Sunday, February 19, 2017

NZ Update 3: WIFT New Zealand

from the WIFTNZ Facebook page

This is Part 3 of an NZ Update 4-part series. Part 1 was Gender Breakthrough in New Zealand Film Commission Funding. Part 2 was a letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Paula Bennett, about the New Zealand Screen Production Grant. Part 4 is a not-quite-A-Z of New Zealand women directors and some writers: coming soon.

So how has Women in Film & Television New Zealand (WIFTNZ) responded to the lack of gender parity between women and men who write and direct, in particular the lack of gender parity in allocation of taxpayer funding? For example, does it endorse Telefilm Canada's statement, referred to back in Part 1 and to some extent implicit in the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC)'s latest Annual Report?–
Based on industry recommendations that these two roles require immediate critical attention, gender parity amongst directors and screenwriters was identified as a priority (emphasis added).
The simple answer: No-one Knows For Sure. And because of this, I believe it's important to give another kind of 'critical' attention to WIFTNZ's position. Because it's the only women's film organisation in New Zealand (and therefore, of course, carries a burden of impossible expectations). Because it's often referred to and deferred to. And because it's taxpayer-funded: as I've consistently argued, to receive taxpayer funding, for anything, demands rigorous best practices, including best practice around gender.

I love women’s organisations. And I’d love to love the work of  WIFTNZ, which aims to–
  • provide information and career support;  
  • offer an educational forum;  
  • promote and safeguard the interests of women in film and television;  
  • recognise women's achievements in the industry; and
  • build capacity and benefit the screen industry as a whole.
But WIFTNZ has often disappointed me, mostly because I long for it to be more vigilant in promoting and safeguarding the interests of women writers and directors in film and television.

WIFTNZ has known, for almost a decade, about 'the gender problem' demonstrated in New Zealand's feature film development and production statistics. But in my view it's been timid in its response, perhaps because until very recently (see Part 1) those statistics demonstrated systemic failings at the NZFC. Has the organisation's dependence on the NZFC for funding been a factor in its restraint in the face of systemic discrimination against women writers and directors in the NZFC's and New Zealand On Air's (NZOA) use of taxpayer funds?

It would, for example, have been appropriate I think for WIFTNZ to make a public statement in support of Jane Campion’s commitment to gender equity as a member of the Screen Advisory Council, two years ago; and another in support of Chelsea Winstanley's statement at the Big Screen Symposium eighteen months ago.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Treat Her Right!

photo: Jinki Cambronero

New Zealand women are coming together in a New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Campaign, to tell the government that it’s time to ‘Treat Her Right’ and enforce New Zealand’s Equal Pay Act, passed in 1972. The campaign’s just started, with a remake of the Donna Summer video and song She Works Hard for the Money. It will culminate on International Women’s Day, 8 March.

Loren Taylor photo: Jinki Cambronero
Directed by Loren Taylor — one of New Zealand’s many accomplished actor/writer/directors, perhaps best known for her role in Eagle vs Shark — She Works Hard for the Money features a range of Kiwi comedians, personalities and members of the public. It was shot by 2016 New Zealand Cinematographer of the year Ginny Loane (Mahana).

Saturday, February 11, 2017

New Zealand Update 2: Letter to Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett

Kia ora Deputy Prime Minster, and congratulations. 

After the news of your promotion came, and the news that you are now also Minister for Women (and Minister of various other things), it was good to hear you say that you’re a feminist, most of the time. And to read that you said ‘I hope there are some young Māori women out there watching the news tonight who say, 'in a few years that is going to be me'’. 

Does that mean you're familiar with Geena Davis' mantra, amplified through her Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media: 'If She Can See It She Can Be It'? Does it mean you're familiar with director (Selma, Queen Sugar, 13th etc) Ava DuVernay's questions
Why is it important for girls and women to see themselves on screen? ...Film is a mirror. If you don’t see yourself, does it mean you don’t exist? 

Paula Bennett launches Jade Speaks Up
And I remember a couple of years ago listening to you at the Beehive, when you launched the Jade Speaks Up project  including a short animation I scripted. You highlighted the importance of stories and images, recognised that those presented in Jade may help to enhance children's resilience.

So I think you're probably aware of and understand the reasons for the global movement to increase the numbers of feature films and fictional television programmes that are both written and directed by women (in all our diversity) and about women and girls (in all our diversity). I imagine that you mightn't have been happy to learn from academic Martha Lauzen that when men direct feature films, only 4% have women or girls as protagonists, in contrast to 39% if women direct. Or to learn from Amber Thomas that women spoke only 27% of the words in 2016's biggest movies.

And I imagine that you're also aware of and understand the reasons for story sovereignty, why it's important that, if we've been under-represented and misrepresented, we tell our own stories and get them to wide audiences. As Ava DuVernay puts it
...there's a special value in work that is a reflection of oneself as opposed to interpretation. When I see a film or a TV show about black people not written by someone who's black, it's an interpretation of that life.
You may know, too, that research has established that in the US 'although female filmmakers systematically face fewer resources and opportunities than their male counterparts, their movies tend to reap a greater return on investment'; that when women direct, more women are employed in the crew (see here); and that films about women and girls have huge audiences (though recent successes Hidden Figures – doing better than the latest Star Wars instalment at the box office in the US – and Moana were made with men directors and just one woman co-writer in each writing team).

I don't know whether you've been involved in discussions about the recent gender equity policies at the NZFC and have celebrated the progress there with local projects (see Part 1), but I imagine that you welcome opportunities for New Zealand taxpayers to be involved in making change, because it makes sense to you that women are employed behind the camera and that more stories feature complex, diverse, interesting, women and girls as well as women's interpretation of men.

So, my suggestion is, how about if you make New Zealand a global leader, the go-to country for big-budget and smaller budget productions, including co-productions, that women write and direct, often about women and girls? Why not ask Treasury to gender-tag the New Zealand Screen Production Grant (NZSPG) investment, so that half of it goes to women-written and women-directed films (and television)? 

Maybe you're already involved in making this kind of change? For instance, in this financial year, part of Disney's A Wrinkle in Time, directed by Ava DuVernay, screenplay by Jennifer Lee, from the novel by Madeline L'Engle, is about to be shot down in the South Island. You may know that this is the first time ever that an African American woman has helmed a live-action feature with a budget over $100 million? Only two other women ever have directed live-action films with a budget in this range. (And as Minister of Tourism, you may be considering the project's long-term impact on tourism?)



But in case you aren't involved, here's a wee pie chart to show the New Zealand taxpayer's investment in feature films in the 2015-2016 year, a total of $66.1m, through the NZFC and the NZSPG.


New Zealand taxpayer investment in feature films 2015-2016
That blue 19% refers to the $12.7M the NZFC invested in local features during 2015-2016, where gender equity was achieved in relation to writers and directors (see Part 1 for details)

The  gender proportions of the writers and directors associated with big yellow field is shown in the next pie chart, representing the international features that received 69% of the investment: $45.65M

New Zealand taxpayer NZSPG investment in international features 2015-2016: by writer and director gender

This investment was spread over nine productions, with twenty writers and nine directors. The red 7% represents just two women among the twenty writers. All the directors were men. And although The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 2 and The Light Between Oceans featured women, the other five projects were about, as well as by, men.

The green field in the top pie chart represents the five local and co-produced projects that received $7.7M, or 12% of the  NZSPG investment;  some of the local productions also received NZFC funding, not necessarily in the 2015-2016 year. The writer and director gender balance was better than in the last category, as this pie chart shows. But not as good as in the taxpayer funding in local feature films, via the NZFC and represented by the blue field in the top pie chart.


New Zealand taxpayer NZSPG investment in New Zealand and co-production features 2015-2016: by writer and director gender

These films also had some female elements – in Mahana and Born To Dance for instance – and Atomic Falafel had female protagonists: more men are making films with female protagonists since the market for these films was confirmed.  But only one production, 25 April, had a woman director, New Zealand's Leanne Pooley.

One authoritative writer, Scott Mendelson, has speculated that A Wrinkle in Time will be a game changer. Writing in Forbes about  this 'special effects and spectacle-filled fantasy that just happens to star a cast headlined by a young black actress and surrounded by people who aren’t almost entirely made up of white guys', he said–
It could be the big hit that offers substantial evidence that you don’t have to have a male lead to score big box office around the world. You don’t have to have mostly white characters to be a big blockbuster. And female filmmakers, even non-white female filmmakers, are just as capable of making a studio-backed big budget fantasy adventure as the white guys who get the keys to the franchise kingdom after one well-liked indie breakout.
Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, we could be part of this change?

How about making sure that New Zealand takes a visionary role in the global entertainment community and that we are strongly positioned to take full advantage of this game change?

With every good wish, Marian

At that launch (always have my head down when listening carefully)
And here are some of the A Wrinkle in Time cast, with Storm Reid at far right, who will play Meg Murry. They're almost here. 




(And you recently responded to a tweet from Reese Witherspoon, one of the stars in this image, so I'm feeling optimistic that you're onto it all.)

NZ Update 1: Gender Breakthrough in New Zealand Film Commission Funding

In Hollywood, it's getting worse for women directors.  Legal action to remedy this is steaming ahead, with a high-powered summit due in March. Meanwhile women writers and directors outside Hollywood  are independently making more and more long-form projects, including many excellent webseries that bypass the ongoing problems for traditional marketing and distribution of women's work. Globally, there's also an increase in cross-border alliances among filmmakers and activists.  

With all this in mind, here's the first of a four-part series about what's happening in Aotearoa New Zealand right now, building on last year's Women Are *Not* the Problem?; 2015's The Activist Complex Female Protagonist Whispers in New Zealand; my Writer and Director Gender in New Zealand Feature Films (including TV movies) list; and the other posts listed in Gender Issues in Film in New Zealand.

Part 2 is an open letter to New Zealand's new Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Paula Bennett; Part 3 is about WIFT New Zealand; and Part 4 is an A-Z of what some of our women writers and directors are up to.

............

Screen Advisory Board: Steven Joyce (Minister of Many Things), Jane Campion, Maggie Barry (Minister for Arts & Culture), James Cameron, Peter Jackson, Jon Landau. Fran Walsh is also a member.
Background

Almost exactly two years ago, following the first meeting of the New Zealand government’s powerful Screen Advisory Board, one of its members, Jane Campion, reiterated her commitment to gender equality in film, in strong terms
It's kind of completely disgusting and teeth-clenchingly irritating that [only 9% of New Zealand films are directed by women]. But that's not just New Zealand, it's a worldwide issue. And my challenge to this group, the board, is "Let's be the first. Let's really say 'This is enough'".
Not long afterwards, the taxpayer-funded New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) announced a tentative gender policy. Here’s the guts of it–
The voices and perspectives of women are integral to telling the stories of our country, its culture and communities. We are committed to increasing awareness of gender equality in the New Zealand screen industry, and we aim to do this by– 
• Collecting and publishing information and statistics on women working in the screen industry...  
• Setting a 50% target participation rate for women film-makers in the professional development area [includes the NZFC’s Short Film programme, but not feature film development and production]…  
• Identifying and engaging with female film-makers...  
• Encouraging proposals from guilds and industry organisations that support the professional development of women in the screen industry.
'Increasing awareness', through a very limited commitment, is a long way from a 50:50 gender split across all programmes, the best practice advocated by the world leader on this issue, Anna Serner of the Swedish Film Institute. So I'm astonished to learn, from the NZFC's  Annual Report, published in December, that the organisation appears to have emerged as a world leader in the gender-equity-in-feature-film development and production stakes, alongside Sweden, Ireland, the Netherlands, Screen NSW and Austria.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Result! WIFTNSW's Protests Make a Difference

Remember WIFTNSW (Sydney, Australia) and its Sausage Party, back in December? Followed by its protest about hiring a Canadian woman director for the television remake of that classic, Picnic at Hanging Rock? Those protests have borne fruit, as reported in WIFTNSW’s latest newsletter.
The Sausage Party highlighted the Australian Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards(AACTAs) disproportionately low amount of nominations and pre-selected films directed and driven by female creatives. Among the twenty-eight narrative feature films pre-selected for the AACTAs Screening Tour, just two were directed by women. And, as WIFTNSW pointed out, when female content cannot reach the public voting platform in the first instance there’s no point calling for quotas in award juries. Furthermore, of the twenty-eight films selected for consideration, seven films (a full quarter of the total), violated AACTAs’ own eligibility criteria and at least two fully eligible films helmed by women were excluded.
After the protest, AACTA reached out to WIFTNSW and other industry guilds to discuss the issues raised by the Sausage Party protests. WIFTNSW now looks forward to meaningful consultation to create fair and diverse AACTAs.YAY.
And the Sausage costumes are now available for use so do ‘enquire within’, adds WIFTNSW.

With the Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG), WIFTNSW took a second action later in December, against gender imbalance in the Australian screen industry, with a peaceful picnic protest at Fremantle Media against the decision to hire a Canadian female director instead of an Australian for the television remake of Picnic at Hanging Rock, as a miniseries.
As a result of this protest and the tireless campaign run by the ADG to ensure Australian directors are used on Australian funded productions, Fremantle Media have agreed to hire an additional Australian female director to work on Picnic at Hanging Rock. AND Screen Australia has committed to changing their program guidelines, proposing to make it an expectation that applicants for direct funding of television productions guarantee that their project is written and directed by Australian citizens or residents.
This too was a good result for Australian female directors and shows how important it is to continue to advocate for women in film. WIFTNSW looks forward to the employment of an Australian female director on the series.

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.

Summary

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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Pratibha Parmar's 'My Name is Andrea'


My Name Is Andrea: fury & tenderness is now

Pratibha Parmar’s My Name is Andrea, about the radical feminist and writer Andrea Dworkin (1946–2005), explores who Andrea was. It also exposes the ongoing violence inflicted on women’s bodies and spirits across the globe, through featuring five diverse actresses — each one evoking a different aspect, experience and decade of Andrea Dworkin’s life.

Pratibha on set with actress and activist Amandla Stenberg who plays young Andrea.

In the spirit of contemporary independent women’s film making, the film’s being made in parts and the first twelve minutes of the film is shot and edited.

And it’s an impressive twelve minutes. This is what Gloria Steinem said after viewing it–
…I can see that this is going to be a film like no other — lyrical, poetic, referential, journalistic, placed in time, deep, complicated…. And it was so moving to me to see what I assume truly is Andrea as a little girl. Nobody but you could take her on as a human being, thinker, rebel and writer and unique force in the world — and I’m proud to be there with Andrea as a raging prophet.


She has now joined the project as an Executive Producer.

Julie Parker Benelux (co-founder of the legendary Chicken & Egg Pictures) has also joined the team as an Executive Producer.

The British Film Institute — one of the project’s funders) — was ‘deeply moved’ by the 12-minute clip and also continues its support.

We can contribute, too, with cheques made out to Kali8 Productions and posted to–

Pratibha Parmar
1563 Solano Avenue #340
Berkeley
California 94707

OR PAYPAL via Kali Films’ Donate Page

OR Contact Kali Films directly at info@kalifilms.com to make a tax deductible gift by midnight December 31, 2016.

.......
And P.S. I can’t resist adding Leonard Cohen’s view of Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse. I was surprised to read it, in a Hot Press interview with Joe Jackson (1988). But not surprised by the reach of Andrea’s influence–

…the whole range of arguments in that book is quite radical and complex and beautiful. It’s the first book I’ve read by an author, masculine or feminine, that has a defiance of the situation, which is deeply subversive in the holy sense — it’s other-worldly. She says that this world is stained by human misconception, that men and women have wrong ideas — even if they are ten million years old and come from the mouth of god, they are still wrong! The position in that book is so defiant and passionate that she creates another reality and just might be able to manifest it. It’s from that kind of appetite, with the way things are that new worlds arise, so I have deep admiration for Andrea Dworkin.



I imagine that My Name is Andrea will have a similar reach. We don’t have enough films by and about activist women artists and writers and the combination of Pratibha Parmar and Andrea Dworkin feels irresistible.
SaveSaveSaveSave

Monday, December 26, 2016

#WomeninFilm Activists Speak: Voices From A Revolution


This year #WomenInFilm ‘how-to’ talks have flourished. The speakers aren’t the first to share, nourish and inform, of course. But until this year, there was just one standout for me: Ava DuVernay’s Film Independent Forum keynote in 2013. She brilliantly argued that filmmakers should abandon despair about not having access to what we need and move on from depression about what makes our work difficult: a ‘wrong’ gender, a ‘wrong’ race or culture, no film school training, no money, no mentors, no advocates, no time. Instead, ‘Create work’, she said. ‘Look at what you have and work with that’.

She’s also argued that ‘It’s not about knocking on closed doors. It’s about building our own house and having our own door’, and that has resonated for many women filmmakers.

installation, National Museum of African American History & Culture (Smithsonian)

In the three years since, lots of women have followed her advice — or come to a similar conclusion independently — and now some of us have articulated how ‘doing it’ is inspired and played out. Here are some of the best I’ve watched and heard. Let me know of any more that you’ve loved?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Catherine Eaton's 'The Sounding'

Catherine Eaton and The Sounding illustrate all that excites me about the 'new' women's filmmaking– sophisticated and engaging concepts; the rise of the actor/writer/director; writer/director/producer associations with #womeninfilm support groups; crowd-funding; a beautiful, thoughtful, confidence; principled choices; visual pleasures. Catherine has Native-American heritage, so for me her project also celebrates the rise and wonderful diversity of indigenous women’s filmmaking.

Catherine has performed on Broadway and on screen and written two television projects (both finalists for the Sundance Episodic Labs), and is a 2016 Tribeca & Channel Women’s Filmmaker Award winner.

The Sounding's immaculate crowdfunding campaign for finishing funds gives us two days left to get behind a winner!

I'm delighted to share this engaging Danielle Winston interview, with warm thanks to Agnès Films, where it was first published.

Catherine Eaton and team. Photo by Asya Danilova

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Megan Riakos – Writer, Director and Inspiration


This is Megan Riakos, writer/director/producer of Crushed (a thriller, 2015, available on iTunes and Google Play in Australia, New Zealand and North America).

Megan also inspired WIFT New South Wales’ red carpet demonstration at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) awards in Sydney, after she had ‘a terrible experience with the AACTA Award selection process’ and approached WIFT NSW, where she’s a committee member.

She got a very supportive hearing: WIFT NSW says it’s ‘fed up with the Sausage Party that is the Australian film industry and calls on AACTA to make Australia’s night of nights truly representative of our diverse screen culture’. It’s also produced a Charter for Gender Equity at the AACTAs.
The demo was called the Roast the AACTAs (#AACTASausageParty).

Here are The Activist Sausages.


The protest attracted lots of attention.


You can read about it in more detail here (WIFT NSW) and here (Junkee)and here (Guardian).

And here’s one of my favorite images from the demo, with a necessary glimpse to remind us of the key issue within any discussion of Australian diversity.


Megan’s story is useful for any filmmaker who finds herself in a similar situation, in or outside Australia. I’m deeply impressed by her courage. I’m super-impressed that she’s challenged AACTA’s decision making and taken direct action, with her WIFT NSW allies.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Megan Thompson: Looking for Women's Experiences When We Enter Film Fests!

Megan Thompson
Megan Thompson is in her final year studying Creative Events Management at Falmouth University in England and became interested in feminist film festivals because she'd like to be involved with them in the future.

Inspired by the underrepresentation of women directors at general film festivals – a hot topic at the moment, as in Kate Kaminski's  'Aren't We There Yet?' the other day – Megan wanted to learn from women directors who have entered film festivals, including women's/feminist film festivals. What experiences have we had? What barriers have we faced, in the industry and at film festivals?

Megan's chosen to use a feminist approach, allowing our voices to be heard without the pressure of fitting into questionnaire boxes. Our responses will help build her research into a strong narrative of multiple voices, which can be used by film festival programmers, to educate others about this issue and to help make change.

The link to fill out the questionnaire is here. It has just one open-ended question. You have the opportunity to think about the relationships between your experience in film festivals and your overall experience in the industry and to write as much or as little as you want, anonymously. You may have just one story to tell, like those stories on Shit People Say to Women Directors (& Other Women in Film). Whatever, your contribution will be warmly welcomed.

Can you help?

Any questions to mt183294 [at] falmouth.ac.uk



Sunday, October 30, 2016

'Aren’t We There Yet?'

I'm delighted to share Kate's illuminating article, because film festival selection is a global issue for #womeninfilm, even here in New Zealand at the New Zealand International Film Festival.  Many thanks, Kate! 

And thanks too, for Catherine's photo and Reggie's concept photos, developed for Kate's celebrated Bluestocking Film Series (Bstkg).


Front: Sarah Doyle and Brittany M. Fennell, directors. Back: Yolonda Ross (director), Dawn Jones Redston (director), Tema Staig (Women in Media). Photo taken at Bluestocking 2016. Photo: Catherine Frost

by Kate Kaminski

As the founder and artistic director of the Bluestocking Film Series, this IndieWire headline caught my attention immediately: 'Women Directors Are Everywhere, But Film Festivals Are Still Catching Up — NYFF'.

Now in its 7th season, Bluestocking Film Series’ mission is to celebrate and amplify women’s voices and stories, and is part of a long tradition of women-centered festivals, so I immediately wondered which film festivals the article was referring to.

The first paragraph of the article jumps in to rightfully celebrate Ava Duvernay, (being the first Black woman director to open the NYFF) and to note that at least 2 films screening at the festival featured women characters who are not only over 25, but more than twice that age.

However, once the writer of the article, aspiring critic Lauren Du Graf, brings in Lesli Klainberg of the Film Society of Lincoln Center as the authoritative spokesperson for the NYFF, the tone of the article takes a turn.

Let's start with Klainberg’s thinly-veiled elitism, as she points out that the festival selects only those films that are 'the most significant of the year' without regard to any special criteria.

If you’ve seen it, you know that Duvernay’s film 13th is an important film, even a seminal one, but why shouldn’t we notice (and applaud) the fact that the film’s director is both a woman and of color? Klainberg goes to great lengths to assure us that this film was chosen to open the festival based solely on its appeal to NYFF audiences as an important film: 'We didn’t choose Ava’s movie for the opening night because we wanted to make a statement about documentary film, or about people of color, or about women'.
Yolonda Ross, actor-writer-director. Photo: Reggie Hodges
But why not? Would that be such a terrible thing to do? Isn’t it important for the exact reasons Klainberg seems so ready to downplay? Even putting aside Klainberg’s convenient memory loss about a White male-dominated industry, Duvernay has made an important film about racial injustice in this country, and she’s a woman director of color. Why not celebrate all of that? The rest of us are.

The next few paragraphs tell us that despite the lack of women directors in the Main Slate (which, don’t forget, we’ve been told use strict—albeit non-specific—curatorial standards in selection), the full program reaches about 30% parity for women directors/creators.

Not bad at all, if you’re going by Hollywood standards. But then Klainberg is quoted as saying, 'I’m pleased to see that we have five of 25 of our films in the Main Slate directed by women…That’s certainly a reflection of where female filmmakers are in our industry in a certain respect. We are gaining and it’s getting better'.

I don't know where she gets her statistics, but five out of 25 hardly reflects the actual state of working women directors in the U.S. film industry where, this very article points out, just 4% of the 800 most popular films in 2015 were directed by women. So clearly, it is not actually getting better. At this point, we wish we could get to 20%, but if history teaches us anything, gender parity is still generations of women filmmakers into the future.

Proudly stating that five out of 25 Main Slate films at NYFF in 2016 are directed by women, when last year the number was three out of 26, certainly does prove where 'female filmmakers are in our industry'. But only if your expectations are at rock bottom, can you call adding two additional women filmmakers to your program a gain.

Maria Giese, DGA member, women in film activist. Photo: Reggie Hodges
But honestly, what bothers me most of all about this article is the complete erasure of the long tradition of women's film festivals which, whether you agree that they should exist at all, have nevertheless celebrated the work of women directors, brought women-centered work to the attention of audiences and the industry, and certainly also aspire to strict curatorial standards. After all, it’s in our own best interest to select high-quality films that show what women directors are capable of.

When selecting for Bluestocking Film Series, I’m always aware of the industry- and media-perpetuated myth that men aren’t interested in and won’t go see female-driven films. What that knowledge instills, however, is a determination to find the widest possible range of expression from across the globe to dispel that myth. If we’re to survive as a festival that focuses exclusively on on-screen representation, it’s in our own best interest to demonstrate just what we have to offer to the culture: a well-curated, unique blend of women’s voices and stories that you won’t see together anywhere else.

What role do festivals like NYFF play in repairing broader, systemic inequalities in the film industry, such as gender disparity among directors? 'I don’t know if that’s our role', said Klainberg. 'We are not a film organization that funds movies'.

This is another misleading and, in my opinion, damaging statement. Very few festivals fund, yes, but that doesn’t mean your film festival isn’t still an important step on the career ladder for emerging filmmakers, or a possible conduit to distribution.

Are women-focused film festivals the red-headed stepchild of the long-standing engagement between festivals and the industry? Are we best forgotten, somehow shameful? Women’s contributions to film art have systematically been erased, yet the history of women in the film industry is long and rich. To attain cultural balance, we all deserve to know about those contributions and that history.

Ariel Dougherty, author-director and co-founder of Women Make Movies. Photo: Reggie Hodges
And women’s film festivals with strict curatorial standards (however those may be defined) are still necessary to showcase a larger percentage of talented women working in the field than you normally would get to see at, say, the NYFF. And Klainberg seems to be saying that festivals should not actively work toward gender balance because it will happen naturally. Yet that hasn’t been the case, either in film festivals or the industry.

But what’s more, we need women like Du Graf and others who gravitate to film criticism to stand with those of us actively addressing representation and, at a minimum, do diligent research and acknowledge the contributions women in film have already made (and continue to make) without sugar coating what is still, culturally speaking, a dire situation.

As I’ve been writing and thinking about this article, I’ve heard from a diverse range of women filmmakers and change makers who are also troubled by the broad strokes and lack of research this article demonstrates.
Evadne, actor-writer. Photo: Reggie Hodges
Briony Kidd, founder and artistic director of Australia’s fine women in horror festival, Stranger With My Face, said, 'I would have hoped we could have moved on from this kind of thing by now. It is demonstrably not true (emphasis mine) that women are only interested in a certain type of ‘smaller’ film and perpetuating that idea is harmful, in my opinion'.

And Kyna Morgan, founder of Her Film Project (an advocacy group for women directors) says–
I get it. Who wants to admit that they, as a woman or person of color or anyone of a minority group who is non-white male-identified is effectively shut out because of implicit bias or overt prejudice to who they are? I get it! But being shut out is one of the hardest things we have to look at and own up to when it comes to festival programming, studio slated projects, and practical funding issues, and festivals and studios are still wearing blinders. No one WANTS to be part of the group(s) that the 'big guys' are shutting out. It's a 'great American myth' that anyone can make it as long as they work hard. We sell the idea that Hollywood and film festivals operate as meritocracies and that smaller films don't get made just because they are small films. I think we know better than that and that one of the ugly sides of confronting inequity and inequality is that there simply are certain groups of people (i.e. white males), who, even with smaller films (and sometimes even little to no feature directorial experience) have a better chance at securing funding, being offered directing gigs, and being programmed at film festivals. The proof is in the data.
In short, no matter what kind of film you want to make, the playing field for women, minorities, and any identities other than the default is still far from level and we all know that. It’s time for the top tier festivals, whoever and wherever they may be, to step up their film inclusion game.

So, once again, I call for solidarity among all of us who want to see film culture evolve and expand, to see the film industry reflect the small, and the profound, along with its wish fulfillment and larger-than-life fantasies. Let’s celebrate and amplify women’s successes in the field — especially those moments when we make history as Ava Duvernay did at this year’s NYFF — and let’s make room at the table for all the voices.



First published on Medium, 26 October 2016.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sue Clayton & 'Calais Children: A Case to Answer'

Sue Clayton in the Calais Jungle camp

Director Sue Clayton is perhaps best known for her award-winning Hamedullah: The Road Home, about the forced removal of young people from the United Kingdom (UK) to Kabul and for her archive of interviews with young asylum seekers in the UK and her work with a team researching best outcomes for young asylum seekers.

Today, she’s in the vast refugee camp called ‘the Jungle’ in Calais, northern France, which acts as a border to the UK. According to Sue, it is 'not an official camp. It’s run by about 100 young volunteers, mainly untrained, and no infrastructure at all’. In a few hours, the French will begin to demolish the camp and scatter its occupants all over France, in buses.

Sue is focusing on the over 1000 unaccompanied children and young people in the camp, the 'unaccompanied minors', who live in cold tents with no food or power. She is finding as many as possible, making making Calais Children: A Case to Answer, a film about them (‘with due respect to their privacy — may not film them directly but there are ways of doing it where I don’t need to’) and and signing them up to apply for entry into the UK. It's not easy. She writes–
On Oct 8th 2am the legal centre in the camp (a portacabin) burnt to the ground, severely hampering our work. I'm meeting kids of 11 and 12 with no family in Europe, and no prospects after next week. Nobody here believes the French will magically provide buses and accommodation for 10,000 people. It's a human rights disaster.
Although the UK has has known for a long time that France plans to close the camp and has had months to process the unaccompanied minors, it’s chosen to delay assessment of their cases until the last week or so.  This, Sue says,  is ‘the greatest human rights abuse from the UK government I’ve seen in my lifetime’. Only about 1/3 of the unaccompanied minors have mobiles, so when the French disperse them, they have little chance of staying in touch with people who can help. Sue says,Many will be too scared to get on buses, if buses even show up. They'll run away.  We have to get them mobiles'.

Some of the children and young people qualify to enter the UK because they have family there. Others are eligible under the Dubs amendment, which grants sanctuary to vulnerable unaccompanied children, initiated by Lord Dubs, who himself arrived in the United Kingdom as a child refugee, on the pre-World War II kindertransport.

Sue is not alone of course. With her are her film crew and, this weekend, ten lawyers and eleven people from Social Workers Without Borders, all working hard to find and sign up more unaccompanied minors and to distribute cell phones. They work with Safe Passage, which listed 387 children six weeks ago and there are organisations like the Women’s and Children’s Centre run by Liz Clegg and her daughter Inca Sorrell (and here on Facebook),  Citizens UK. And Help4Refugee Children which writes–  
There is nothing officially in place to support children during and after the destruction of the camp. During the last demolitions, more than 300 children went missing and many remain unaccounted for to date. 
There’s also some good news. The first Dubs amendment cases have just been accepted and a group of Eritrean girls at risk of being trafficked have reached the UK.  Sue’s group has this weekend found and signed up more than 100 unaccompanied minors who they hope will also be eligible under the Dubs amendment.  Hundreds of unaccompanied minors will now be kept in the camp in converted shipping containers, until their claims to enter the UK are processed. 

But Sue needs our support urgently, to continue with filming, which costs about US$1000 per day and continues day and night. Last week, her crew filmed the French riot police when they came into the camp to close the small shops that supply refugees with batteries, SIM cards, basic food like 30 cent home made naan bread if people have money to buy it, hammering notices, Nazi-style, on the doors of all tiny shops and cafes. That night, when hundreds of people tried to move towards the UK border in Calais, the riot police repelled them, including children, with tear gas and batons and riot shields.

Very soon, those riot police will be back. With or without buses. But some unaccompanied minors may go missing, on buses or because they are frightened and run away. 

Sue wants to ensure 'every last Calais child gets safety, and that they’re not just cherry-picked by race, nationality or [UK] numbers games'. We can help her to do this and to document what happens. She and her crew are there for the duration. 


Some children in the camp (photo: Sue Clayton)





Calais interviews/reports with Sue here & here. 

And more here & here.  

.............................................


from the Guardian


Later, 23 October 

The Continuing Story, via the Guardian, as French police arrive.


Liz Clegg, from the Women’s and Children’s Centrehas provided a list of children to the UK's Home Office. A few of them have gone missing and she is desperately trying to track them down–
We are particularly worried that this evacuation has been left so late that we will see total chaos. The youngest child we have dealt with is eight years old, and tomorrow he will be herded in with thousands of adults. 
We are told once they are in the hangar there will be a separate queue for children, but in between the camp and the warehouse there will be utter chaos, with thousands of stressed inhabitants of the camp and large numbers of French riot police. It is gobsmackingly inappropriate that the most vulnerable of children will be put in this situation. 
I am sure we could have found a better and more suitable way to do this.



Lily Caprani, the deputy executive director of Unicef UK, said there would be 'no second chances' for the children once demolition began–  
If it results in a single child going missing, or forces them into the hands of smugglers and traffickers, then we will have failed them.
24 October update
photo: Sue Clayton
The camp is being dismantled and Sue is helping to find all the little ones and get them into the system. No one has even told them what's happening and although the French are being great and say no minor will be left unsupported, Sue and the others are the ones who are looking for them! As well as the Safe Passage quota, several more of those she's found have been accepted and left Calais for UK yesterday at dawn.

The filming is 'going great'.

It is going to take 2/3 weeks to process the minors and Sue will stay at least part of the time to make sure that goes ok and to support the kids who are scared. They will be rehoused in the containers in camp, while rest of camp bulldozed. Some riots are likely.

If you'd like to donate, here's the link again.