Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More About the Future, & Another 40% Figure...

There’s so much discussion about the Bechdel Test now (see links below for some examples). I love it all, am interested that men are writing about the test. AND I relate to @marnen’s tweet today: "I'm feeling snarky enough to propose the Laibow-Koser test: can 2 female writers have a conversation that doesn't mention Bechdel test? :)".

And then this morning on FB, Scarlett Shepard from the San Francisco Women’s Film Festival (@sfwff) provided the link to an Indiewire article, Summer Box Office Report: Women Rule The Art Houses, by Peter Knegt.

Peter Knegt explains that men directed every one of the 22 summer 'Hollywood' films that earned more than $50m, and women actors received top billing in only five, including the three that women ‘flocked’ to: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Eat, Pray, Love and Sex & the City 2. But in the ten top-grossing ‘specialty’ releases* "women dominated: in audience seats, in front of the camera, and, perhaps to an unprecedented degree, behind it".

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Future of Film?

TAKE 100 The Future of Film 100 New Directors

Where did I learn about this book? Not sure. Anyway, Phaidon, the publishers kindly sent me a BLAD, so I can admire a sample of the book’s beauty, and do a gender count. And it looks like a beautiful book, even has excerpts from scripts, which I love to see.

But, of the 100 directors (one, Taika Waititi, a New Zealander) only 17-and-a-half (one director is a mixed gender couple!) are women. Nine of the book’s eleven ‘curators’ are men, two of the men joint curators, and all past and present directors of major film festivals. Azize Tan, the solitary woman, is director of the Istanbul International Film Festival.

And the women are (druuuummmmm roooollllllllll): Maren Ade, Andrea Arnold, Sophie Barthes, Aida Begic, Anna Boden (the half), Valeska Grisebach, Mia Hansen-Love, Miranda July, Farah Khan, So Yong Kim, Liu Jiayin, Lucrecia Martel, Shirin Neshat, Asli Ozge, Sarah Polley, Kelly Reichardt, Axelle Ropert, Esther Rots.

I’ll be looking out for a complete copy of TAKE 100, with immense enthusiasm. I haven’t heard of some of these women before. It’ll be exciting to read about them and then to track down their work. And to see how the book honours the work of those I’m familiar with. But—of course—I hope that in film's future women make half of all films. Not under 20%.

Women-Loving Women 5: West Australian Women Rule (This Week)!

I’ve been excited about Western Australian women this week.

First, there was Sue Taylor’s article about making Julie Bertuccelli’s film The Tree. Fascinating for any woman who wants to make a movie, and anyone who wonders about gendered problems women filmmakers face.

Sue Taylor at left here with director Julie Bertuccelli, & actor Zoe Boe, at The Tree's premiere at Cannes, in May

Then, following a link about a conference, from ScreenHub, I found Larissa Sexton-Finck’s PhD thesis, Be(com)ing reel independent woman: an autoethnographic journey through female subjectivity and agency in contemporary cinema with particular reference to independent scriptwriting practice. It sounds a bit turgid, in the title, and in the abstract that you’ll see when you click through. But it isn’t. I think—as someone who isn’t very academically inclined—that it’s glorious, a fantastic read. Long, & I haven’t finished it. But I will. It includes a feature screenplay, Float.

Larissa Sexton-Finck (I think)
Do Sue and Larissa know each other I wonder? Is there an especially strong network of women filmmakers in Perth?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Film funding & philanthropy

Erica & I are creating a new business plan for Development-the-movie, taking into account all we've learned over the last year.

It's involved a lot of research, to be sure we're up-to-date. Often we have to try to reconcile conflicting information, and wish we had more access to people in other parts of the world whose knowledge and experience would make us better informed. So it was very useful to see this interview with Terry Lawler, executive director of New York Women in Film & Television, which has a special resonance for us, working away under our charitable umbrella (thank you, Victoria Foundation).

We feel that we can trust Terry's conclusions. Especially when we know, for instance, that Arwen Curry has 'a long way to go' with funding for her film about Ursula Le Guin, which will have a huge audience. And when we see that Afia Nathaniel's Neither the Veil Nor the Four Walls, a thriller set in Pakistan, an exciting non-profit project with powerful partners, is also still seeking funding. But we'd love to hear from anyone who can provide more information, for us and for the other filmmakers who use this blog.

A big thank you to Philanthropy Front and Center New York for this clip, via its Philantopic Digest, and for another related blog post.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Aussie Sequel 2: Luci Temple

I always enjoy Luci Temple's blog Yet Another Struggling Writer. I love her close-and-careful analysis of feature projects that experiment with transmedia, with new kinds of investment, audience engagement and distribution. I learn more from her blog, every time, than from any other blog that addresses similar issues.

So when I was thinking about the Aussie women feature filmmakers doing so well as contenders for the AFI awards (yep! 42%), and puzzling about Martha Coleman's statement as Head of Development for Screen Australia ("there is a shortage of young women writers and directors putting their hand up to work in the mainstream”) and preparing to write
Aussie Sequel 1, I tweeted her, then emailed:
When I was re-reading your blog and came across your response to a comment about your own work and saw that you were having difficulty attracting state funding I was curious about your project: what it is, where it’s up to, where you perceive ongoing challenges and whether you think any of them have to do with gender. Have you got anything you’d like to share with me and/or with the world in my post?
Luci sent me this, which refers in passing to the Springboard programme at Screen Australia, "designed to forge the connection between short filmmaking and a feature film career", giving creative filmmaking teams an opportunity "to create a short film that speaks directly to their feature film screenplay, providing a strong showcase into the marketplace". Springboard's "about career building for the long term, providing an essential stepping-stone in a professional filmmaking career path". This year's four funded Springboard projects include two projects from mixed gender teams, and two from men. 
Because I was entertained and made thoughtful by what she wrote, here's what Luci sent, in its entirety. Luci asked me to make it clear that she is neither a spokesperson for anyone else, nor an 'expert'. Also, she wrote,"Whatever you do use, please don't make me sound like a 'men vs women' person... I work with male filmmakers all the time, and don't personally walk around blaming gender issues for my obstacles". A big thank you to you, Luci.

Aussie Sequel 1: Histories & Economics

I've amended this post slightly since I first wrote it, as a sequel to an earlier post which celebrated the high proportion of women-directed features that were in contention for the Australian Film Institute's annual awards.

We share a name, Aussie and New Zealand women, though I don’t hear it often now: we’re Sheilas. According to my dictionary, ‘our’ Sheila came from shaler, of unknown origin. But I look up shale, defined as soft finely stratified rock that splits easily, consisting of consolidated mud or clay and I think earth mother, split. And I see all those immigrant men engaging with the earth of their new lands. With few women around. And I go AH.

Jan Chapman
producer of Bright Star—one of the films in contention for an AFI award—with  director Jane Campion
But Australian women filmmakers have a very different history than we do. Renowned producer Jan Chapman summarised their early feminist years in her Longford Lyell Lecture in 2002. There was a Sydney Filmmakers Co-operative in 1969. And then, in 1971, “some strongly politically motivated women” created the Sydney Women’s Film Group. The group “aimed to produce and distribute films on subjects which conventional media had ignored, and their initial emphasis was on instructing women in production skills”. It released its first film in 1972 and held a series of discussion screenings. Members also planned conferences, implemented training workshops, and organised film festivals. And there’s more. With women at the Australian Broadcasting Commission they lobbied successfully for a course for women at the Australian Film and Television School and, with others, for a women’s film fund. In the Longford Lyell Lecture Jan Chapman stated:
…I’d received considerable help from men…but without the influence and political lobbying of these women I don’t believe I would have had the subconscious conviction that I liked that collective involvement with an idea, that I could make films, and that what I wanted to say, even if intimate, domestic and personal in scale, was just as interesting as the mythic male legends.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

GIRLS LIKE US-- Looking for Amy Pascal & Elizabeth Cantillon

It was one of @melsil's tweets, there at the side of her Women & Hollywood page. This is what it said: "Another project about women at Sony. We should track these. Girls Like Us is looking for a writer http://bit.ly/9rFqGW".

OH, I thought: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon-- Then, "I can do this. And I want to."

First, I wrote to one beloved US contact "How would I try for this? Is it crazy even to consider? I guess I believe I could do this wonderfully, partly because I'm the same age as these women. Am I too far away, too inexperienced, too un-agented?"

"No clue,"she responded. "But if you can pursue it, pursue it."

Then, I jumped on the Sony Pictures Entertainment website to find the producers, Amy Pascal and Elizabeth Cantillon. Sent an email to the address on SPE's Employment Opportunities page. Figured out Amy Pascal's address and emailed her. Neither email bounced back. (No response though. Yet.)

And then I saw @TonyBesson's tweet saying "20,000+ followers & not a single question, are you guys #awake out there?" So I tweeted him: @TonyBesson Here's a Q then: How to let Amy Pascal know I'm avail in Wellywood, to write terrific GIRLS LIKE US script: http://bit.ly/9rFqGW? And emailed another US contact. (No response from either yet).

And hurried off to an excellent pitching workshop, then to the library for GIRLS LIKE US. And clasping the book, leafing through it in the bus, I admired Sheila Weller's work, could think of so many ways to turn it into a film.

Why am I so keen? Is it because I've just seen The Runaways? Is it the music? Joni Mitchell's paintings? Or, as I wrote to my mate, is it because they're  are the same age as I am, more or less, and we share some aspects of our stories?