Thursday, October 31, 2013

Make My Movie: Women's Horrors To Vote For

I didn't analyse the Make My Movie entries this year, to check out how many women participated. But four out of twelve finalists are written by women and a fifth is written jointly by a woman and a man. Warm congratulations to all these finalists, listed alphabetically by project. You can vote for a project by clicking on the link provided.

Please do vote for the projects you like the look of, because the prize is a $200,000 cash grant from the New Zealand Film Commission and Darksky Films/MPI Pictures – if you vote, we could have a new feature from a woman quite soon!

The Card Game
Written By Kathryn Akuhata-Brown

A stranger joins a small town poker game and sets about winning everything from the players until they have nothing left to gamble but their children.

Kathryn Akuhata-Brown Film

Written By Maile Daugherty

At 2am, on a pitch-black country road, a car is involved in a violent full-speed head-on collision. As ambulance, police and fire fighters work to free and save the couple in the car, it becomes clear that this is no regular accident. Soon the emergency workers themselves become victims of something hidden in the darkness, and the lives they must save are their own.

An Antipodean Films Film

Mother’s Little Boy
Written By Thomas Sainsbury & Kirstin Marcon
When the mischievous, sickly Phillip Black finally hits puberty his mother becomes increasingly deranged, resorting to bizarre and terrifying methods to keep her little Phillip from ever growing up.

Particle Magazine Productions Film

Mother’s Milk
Written By Beatrice Hunter, Kacie Stetson

An archaeologist investigating a mysterious group of missionary graves finds that a sinister history could be repeating itself. As her crew begin to succumb to vile illness and delirium she must fight a determined force to save her own body from a gruesome colonization.

A Beatrice Hunter, Kacie Stetson Film

Strangers Have The Best Candy
Written By Naomi Rowley

Forced to stay home for the spookiest night of the year, Halloween, Natalie finds herself on the receiving end of countless social media updates on her friend’s night out. But when the images start to turn gruesome, Natalie must figure a way to find them before the uploads cease … but should she?

A Naomi Rowley Film

Related post
Make My Movie last year here (scroll down).

Saturday, October 26, 2013

13 Myths Hollywood Uses to Discriminate Against Women Directors

The networks of women working for change in the film world are growing all the time. And they're making powerful connections across borders. From now, from time to time I'll cross-post writing from other activists. Today's article from Maria Giese of Women Directors Navigating the Hollywood Boys Club seems a fine place to start: many of the myths she identifies are alive and well all over the world.

drawing: Daniel Dejean

By Maria Giese, of Women Directors Navigating the Hollywood Boys Club

1. The number of women directors is so small because women are not really interested in directing and few women are exceptional enough to do a man’s job.

Right, so 3,500 women DGA members pay their union dues just for the hell of it! Believe us—we ARE interested!

2. The ratio of women directors is improving—it’s just going to take time.

The ratio hasn’t changed significantly since the advent of cinema 100 years ago. How much more time shall we plan on waiting?

3. There are fewer women directors because more men attend film school.

Women make up 50% of the classes in almost every film school in the U.S.

4. Men are better directors because they have more experience.

If experience were everything, no young men would ever enter the profession. Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” was his debut feature. This argument diminishes the notion that some people are simply gifted in certain areas.

5. It’s okay for women to direct small, independent femme-themed films, but men can handle all genres. And women certainly can’t be trusted with big budget features or episodic television, even if they are female driven stories.

Women can too! It’s risible and hypocritical that almost all female driven stories are directed by men.

6. It’s okay to say ”We don’t hire women on this show” (we hear it all the time), but it’s not okay to say “We don’t hire African Americans/Asians/Latinos, etc… on this show.”

Just think about that for a minute…

7. Women studio executives are helping hire more women film and television directors.

There are more women studio executives today than ever, but fewer women directors. Sony’s Amy Pascal could only conjure up the name of ONE women director when asked recently, and even remembering Kathryn Bigelow seemed to require some strained mental effort.

8. The Director’s Guild of America really wants to help increase employment opportunities for its women members.

That’s why the ratio of male to female directors has remained in stasis for over two decades. The DGA is the organization charged with oversight of studio compliance of studio agreements to hire more women in accordance with U.S. civil rights laws.

9. In America, we protect freedom of speech—women can speak out about discrimination in the film & TV industry without FEAR of reprisals.

The #1 reason women do not speak out about discrimination in Hollywood is that they are afraid of getting BLACKLISTED.

10. America has a higher ratio of women directors than other nations around the world.

Almost all other countries in the world honor women directors more than the United States of America.

11. Women directors are not successful because they don’t know how to get organized.

That sometimes seems true. But women did manage to get the right to vote in America after several hundred years of fighting for suffrage.

12. Hollywood has lots of wonderful diversity programs that help women break in to directing.

Not true. And over 20 years of failed Guild diversity programs have resulted in NO CHANGE in the ratios of women directors.

13. Women directors succeed or fail based on merit and their films will get good reviews and big budgets for marketing & distribution if their films are good.

Not true. Recent studies prove that since 80% of film critics are males, reviews of women’s films are disproportionately harsh. Women’s features suffer from disproportionately low P&A budgets, and on average, open on many fewer screens.

Women Directors: Navigating The Hollywood Boys Club is a moderated web forum for international film and television directors to share their real experiences with discrimination and explore laws protecting employment equality, as well as strategies to strive for global parity.

The site was conceived by Maria Giese and Heidi Honeycutt. You can also find it on Facebook and Twitter.

Maria Giese is an American feature film director, a member of the Directors Guild of America, and an activist for parity for women directors in Hollywood. She writes and lectures about the under-representation of women filmmakers in the United States.

Heidi Honeycutt (aka Martinuzzi) is a film journalist, author, and feminist. She is the programmer of the Viscera Film Festivals. (See also here, for interview with Viscera's Shannon Lark.)


Response to the 13 Myths...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sharing The Love

Jane Campion
(photo Duncan Inns, courtesy Arts Foundation)
It was a beautiful end to a beautiful week for New Zealand women writers. There’d been celebration all the way. One hundred and twenty-five years since Katherine Mansfield's birth (14 October). And on October 15 – in NZ or the UK – Ella Yelich-O'Connor (Lorde) and her co-writer Joel Little won New Zealand's most prestigious songwriting award, the APRA Silver Scroll, for Royals – it was also Royals' third week at no 1 on the US singles charts – writer/director Jane Campion was made an Arts Laureate by the New Zealand Arts Foundation – at last a formal New Zealand acknowledgment of her brilliance – and Eleanor Catton won the Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries.

‘What do you have in your water there?’ someone emailed me from overseas, and that reminded me of a passage in Virginia Woolf's A Room of One’s Own–
…it is time that the effect of discouragement on the mind of the artist should be measured, as I have seen a dairy company measure the effect of ordinary milk and grade A milk upon the body of the rat. They set two rats in cages side by side, and of the two, one was furtive, timid and small, and the other was glossy, bold and big. Now what food do we feed women as artists upon? I asked…
What foods do New Zealanders offer women artists, especially the writers?

And then I opened Facebook to read this: Free Masterclasses With Jane Campion.

I love Jane Campion’s description of the masterclasses–
My father, Richard Campion, was passionate about theatre, about performance, about creativity, about people having a go. He was a wondrously generous man who breathed warmth and belief into my fledgling hopes of making film and television. In his memory and honour, I am offering three free workshops at Circa [Theatre] on Monday 4 November 2013.
And I love the message that came on Facebook later, via the masterclass hosts, The Casting Company
In an age where everything is recorded Jane would like these sessions to be live and would like those taking part not be constrained by delivering for camera. These sessions will not be recorded and we ask everyone attending to be respectful of that. Thank you all.
All I had to do was click ‘Join’ and I could spend most of a day with up to 239 others and Jane Campion (and no cameras!). Extraordinary nourishment for this woman artist.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Charte de L'Egalite for French Film Industry: Feminists Make History

l.-r. Veronique Cayla, Najat Vallaud Belkacem, Aurélie Filippetti, Frédérique Bredin; Bérénice Vincent at back
It was a beautiful day. Screen Daily reported that France has launched a five-point gender equality charter for its film industry, put together by Le Deuxième Regard, a Paris-based ‘lobby’ (read ‘activist’) group founded by Bérénice Vincent, Delphyne Besse and Julie Billy, who will circulate it for signature, to all segments of the industry.

As you can see in the photo, all the first signatories of the charter were women, powerful women: Veronique Cayla, the head of Arte France the public television channel and Le Deuxième Regard's marraine, or 'godmother'; Najat Vallaud Belkacem, the Women’s Rights Minister; Aurélie Filippetti, the Culture and Communications Minister;   Frédérique Bredin, president of the Centre National du Cinéma et de l'Image Animée (CNC) – the state film funding body. It remains to be seen who else will sign the charter. The Cannes Film Festival, perhaps? Its full name is Charte Pour l’Égalité Entre Les Femmes et Les Hommes Dans Le Secteur Du Cinéma and it's there in all its glory at the bottom of the page. Impressive.

Why is this charter necessary, when in France women directors' participation in feature filmmaking is among the strongest in the world? Well, there are problems there that are similar to those everywhere else. According to the Screen Daily article, the CNC reports that in 2012 women directed just 25% of the 77 first features approved, even though French film school annual intake has a gender split of 50:50.

This charter is, I think, unique. Feminists often work behind the scenes for change. But has a feminist group ever initiated and helped to write a charter that key government ministers and industry figures signed in support, in the arts or any other context? And then circulated it for signature, to an entire industry? Anywhere? The charter and its evolving signature process are very different, for instance, from the framework that the Swedish Film Institute uses to advance women directors’ participation in filmmaking, perhaps because the Swedish Film Institute – unlike the CNC – works within an established regulatory context that explicitly promotes gender equity and has monitored gender statistics in film for some time.

From here, the charter's creation and use seems like a brilliant activist strategy because the charter hasn't had to go through a long legal process, as a court action or piece of legislation. It appears to have cost the taxpayer nothing. Nevertheless, its formality and the quality of the signatories give it real heft.

How did this happen? The charter seems to be the first concrete action following The Place of Women in Art and Culture: The Time Has Come to Move to Action, a French Senate report issued in June. Like the charter, the report is a valuable reference point for other countries around the world.

The Place of Women addresses persistent inequality in the cultural sector and identifies three specific problem areas: the maintenance of gender stereotypes in cultural contexts; the comparative invisibility of women artists in those contexts – their absence from retrospectives, major prizes, festivals; and male dominance in strategic places in big institutions. These problems are familiar to women around the globe, especially women artists, and it was very beautiful to read in the report that it was legitimate to explore the possibility of creating places, programmes and events entirely dedicated to women writers, choreographers, film directors and painters.

So what are the five points in the new charter? The first is that signatory organisations must gender their statistics. According to Bérénice Vincent:
The CNC is schedule to publish its first, comprehensive gender-based report at the end of November. It’s a start but we would also like to see information for the film festivals and private broadcasters which won’t be included in this study.
The second is to prioritise male/female representation in decision-making. Again, according to Bérénice Vincent:
The CNC selection commissions are already split pretty equally in terms of gender but this is not the case elsewhere in the industry.
(And, in my experience, having women on selection panels does not necessarily benefit women’s applications – as women we are all conditioned to support ‘golden boys’; men can be women artists’ strongest supporters. Action around The Place of Women’s idea about separate women’s programmes could be as helpful?)

Organisations must also encourage projects that subvert traditional representations of women and men. They must sensitise their teams to parity issues so that they fight against stereotyping. Finally, they must apply equal pay principles.

Of course, I wanted to interview Le Deuxième Regard. And was thrilled when its president Bérénice Vincent agreed to respond to questions, which I put together with actor Belinde Ruth Stieve. Belinde's bilingual blog SchspIN addresses the situation of actresses and other women who work in film, in the German and international film / TV industry and she has written about  German women behind the camera. She's concerned about the position of German organizations in relation to the points in the charter.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Gender & Academy Awards Foreign Language Submissions

A record 76 countries submitted films to the Academy Awards Foreign Language category. Attached to these films are 79 directors, 17 of them women. That's 21.5%, which I believe is at the higher end of the proportion of feature films directed by women, globally. The three women in this list who are joint directors all share that credit with men. (WHY are there so rarely women who co-direct?).Any guesses about which of these will be among the few actually nominated? Or might win? I suspect that in this context Haifaa al-Mansour's Wadjda will be up there. I've seen so few of these films though. There's a fine opportunity for an enterprising person to set up an online festival (hello Indiereign, hello MUBI) , so we can all share the delights of the very diverse directors' achievements!

Images of the directors are on my Pinterest board, Oscars 2014 Women Directors. Hoping this board will flourish over the next few months--

Here's the list: