Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Zealand Update 2: State Funding

I agreed to write 4000 words about New Zealand women directors, for a book. And I delayed researching the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC)  statistics, although I needed to know whether it practises gender equity in its investments. And I delayed comparing its investment in women writers and directors with New Zealand On Air's funding of women who write and direct feature-length television drama (there's some crossover). I knew I had to do the stats, to compare them with those I researched for my PhD (2009, link in sidebar), for a report for Women in Film & Television (late 2010), and intermittently for some of these blog posts, like the one where I celebrated gender balance in the NZFC's short film programme. But I'm a bit dysnumeric and counting's a chore, like hanging out the laundry.

Now I've done some of the work. I didn't go in to the NZFC to search its files and analyse the genders of people attached to funding applications, as I used to. I haven't looked at recent short film funding. Instead, I've analysed the information provided in a year's newsletters, from October 2011 to August 2012. The news is good and bad.

Toronto & Women Directors

Margarethe von Trotta
I'm an optimist and I'm easily enthused. Show me good news about women who make movies and I'm there. So when I saw that women directed six of the twenty features in the prestigious Gala Presentations (Galas) at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF, or #TIFF12 on Twitter) I thought "YAY". I was delighted that Sally Potter's Ginger and Rosa, Margarethe von Trotta's Hannah Arendt and Susanne Bier's Love is All You Need were selected for the Special Presentations programme. And I was thrilled that Ava DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere, Yuki Tanada's The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky and Aida Bejic's Children of Sarajevo were included in Contemporary World Cinema programme.

In the past–because I don't go to TIFF–I'd have moved on feeling happy.  But after I signed the petitions associated with this year's protests about the Cannes Film Festival, where there were no women-directed films in competition, I decided to complement my protest with other strategies. I designed these to identify and celebrate the women-directed work that major festivals select and to attempt to identify and analyse the complex factors that lead to women directors' inclusion or under-represention. In theory, the more I understand these factors, the more I can help make change. One strategy I'm working on – and hope others are working on too – is to make gender breakdowns of all programmes at key festivals, to identify specific festival programmes that include women's work in good numbers. For instance, at Cannes this year women directed 30% of the short films in competition.

So I set to work on the TIFF programmes to see how women directors fare.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Golden Age for Women Who Make Movies? (4)

1. I'm a writer. When I get excited my default activity is to write. And I'm a social media girl. So unless something's confidential, I rejoice in my freedom to speak out and to share what I write.

And sometimes that's a mistake.

A Golden Age for Women Who Make Movies (3) will return in due course.

2. In other news, the sun came out this morning. And stayed out. After all that rain, the sun's steamed a powerful scent from our violets.

The second load of washing is drying. The winter-thin bees are busy in the borage.

3. And the best news: I have a buddy writer. It's ace.

It makes it so easy to start. I email her.

Yesterday: "Hard to get up. Am going blind. Have a pimply thing on right leg that looks like melanoma. Yes, I *don't* want to do this. But a quick squiz through FB etc and some breakfast and then GO." And then I went for it. Into a conflict I was scared I couldn't write. Today: "I'm here with the washing out and the window open. One two three open Final Draft". And I tornado through the rest of the sequence.

And she emails me. And does her pages.

4. More happy news: I'm remembering yesterday with pleasure – working on an edit with a mate.

5. Sometimes A Golden Age for Women Who Make Movies is quite short? A single day when many women focus on their projects?

A Golden Age for Women Who Make Movies? (1)  (new ways of working)
A Golden Age for Women Who Make Movies? (2) (Gender & the Venice Film Festival/ media convergence)
A Golden Age for Women Who Make Movies (3) (the International Women's Film Festival Network)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Golden Age for Women Who Make Movies? (3) A New International Women's Film Festival Network (IWFFN)

Discussion at the Internationales Frauen Film Festival, 2012 
August 3 2013: I wrote this a year ago and was asked to take it down until the IWFFN was ready for publicity. I re-found it today, as I prepare a new post about You Cannot Be Serious, an international meeting about women's film-making, held at the Berlinale earlier this year. I'm still excited about the potential of the IWFFN!

Wonderful news! There is now an International Women's Film Festival Network (IWFFN), conceived this year at Germany's Internationales Frauen Film Festival (in Dortmund and Koln alternate years) and housed at the Athena Film Festival in New York. Another sign of a golden age for women who make movies? I hope so!

There's already the Network of Asian Women's Film Festivals. And European women's film festivals have networked for years (I remember taking part in their meetings at Festival de Femmes in Creteil in 2004 and they'd been established long before that). So it's very exciting that the movement is crossing more borders and that the discussion at the Internationales Frauen Film Festival included women from South America and from the United States. Here's what the Internationales Frauen Film Festival wrote about the meeting that generated the idea for the International Women's Film Festival Network:
There was overwhelming acclaim for the discussion held for international women's film festivals and women's film networks. Representatives from women's film festivals in Brussels, London, New York, Munich, Hamburg, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago de Chile and Assen (NL) met up with women film-makers, distributors and other networkers to discuss the work of women across the film industry. The news that the Cannes Film Festival, whose competition is once again to take place without including one film made by a woman director, is the latest example and reflection of the situation as a whole. The wish for broader cooperation, a permanent platform for dialogue and the development of joint strategies was loud and clear – all the more so if participation by women in all areas of film creation, production and distribution is to be boosted.
Announced by Athena's co-founder and Artistic Director Melissa Silverstein, of Women & Hollywood, the International Women's Film Festival Network has put together a website that includes the members and links to their festival websites. It will also contain a way for the festivals to provide information about their selections with contact information, so that other festivals can use that information if they want to programme the same film. Here's the network's Mission Statement:
The International Women’s Film Festival Network (IWFFN) was created in 2012 to support and promote women’s voices, visions and leadership, both onscreen and behind the scenes. The Network will strive to amplify the visibility of women filmmakers, more prominently showcase their work across the globe, and demonstrate that audiences attend films about women and girls. In recent years as distribution methods are changing, the film festival circuit has become even more crucial to the success of a film. By working in collaboration, the Network will expand and enhance the importance of women’s film festivals and will encourage filmmakers and distributors to premiere and screen their films at these festivals. The Network will create a database of women’s film festivals and will serve as a forum for members to exchange knowledge and expertise. Membership in the Network is open to any independent film festival that has staged at least one festival within the last three years and whose programs are dedicated to screening films by or about women and girls.
Membership of the network is open to festivals only, but others can join the network's Google group to stay updated with its activities. It's not hard to imagine that this network could emulate the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement (Together We Are Strong) and move into distribution, especially online distribution, especially in an alliance with other groups like Women Make Movies. Will Women in Film lend its support? The European Womens Audiovisual Network (EWA)? The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media? The potential is endless. And for the first time for women filmmakers, that potential may be truly global. A golden moment. Warm congratulations to all concerned.

A Golden Age for Women Who Make Movies (1) (a new model for women's filmmaking)
A Golden Age for Women Who Make Movies (2) (Gender & the Venice Film Festival/ media convergence)
A Golden Age for Women Who Make Movies (4) (my own golden day)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Niam Itani (1) - Before the Venice Film Festival

Niam Itani
Niam Itani (also Etany) is the only woman director among the ten finalists in YouTube’s short film competition, Your Film Festival, with her Super.Full. I followed her Your Film Festival campaign for votes, admired its focus and intensity and was delighted when she reached the final. I’m always curious when just one woman filmmaker is successful within a group of successful men, so I wondered what factors affected Niam's achievement, asked her for an interview, and was thrilled when she said yes.  And then, like Super.Full., Niam's generous responses to my questions made me think. And touched my heart.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Golden Age for Women Who Make Movies? (2)

Niam Itani, the only woman finalist in YouTube's Your Festival  competition at the Venice Film Festival
In A Golden Age for Women Who Make Movies (1)  I included an article where Kurt Andersen claimed that thanks to "commercial and critical breakthroughs among independent films, a shift seems to be happening"  for women filmmakers. Thanks to this new model, which I call the 'quilting bee' model, there may be a revolution-in-progress in the United States that will result in lots more films by and about women. A golden age. Is the golden age well-established? What role do festival curators have? What role for all-women teams? Does where we live make a difference and what can we offer and learn through making cross-border connections? Does 'film' matter so much now we have multiple platforms?