Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Michelle Joy Lloyd's 'Sunday'



It's always exciting when a New Zealand woman-directed feature comes out. There's been a big gap between Dana Rotberg's White Lies/Tuakiri Huna, in early 2013, and Michelle Joy Lloyd's Sunday, which premiered last weekend.

In what's believed to be a world first, in a carefully designed multiplatform release by Dustin Clare and Michelle as distributors (Fighting Noise), Sunday opened simultaneously across more than twenty New Zealand cinemas, on television and the internet, on DVD and on airlines.

Until now, Michelle was best known as producer of the internationally acclaimed Open Source film project Stray Cinema, which she founded in 2006 while living in Wellington. She produced and directed the first round of Stray Cinema film footage shot in London and screened at the first Stray Cinema screening event in London, 2007.

Starring Dustin Clare and Camille Keenan, two award-winning Australasian actors, Sunday's a relationship drama in the vein of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, about two people whose lives intertwine with the city they inhabit. It's set in Christchurch one year after the major earthquakes and is a story that mirrors Christchurch's story, including past devastation, beauty and a chance at rebuilding bigger and better than before.

Camille Keenan, DOP Ryan Alexander Lloyd, Dustin Clare and Michelle Joy Lloyd photo: Johanna Macdonald 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sapna Samant & 'Kimbap'


I feel very proud that a New Zealand film, Kimbap, written and produced by Sapna Samant and directed by Alex Kyo Won Lee, won Best in Show and the Audience Choice Award for the best film by a male director at the Bluestocking Film Series this year and then travelled with the Bluestocking selection to the LadyBug Festival in Sweden. This all feels special, because Bluestocking is the influential showcase for provocative, well-produced short fictional films featuring complex female protagonists – and the only film event in the world to require female protagonists. Submissions must also pass the Bechdel Test and Bluestocking is the first United States film event to receive Sweden’s A-Rating, which informs consumers that films pass the test.

Best in Show judge, Thuc Doan Nguyen from The Bitch Pack, which advocates better representation of women ‘on the page’, said this about Kimbap
I chose the film because of the excellent acting, the relationship between mother and daughter (also the one between the two children), and the handling of racial and cultural differences as subject matter. All the elements came together well and were refreshing to me.
Kimbap’s writer and producer is Sapna Samant, of Holy Cow Media, which she set up in 2006 to tell stories across all media. She produced The Asian Radio Show, a contemporary and irreverent show about the Asian diaspora in New Zealand from 2008-2012, the only such show on commercial radio. Sapna was a freelance producer for Radio New Zealand before that, and on the WIFT Auckland board for two terms. She also won second prize in Auckland University’s short story competition in 2013.

Kimbap is about a migrant family and how they make their place in New Zealand through food and love. Kimbap is Korean sushi. It also symbolises inclusion.

Broadcaster Sapna, with Liyen Chong

Where did the idea for Kimbap come from?

I was inspired by a true event in Christchurch, New Zealand. A Korean family, a mother and her two daughters, committed suicide and one of the issues that came out of the discourse after was the loneliness and isolation of non-English speaking migrants to New Zealand. I felt great empathy with this family. Here I was, someone who spoke fluent English, and yet I had experienced isolation and loneliness as a migrant to New Zealand. The other issue I learned was the concept of the goose family. These are families where the father lives and works in Korea while the wife and children migrate to an English speaking country for the sake of the children's education. Of course such distances would compound the alienation of any migrant. However I wanted to tell a sweet, simple tale rather than a dark, desolate one which many New Zealand films are. For, if a migrant comes into a host society and feels an outsider, there are also many opportunities to come out on top of the situation in a positive way.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How Can 'Female Directors in European Films' Help?


So Mockingjay had a big opening.  And here's @licoricehazel's immediate response–


That' s all terrific. And as a New Zealander, I'm especially proud and delighted because 'our' Lorde curated the music. And wrote and performed some of it too.

But I'm also remembering that men wrote almost all the Hunger Games scripts and directed all of the films. And I'm reflecting on that depressing data on women who make films and about the (mis)representation of women and girls in films. It continues to pour out. A storm. A flood. A tsunami. It's almost overwhelming.

In September, the European Audiovisual Observatory released Female Directors in European Films: State of Play and Evolution Between 2003 and 2012 – the first substantial study to measure the director 'gender divide' at pan-European level.



Since then I've been thinking about the various recent reports and their interrelationships, in an attempt to understand where and how women writers and directors might best choose to work and what might help us to do that, especially those of us who live outside the United States, in countries where the government funds films. Because I fit into this group, the data speaks to me most strongly when it illuminates or confirms ideas about how we might resolve our local 'gender problems', with more films written and directed by diverse women and more films that represent diverse women and girls. I'm also interested in the bigger picture, for the many American women filmmakers I know, working in a country without government film funds.

But it's important to remember that whether or not we live in the United States our practices are as diverse as we are. Some of us want to tell our stories independently, outside the United States and for the world, to reach the audiences we know are there but are largely ignored. And/or to reach audiences unfamiliar with entertainment that comes from outside Hollywood– audiences that may believe that this kind of entertainment consists only of 'arthouse' films. Some want to use film to explore an idea, to experiment, to make an 'arthouse' film. Some of us want to be assimilated into the patriarchy of Hollywood as directors-for-hire. Some of us want to work with Hollywood only if it welcomes our own stories and/or more diversity among its workers and within the stories it chooses to tell. Some of us want to combine elements of several of these options. Some of us want to make a living from writing and directing films. Others don't. Some of us will always put women and girls at the centre of the story. Some of us won't.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Investing in Love: Jacqueline Kalimunda's 'Single Rwandan'


Jacqueline Kalimunda
Jacqueline Kalimunda's Single Rwandan Seeks Serious Relationship asks ‘How do people love after genocide?’ It uses new technologies to explore the rebirth of love in a society that’s coming out of conflict and will introduce us to Rwanda’s new generation, using the internet to find love and enhance resilience. In three languages –  Kinyarwanda (Rwanda's official language) English and French – it's the first participatory film on love in Rwanda.

I found Single Rwandan's crowdfunding campaign on Twitter. And then watched Jacqueline's pitch clip and some clips she’s shared from the project (below). Jacqueline and the clips enchanted me, made me think and feel deeply. As an exploration of the 'rebirth of love in a society that’s coming out of conflict’, Single Rwandan is extraordinary, I believe, something profoundly important for all of us.

In the English-speaking world, we’re most familiar with Rwanda through films made by other English speakers, who are not Rwandan. And when I googled Rwandan filmmaking I came across, almost immediately, RwandaFilm.org, which Leah Warshawski helped establish, the Kwetu Film Institute and its festival and the Rwanda Film Institute. And I wondered, 'Who are the Rwandan filmmakers?' and 'What’s it like to be a Rwandan woman filmmaker today?' When American investment is involved, are there issues like those in New Zealand, of a new kind of colonisation? But Jacqueline’s responses to my questions attuned me in a different way. Many and warm thanks to her.



Single Rwandan is a four-unit transmedia project on many screens and in many voices: a documentary, a participatory web documentary, a book and an art installation, each looking from a different perspective at the search for love in today's Rwanda and how that search uses the internet and other new technologies. Why did you choose this way to work instead of making a fictional feature film, a documentary or a television series?
I've been making films for 12 years and my two main issues have always been– how do I do to make the movies that I imagine? How do I present my films to the audience I expect to reach? To speak of love in Rwanda after the genocide isn't a story that just belongs to me. If I have a personal interest in it and the will to carry out this project, I nevertheless understood from the beginning that this story is a conversation with many voices. This project belongs to all of those who seek love in Rwanda. It also belongs to all those outside Rwanda who have an interest in, or empathy for, the subject, and, finally, also to those who seek inspiration or insight from this story for their own situation.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Aussie Emma Rozanski's Sarajevo film, 'Papagajka'



Emma Rozanski, writer/director Papagajka
I’m convinced that it’s essential to follow crowdfunding campaigns to learn what’s new and exciting about women in film, that women-directed and crowdfunded films are the most likely to change the gender imbalances, not films that women direct for Hollywood, with its profound ambivalence (at best!) towards women who make films and towards women and girls in films. Crowdfunded and women-directed films are where we’re most likely to experience complex women and girls and exciting stories about them. That's also where we'll be challenged and engaged by experimental work that makes us think and feel, I reckon.

For me, it's easiest to access crowdfunding campaigns on Twitter. That’s where I first heard of Afia Nathaniel, whose Dukhtar (Daughter) premiered at Toronto this year, because she created such a beautiful campaign. I first heard and loved Ana Lily Amapour’s distinctive voice when she tweeted about A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, during her campaign. Jennifer Kent crowdfunded for The Babadook, too.

When I can, I contribute the price of a ticket to projects that attract me and as often as possible I add the campaigns to my dedicated Pinterest board and tweet at least once, at a time that I think will work best.

I fell over Emma Rozanski’s campaign for her first feature, Papagajka. As you do.
Logline

Live or be lived.

Short Synopsis

A stranger arrives in Sarajevo and barges into Damir's reclusive world. Little by little she takes over his life, even absorbing his dreams, until finally he ceases to exist.
According to Emma–
Papagajka is a cautionary tale about apathy. Thematically I’m interested in exploring how people transform under psychological conflict, and how the mind adapts to survive in different environments. We all change in fundamental ways under society's scrutiny.
Intrigued, I learned that Emma’s an Aussie, from the Queensland Institute of Technology, where she studied stage and drama. Saw that she’d been through a bunch of talent labs. Looked at the pitch clip, read the rest of the info, enjoyed her mood boards. I saw that Emma’s doing her masters in Sarajevo, being mentored by Béla Tarr at his Film.Factory and by an astonishing group of others– Palme d'Or recipients Cristian Mungiu and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, award-winning auteurs Carlos Reygadas, Guy Maddin, The Brothers Quay and Fred Kelemen. (I also learned that she was at the Reykjavik TransAtlantic lab with the lovely Matthew Hammett Knott, whose own feature, Bonobo, is out any day.)

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–

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thank You, Jane Campion


One day last week I got up early, to watch the stream of presentations at the Washington session of the 2d Global Symposium of the Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media (LA session coming soon). It was great to see and hear people I'd only read about and to see the involvement of UN Women.

I was especially inspired by activist, filmmaker and philanthropist Abigail Disney (Pray the Devil Back to HellWomen, War & Peace, founder of Peace is Loud and the outspoken great-niece of Walt.) 'Gatekeepers are wrong 50% of the time', she said, in a fresh version of screenwriter William Goldman's assertion that in the screen industry 'nobody knows anything'. 

The other statement that's stayed with me came from Dr Stacy Smith, of the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, who led the Geena Davis Institute research launched at the symposium, Gender Bias Without Borders 'As money moves in, women are pushed out', she said. Still thinking about what I'd heard, and about to write about it, I saw this tweet.


Just about the best tweet ever. O wow. And how did it happen?

Friday, September 19, 2014

The BFI Greenlights Diversity

Kate Sheppard as green light
Yesterday was the 121st anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand. Yes, we were the first country in the world to give women the vote. And this year the Wellington City Council has commemorated this with some special pedestrian green lights near Parliament, portraying suffragist Kate Sheppard.

Also yesterday, I caught up with the British Film Institute (BFI)'s 'three ticks' policy, 'designed to address diversity in relation to ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status'. Green-lit in July, the policy went live on 1 September. The BFI is the largest public film fund in the United Kingdom, invests over £27m into film development, production, international sales and distribution, and supports around 30 new film productions each year.

From now on, to be eligible for BFI Film Fund support for production, producers who apply must demonstrate their commitment to encouraging diverse representation, across their workforces and in the portrayal of under-represented stories and groups on screen. To qualify under the 'three ticks' policy they need at least one tick in a minimum of two areas–
On-screen diversity– diverse subject matter, at least one lead character positively reflecting diversity, at least 30% of supporting and background characters positively reflecting diversity; 
Off-screen diversity– diverse key creatives (director, screenwriter, composer, cinematographer [note: this list does not include 'producer']), at least two Heads of Department from diverse backgrounds, production crew and production company staff (both with a range of targets across different diverse groups); 
Creating opportunities and promoting social mobility– paid internships and employment opportunities for new entrants from diverse backgrounds, training placements for people from diverse backgrounds, demonstrable opportunities for former trainees or interns to progress within their careers.
There will be challenges I imagine – even the Kate Sheppard green light is dependent on the other associated traffic lights –  but it will help that 'the BFI is also committed to engaging the UK film sector to build consensus around the best ways to approach diversity industry-wide, to develop an action-plan for change right across the UK’s film industry value chain'.

These new policies may mean that the UK will be the first country in the world where (diverse) women direct half of its features, instead of New Zealand, as I've always hoped, or Sweden, where gender equity policies have been in place for some time. The 'three ticks' concept must also influence other state funders committed to diversity in allocating production funds and to gender equity policies that reflect current best practice.

Will the BFI model spread to other parts of Europe, to Canada, Australia and even New Zealand?Very recently, the Directors & Editors Guild of New Zealand (DEGNZ) held a meeting that resolved to work towards increasing the participation of women directors and editors in feature film making and suggested a state-funded women's film fund, but will it now feel encouraged to advocate for the 'three ticks' concept, or a variant of it?  How might a 'three ticks' idea work alongside He Ara, a  New Zealand Film Commission devolved development fund to assist 'established New Zealand writers, producers and directors of Māori and/or Pasifika heritage to express authentic Māori and Pasifika film perspectives'?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Directors & Editors Guild of New Zealand & WIFT Take Action


Every so often magic happens. Like this public meeting organised by Directors & Editors Guild of New Zealand (DEGNZ) and WIFTNZ. I was sad I couldn't go and look forward to seeing the video that was recorded, as shown in the audience pic below.

Many thanks to DEGNZ Executive Director Fiona Copland and to Lucy Stonex, for this brief report of the historic event, including the pics, followed by my response. For those of you not familiar with New Zealand, Annie Goldson is a documentary director and producer and academic, Cushla Dillon is an editor, Gaylene Preston is a director, writer and producer in film and television and Jackie Van Beek is an actor and a writer and director for stage and screen.


l. to r. Gaylene Preston, Kim Hill, Annie Goldson, Jackie Van Beek

by Lucy Stonex
Responding to the release of some concerning international statistics, members of DEGNZ and WIFT gathered in Auckland last week to talk about gender imbalance amongst directors and editors in the NZ screen industry. Broadcaster Kim Hill moderated a discussion with panellists Gaylene Preston, Annie Goldson, Cushla Dillon and Jackie van Beek, looking at why the imbalance exists and what can be done about it. 
The statistics are not readily available for television but are clear for film: in New Zealand only 17% of dramatic features with New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) investment are directed by women. Women are accessing less than half their appropriate share of public funding for film. The packed house at the event expressed overwhelming support for affirmative action to address this imbalance, by way of a targeted fund. 
DEGNZ will collaborate with NZFC and New Zealand On Air, to more fully analyse the data available and look at ways to move the discussion forward. Let us know your view.

The Audience
My Response

An earlier online report stated that the panellists ‘had varying views on how the situation had arisen and what could be done about it’. This isn’t surprising of course. It’s inevitable that a New Zealand discussion will echo global debates, where views also differ widely.

I'm curious about the representation of screenwriters, directors and producers in the audience and hope that there’ll now be a supplementary inquiry amongst women practitioners throughout the country. Even a brief questionnaire would be great.

Because the issues are so complex, I also look forward to a vigorous debate about what strategies will best encourage gender equity in New Zealand filmmaking. I love women's funds, but who would benefit from the one being proposed, and how? What's happened in the past with state-funded women's film funds? What can we learn from that? What's the range of contemporary approaches and how well are these approaches working?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Fledgling Fund & Social Impact Assessment


The Fledgling Fund is a private foundation 'driven by the passionate belief that film can inspire a better world'. The list of films it's supported is truly impressive, lots by and about women. Here's just a few– Brave Miss World, Budrus, Girl Rising, Leaving the Life, Miss Representation, Mothers of BedfordSaving Face, The Invisible War, The Light in Her Eyes. Other significant projects include The Mask You Live In and Seed: The Untold Story. And there are many many more.

I love it that each project on the Fledgling Fund site has its own social impact page, powered by Sparkwise. On those pages I can read a synopsis and about the filmmakers, see the trailer, get a snapshot of the project's communities and social media reach, find out who its main supporters are. Learn about how I can become a supporter and/or viewer. There are graphs! There are maps even!

I can't show you a full screenshot of any of the pages, many of them rich and complex. But here's a partial example, from Seed: The Untold Story, chosen because I'm raising bee-loved plants from untreated seeds at the moment and, years ago, I was deeply affected by New Zealander Barry Barclay's The Neglected Miracle (1985), which covers similar themes.



The Fledgling Fund funds only docos, as far as I can see. But there are of course narrative films that aim for social engagement,  Sophie Hyde's wonderful and multi-award-winning narrative feature 52 Tuesdays for instance. Its website has a front page not unlike a Sparkwise page and its 'My 52 Tuesdays' is–
...a worldwide participatory project where people build and share a unique portrait of a year in their lives. Every week, every Tuesday, a question is posed to everyone involved – you answer by writing down your response and taking your photo with it. See answers to the same questions from your closest friends and creative people all over the world. Share your photos or keep them private. It is a project about you, set in time, distinctly personal and lovingly communal – but only if you choose it to be so, because ultimately it is a project about choice. And only on Tuesdays. How much will you share?
Branded entertainment does it too. Miranda July's contribution to Miu Miu's Women's TalesSomebody, has an associated app which seems like a lot of fun. It allows users to send a message to a friend and have it delivered, in person, by a stranger who is geographically near the recipient. I was thinking that it might be problematic to use Somebody in Welly, with its small population but 'The artist advises that Somebody works best with a critical mass of users in a given area; any social gathering can become a Somebody hotspot'. In the Huffington Post, Naz Riahi reported on her experience–
I was one of the first handfuls of people to download and use the app, zealously running all over Brooklyn and Manhattan to act out and deliver messages to strangers. The experience was exhilarating...It was a whole new way of communication and connection.
(Miranda July's website is content rich, too.)

To me, this thoughtful letter from the women at the Fledgling Fund, about whether and how to assess the impact of creative media, is both timely and useful, for all of us.  I like their Crafting An Impact Assessment Plan: Some Questions To Get You Started, too, which follows the letter.

This is also a Happy Birthday post for Ruth Gerzon and for her life's work, making a social impact.

September 2, 2014

To Our Community,


Over the past several months, Fledgling has participated in many discussions with fellow funders, filmmakers, practitioners and others who are all wrestling with the question of whether and how to assess the social impact of creative media, and especially documentary film. Emerging tools and platforms, like The Participant Index (TPI), Harmony Institute’s Story PilotSparkwise and ConTEXT, are attempting to capture social impact in different ways, many using techniques that rely in part on access to big data. We expect others will follow. Like many of you, we have reviewed these platforms and tools as they have evolved and have listened to the robust debate they have sparked, revealing the concerns and push back from many filmmakers and others about this increased focus on 'measurement'.  This came through loud and clear in Aggregate’s survey of True/False filmmakers released in July in which 62% of respondents answered “no” to the question “Do you think there should be metrics to measure the social change created by a film?”  In light of this, we have been thinking a lot about what all of this means for Fledgling, for our grantees, and for the field.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

'The Patriarch' & Producer Matriarch Robin Scholes – Equity Crowdfunding Reaches New Zealand




Just over a month ago, Pledgeme and Snowball Effect became New Zealand’s first equity crowd funders, licensed to act as intermediaries between entrepreneurial companies wanting to sell shares and investors wanting to buy them. This week, The Patriarch, through Snowball, became the first feature film to seek equity crowdfunding in New Zealand. It may not be the first feature in the world to be equity crowd funded but it’s close.

New Zealanders have engaged with equity crowdfunding before, when Spanner Films, led by New Zealander Lizzie Gillett, produced Franny Armstrong’s The Age of Stupid in the United Kingdom and later provided a step-by-step guide to their model. Also in the United Kingdom, Simon West (Tomb Raider, Con Air) is using equity crowdfunding to raise money for his Salty.

The Patriarch, from the novel Bulibasha, is the fourth feature from a Witi Ihimaera story. It follows Whale Rider (2002, wr/dir Niki Caro), Kawa (2010, from Nights in the Garden of Spain, wr Kate McDermott dir Katie Wolfe) and White Lies|Tuakiri Huna (2013, from Medicine Woman, wr/dir Dana Rotberg).

The Patriarch’s producer, Robin Scholes, has teamed up with director Lee Tamahori, whose Once Were Warriors (1994) she also produced. The writer is John Collee.

This felt like a fine opportunity to interview Robin about The Patriarch and her role as a woman producer. Although I’ve often interviewed writers, directors and actors who also produce, I think Robin’s the first producer I’ve interviewed since Karin Chien, way back, and the first New Zealand producer. Robin provides a great place to start. Like Karin, she’s a legend.

The Once Were Warriors premiere
l. to r. Neil Roberts, Cliff Curtis, Robin, Temuera Morrison, Garry McAlpine, Lee Tamahori 

What’s The Patriarch about?

Women Wrote Half SWANZ 2014 Nominated Scripts!


The New Zealand Writers Guild has announced the Finalists for the Script Writer Awards NZ 2014. Fantastic to see so many women's names. Warm congratulations to you all!

BEST FEATURE FILM SCRIPT
Max Currie – Everything We Loved
James Napier Robertson – Dark Horse
Gerard Johnstone – Housebound
Sophie Henderson – Fantail

BEST TELEVISION ONE-OFF DRAMA
Fiona Samuel – Consent: The Louise Nicholas Stor
Donna Malane & Paula Boock – Field Punishment No.1 
Donna Malane & Paula Boock – Pirates of the Airwaves

UNPRODUCED FEATURE FILM SCRIPT COMPETITION
Gillian Ashurst – Gnats 
Dianne Taylor – The Last Hippie Trail 
Tania Wheeler – Umbrella Man
Richard Goodwin – Immortal Diamond
Jackie Owens – Three Gardens

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ally Acker's 'Reel Herstory'



I fell over Ally Acker’s work via this tweet. Not Ally’s tweet, you’ll notice, because she doesn’t engage with social media, which may be why I missed her before.


I was immediately curious about Ally's extraordinary magnum opus, Reel Women, the two-volume revised and expanded book and the 10 discs (see below) and the forthcoming Reel Herstory: The REAL Story of Reel Women. Introduced by Jodie Foster, Reel Herstory is a feature-length documentary that runs two and a half hours. It's in two parts. The first covers The Silent Era and the second Talkies Through Today (first ten minutes below).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kano Life

Kano – outside Gidan Almajirai, the House of Scholars

I love quest movies. Why don't we have more movies about women's quests, beyond romance-quests? I love road movies, too. There aren't enough of them with women protagonists. That's one reason I'm so excited by Afia Nathaniel's Dukhtar, debuting at Toronto, released in Pakistan soon and here on Facebook.

When Fiona Lovatt and I re-met on Facebook, after thirty years of no contact, she sent me an image for my
Keeping An Eye On The Washing board. Then she arrived at my place and I asked her probably too many questions. And when I heard her stories, their quest elements and their road elements enthralled me. 

Before Fiona left for Nigeria, for a third period living in Kano, an ancient northern city with a population of over 4 million, I asked her a few more questions. I'm delighted that she transcends them and that her Facebook page contributes fragments of dialogue with others – persevere with the small print, it's worth it. Please introduce yourself to Fiona on Facebook if you'd like to friend her and join the conversation.  A 'Fiona Lovatt & Kano' Pinterest board provides more images and commentary, here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Safety in Paradise?

Eleven photo: Jimena Murray
Children play in safety on the beach beyond my window. Some aren't safe at home, but they do not die in rocket attacks. Along our promenade, this year’s most sustained sirens wailed from motorbike cavalcades, as they escorted royalty to and from the airport. At school, our children may arrive hungry. But they're safe from abduction. The closest I’ve ever been to a war is my parents' silence about 'their' war, refuge women's stories about men returned from wars and Bruce Cunningham’s stories, after I met him selling Anzac poppies. (He was a Lancaster pilot in World War II and then a prisoner-of-war and I’m making a short doco about him.)

Yes, in many ways Wellington, New Zealand is paradise and I’m blessed to live here and to benefit from love and generosity from women and men, my beautiful sons now among those men. But in an interview with Matthew Hammett Knott earlier this year, I found myself saying–
We have to deal with serial violation, direct and subtle, on a daily basis. We may have learned the truth that golden boys usually win. So we have to apportion our energies and manage risk with great care. 
I met a friend in the street recently, who’d been active in a campaign around violence against women. You’ve been busy, I said. Yes, he said, I’ll be glad to get back to normal. And I realised that for women, there is often no ‘normal’ like his to get back to. Certainly not for me. I don’t see myself as a victim – I’m too committed to problem solving. But because ‘normal’ is living among actual and attempted violation of women, like many women I’m very careful to expose myself to more risk only when I have appropriate support in place.
This post is a continuation of that conversation with Matthew. It also attempts to understand the mechanisms that institutions use to compromise the well-being of women and girls, even when those women and girls know how to care for themselves. This is a #longread. It moves from Air New Zealand to the New Zealand International Film Festival to conditions around the insertion and removal of vaginal mesh. It's also a tiny tribute to Jacqui Scott and the Mesh Warriors and Mesh Angels around the world who continue to support her quest for survival and health.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Jennifer Kent & 'The Babadook'

Jennifer Kent
Another wonderful interview from Le Deuxième Regard's newsletter, with many thanks to them. Australian Jennifer Kent's The Babadook is touring New Zealand in the New Zealand International Film Festival – other international release dates below.

The Babadook goes very deep into the themes of insanity and motherhood. How did this story come to you?

I've always felt passionately about the need to face the difficulties of life. Facing the darkness, I feel, actually allows us to more fully embrace the joys as well. I think in some cases, suppressing difficulties can also be the catalyst for mental illness. Keeping all this in mind, I was fascinated to explore a character who was suppressing her difficulties, and in particular, one very traumatic event. I wanted to see where this denial and suppression would take her. This is how the story began for me.

Having said that, I never felt judgemental towards Amelia for suppressing. She had suffered enormously and it made sense she wanted to run as far as she could from her pain. No human being wants to feel pain and Amelia is no different. But my point with her story is that you can only run for so long before what is plaguing you must be faced. You can keep denying, but you'll have to face the consequences of that denial.

Re: Motherhood, I wasn't consciously focused on including that to be honest. It just sort of grew out of my core idea. My inclusion of the young child fit this very strong feeling I have that if we suppress darkness, we don't just hurt ourselves; we can also do enormous damage to those around us. And what worse damage can be done than by a mother to her child?


Sunday, July 13, 2014

#DirectedByWomen - A Global Celebration



As you know, globally, women make far fewer films than men do. And those that we do make often have inadequate marketing budgets and are not well distributed, so often our potential audiences don’t hear about them. This means – as you also know – that it’s very very easy for women directors to be isolated from one another and for traditions of women’s filmmaking to remain partial and fragmented. This is how renowned British director Andrea Arnold described her experience, a few years back–
I always notice how few [films by women] there are at film festivals. I went to Créteil International Women’s Film Festival in France with Wasp [for which she won an Academy Award] in 2004, stayed on for a few days and watched all these films by women. I spent the whole time crying because there were so many films that had so much resonance for me, being female. It actually made me realise how male-dominated the film industry is in terms of perspective. If you think about a film being a very popular and expressive way of showing a mirror on life, we’re getting a mainly male perspective. It’s a shame. I saw a lot of fantastic films at Créteil that I never heard about again. 
Among multiple strategies to bring ‘lost’ films and their women directors into public consciousness, some women create lists of women directors and their work.

Destri Martino is the first director I know of to create this kind of list and I love her current Pinterest board. Beti Ellerson has developed a huge database at African Women in Cinema which includes directors, often represented in video interviews and blog posts. Yvonne Welbon has a list of African American women film directors on Sisters in Cinema. Nordic Women in Film is launching its major site about Nordic women film workers, including directors, in 2015. I have a New Zealand list here.

There are also Wikipedia lists. One has links to individual entries. One lists Indian women directors. There are probably more lists there that I haven’t seen.

Some film sites have lists of women-directed films, too. On those I can access easily here in New Zealand, Ally the Manic List Maker has made a list of films directed by women on MUBI, over 1400 films. And there’s a list of women-directed films on Indiereign.

And now there’s Barbara Ann O’Leary’s work. She’s created Women Film Directors: Active in the Past Decade, on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). It currently runs at 5,326.

Barbara’s next step is Directed by Women, a worldwide celebration of women directors, September 1-15, 2015, a global viewing party. It's a visionary idea, I reckon.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Anoushka Klaus, from 'Jake'

Anoushka Klaus (photo: Sacha Stejko)

I'm fascinated by actors and how they shift into other roles in filmmaking, especially writing. Anoushka Klaus is a recent find. She's appeared in Shortland Street and Nothing Trivial, in lots of theatre (including Girl In Tan Boots, F*ck Love, Golden Boys and The Sex Show) and in three features, including Bloodlines, written by Donna Malane and Paula Boock (Best Script NZWG awards 2010) and directed by Peter Burger.

Anoushka produced her latest feature, Jake, a sci-fi movie just out in New Zealand. Jake will be playing at the Paramount in Wellington from 11 July, when there'll be a Q & A session hosted by Jonathan King. It's had great reviews–
'Imaginative and endlessly witty.' – Sarah Watt Sunday Star Times
'The smartest bit of low-fi high-IQ science fiction New Zealand has produced.' – David Larsen Listener
'An entertaining and insightful slice of Twilight Zone-ish fun.' Dominic Corry Flicks.co.nz


Tell me a little bit about your pathways, as an actor, and from acting to producing.

I came to acting via a somewhat different route than most, so my journey is actually in the reverse – producing to acting. I always wanted to be an actor but while I was at university I had put on weight and lost the confidence I needed to pursue acting properly. I had an agent and I was creating and performing in plays, singing and dancing publicly but for some reason pursuing acting professionally just became too scary so I turned to directing and producing my own short films for a few years as it seemed the closest I could get to acting without 'acting'.

Then, as fate would have it, I decided to do Meisner as a means of becoming a 'better director' and by the end of the first class I knew I was kidding myself. This was around the time I met Alastair. Al and I were both working at Images & Sound and he was doing the titles for a short film I'd made when he invited me to join Hybrid for their weekend 'filmmaking practices'.

When Jake first came up, I was going to be a much smaller role but we entered the 48hour film competition right before we went into casting and on the strength of my performance Doug offered me the role of Violet.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Gaylene Preston on Her Earthquake Experiences



In an hour the first of three ninety-minute episodes of Gaylene Preston's Hope and Wire will debut on New Zealand television. 

When I saw half of tonight's episode, a while back, I liked how it seemed to bring ALL of Gaylene's skills and experience together in one space in an interesting example of media convergence. Gaylene as a veteran writer/director/producer. Gaylene as doco maker and oral historian. Gaylene as creator of screen fiction. (And Gaylene as enthusiastic community member. As highly politicised community member.)

If you're not familiar with her work, think of Gaylene as a kind of New Zealand Charles Dickens (Oliver Twist, Bleak House, Hard Times). Or Alison Bechdel (Dykes To Watch Out For, Fun Home, Are You My Mother?). Or our very own Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise, Nashville). I think Hope and Wire may be the work she will be most remembered for.




The run-up to the screening has been quite a trip for Gaylene; she's needed her hard hat. I've been collecting the press articles here and am delighted to reprint one of them, Gaylene's personal earthquakes story. And I think my mate will like it too. The one who used to live in Christchurch. The one who just texted me about wanting and not wanting to watch Hope and Wire. Thanks, GP!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

From The Lighthouse – the Swedish Film Institute's Anna Serner

Anna Serner

I love Le Deuxième Regard, the French network for cinema professionals that aims to challenge ideas about about the place of women in cinema. It's the group (remember?) that made history with the Charte Pour l’Égalité Entre Les Femmes et Les Hommes Dans Le Secteur Du Cinéma, the Charte de l’Égalité for short. This year, it continued its good work within a strong collaborative publishing programme programme from Cannes.




Le Deuxième Regard also produces an excellent monthly newsletter. This month's newsletter features an interview with Anna Serner, director of the Swedish Film Institute, that legendary state funding body where where gender equity policies are more developed than anywhere else in the world – it's a lighthouse for every woman filmmaker in a country which has a state film fund (it also keeps track of gender statistics in some other countries) and maybe a lighthouse for all the other film funds, too. And the results of its policies are beginning to show, as in this year's list of nominations for the Guldbagge Awards.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Disappointment, Gratitude & A Call For Help

Eleven

Disappointment

It's New Zealand International Film Festival (#nziff) Time! Again. I've asked if the festival will follow Cannes' example and release details about how many women-directed works were submitted this year. My request was passed on to the programmers. No response yet.

And now the New Zealand feature-length selections have been announced, plus a doco by Florian Habicht which was not on the initial list (perhaps there are more to come).

Five narrative features. Not one has a woman writer or director. Only one, Gerard Johnstone's Housebound, has a woman protagonist.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sophie Henderson and Fantail


Fantail opens in New Zealand cinemas this Thursday, 5 June. It’s the story of service station worker Tania, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman who identifies as Maori, working to take her little bro Pi to Surfer’s to find their Dad. But flitting Pi causes plans to go awry. (The Maori myth of Hine-Nui-Te-Po, Maui and the fantail/piwakawaka is its starting point, see links below if you're unfamiliar with the story.)

Fantail was made through the New Zealand Film Commission’s low-budget Escalator scheme and it's been very successful. It premiered at the New Zealand International Film Festival last year and screened at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, where Level K snapped up the global rights (Curious Film has the Australian and New Zealand distribution rights). It received eight nominations at the New Zealand Film Awards 2013, including a nomination for Best Film. And the reviews are very enthusiastic, too, look at all those stars! I'm excited because Fantail has a woman protagonist – true for only 14% of New Zealand Film Commission-funded features over the last decade – and it's written by a woman, Sophie Henderson, who also plays the lead role.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Jane Campion at #Cannes2014; & A series about Cannes and the Bechdel Test



There have been many reports of Jane Campion's statements at the Cannes press conference for the main jury, where she said, in response to a question about 'inherent sexism'–
There is some inherent sexism in the industry. Thierry Frémaux told us that us only 7% out of the 1,800 films submitted to the Cannes Film Festival were directed by women. He was proud to say that we had 20% in all of the programs. Nevertheless, it feels very undemocratic, and women do notice. Time and time again we don’t get our share of representation. Excuse me gentlemen, but the guys seem to eat all the cake. It’s not that I resent the male filmmakers. I love all of them. But there is something that women are thinking of doing that we don’t get to know enough about. It’s always a surprise when a woman filmmaker does come about.
But, as president of the jury, she's also been interviewed many times, and it seems that every time she's spoken, she's addressed the 'woman question'. Staunchly. Even in her speech on opening night. I've been collecting links here. And she's provided new information, a transparency that's unique to date. For instance, we've never before heard what proportion of films submitted to Cannes were directed by women.

In one interview, with Libération (a French daily newspaper founded in Paris by Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge July in 1973 in the wake of the protest movements of May 1968), Jane Campion reveals that she suggested that the jury be all women. With help from Sue Sullivan – many thanks, Sue! – here's a translation of part of the published interview. We don't know whether the interview was originally in French or whether Libération translated from English, and now we've put it back into English, it's maybe a slightly different English. Whichever, we hope this is accurate.

Have Gilles Jacob and Thierry Frémaux provided you with rules that govern your presidency?

Ah yes, there are, how to say it... (she stands up) a kind of little regulation (she goes to rummage in her handbag and fishes out a folded paper, brings it back to our table, consults it briefly and refolds it). All the rules are made to be broken, I presume, like the fact that we mustn’t award a second Palme d’Or to a director who’s already had one, even though there are examples of this having been done. Someone also explained to me that if it’s difficult to choose between two contenders, it’s better to choose the one whose work will reach the largest audience… It’s an interesting question… (The idea that this isn’t necessarily her view flies into the silence.)

Have you contributed to the jury selection?

I had a conversation about this with Thierry. I mostly left it up to him, with his address book which is far superior to mine, saying to him that he should do what he wished. He asked me “Have you got enemies?” I don’t think so. (laughter) At some point, I suggested that he select a jury entirely of women. He didn’t respond.

Great idea though!

Yes, firstly because it would have been easy to find nine distinguished women, respected by everyone in the world of cinema. And it would have been interesting to imagine the contestants for the award asking how their films would be received by a jury of women. That would have been a change, because as a woman you spend your life asking yourself what the men are going to think of you and your work. I mentioned my idea to a male friend and he immediately replied “Oh no, that would be understood as a gender campaign.” That was an interesting response, too. There are sixteen male directors this year; it would have been amusing.

It looks like Jane Campion's sisterhood extends to the other women in the jury too (of course!). Here they are with Thierry Fremaux, on their way to view Alice Rohrwacher's Le Meraviglie (The Wonders), one of the two films by women in competition.



Cannes and the Bechdel Test

Also in Libération, a terrific Bechdel Test series, thanks to Tess Magazine, in partnership with Le Deuxième Regard, WIFT Sweden and Sweden's A-Rating. For next year, I'm going to improve my French!

New book of interviews with Jane Campion launched

And finally, I've just seen a report of a new book of interviews with Jane Campion, by Michel Ciment. The photo at the top is of Jane in conversation with Michel on Saturday. This one, of Jane in 1979, taken by John Lethbridge, ends the report. A lovely closing bracket. (And I'll be limping through the text of that report asap, lots more quotes there from this wonderful woman!)


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Who Will Speak These Days, If Not I, If Not You?

It's been a while. I've been writing an essay for a book: Women Screenwriters: An International Guide, edited by Jill Nelmes and Jule Nelbo, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan. I had to catch up with New Zealand women's screenwriting for features, and I've been wholly absorbed with that. What an amazing and talented and diverse group our women screenwriters are, and very generous with their time, answering my questionnaire, expanding on their responses by email, phone and in person. Asking me questions. I learned lots. Today's most interesting women screenwriter facts? In the last decade 14 percent of New Zealand Film Commission-funded feature films had female protagonists. But over 70 percent of my respondents' feature film scripts had female protagonists. Questionnaires are still coming in and I'll take another look at them all in a future post. Many thanks to Katalin Galambos for her help with the stats.

Now the chapter's done, except for editing conversations, and I'm back. With news of four books. And a poem. Like writing that chapter, in their various ways they remind me of Muriel Rukeyser's question in her poem The Speed of Darkness, which I've used as the title of this post. And of Jacqui Scott's involvement in courageous campaigns against the (ab)use of vaginal mesh and in a personal campaign to fund removal of the mesh inserted into her after she was raped.



First up– Celluloid Ceiling; Women Film Directors Breaking Through, edited by Gabrielle Kelly and Cheryl Robson, who both work in film, so it's not an 'academic' book. I'm still reading this and hope to interview the editors before too long. So far, I've most enjoyed a reprinted Ana Maria Bahiana interview with Kathryn Bigelow (from 1992). Look out for Sophie Mayer's review, forthcoming over at The F Word.


Then there's Bridget Conor's Creative Labor and Professional Practice. I haven't it yet seen but am looking forward to a careful read. It "analyzes the histories, practices, identities and subjects which form and shape the daily working lives of screenwriters" and includes a chapter on inequalities. Bridget's a New Zealander, whose earlier analysed the political economy of the New Zealand film industry and the ‘runaway production’ phenomenon in the context of the filming of The Lord of The Rings trilogy.


I read some of Helen Rickerby's Cinema in Unity Books and loved it. Am debating whether to buy these poems and probably will, though I own only a couple of dozen books and rarely buy them. Here's Paula Green's review, which is better than anything I could write.



Then there's Snakes' I Hate Plot. 'Snakes' is New Zealand filmmaker Rachel Davies and I Hate Plot is astonishing and breathtaking and gave great thumps to my heart. I read it in a single gulp and decided that Rachel is New Zealand's Nora Ephron, but without anxiety about how her neck looks. The title story alone is a must read for any woman with connections to the film 'world'. I think I Hate Plot is an instant classic, and now it's forever grouped in my mind with Virginia Woolf's A Room of Her Own and Tillie Olsen's Silences and Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider. You can download a Kindle edition for free until Monday (U.S time). But if you want to read any of these books, why not order them from your local bookshop?

Finally, Fiona Lovatt's #bringbackourgirls poem. Fiona lives and works in Nigeria and is one of my heroines. Another New Zealander.

Night After Night

Night after night after night
They drop the K: no knights.
No chivalry. No rescue.

Night after night after night
The girls remain in the forest
While submarines sweep the ocean
Searching for a black box.

Night after night after night
Women's stories, women's lives
Rank as nothing without heels

So we wear red today
We march today
We weep today
We ask today for
Knight after knight

To saddle up