said, “because men run the studios and live their own fantasies through them. It’s harder for a man to jump inside a woman character’s mind and imagine, ‘This could happen to me’. They see it and they understand that there is a market and it will make them an enormous amount of money. But we all respond to instinct, and it’s their inner boy that jumps up and goes, ‘Yeah I wanna see another G.I. Joe!’”)

My thesis' Conclusion begins with a quote from Jane Campion:
[Women] must put on their coats of armour and get going because we need them.
And it ends with an answer for just one person: me, the writer who posed the problem at the beginning. It's an answer-as-two-character-action:
The chief cheerleader and I help each other make our armour, with chinks, and with Velcro for easy removal. We put it on and we move forward.
And it's a reversal. From being a writer writing about the problem, I've become a writer doing something about the problem. So maybe Andrew Bovell’s question works for theses as well as screenplays.

Anyway chief cheerleader Erica, aka the producer, and I have our armour on, and we’re working on Development's development, sometimes accompanied by Nancy Coory, who will play Emily. Here she is. What a star.





Development's logline goes:
Emily's very old, her battles for justice behind her. But then she meets filmmaker Greta. And takes on one last campaign.

A Wellywood story to touch your heart.
Here we are—without armour—out in Courtenay Place, Erica on the left, with Nancy pulling us forward. She's an inspiration.


And soon we’ll have a website: development-the-movie.com and a Facebook page, as well as the Twitter. I'll let you know when they're ready.

Reading women's scripts again: Time to celebrate women-loving women?

While I finished my thesis I didn't do much else for a few months. 404 unopened emails in one account, 791 in the other.

And then I was done. And I discovered a short&sharp tweet from MadamaAmbi, sent back in June, in response to my Reading Women's Scripts post: "@devt internalized misogyny?"

Then a comment I treasure, also in response to Reading Women's Scripts, from lisa gornick, the filmmaker whose film drawing site I love. Here's her latest drawing, girl at six:


Lisa wrote:
this is such hard but vital reading. it's like hearing your own mother be mean about you or something like that. it's so sad too. this is a great thing to air, to debate and for everyone not to be scared of discussing. there is probably some deep seated female self hating going on that causes all this to happen in an aggressive macho world of filmmaking and that with some quiet exploration and revelation we could unpick this and a new era of filmmaking could be born. 

greetings and connection from london
A couple of days later, while I was still thinking about this, I read an article in the Guardian, by Bidisha, The Subtle Art of Misogyny. Here she is:


“We too easily over-value work by male artists and under-value that of women,” she writes. “We must wake up to our anti-women society.” (She talks more about misogyny in an interview about her selection of five feminist books. )

Among the 850 or so comments that follow The Subtle Art of Misogyny, there’s a little thread about women’s own internalized biases/misogyny. JuliaBTS says,
"I am a feminist, believe fervently in equality yet still I confess I recently realised that I too habitually give more credibility to men than to women and assume men have more authority—unless there is a disparity so large that it can't be overlooked." Others question whether this is a generational issue. Perhaps younger women, born after feminism was ‘normalised’, or brought up in an environment with strong women about and/or men as mentors, will recognize sexism and misogyny, and experience both, but themselves be free of internalized biases and misogyny.

After all this, I found myself remembering and thinking about a term I haven’t heard for a long time: women-loving women. We can identify misogyny and sexism in the film industry, pay attention to whether we have internalized it, and celebrate individual women filmmakers’ successes. But could we also focus on individual and group actions that embody the women-loving women idea? And if we do, might that inspire the ‘new era of filmmaking’ lisa gornick’s hoping for?

Jane Campion and Meryl Streep are women-loving women, staunch and outspoken about the ‘problem’ even though they don’t need to be.

Here's a thumbnail of Jane Campion, accompanying yesterday's Channel 4 interview about Bright Star.



And a thumbnail of Meryl Streep, and this link to a Charlie Rose interview of her, with Nora Ephron, the writer/director of Julie & Julia (also—in bits—on YouTube).



Melissa Silverstein’s Women & Hollywood blog is truly women-loving action. What a commitment, to keep us informed every single weekday. Here she is:


You can also see Melissa here, and listen to her talking about the statistics that show that women directed only 9% of the 250 top-grossing US films in 2008.

Then there’s Julie Christie.

I last saw Julie Christie in Away From Her, as a woman with Alzheimer’s—a courageous and beautiful performance that seems consistent with B. Ruby Rich’s portrayal of her in Chick Flicks, a book I return to again and again.

B. Ruby Rich says that for a long time Julie Christie “wouldn’t accept any role that failed to meet her moral and political standards for representing women’s lives on film…Christie is that rarest of beasts: a woman’s woman as well as a man’s woman.” Where are the other women-loving women like her in the industry? What are they doing? What can I learn from them?

And, who are the women-loving women who read women’s scripts, who develop them, who direct and produce them, who deliver and market them? Can you think of any? I'd like to name them, because I think they represent hope, for women filmmakers and for women as audiences.

The Insatiable Moon (again)

Another New Zealand feature with a woman director! This time, Rosemary Riddell.

I love this project's blog, The Interminable Moon, from the writer/producer, Mike Riddell, who takes the reader through his amazing journey to get his story made.

Shooting starts next month.

Back Again

Between this, outside the window in July—





—& this today (still no blue sky)




I finished my PhD: "Opening space for New Zealand women’s participation in scriptwriting for feature films?" Hard yakka. But done.