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Too Much Dialogue?

Yes, I’m still working on my novella. And envious of Lisa Gornick, if this image is a self-portrait. It's so much less pleasurable to open Word than it is to open Final Draft. And once Word is open, it's so much easier to get distracted and into another Word file (or two). And I’m much much slower with a novella than a script. Not surprising.

And I'm distracted by a surprising amount of email feedback about the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) statistical update I did for WIFTNZ and also added to the Development Facebook notes, where some overseas correspondents picked it up. The feedback came from women who feel they’ve experienced a (negative) change in attitude towards women’s projects at the NZFC. From women concerned that their feedback from the NZFC (and elsewhere) names “too much dialogue” as a problem. From women all over, who decide to write screenplays about men, not because they feel they should be able to write about anything (of course) but because they’ve l…

MIA

I'm working on a novella. Up early, 45 minutes on the egg timer, breakfast, another two lots of 45 minutes. And then a bit of gardening, as I think about where and how to go next with the story. A VERY quiet life, because I've never written a novella, and want to see how it differs from a feature screenplay, which has about the same number of words.

And was interrupted by the Wellington NZFC review meeting, and the Fresh Shorts announcement, and rounding up statistics for a wee report about NZFC gender inequity, available here, but without a couple of graphs; I can't load them onto the Development FB notes or onto this blog, but they're included in my PhD thesis.* So far responses to the report are very positive, and I am hopeful (as always) that things may change for New Zealand women filmmakers.

And then have to complete some work for which I was paid before I started my PhD (embarrassing, yes, even though there was also a significant element that was unpaid for), and …

Transmedia, & women's feature films in Ireland & in New Zealand

Something I enjoy about working on the Development project is that it is transmedial, part of a new storytelling world where fiction mixes with non-fiction and where
For the first time since ancient cultures, where stories were passed down from generation to generation through verbal communication…the world has now found a new, communal space to share and grow its stories that represent humanity. … In other words, stories are no longer simply stories, they are world views that will evolve with discussion, creation, and reviewIn that communal space, here on the internet, Development is linked with an informal, global, transmedial project to increase the numbers of feature films that women write and direct, and that tell stories about women's lives. (I hope that New Zealand will be the first country in the world where women write and direct half of all features. But I’m not holding my breath.)

This blog, and Kyna Morgan’s sister blog over at HerFilm, are as essential to the Developme…

the bone people

1. Sometimes, it’s hard to resist. I’ve got lots to do, but something else clamours for attention. Today, it’s the bone people (always lower case), the only New Zealand novel to win the Booker Prize.

First, I had a big cleanup and found a newspaper clipping from 1 November 1985. Here it is—the late Irihapeti Ramsden, me, and Miriama Evans, shortly after we received the Booker Prize on Keri’s behalf. Irihapeti and Miriama wearing korowai lent by George (Geordie) Fergusson. Me in my Moss Bros tuxedo (and white leather sneakers with pink satin laces, best pair of sneakers I ever had). And a tiki that Irihapeti asked me to wear. If you slide the clipping onto your desktop and zoom in, you can read the text. My main memory of the photograph is that the photographer suggested that we stick our tongues out. I think he wanted us to pukana.

It was a strange night. No-one knew what to make of Miriama's and Irihapeti's karanga (we were described as 'keening harpies' later, in on…

Writing Female Characters

Anyone read this? Sounds wonderful-- Off I go to check it out.



Here's a link to an article by Helen Jacey, "Finding the woman's voice".

And another, to Helen's blog.

And UH-OH, Helen posted this from the London Screenwriters Festival: Really enjoyed myself at the London Screenwriters Festival. First time EVER had more guys in the room than gals for my session. Sunday morning at 9.30 but what a buzz in the room.I'd wondered if her book would be especially useful for men, and although I'm not into 'pink & blue' thinking for writers, I worry that universal access to her ideas will offer male screenwriters more opportunities than women.

After the Waterfall—in cinemas any moment

After the Waterfall, Simone Horrocks' responses to my questions, is one of the most popular Wellywoodwoman posts ever.

So all of you who read her story and loved it, here's your chance to see the movie, if you live in New Zealand. After the Waterfall opens in cinemas on November 4th. Our other women-directed features, Gaylene Preston's Home by Christmas, and Rosemary Riddell's The Insatiable Moon(currently number 7 in New Zealand's top 10, and accompanied by Mike Riddell's legendary blog) have done so well this year. I'm hoping that After the Waterfall will too, if we all support it, especially on its opening weekend. (And there are more women's features to come: Roseanne Liang's My Wedding and Other Secrets is in post-production and has a brand new Facebook page. Kirstin Macon's The Most Fun You Can Have Dying is on its way.)

And for all you Outrageous Fortune fans, at some After the Waterfall screenings there are opportunities to see and hear …

& that's it from Wellywood this week--

Well, nearly it. Just one more deadline to meet, before 11.15pm. But having a little rest, and seeing a link to Joni Mitchell (yep! still checking out those Girls Like Us) I found this clip. Spot on at the end of this Hobbit-filled week, with enough conflicts and characters and secrets and revelations for fifteen movies. In the end, what's a girl to believe? Especially if she's read Lorraine Rowlands' thesis, and learned a little more about what working in the industry costs New Zealand film workers (and the health and social welfare systems)--

You might enjoy Joni too. If you've got a drink in hand, are pottering about between #FF tweethearting & FB. If you're a bit lost because Russell Brown finally closed the Public Address Hobbit party in the very early hours of this morning (Islander still in fine fettle). If you've caught up with Gordon Campbell's analysis. If you're a mite confused about it all, remembering especially those John Campbell inte…

Desk Life

Lisa Gornick, you're a star! This is me today. And I needed to know that I am not ALONE.

All that's missing from the drawing is my big white board with a looooong list. My little red Moleskine diary with another list. And my brief visits to the garden where something's eating the new beans, I've moved the compost bin, and where I may later scatter some organic sawdust. Oh yes, & the visits to the fridge. But otherwise, the desk is where everything happens. And must keep happening, for the next few days.

Thank you, dear Lisa.

Branchage Blessings Continue

I HATE reading and writing treatments, the short, ‘selling’ documents that tell screenplays’ stories, often with an emphasis on the plot points. They’re a special kind of synopsis and they bore me, whether I’m the one writing or the one reading; I’ve almost never read a treatment I’ve enjoyed, or that made me want to see the movie. So, not surprisingly, I’m also hopeless at writing treatments, whether they are one or ten pages long. And the ones I wrote for Development-the-movie, at the Branchage Directors Lab, were awful.

At the end of Branchage we were offered an opportunity to rewrite our treatments and send them to Peter Strickland, writer/director of Katalin Varga (see links below if you’re not familiar with this lovely, multi-award-winning, film). I wrote a nine-pager, trying to use the feedback I’d been given at Branchage to make something that was a whole lot better. And yesterday Peter sent his response.

It was so generous, one of the best bits of feedback I’ve ever had. He’…

Keri Kaa, & an interview with Ngahuia Wade

Keri Kaa’s Te Whaea Whakaata Taonga, presented at the recent Women In Film & Television (WIFT) awards, acknowledged “an exceptional woman whose meritorious contribution to the arts, culture, and heritage over the last 50 years has had an immeasurable behind the scenes impact on film and television”; Keri's worked tirelessly with funders and policy makers to forge the pathway for Maori filmmakers to tell their stories.

And that’s just one aspect of her extraordinary life and work. When I met Keri, more than thirty years ago, she was a Wellington Teachers College lecturer and a writer, associated with the artists and writers in the Herstory diary, Haeata, and Waiata Koa collectives. As a pakeha, I knew her as the translator—with Syd Melbourne—of Patricia Grace & Robyn Kahukiwa’s classic children’s picture book The Kuia & the Spider/ Te Kuia me te Pungawerewere, and I loved the poems and a review she contributed to Spiral 5. Keri also mistress-minded very special book lau…

Developing Development-the-movie at Branchage

I wanted to take Development out to a bigger world, to get a fresh perspective on the project. So I went to the Branchage Directors Lab. It preceded the quirky Branchage Film Festival, where many movies are shown in unusual places—on a tugboat, in a polytunnel (the compelling Vanishing of the Bees), in a sushi bar, in a herd barn, onto a dam's wall one year. Accompanied by lots of live music and performance with and without movies, and even a magic lantern show. And amazing parties, one in an ornate mirrored Belgian Spiegeltent where people have caroused for 100 years: the extraordinary Ziveli Orkestar and their associated performers completely seduced me that night, lovely to want to dance again.

Lisa Gornick does it again!

So here I am in Jersey, at Branchage Film School's directors lab. I needed a new perspective on Development-the-movie. And at the end of today's masterclass with script editor Kate Leys and the others in the group, I have one. To do the necessary work, I now have to channel my inner sages. THOSE girls. They're different than Lisa's sages (of course). But her drawing reminds me that they exist. Many thanks Lisa. You've delivered yet again.

I feel the earth move under my feet-- Chris Vogler & GIRLS LIKE US

I.
I’ve been trying to write about Chris Vogler’s visit to Wellywood. And just can’t get there. Mr Vogler’s the guy who wrote The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. You probably know about it, a classic that many writers love.

As you know, I’m a woman. A woman writer guided by Jane Austen’s words in Persuasion: “Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story…The pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything”. So I’ve avoided most books on screenwriting, though I love Linda Seger’s take on some women’s screenplays, where some linear narrative remains to move the story forward, but action is de-emphasized, and the proportions of emotion and psychology become greater. And I work hard to reduce some risks she identifies:
[S]ome women…may not yet have the craft to make these different models work. Although these kinds of stories can be done for a much lower budget than the more action-oriented models, if they fail, women know they usually …

P.S. The Feminist Male: Do Not Be Afraid

Lisa Gornick's Film Drawing site is AMAAAAZING-- I group her with Alison Bechdel-of-the-Bechdel-Test for quality. But, unlike Alison Bechdel's multiple frames and long stories, Lisa's stories are usually self-contained, within a single frame. Those single frames invite me to enter them with my own story. And then they make me think, think, think. And then try to reconcile the thinking with my feelings. Often, they make me laugh. Sometimes they break my heart. Collectively they're so full of life & complexity.

And this one's just the ticket after yesterday's post. Would love to know what you think and feel when you look at it! The Feminist Male: Do Not Be Afraid is Lisa's title.


Lisa's latest film is DIP, made for Channel 4's Coming Up series and screened last week. She wrote in a blog post that DIP is "some poignant suspense set on a London nightbus. A French take on the British crime drama. (I’ve always wanted to make a French film and they…

More About the Future, & Another 40% Figure...

There’s so much discussion about the Bechdel Test now (see links below for some examples). I love it all, am interested that men are writing about the test. AND I relate to @marnen’s tweet today: "I'm feeling snarky enough to propose the Laibow-Koser test: can 2 female writers have a conversation that doesn't mention Bechdel test? :)".

And then this morning on FB, Scarlett Shepard from the San Francisco Women’s Film Festival (@sfwff) provided the link to an Indiewire article, Summer Box Office Report: Women Rule The Art Houses, by Peter Knegt.

Peter Knegt explains that men directed every one of the 22 summer 'Hollywood' films that earned more than $50m, and women actors received top billing in only five, including the three that women ‘flocked’ to: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Eat, Pray, Love and Sex & the City 2. But in the ten top-grossing ‘specialty’ releases* "women dominated: in audience seats, in front of the camera, and, perhaps to an unpreced…

The Future of Film?

TAKE 100 The Future of Film 100 New Directors
Where did I learn about this book? Not sure. Anyway, Phaidon, the publishers kindly sent me a BLAD, so I can admire a sample of the book’s beauty, and do a gender count. And it looks like a beautiful book, even has excerpts from scripts, which I love to see.
But, of the 100 directors (one, Taika Waititi, a New Zealander) only 17-and-a-half (one director is a mixed gender couple!) are women. Nine of the book’s eleven ‘curators’ are men, two of the men joint curators, and all past and present directors of major film festivals. Azize Tan, the solitary woman, is director of the Istanbul International Film Festival.
And the women are (druuuummmmm roooollllllllll): Maren Ade, Andrea Arnold, Sophie Barthes, Aida Begic, Anna Boden (the half), Valeska Grisebach, Mia Hansen-Love, Miranda July, Farah Khan, So Yong Kim, Liu Jiayin, Lucrecia Martel, Shirin Neshat, Asli Ozge, Sarah Polley, Kelly Reichardt, Axelle Ropert, Esther Rots.
I’ll be looking out for…

Women-Loving Women 5: West Australian Women Rule (This Week)!

I’ve been excited about Western Australian women this week.

First, there was Sue Taylor’s article about making Julie Bertuccelli’s film The Tree. Fascinating for any woman who wants to make a movie, and anyone who wonders about gendered problems women filmmakers face.


Then, following a link about a conference, from ScreenHub, I found Larissa Sexton-Finck’s PhD thesis, Be(com)ing reel independent woman: an autoethnographic journey through female subjectivity and agency in contemporary cinema with particular reference to independent scriptwriting practice. It sounds a bit turgid, in the title, and in the abstract that you’ll see when you click through. But it isn’t. I think—as someone who isn’t very academically inclined—that it’s glorious, a fantastic read. Long, & I haven’t finished it. But I will. It includes a feature screenplay, Float.

Do Sue and Larissa know each other I wonder? Is there an especially strong network of women filmmakers in Perth?

Film funding & philanthropy

Erica & I are creating a new business plan for Development-the-movie, taking into account all we've learned over the last year.

It's involved a lot of research, to be sure we're up-to-date. Often we have to try to reconcile conflicting information, and wish we had more access to people in other parts of the world whose knowledge and experience would make us better informed. So it was very useful to see this interview with Terry Lawler, executive director of New York Women in Film & Television, which has a special resonance for us, working away under our charitable umbrella (thank you, Victoria Foundation).



We feel that we can trust Terry's conclusions. Especially when we know, for instance, that Arwen Curry has 'a long way to go' with funding for her film about Ursula Le Guin, which will have a huge audience. And when we see that Afia Nathaniel's Neither the Veil Nor the Four Walls, a thriller set in Pakistan, an exciting non-profit project with p…

Aussie Sequel 2: Luci Temple

I always enjoy Luci Temple's blog Yet Another Struggling Writer. I love her close-and-careful analysis of feature projects that experiment with transmedia, with new kinds of investment, audience engagement and distribution. I learn more from her blog, every time, than from any other blog that addresses similar issues.

So when I was thinking about the Aussie women feature filmmakers doing so well as contenders for the AFI awards (yep! 42%), and puzzling about Martha Coleman's statement as Head of Development for Screen Australia ("there is a shortage of young women writers and directors putting their hand up to work in the mainstream”) and preparing to write
Aussie Sequel 1, I tweeted her, then emailed:
When I was re-reading your blog and came across your response to a comment about your own work and saw that you were having difficulty attracting state funding I was curious about your project: what it is, where it’s up to, where you perceive ongoing challenges and whether…

Aussie Sequel 1: Histories & Economics

I've amended this post slightly since I first wrote it, as a sequel to an earlier post which celebrated the high proportion of women-directed features that were in contention for the Australian Film Institute's annual awards.

We share a name, Aussie and New Zealand women, though I don’t hear it often now: we’re Sheilas. According to my dictionary, ‘our’ Sheila came from shaler, of unknown origin. But I look up shale, defined as soft finely stratified rock that splits easily, consisting of consolidated mud or clay and I think earth mother, split. And I see all those immigrant men engaging with the earth of their new lands. With few women around. And I go AH.

But Australian women filmmakers have a very different history than we do. Renowned producer Jan Chapman summarised their early feminist years in her Longford Lyell Lecture in 2002. There was a Sydney Filmmakers Co-operative in 1969. And then, in 1971, “some strongly politically motivated women” created the Sydney Women’s Fil…

GIRLS LIKE US-- Looking for Amy Pascal & Elizabeth Cantillon

It was one of @melsil's tweets, there at the side of her Women & Hollywood page. This is what it said: "Another project about women at Sony. We should track these. Girls Like Us is looking for a writer http://bit.ly/9rFqGW".

OH, I thought: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon-- Then, "I can do this. And I want to."

First, I wrote to one beloved US contact "How would I try for this? Is it crazy even to consider? I guess I believe I could do this wonderfully, partly because I'm the same age as these women. Am I too far away, too inexperienced, too un-agented?"

"No clue,"she responded. "But if you can pursue it, pursue it."

Then, I jumped on the Sony Pictures Entertainment website to find the producers, Amy Pascal and Elizabeth Cantillon. Sent an email to the address on SPE's Employment Opportunities page. Figured out Amy Pascal's address and emailed her. Neither email bounced back. (No response though. Yet.)

And …

Aotearoa New Zealand's Poetry Day

Today's the day to celebrate poet laureate Cilla McQueen's Serial. I'm going to check it out at least once a week—I love how she entertains and inspires me with a few lines and an image! I'm hunting round the house for her wonderful A WIND HARP CD. Where is it?


Then there's Heather McPherson, up in Auckland doing pavement poems today. 

Sequels, Remakes and Reboots

I love the Kid in the Front Row's blog. And this week he suggested a Sequels, Remakes and Reboots blogathon. I'll add links to the other participants' posts as they come in. 
"It's an open-ended assignment", the Kid wrote. "Your post can be serious, it can be funny, it can be apathetic, it can be argumentative, it can be in Spanish. You write whatever you want—whatever comes to mind--- what I hope is that we'll have an eclectic view of the modern day sequel, a variety of opinions on the fact that they keep remaking things."

The Kid's the first man I know of who's blogged about the 'gender issue'. Here's part of what he wrote, a few months ago:
There is a voice that is MISSING from the world of film. And it is the voice of women...There is a feeling of helplessness. That for this issue to be taken seriously, Spielberg needs to deal with it, or Julia Roberts needs to start a campaign; rather than us exploring the notion that we pl…

Women-loving women IV: Sydney Levine, Margaret von Schiller, Ines Paris, The Female Factor & The Compostela Declaration (an intermission)

There are so many strategies available to support women’s participation in feature filmmaking. I love them all.

Some people record, analyse and write about the numbers, provide the evidence: Martha Lauzen, the Writers Guild of America West and some government funding agencies. Others analyse how women and girls are represented in film, and show where there are opportunities to develop new ideas: the Geena Davis Institute, academics. There are state funders who develop gender policies: the Swedish Film Institute, Scottish Film. Bloggers who talk about the issues with women writers and directors: Women & Hollywood, HerFilm are my faves. Journalists like Manohla Dargis sometimes provide sharp analysis. 

Some women experiment with funding structures and new ways of distribution—the classy Afia Nathaniel and makers of webseries hold my attention at the moment. There are organizations with programmes that support women directors: AFI, Women in the Director’s Chair, filmdirecting4women. An…

Performance, Audience, the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) and the NZFC Review Part 1

Erica Duthie and I are making Development-the-movie as a performance piece, an extension of our individual public art practices. Based in Wellywood, we want to contribute to a future where New Zealand women write and direct 50% of all our feature films. One element of this is to talk and write about the NZFC’s investment in women, as the state film fund with a dismal record in funding women's features and investing in women filmmakers generally. Another is to test an alternative and  sustainable feature film-making structure based on Women Make Movies’ idea of a charitable umbrella for funding, and Sally Potter’s practice on The Gold Diggers of paying everyone the same daily rate. If this works for Development-the-movie, it will we hope also work for other women’s feature projects. So, as we work towards our $150,000 goal, we’re trying everything except the NZFC, every likely and unlikely source we can think of.


Often this process means that we are the audience. When people respond…