Mar 6, 2007

Bringing more women film-makers into the frame

Kate Kellaway asked what could be done to encourage more women into film-making. Here are my suggestions.

Beeban Kidron directing

Calling the shots... director Beeban Kidron behind the camera

We keep hearing about the problems faced by aspiring female film-makers. It can seem overwhelming and things aren't getting better in a hurry. Kate Kellaway asks in her blog: "What needs to happen for more women to feel that directing a film is a possible - and potentially fantastic - future career?" Here are my suggestions.

First, we need role models. In New Zealand more women want to direct films, and do, and the industry is more accepting of them, partly because Jane Campion is such a leading light. Hilary Brougher, who directed the Sundance grand jury prize-nominated psychological thriller, Stephanie Daley - starring Tilda Swinton and screening at our Birds Eye View festival - has twins. Women who want to make films and have children need top tips from those who know how to make the industry compatible with family life.

Second, we need skills and confidence. No point having one without the other. We're delighted to have a skills training programme at the festival for the first time this year, with insights into screenwriting, directing and steadicam operating, as well as self-promotion and pitching. Film is an industry without real structure. To find work you have to continually put yourself forward. Many women find this difficult, and I wonder if our culture still frowns on women who dare.

Third, the industry needs the courage to take risks. What was it Beckett said? "Try again. Fail again. Fail better." We need an industry that nurtures talent, that identifies the creatively innovative voices and invests in their long-term development. I want to cry sometimes at the number of public-funded short films I see with the same storyline, told in the same way, year after year. What a waste of resources! Let's get our hands dirty, explore true diversity and see where the mavericks take us.

Fourth, woman, know thyself! Let's trust our own inspiration. When programming Birds Eye View one of the most striking things I discovered was the difference between those films that have an authenticity, and those that feel like they were trying to be something else. Yes, there's all this angst about the marketers and making a film they will sell, and it's true, there's no room for naïvety - but if you don't know your own voice no one else will recognise it either. I'm not the only woman who finds herself easily and sometimes alarmingly swayed by the opinions of others, even though I can be as feisty as they come. We need to dig deep and take time to value our own vision, and cling to that as we take it out to the world. Sound airy-fairy? I think it's key.

Films such as Sarah Polley's Away From Her (starring Julie Christie), Hilary Brougher's Stephanie Daley (starring Tilda Swinton and the up and coming Amber Tamblyn), Birgit Grossman's German girl-gang movie Prinzessin, and Ensieh Shah Hosseini's Goodbye, Life quite obviously come from the personal conviction of the writer-director. They are brilliant, engaging, affecting films. As a viewer I relate to them, am moved by them, and, ever so subtly, find myself changed by them.

It doesn't bother me what kind of films women make - comedy, action, thriller, whatever - I just want them to spring from a passion and conviction that makes that screen live for its audience. And I am lucky enough to see that women from all over the world are achieving just that. [source]

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