Monday, October 27, 2014

Rachel O'Neill & Pip Adam

All the Cunning Stunts (2010-11) Detail.
A while back, in Courtenay Place Wellington, All the Cunning Stunts installed a series of frames that made me smile. Juxtaposed with the Reading Cinemas complex, it provided me with a short film experience as I walked by, pausing often.


All the Cunning Stunts (2010-11) Detail.
I love it that at home we can now watch films at our own pace, pause on individual images, replay sequences. It's like turning the pages of a book. And at the All The Cunning Stunts installation, instead of clicking on my computer I 'walked' what felt like an experimental film. With drama. Read text that felt like poems. Reflected on the ideas. Delighted in this elegant manifestation of media convergence, complete with reference to the Topp Twins (remember The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls?)

All the Cunning Stunts (2010-11) Installation view.

So imagine my delight when Pip Adam suggested that she interview Rachel O'Neill, who happens to be one of The Cunning Stunts. 

I long for more public discussion between women about the ideas that inform their work as filmmakers, artists and writers. In film, I want conversations that go beyond the difficulties of ‘getting work’ as a writer or director, of raising finance. Conversations that go beyond production stories and stories designed to attract an audience. I want conversations like this one that Pip Adam initiated with Rachel O’Neill. Unedited conversations that engage me, with hesitations and uncertainties among the insights. Without soundbites. Bechdel Test(!) conversations, to help me learn about directors who arrive at feature filmmaking from multiple-medium practices and diverse collaborations. Who fearlessly experiment. Who may illuminate issues around media convergence. Many thanks, Pip and Rachel.

Pip Adam–

Rachel O’Neill is an artist, writer, filmmaker and occasional editor living in Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand. You can read more about her here.

Rachel is a graduate of Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland University and the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington and I’ve come across Rachel’s work in a variety of places and forms. Her debut poetry collection One Human in Height was published by Hue & Cry Press in October 2013. She is also a card-carrying member of All the Cunning Stunts, with fellow artists Liz Allan, Clare Noonan, and Marnie Slater.

I enjoy how Rachel’s varied pursuits feel like a body of work. I love encountering her ideas and art in different ways. Rachel’s film work interests me particularly, after a conversation we had at a Hue & Cry launch this year about film writing, development and production. I was excited to hear that Rachel is developing a script at the moment and that she’d taken part in The Rehearsal Room run by the Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand as a director, workshopping a short scene from one of her screenplays with local actors.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Melissa Dopp 1963-2014

Melissa Dopp

People come and go on Twitter. And Melissa Dopp, of Hanover, Virginia, had lots in her life beyond her energetic @reellives Twitter account and her Pinterest boards, many of them about women's filmmaking. Party politics, life with her partner Pattie (including visits to mountains, wine trails), extended family and friends. And work.  So I didn't notice that she was missing. It was a shock to receive a beautiful email from her sister Liz telling me that Melissa died on 27 August, from complications following surgery, two days after her 51st birthday. It was a struggle to understand that vibrant Melissa was gone.

I don't remember how we met. But it was online, where Melissa made many friends, as she did In Real Life. And it was probably on Twitter, where the @reellives account no longer exists. We also emailed, DM'ed, shared Pinterest boards and briefly met in person, when she flew to New Zealand for Jane Campion's masterclasses.

On Melissa's Pinterest site, there's an RIP pin where others from her online community have posted about how much she meant to them. Another of her friends (someone I don't know) wrote–
Social media has changed the way the world works in so many ways. This week a friend I connected with on Pinterest and FB passed away. We never met in person but 'spoke' online nearly every day and spent many hours privately chatting. We first connected through a love of critical theory and liberal beliefs. She was an outspoken champion for Progressive causes and LGBT rights. I will miss her passion, her humor, and her breathtaking intelligence. My heartfelt condolences go out to her partner Pattie, her family, and her legion of admirers.
I loved that response to Melissa's death, from someone else who met her online. It confirms and extends my impressions of her. But I found it hard to write something myself.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The 'Women's Resolution' from World Conference of Screenwriters

Jill Golick, President Writers Guild Canada, at the Women's Resolution presentation
Hard data about women screenwriters and directors continues to flood in. And some amazing responses. This Women's Resolution for instance, from the World Conference of Screenwriters held in Warsaw at the beginning of the month. The conference is major, attended by by representatives of guilds and professional bodies from around the world, like the Writers Guild of America West, so its resolutions matter to us all. Here's the full text–
Statistics from writers' organizations around the world show clearly that women writers are under employed. We write fewer scripts, receive fewer commissions, have shorter careers and earn less than our male colleagues. Women have the talent, experience and ambition to participate as equals in every aspect of the industry. What stands in our way is institutional gender bias. We the 30 guilds and writers organizations present at the Warsaw Conference of Screenwriters 2014 representing 56000 male and female screenwriters, call upon our commissioners, funders, studios, networks and broadcasters to set the goal of having 50% of scripts across genres and at every budget level to be written by women. 
The World Conference of Screenwriters also streamed a session called Gender, the Lack of Representation of Women Writers, with participants from Germany, Britain, Canada, Ireland, Sweden and France. There were a few streaming hiccups at the beginning and the first thing I heard was something about 'a population of 4 million', the same population as New Zealand's. And that was David Kavanagh, from the Writers Guild of Ireland. I loved hearing him discuss his research on the representation of women writers in Irish films. Here's a slightly blurry screenshot about the Irish numbers–