Another reason to love Ingrid Veninger

    Posted on: Friday, May 18th, 2012

Ingrid Veninger, she of unparalleled indie/low-budget filmmaking stardom (seriously, have you seen i am a good person/i am a bad person yet?), is going to help you make a film.

Because she’s incredible like that.

Here are the details that she just posted on her Facebook page:

“$1000 Feature Film Challenge: Start thinking about do-able projects now! Here is what I know FOR SURE:

a) I want to put all of my Box Office from the June 14-21st RUN of i am a good person/i am a bad person at THE ROYAL, 608 College Street in Toronto, towards the Challenge.

b) Submission Deadline will be June 21st (You can submit ANY DAY of the Run from June 14-21st). But Absolute Last day to Submit is June 21st — That’s 34 Days from TODAY. No Excuses. Open to TO-based filmmakers.

c) Submissions must include: 1-3 page OUTLINE (or Treatment or Script, if you have one), $1000 Budget (this has got to be real), Team Bios, Cover Letter to pUNK Films Inc. THAT’S IT.

d) I would like to offer EVERYONE WHO SUBMITTED a PROJECT to take part in a DIY Micro-Budget Masterclass the weekend of June 23rd/24th. IT WILL BE FREE but YOU HAVE TO SUBMIT A PROJECT TO TAKE PART IN THE CLASS (and it’s going to be awesome-just sayin’).

e) Final Film Selections will be Announced on Monday June 25th. You will sign an Executive Producer Agreement with me and I will personally mentor each Project but I WILL NOT INTERFERE. Filmmakers have final cut and will own their movies. * Am hoping we can get at least 5 features made *

f) PRODUCTION: PROJECTS MUST SHOOT IN JULY – 4 weeks.

g) POST-PRODUCTION: PROJECTS MUST POST IN AUGUST/SEPTEMBER – 6 weeks

h) SCREENING: Each Film will be screened at THE ROYAL – Sept. 26-30th (dates still TBC 100%).

I am still working on some additional perks.
So start dreamin’ up your movies and let’s make this happen.
Have a great long weekend.
Sincerely,
Ingrid V. pUNK films”

Vive La Barbe! Why Cannes matters

    Posted on: Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

“Just make better movies.”

That’s an easy response to the Cannes situation, for sure. And it seems fairly logical: jury selects best films, women feel they ought to be selected, therefore women should make best films. It’s a frigging syllogism, fer chrissake.

But the thing is, we feel like the “best film” part is rigged.

If you have a look at, say, this recent study by Martha Lauzen, a professor in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University, you’ll see that women don’t play very big roles in the “best films.” They make up about 33% of all characters in 2011’s top-grossing North American films. And only 11% of all full-fledged leads are female characters.

We are accustomed to watching movies about men. That’s what we get, and that’s what we expect. And it starts at an early age: actress Geena Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media when she noticed that all of the G-rated family films available for her kids were mostly about males. So, she commissioned a few studies, and found that, yeah, male characters in family films outnumber female characters by about three to one.

Men make films about men: the Geena Davis Institute also found that 7% of all directors, 13% of all writers, and 20% of all producers are female. (Heck, if you get even one female writer working on a film, screen time for female characters goes up by 10.4%.)

So we’re worried that, with all of that going on in the background, an unconscious requirement for “best film” is that it should be about a man, and that it’ll probably also be directed by a man.

And that, we think, sucks.

Melissa Silverstein over at Women and Hollywood just put together a great petition calling for industry-wide discussions with the leaders of festivals like Cannes about the status of women in film, and we were honoured to sign it.

Marian Evans, at Wellywood Women, wrote a great post about possible solutions to the problem of under-representation of women in film.

The Guardian just re-printed La Barbe’s letter to Cannes, translated from the original French.

Flavourwire just posted a great (but brief) history of women nominated for a Palme d’Or at Cannes.

The Toronto Sun just wrote about it. The BBC’s on the case. Cannes jury member Andrea Arnold told the Telegraph that the situation is a “great pity and a great disappointment.”

Even CTV is reporting about it.

Here’s hoping it works.

If you agree with all this, please sign the petition here.

Noreen Golfman: our woman at Cannes

    Posted on: Monday, May 14th, 2012

Man, oh man, it’s heating up at Cannes.

Though the red carpet hasn’t yet been unrolled, this year’s Cannes Film Festival is already embroiled in controversy. As you may recall, there were no woman-directed films selected to compete for a Palme d’Or this year. And that has many female directors outraged.

An opinion piece that ran this week in the Le Monde, France’s main daily newspaper, calls the festival outright sexist. The article is signed by Baise Moi director Virginie Despentes, filmmaker Coline Serreau and actress Fanny Cottonçon.

“You have worked out how to prevent women from finding a place in this protected environment…,” it reads. “Above all we mustn’t let young girls get the idea that one day they could have the audacity to make a film and climb the steps to the palace on their own merit rather than on the arm of a prince charming.”

They’ve also launched a petition, called Cannes 2012: A Man is a Man, and are planning to protest at the festival wearing fake beards.

So Noreen Golfman, founder of the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival, is on the job. She’ll be over at Cannes from May 16 to May 27 tweeting about all the action. Follow her at @ngolfman and at #SJIWFFinCannes.

Best on-site reporter ever? We sure think so.

What we’re watching

    Posted on: Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

There may not be many female-directed films at Cannes this year, but there are some fantastic female-directed films to watch on Netflix right now.

FISH TANK

Directed by Andrea Arnold, Fish Tank premièred at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. A study in losing innocence and finding yourself, Fish Tank follows 15 year old Mia (Katie Jarvis) as her life is changed forever by the arrival of her mother’s new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender). It’s gripping and intense, and you’ll be glad you put the time in.

It’s on Netflix here.

TINY FURNITURE

Wow. Where do I even begin? First of all, the director, Lena Dunham, is 25. You may have seen or at least read about Girls, her new series on HBO.

I was excited for days after I watched this movie.

Dunham plays the lead role in the film and her character, Aura, is incredibly real. And relateable. To be honest, until I watched this movie, I don’t think I really appreciated how formulaic most young female characters are in popular films.

Though the prevailing opinion amongst savvy female film writers is that it’s horribly gauche and stereotype-enforcing to even mention this, I’m going for it: Aura isn’t really thin and abnormally beautiful. She looks like a normal human being. But unlike, say, Bridget Jones, her non-Hollywod appearance isn’t a focus for her character. There aren’t any, “Oh gosh, I’m fat” conversations; there are no, “Oh, I’d talk to him, but I’m goofy and intimidated because I’m not pretty enough” moments. Aura doesn’t get the guy, and the film doesn’t end with a swooping, gushy, piano-y, “Even girls who aren’t really thin can win!” finale.

Because that’s not what the film is about. THAT’S NOT WHAT MATTERS IN THIS MOVIE. I repeat: THAT’S NOT WHAT MATTERS. In a movie. About young women.

I could have cried with gratitude and relief. Hell, I still might.

This movie is about a young woman who just finished college and has no bloody clue what to do with herself. She’s from a wealthy background, her mother is a mostly detached artist, and she really could do whatever she wanted. If only she could figure out what that was. Or how to do it.

It’s about how, in your mid-twenties, when you’re sorting yourself out as a woman, sometimes no amount of wealth, or cool artist upbringings, or hip lofts, or educated banter can protect you from that dodgy, Cormac McCarthy-reading sous chef who still lives with the girlfriend he’s cheating on. You’ll still sleep with him. And you’ll still be left wondering who you are and why you did that, and what the hell it says about you and the world you’re trying to navigate.

God, I love this movie.

Here’s the Netflix link.

IN A BETTER WORLD

This one brought on tears of a different sort. It’s about two families who are brought together by their sons. One son is bullied at school, and the other, after losing his mother to cancer, is using his unbearable anger to stop the bullying. Directed by Suzanne Bier, it won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2011 Oscars.

I think the film is about the violence, both emotional and physical, we inflict on each other and how it manifests. I spent most of the film sobbing, whispering, “It’s okay! It’s okay!” at most of the characters. But I’m glad I endured the emotional trauma. The story-telling in this movie is incredible. Tough times pile onto the characters, and each situation handicaps how the character copes with the next, but the shit storms hit in exactly the way they hit in real life. So instead of feeling manipulated, I felt humbled and impressed by this film’s exceptional writing.

It’s on Netflix here.

Have recommendations of your own? Post them in the comments below, or fire ‘em off to sarah@womensfilmfestival.com.

All mannes at Cannes

    Posted on: Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

There are no female directors vying for a Palme d’Or at Cannes this year.

There were three women on the nine-person jury — German actress Diane Kruger, British actress and director Andrea Arnold, and French actress Emmanuelle Devos –but of the 22 films selected for the main competition, none were directed by a woman.

Jane Campion has been the only female director to ever win a Palme d’Or at Cannes, for her 1993 film, The Piano. In 2009, which saw three female-directed films in the Cannes main competition, she spoke about the lack of female directors, both in the industry and at Cannes. In 2010, when no female directed-films were selected for the main competition (number of women on the jury: 2), British director Ruth Torjussen organized a petition and called for selection panels to consist of 50 percent women.

In 2011, with four women on the jury, four films in the main competition were directed by women.

In 2012, that number is back down to zero.

We rounded up a few filmmakers to ask them how they felt about this. Below are responses from Jordan Canning, Ingrid Veninger, Justin Simms and Darcy Fitzpatrick.

INGRID VENINGER
“Yesterday, I participated in a Women’s Filmmakers Symposium at the Sarasota Film Festival. Debra Zimmerman, Executive Director of Women Make Movies, kicked us off with the facts we know too well… Women hold positions as producers far more than they do as directors, agencies representing filmmakers are dominated by men, the most powerful film festivals are run by men… and it’s getting worse because the percentage of female directors is going down and the percentage of leading roles for women is going down.

We have to keep making good movies and lots of them, and we will always have to work ten times harder than men, because there are fewer of us at film festivals and in the marketplace. The man beside me just said, “Maybe there were just no good films by women submitted to Cannes this year!” Personally, I would like to know how many films directed by women were submitted to Cannes, in relation to how many films directed by men. Could it be 100:1? Regardless, the issue is complex and it seems to be getting worse because the percentage of female directors is going down, not up. We are a minority in the motion picture industry and whoever thinks it’s only about talent is naive.”

JUSTIN SIMMS
“I was just up at the Writer’s Guild of Canada National Forum and one of the stats that came out of there was that only 32% of the Writers Guild of Canada are female, which I thought was interesting in light of the Cannes situation.

The thing to keep in mind about the Cannes thing, and I’m not excusing it at all, is that the competition selections are highly political insofar as they are highly sought-after and, at Cannes, they really try and put famous filmmakers in there. And, quite frankly, there are just more well-known male filmmakers than female filmmakers.

A common thing that we all see is that there aren’t a lot of great acting parts for women and I think that is because there aren’t enough female writers. Writers will write what they know. So that’s why so many movies are about white guys, because most of the writers are white guys. So the key for getting better acting roles for women is getting more women writing scripts.

And I think that relates to the Cannes situation in that it’s a numbers issue. Even in a civilized and forward country like Canada, 3/4 of the screenwriters are male.

So how do you fix it? Do you put in a quota system? Would filmmakers actually want that? Is it a solvable problem? I don’t know. To a certain extent, I think it’s just the way it is, essentially. But that doesn’t mean that we should pay no attention to it. I think it calls out to us to pay more attention to women filmmakers and women screenwriters, and we’re all responsible for that.”

JORDAN CANNING
“It’s a disappointment, to say the least. Last year’s Cannes lineup had a number of incredible films by women – the utterly singular and stellar Lynne Ramsay, for example – and I find it hard to believe that there was NO work by female filmmakers submitted this year worth including in the competition?! It’s a tricky question – should Cannes have a mandate to program a certain number of films by women? Certainly, in some bizarro extreme hypothetical world when there are literally ZERO films submitted by women (or truly no good ones), then I don’t think a film should be included just because it was directed by a woman. But I do think that festivals like Cannes (and TIFF, Tribeca, Sundance, etc.) are in the unique position of being the first stop for seeing every great new film out there. They have the power to support those films, get them out to the general public, help them find audiences they wouldn’t normally reach. That’s a huge privilege – and a great responsibility – and it’s frustrating that the work of female filmmakers is so often overshadowed or, in this case, completely overlooked.”

DARCY FITZPATRICK
“When I learned that Cannes had managed to overlook women directors completely for Competition in this year’s festival, I decided to take a close look at just what kind of festival Cannes claims itself to be.

Their website is littered with bold statements of noble intent, each of which makes the total lack of female directed films In Competition this year all the more difficult to understand.

You know that thing you do after eating Chinese Food when you read out the fortune from your fortune cookie and you end it with “in bed” and it’s always hilarious? I found myself ending the statements on the Cannes website with a singular statement of my own, but it was never so much funny as confusing.

From Thierry Frémaux, Festival Director:
‘Cannes belongs to each and every one of us who, year after year, from wherever we are and in our own individual way, contributes towards creating it step by step. It is only by constantly analyzing the Festival, adapting its function and encouraging debate about it that we will continue to make it the very best it can be. Cannes must be open to new ideas, while remaining faithful to its past, of course. Diversity can only enrich it. That´s what makes the Festival de Cannes our festival.’

And yet we couldn’t find a single female directed film this year worthy of Competition.

See what I mean? It just doesn’t make any sense. Let’s try it with a few more.

Article 1 from the Official Selection Rules states: ‘The spirit of the Festival de Cannes is one of friendship and universal cooperation. Its aim is to reveal and focus attention on works of quality in order to contribute to the evolution of motion picture arts and to encourage development of the film industry throughout the world.’

And yet we couldn’t find a single female directed film this year worthy of Competition.

Weird, right? How about a couple of items from their FAQ:

‘What is the mission of the Festival de Cannes?
Ever since its creation, the Festival de Cannes has remained faithful to its founding purpose: to draw attention to and raise the profile of films with the aim of contributing towards the development of cinema, boosting the film industry worldwide and celebrating cinema at an international level.’

And yet we couldn’t find a single female directed film this year worthy of Competition.

‘What initiatives has the Festival set up to encourage film production?
The Festival is very keen to discover new talent and act as a springboard for creation. The development of “Cannes Short Film” is just one example of this. A number of initiatives aimed at supporting the talent of the future have already been introduced: the Caméra d’Or is awarded to the best film presented either in the Official Selection, during Directors´ Fortnight or during the Semaine de la Critique.
The Cinéfondation, which serves to showcase new trends in the film industry, screens films from film schools as part of the Official Selection, as well as organising [sic] the Résidence and the Atelier.’

And yet we couldn’t find a single female directed film this year worthy of Competition.

Errr…? Finally, let’s dig into the Festival Press Kit to see what kind of message Cannes is sending out to the media:

‘For what hasn’t and won’t change is the kind of filmmaker that makes Cannes, and not the ephemeral or the froth. In a world that sacrifices everything to what’s superficial, to the new-best-thing, to the lowest common denominator, to the non-debate of ideas through apathy, what counts, what makes us strong, is our passion for cinema and for those who make it: the great auteur filmmakers.
The greatness of Cannes is its ability to bring together and share that very special moment when a film is discovered. A film which, in the blink of an eye, invents, awakens, overwhelms, deifies.’

And yet we couldn’t find a single female directed film this year worthy of Competition.

Is anyone else as confused as I am?

There are 22 films being screened In Competition this year at Cannes. From all that I’ve read on how the festival views and conducts itself, there’s nothing that should preclude the inclusion of a female director in that list. And yet this year there are none.

For everything Cannes has had to say about itself, it seems they still have some explaining to do. Because if you can’t find even one female directed film from around the world to join a list of 22 that you deem worthy of Competition, your intentions might just be in need of reevaluation.”

What do you think? Post your comments below or send them to sarah@womensfilmfestival.com.