Welcome to the 76th, “Spirit of 76” edition, of Going Bionic. Since the word “spirit” reminds me of freedom and liberation, this week and next we will focus on women filmmakers. Today I will highlight The Lady Filmmakers Film Festival, a wonderful film festival in Beverly Hills that just completed its third campaign, as well as discuss some “good news-bad news” about women filmmakers in the current film climate (don’t worry, it’s mostly good news).
First and foremost, let me say that I’ve always done my part in supporting women filmmakers. In the late 1990’s-early 2000’s, I helped recruit filmmakers and filmmaking professionals for the Crosscut Women’s Panel at the Kansas City Filmmakers Jubilee Film Festival (currently known as the AMC Kansas City International Film Festival). Then, in 2005, I produced an American Film Institute Directing Workshop For Women showcase when my sister, Najla Zaidi, was chosen as one of the AFI DWW fellows. Furthermore, I’m a constant advocate for Women Make Movies and, most recently, I just served as a juror and panelist at the Lady Filmmakers Film Festival.
Before we move forward, lets get some general “good news, bad news” out of the way.
The Current Economy Provides Greater Opportunity
Due to our horrific economy, many “unspoken film industry practices,” like not providing women and minorities with directing opportunities, are being shattered. I honestly don’t think studios, production companies, agencies and financiers care about “unspoken practices” these days. All anyone cares about is getting films financed and made. Therefore, a new space has opened up for more women to get opportunities. While doing so hasn’t gotten easier, many of the shackles that kept women clear out of consideration are now at least unlocked, if not thrown away all together.
Women Directors Set Records at Cannes Film Festival 2011
After decades of having male directors dominate the “official selection” category of the Cannes Film Festival, in 2011, a record four female directors were in competition for the coveted Palme D’ Ore grand prize. These included Julia Leigh, with her film Sleeping Beauty, Maiwenn and her film Polisse, Lynn Ramsay with her film, We Need To Talk About Kevin, and Naomi Kawase’s film, Hanezu No Tsuki. While including four women directors in the official competition of the world’s most significant film festival does not guarantee a trend, it certainly is a positive step forward.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is a Landmark For Women Filmmakers
Jennifer Yuh Nelson became the highest-grossing woman director of all time, when her film Kung Fu Panda 2 totaled $663,582,732 worldwide ($165,249,163 domestically). The great thing is, she became #1 on one film, surpassing the career totals of acclaimed directors like Penny Marshall and Nancy Myers. That’s what a $663 million dollar box office gets you!
2% Should Be Reserved For Milk, Not Women Filmmakers
Since I’m focusing on the positive, I’m only going to mention one glaringly disgusting fact: Only 2% of feature film directors are women, and that 2% is considered to be a generous number. This is quite sad, and this situation must change. Thankfully, our economic climate supports such a change.
Now that we’ve got the “good news-bad news” out of the way, let’s focus on some amazing opportunities for women filmmakers.
Having just completed its third installment, The Lady Filmmakers Film Festival is a wonderful sparkplug for any budding woman filmmaker. Run by executive director and co-founder Patricia DiSalvo Viayra and co-founder and head programmer Mike Viayra, this Beverly Hills gem programs some of the finest films I’ve seen at any festival.
The Good News:
Festival Culture is Pure and Positive
The culture here is supportive and accepting, and more importantly, the people who run this festival are too new to be jaded, and too genuine to be forgotten. This festival has no hidden agenda, and no skeleton in the closet just waiting to come out. The primary focus of this festival is to promote the work of highly talented women filmmakers, and of course, to help provide more opportunities for all women filmmakers.
Industry Recognition is Growing
This year the festival gave their “Trailblazer Award” to Diablo Cody, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Juno, and their “Illumination Award” to Pam Dixon, president of the Casting Society of America (CSA). This is a sign that things are progressing well at this festival, because people like Diabo Cody and Pam Dixon don’t lend their name and affiliation to any festival until they believe in the festival itself.
Seminars and Panels Give Invaluable Information
The Lady Filmmakers Film Festival also featured several wonderful seminars and panels, designed to instill filmmakers with immense industry knowledge. These seminars and panels included ones on legal issues and financing, casting, the technical aspects of DSLR filmmaking, and the crossroads of art and commerce in the studio world.
These seminars clearly demonstrate the festival’s commitment to supporting and educating women filmmakers. Thus, the Lady Filmmakers Film Festival is an invaluable, “cant-miss” festival that all women filmmakers should seriously consider.
The Bad News:
Nothing. This quaint little, but-soon-to-be-not-so-little film festival kicks a*s!
Okay people. That’s what I’ve got for you today. Thank you again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Lonelyseal.