Sunday, November 29, 2015

Aidee Walker; & The Good Kuntz at 48Hours

Aidee Walker
I've wanted to interview Aidee Walker ever since Friday Tigers/ Ngā Taika o Rāmere, which she wrote and directed, won both major prizes in the New Zealand International Film Festival's Best Short Film competition in 2013 – Best New Zealand Short Film and the Audience Award. 

Aidee's one of those inspiring, hard-working and super-versatile women we do so well here. A writer/director of short films, now transitioning to features. An in-demand actor for highly rating television shows (Mercy Peak; Outrageous Fortune; Shortland Street; and Step Dave, for which she also wrote an episode this year) theatre and short films, including her own. A director of music videos, for Anna Coddington. She's most recently been shadowing actor and director Michael Hurst through a two-episode block of SPP's Westside under the Director & Editors Guild of New Zealand's TV Drama Director Attachment Scheme. 

As well, this year Aidee was part of The Good Kuntz, the first all-women 48Hours group to reach the grand final. This is how I learned about that–

I've been fascinated by New Zealand women directors' low participation in our annual 48Hours competition, for a long time.  Because I'm curious, in 2011 I helped out – in a very minor way – with a couple of 48Hours projects with women directors I know and wrote about it  here, with a video interview with Francesca Jago, one of those directors. In 2012 I made a podcast with Ruth Korver, Laurie Wright, Gaylene Preston and Francesca and participated in 48Hours myself, as a co-writer/director. And wrote about the experience here and here. I've often referred to the 48Hours phenomenon in passing for example in this piece on women directors in New Zealand.

So, naturally, when I saw Aidee's name on this list of credits for Interloafer – isn't it beautiful? I seized the opportunity for a conversation! 
Director: Aidee Walker Producers: Morgan Leigh Stewart, Hazel Gibson Writers: Aidee Walker, Shoshana McCallum, Roseanne Liang, Lucy Wigmore, Elizabeth Thomson Actors: Jacqueline Geurts, Lucy Wigmore, Donna Brookbanks, Kate McGill, Maria Walker, Narelle Ahrens, Ally Xue, Milo Cawthorne Editors: Cushla Dillon, Tori Bindoff, Roseanne Liang Sound / Music: Anna Coddington – Composer / Amy Barber – Sound Design Cinematography: Nina Well
Warm congratulations (belatedly)  to all these women. And my thanks to you, Aidee!

Aidee directing Friday Tigers
Somewhere, I read that you thought 48Hours would be 'too hard'? Why?
I think trying to make a complete film of not too nasty quality in 48Hours is pretty hard, yes. The story has to make some kind of sense and then the shoot day is the bit that most of us can handle but then getting it edited well, sounding okay, and if you're lucky – a grade – WOAH.

But maybe what I was talking about being hard is not the 48Hours constraints it was that we wanted to do it with 100% female crew. It was inspired by attending the finals last year and there were very few female-driven projects. A couple of female directors, maybe.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Celebration! Gender Equity Initiatives in NSW; & #womeninfilm in Welly

What amazing news from Australia, via Screen NSW (Screen New South Wales, based in Sydney) and Film Victoria (based in Melbourne)!

Gender Equity via Screen NSW

Screen NSW  has just introduced a gender equity target, of 50/50 allocation of its development and production funding programs by 2020 and will work towards reducing the industry wide gender bias against women in key creative roles.

These are the latest Screen NSW funding figures, according to Danielle McGrane of the Sydney Morning Herald
Just 28 per cent of directors and 16 per cent of writers working on features funded by Screen NSW from 2012-2015 were female. There were more female producers at 75 per cent. 
For those of you outside Australasia, New South Wales is within the film funding territory also covered by the nationally-oriented Screen Australia, which has no gender policy. These are Screen Australia's figures, according to Danielle–
Just 15 per cent of directors for Screen Australia-funded features from 2009-2014 were women, while 32 per cent of producers were female.
Sydney's only three hours away from New Zealand with its minimal gender policy at the New Zealand Film Commission. Screen NSW's office is only FIVE minutes (2.7km) away from Screen Australia. Here in Welly I'm holding my breath. Will Screen Australia pop over to Screen NSW for advice and encouragement? Will the New Zealand Film Commission? Very very soon? I hope so.

Courtney Gibson

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sophie Mayer & Her 'Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema'

And...Action... Sophie Mayer
Sophie Mayer. She arrived at my place via her last book There She Goes: Feminist Filmmaking and Beyond (written with Corinn Columpar) and her beautiful, inspiring and generous online presence brings her here often (scroll to end for details). I love it that she's also a poet – and a couple of years ago, when Jane Campion gave her workshops in Wellington (we're both Campion fangirls) Sophie kindly contributed a post that explained Keats' 'negative capability'. I needed that. And I love it that she makes me laugh as well as challenging me to think and feel more fully.

I'm waiting impatiently for Sophie's new book to reach New Zealand: Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema, and was delighted when she agreed to this interview.

One of the most interesting and challenging things about global women's film activists is that as individuals we work hard to share and understand our different views of women's filmmaking; and the different language we use to express our views. This interview is part of that ongoing conversation.

Many thanks, Sophie!   

Where does Political Animals fit in your stream of books on women in film, which you've published over the 15 years you've been researching Political Animals?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

From Paul Feig to Agnès Films' #FavWomanFilmmaker campaign

#FavWomanFilmmaker team photo: Hannah Countryman
A great week last week, thanks to the male allies of #womeninfilm. Paul Feig tweeted several times in support of Destri Martino's fine work at The Director List, where she's created an elegant database of over 1000 accomplished women directors from around the world (more coming all the time!) and, each Friday, provides us with info about the latest crowdfunding for projects with women directors. This kind of very useful tweet –
On Women & Hollywood, award-winning screenwriter/director Matthew Hammett Knott wrote 'Confessions from Above the Celluloid Ceiling: The Truth About White Male Privilege'.

Kyle Buchanan produced a three-part series about women directors, starting with 100 Directors That Hollywood Should Be Hiring, continuing with 100 Women Directors: Actors, Producers, and Twitter Users Suggest Even More Names and ending with 5 Dumb Reasons Why Hollywood Won’t Hire Women Directors.

And in New Zealand, writer/directors Jemaine Clement and Jonathan King and actor Ben Fransham tweeted in support of gender equity in allocation of the New Zealand Film Commission's funding (scroll down here for more details, I was very excited).

And another great week this week. Warmed by all this extra support and info, we can contribute to the #FavWomanFilmmaker campaign,  from Agnès Films, a United States-based collective that supports women filmmakers, in all roles.

The #FavWomanFilmmaker hashtag will be on Twitter for four days (Monday November 9 – Thursday November 12), for us to tweet our favorite woman filmmakers and the reasons why we love them.

Agnès Films, named in honor of Agnès Varda, the French filmmaker who has been making women-centered fiction films and documentaries for over 50 years, hopes 'to bring awareness of the transcendent work being done by women behind the camera and to invite people to check it out and share it with others' and will be twinterviewing many people with intimate knowledge of the issues, like Women & Hollywood's Melissa Silverstein,  writer/director Hope Dickson Leach who's just finished shooting her first feature, The Levelling, and is part of Raising Films ('making babies, making films, making change') and Sophie Mayer (also part of Raising Films) whose Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema has just been published.

Calendar All times are EST. For some of us in other timezones, we may need to keep checking a converter.

Not sure about your faves? Looking for more?

Check out these Women Filmmaker Lists created for people who work 'in the industry'– 
The Director List's thoughtfully curated database. 
Ms in the Biz's #HireAMs database– from Acting Coach (on set) and Art Directors to Production Managers to Writers/Script Doctors.
And then there are those fabulous individuals who commit to reading and watching women's work for an extended period and share that commitment with us–
Maria Judice's ReWrite Hollywood tumblr where she posts a feature script written by a woman each week. Am soooo grateful to her. 
Beti Ellerson provides comprehensive resources through her French/English African Women in Cinema blog. 
Cinema Fanatic's compelling A Year With Women, where every movie she watches in 2015 (at home or in theaters) is written by, directed by, co-written by or co-directed by women. Her idea's been picked up by–  
Women in Film Los Angeles, where we can pledge to watch 52 films by women over a year. 
 Check out the #DirectedByWomen's thorough lists, too.

& let me know if you have an additional list, from anywhere in the world?

There will be videos each day of the #FavWomanFilmmaker campaign. Here's the first one. I like it!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dear Jemaine

You make me smile.

I love it when I see you in the neighbourhood. Once every couple of years or so.

Wheeling the most elegant little pale blue bike I've ever seen, past New World.

At the polling booth at Clyde Quay School.

Striding past me, outside the fish and chippery in Majoribanks Street.

I love the way you show the neighbourhood, in What We Do in the Shadows. The first horror I ever watched (I am a wuss, a generic ancient person with shopping bags, waiting for the number 20 bus to go up Hawker Street; eating spicy eggplant at Cha; buying double ice cream cones at Kaffee Eis; in and out of the Paramount and the Embassy.)

I loved your Cure Kids project.

And I totally loved your work in People Places Things – kept reaching for 'Rewind' to have another look-and-listen, but there wasn't one on my Embassy armrest.  The day after I saw People Places Things I saw another film about an artist parent, Ricki & the Flash, where no performance – except in a fabulous scene between Meryl Streep and Audra McDonald – engaged me in the same way. 

I'll always watch everything and anything you do onscreen.

So of course when I saw a big feature about you in the paper last month I read it immediately and avidly. And wasn't surprised that you said–
But sexism is definitely rife in Hollywood and, as a comedian and writer I'm starting to feel the responsibility to make female roles, to put them in further, to do more with female roles.
'Go Jemaine!' I exclaimed. 'I thought so. Working globally, you're a New Zealand ally for women-in-film. Speaking up and out! Yes!' But then I read your next statement–
I wish...there were more female producers and writers.
And I sighed. Does that ellipsis indicate that you paused for thought, or that something significant's been edited out? I don't know. I could ask, I guess. But if that's in any way your view it's probably the view of others, too. And once it's in the paper, it'll influence the views of even more people.

So regardless, I thought I'd let you know and those others know that there are lots of women writers right here in New Zealand. More than enough, who just need half a chance. (There are lots of women producers too, about half all New Zealand producers.)

A couple of years back, I agreed to write about screenwriting in New Zealand, for a book that's just come out. This one. It costs $249.40 in hardcover and $228.02 on Kindle, so I doubt that we'll see it in airports or at Unity Books or buy it to read on the bus. [March 2016: And when I did see it, eventually, the editors had decided to use someone else's New Zealand entry! Without telling me. A weird moment.]

In my essay, reproduced below, I focused on the feature development process and surveyed a group of women screenwriters (details below, where I've also added some notes in square brackets, lengthened some of the quotations and added references I can't find links for).