Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sophie Hyde on '52 Tuesdays' & a whole lot more...


Australian women directors did brilliantly at Sundance. Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, a horror about a single mother losing her grip on reality, enjoyed rave reviews and will be distributed in the United States and Latin America. Ashlee Page won a prestigious Sundance Institute | Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award (given in recognition and support of emerging independent filmmakers from around the world), for her single character feature Archive. And Sophie Hyde won the Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic for 52 Tuesdays (for which she co-wrote the story with the screenwriter, Matthew Cormack). 52 Tuesdays then won a Crystal Bear, for the Best Youth Film, at the Berlinale.

Sophie Hyde & her Silver Bear
52 Tuesdays' logline is '16-year-old Billie’s reluctant path to independence is accelerated when her mother reveals plans for gender transition and their time together becomes limited to Tuesday afternoons'. And although it’s a drama, not a documentary, it was shot chronologically every Tuesday for a year: the filmmakers set themselves a rule, that they could only shoot on Tuesdays up until midnight and only consecutively, so whatever filmed on that day is what happens in the story on that day. All the actors are non-professionals. Before 52 Tuesdays, Sophie directed three narrative shorts and a short documentary and co-directed Life in Movement, a feature documentary about choreographer Tanja Liedtke. She’s also a writer and producer.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Making Noise, Hearing Noise, by Pip Adam


Lake Bell’s In A World… is a film about voice. Which, if you stop to think about it for even a second, is a pretty odd thing. We watch movies, we go to see them. Film is a ‘visual’ medium. This strange transplant of an audial mode in a visually-dominated domain made me think about the noises we make and how these are heard.

In A World...’s protagonist Carole Solomon (Lake Bell) is a voice coach and daughter of the successful voice artist, Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed). The film begins with the death of the real Don LaFontaine voice of over 5,000 movie trailers and inseparable from the phrase ‘In a world…’. With the appearance of LaFontaine, movie trailers are positioned as the pinnacle of voice acting work. Which makes you think, When was the last time I heard a woman voicing a movie trailer?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Lauzen-Silverstein Test

One of Walt Hickey's tables

Yesterday, a man called Walt Hickey published his excellent analysis of The Dollar-And-Cents Case Against Hollywood’s Exclusion of Women. Sure, in stating that 'Movies that are female-driven do not travel...maybe with the exception of Sandra Bullock' and that 'recently, Hollywood has been able to boast about the success of female-dominated films in the marketplace', he and his informants seem to have forgotten, for example, that Meryl Streep films travel superbly well. And have been doing so for years. And, as Alice Lytton points out in her lovely response, the money's just part of the story.

But the article does show that using the Bechdel Test as a default measure for how women are represented in films doesn't work. I treasure films that – consciously or unconsciously – embrace the Bechdel Test and run with it and am always happy when even a short sequence in a film passes the test. But all the Bechdel Test can do is measure whether two women in the film talk to each other about something other than men. Cherishing women's conversations about something other than men is important. I hope that the Swedish A-Rating idea becomes embedded in cinema-going round the world to remind us of this. However, it's necessary to find other ways to measure how women are represented on screen.

Melissa Silverstein, with a hat-tip to Martha Lauzen, has just suggested a new form of measurement, with these criteria–
1) Does the film have a female lead or leads?

2) Does the woman/women have agency in her/their life, i.e., is she a real and meaningful character?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

News From The Front LIne

Haifaa al-Mansour on set
There's been some amazing reading this week, from women who are both practitioners (screenwriters, actors, directors) and activists. Courageous inventive women, whose tweets I follow avidly. They're all problem solvers. They analyse the problems that face diverse women who want to participate in filmmaking, as the storytellers. They experiment with ways to address those problems. They inspire me. I love them!

First, Kate Kaminski's remarkable Rocking the Boat: A Call for Solidarity. Kate makes films and is co-director of The Bluestocking series, the only Bechdel Test film fest I know of. Her call isn't new. Almost exactly five years ago, for example, Women & Hollywood published A Young Voice From The Trenches that also questioned how women in film undermine other women. But Kate also provides suggestions about how we can make a difference. This week, Kate started a new Pinterest board, Action! Women Directing, Women Shooting!, too. (Twitter Kate, Bluestocking Films)

Then Anatomy: The Making of Wadjda, by Haifaa al-Mansour. It has a hidden treasure, an embedded pdf that details problems and solutions from making her marvellous Wadjda. (Twitter)