Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Amie Batalibasi — Winner of Sundance’s Merata Mita Fellowship

Amie at Sundance

Sundance’s Merata Mita Fellowship is named in honour of the late, great, Māori filmmaker Merata Mita (1942–2010). It’s awarded to ‘a Native or Indigenous filmmaker from a global pool of nominees' and provides a cash grant and a year-long continuum of support. 

This year, writer/director/producer Amie Batalibasi won the fellowship. I read her powerful acceptance speech, published in her blog, and asked to cross-post it. And Amie also agreed to answer some questions. Warm thanks to her.  –Marian Evans

My Sundance Acceptance Speech — Merata Mita Fellowship
by Amie Batalibasi

Firstly I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Ute peoples. And pay my respects to elders past and present and also acknowledge other First Nations peoples in the room today.

Being here with you all, the other indigenous fellows, is an absolute honor and a privilege. I am truly grateful for this life changing opportunity.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Solving the #WomenInFilm Problem: Naomi McDougall Jones

Those women's marches were amazing. And so is the #womeninfilm movement, where women filmmakers' strategies for change are becoming ever more diverse and sophisticated. Writer/actor/producer Naomi McDougall Jones is one of the most thoughtful and energetic change agents around and Danielle Winston and the women of Agnès Films (named in honor of Agnès Varda) continue their own significant contributions with this excellent interview with her, copy-edited by Elena Chronick. Warm thanks to them all. 

Naomi McDougall Jones

DW On a frosty January afternoon, I met with with writer/actress/producer, Naomi McDougall Jones. Our hangout, a little pie shop called Four & Twenty Blackbirds, was quirky enough to have been the backdrop for a Gilmore Girls scene if not for being around the corner from the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus Brooklyn. As we shared slices of buttery lemon blackout pie, Naomi, a self-possessed woman with crimson hair and natural confidence, spoke passionately about the female cinematic voice that has not been discovered yet, practical solutions to Hollywood’s “women in film problem,” the hidden subculture of people who believe they are vampires, and so much more.  
You wrote, produced, and starred in the feature film, Imagine I’m Beautiful. How did you manage to wear so many hats and get a true perspective of your performance? 
NMcDJ I’m going through this process again with my second film. I also wrote, acted in, and produced that one, but I’m not directing. Both times it’s been an intense and specific process finding a director for a project that’s mine in a lot of ways. It’s like finding someone to marry. You just have to find the right person who gets what you’re doing and hopefully brings a different filter to it. I feel excited about passing my story on to someone else’s filter. I think that makes it better than it would be than if it was just all me.

Imagine I'm Beautiful poster
DW Imagine I’m Beautiful was done on a super low budget, received theatrical and digital distribution, and was well reviewed. How did the success of that film change your life as an actor and filmmaker?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Director Activist Maria Giese: Update on Women Directors, the ACLU & the Feds

Maria Giese Photo: Reggie Burrows Hodges for the Bluestocking Series 

About a year ago, I interviewed American director Maria Giese about her campaign to end discrimination against women directors in the United States. It's a collective human rights-based action that’s globally unique and significant for all of us who watch and are influenced by Hollywood entertainment. Here’s the next chapter of Maria's story, in two parts: a summary for everyone, followed by the deep nitty gritty for women directors and our allies.


WW What have you been up to?

MG It’s been quite a year. After 20 years, I left LA and moved to Connecticut with my husband and two children to write a book, Troublemaker. It tells the story of my Hollywood insurgence and my battles in the Directors Guild of America (DGA) during the past 5 years, with a bold group of other women directors. It also describes my journey getting the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to launch the campaign for women directors that led to the current Federal government’s investigation, by ‘the Feds’: the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

I’ve been working hard to support the investigation, foster independent legal actions, and keep this issue alive in the mainstream media, through speaking publicly, talking to journalists, and networking with other activist individuals and organisations. We want to trigger a paradigm shift in people’s thinking so that everyone can comprehend and agree that it is fair and just and in accordance with America’s ideals that women contribute equally to our cultural narrative. I’ve also been part of five documentaries and have developed ideas about the role of distribution.

Together with Christine Walker and Caroline Heldman, I am organising the 2017 Women’s Media Summit on gender equity among women storytellers in US entertainment media. It will take place March 31 — April 2 in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

WW All women directors have to draw heavily on their imaginations, their hearts, their resilience. They have to be tenacious. A few, like you, are also activists with a collective vision for all women. Who and what has influenced you? Tell me about your childhood. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

For the Artists, the Fighters, & the Dreamers: 'Or Die Trying' & Seed & Spark's Emily Best

OR DIE TRYING (ODT) is a series about women who live and work in Los Angeles as part of the entertainment industry, now in post production for season one. The ODT creators – and their characters – have set out to progress the narrative of women in film on-screen and are committed to hiring a team that is no less than 85% female.

This is how ODT describes itself. I love it.
OR DIE TRYING is a testament to the countless women in film. We, the creators, are active women in the film industry not just on screen, but in our real lives as well. We don't "ask for permission," we fight for our dreams daily. The struggles that we have faced as millennials in Hollywood have inspired us to create a story that is raw, real, and relatable for all of the young women who come out to California with a dream of making it in LA.

OR DIE TRYING represents all of the resilient women who are judged not only by their talent, but also by their age, race, gender, "look," and social following. We represent the women who hustle for what they want, because they don't believe in a plan b. We represent the women who collaborate and create, hoping to build something bigger than themselves.

This one is for the artists, the fighters, and the dreamers.

ODT successfully crowdfunded production costs for season one on Seed&Spark, and has been featured as IndieWire’s Project of the Week. It's exactly the best group to interview Seed & Spark's Emily Best, by ODT's EPs Sarah Hawkins and Myah Hollis. So this is a very special post, reproduced by kind permission, a fine example of the mutual support that's characteristic of the #womeninfilm movement.