Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#gendermatters at the Swedish Film Institute: Anna Serner's Update


Anna Serner heads the Swedish Film Institute. This is a masterclass (a mistressclass?) in #gendermatters, where she describes how she's achieving gender equity at the institute. I love her careful analysis of the problems, the obstacles and the achievements. She's developed a brilliant model for every country where the taxpayer funds film.

Anna was filmed at the 'Women in Irish Film' Colloquium at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, a few weeks ago. Yes, in Ireland, where #gendermatters too (and where the population is about the same as New Zealand's). The colloquium was organised by Dr. Susan Liddy of the college’s Department of Media and Communications and a member of the Equality Action Committee, with Lauren MacKenzie, Liz Gill and Marian Quinn, who together represented the Writers Guild of Ireland and the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland in discussions with the Irish Film Board’s Gender Equality Plan.




Many thanks to actress/writer/producer Maeve McGrath for this link.

More re Ireland




Tuesday, April 19, 2016

In Progress: Scriptwriter Mya Kagan's 'Submitting Like a Man' Project


Mya Kagan at work
Women writers have often used male pseudonyms. There are the Bronte sisters of course; and more recently the writer known as James Chartrand, of the Men With Pens website. But as far as I know, Mya Kagan’s the first scriptwriter to submit her work under a man’s name (which of course she hasn’t revealed, referring to him only as ‘Max’). Her project is also different from other uses of pen names. She doesn't simply send out her work under a pseudonym; she uses the new pen name to re-submit previously rejected work, to see if there will be any different response. She documents the experience in Submitting Like a Man (SLAM). 

Mya’s based in Brooklyn New York and her description of herself charms me and reminds me a little of another New York filmmaker and webseries writer, Anne Flournoy–

[Her] work is known for being a spiky blend of smart, lively, deliciously absurd, and wildly entertaining. 

Mya's main specialties and experience are playwriting, TV-writing, comedy, and webisodes. Additional experience includes screenwriting, radio, writing for kids & teens, musical theatre (book/lyrics), animation, puppets, short stories, blogging, news coverage, food writing, and educational content. She's even been hired to write online dating profiles. Really.

Mya is also half South African, a freckly person, and a summertime enthusiast. Strawberries are her spirit animal. 

And she’s a hard worker. Since she graduated nine years ago she’s sent out 117 scripts to open calls for submissions. About 10% were accepted, 5% have been semi-finalists or ‘almosts’ and the rest were rejected.

Mya launched SLAM on January 10 and will resubmit her rejected scripts under Max’s name for a year. She emphasises that it’s an unscientific project. But I don’t think that makes it any less interesting and valuable, so I’ve asked her some questions.

Was there an inciting incident for this project?

More so than one single incident, I’d say there were a series of events, mostly the number of articles I started reading about the statistics on women writers—that in the US, 51% of the population is women, but only about 20% of our writers in theatre and TV are female. I started following the subject, and as time went on, it wasn't getting better. 

And it got me thinking about what things might be like if nobody could figure out my gender. Like, what if my name was Jordan? Or if it was something foreign and unfamiliar? I started considering that maybe I should begin using an ambiguous pen name or my initials. And then I thought: Why stop there? What if I actually use a man’s name? I was in a unique position because I’ve kept a pretty organized list of everything I’ve applied to, and the idea clicked—not only could I use a man’s name, but I could use it on all these rejections to see if it would make any difference.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Hollywood Cure

by Susan di Rende
Susan di Rende

I’m trying to understand how creating the Broad Humor Film Festival changed my taste in films and cured me of Hollywood story fever.

I started Broad Humor in 2006 to give women a place at the table, a table I valued but which failed to validate work by women I saw and liked. For 9 years, I watched every submission to the festival and read every screenplay, good, bad, and ‘meh.’ Before, I loved TV and many mainstream movies. In my teens I was addicted to the flickering screen. Now, I can hardly bear to watch any of it. There is good stuff in those shows and stories, but my overall reaction is ‘meh.’



I’ve written about how women’s stories tend to be structured differently and why I say women’s comedy is a way for men to experience the multiple orgasms women take for granted. Hollywood understands the Aristotelian big climax and Denouement brand of cigarette. But lately, there have been a lot of great female characters showing up, especially on TV, and I still have a hard time getting into the shows. Yes, these women are complex people in themselves, but they are still drawn with an Aristotelian pen. They still are massaged and colored so as to deliver the conflicts of the Aristotelian paradigm mostly because they DON’T TALK TO EACH OTHER.

If you read Carol Gilligan any time since the 1970s when she published In Our Own Voice, you get her insight into the way women move through the world in a web of relationship instead of on a ladder or hierarchy. But as the Bechdel Test noted, even when women are present in a film, they rarely talk to each other and then usually only about men.

I don’t blame the guys for not writing other kinds of scenes. After all, they are never present when women are only talking among themselves. Even if they were to listen, they might not hear what is going on, or misinterpret it as something they do know. I mean, if dominance hierarchy in males is 50 million years older than trees, of course they see dominance everywhere.