I recently had the pleasure of guest-blogging for Alexia Anastasio – the award winning documentary filmmaker of “Plymptoons”. Alexia is truly an inspiring filmmaker – check our her work at www.AlexiaAnastasio.com. Thought I’d share the blog here with all of you.
“An Open Letter to Young Indie Female Directors”
In a recent article on Film Annex, Eren Gulfidan said, “To me, the question is more about whether women are able to make the movies they want to make. It’s not whether they are winning an Oscar or not. The minute a woman is able to tell the story she wants to tell and reach her audience is the real accomplishment.”
To the generation of female directors who are just now stepping behind the camera – Your stories are important, we want to hear them. There are so many opportunities and avenues for you to make your own films: please seek them out and don’t be afraid of your own vision. For 20 years, I’ve been directing and creating and dreaming and failing and succeeding. Below are a few things I’ve learned, and when I look back things that have made me the happiest and the most proud as a female director. I hope they will inspire you.
1. Risk it all. There is – really – nothing to lose. You trust yourself and you will take care of yourself. If you try something and don’t like it, next time out, you’ll try something else. This is how to find your voice. And along the way something will inevitably pop up, bite you on the ass and turn you in a whole new direction. I call it ” ambush inspiration.”
2. Making it look slick? That’s the easy part – every one comes out of film school knowing how to make a good-looking film. Now tell us an honest story. How do you see the world? It doesn’t have to be in a three act structure, it doesn’t have to be in color, it doesn’t have to be on 1080p. Tell it to me like you see it. If it’s interesting to you, chances are, it will be interesting to someone else. These are the films that will form your legacy and define you as a director.
3. Every woman has the right to live a creative life. Support a woman in her endeavor to express herself as she sees fit. It doesn’t matter what her politics are, it doesn’t matter what genre she’s working in, it doesn’t matter if her film is one minute or one hundred minutes long – what matters the most is that it’s her own unique voice and she took the opportunity to speak. And her doing that will spark something inside you – whether in agreement or not, and then it’s your turn.
4. Support women filmmakers in this country and all over the world. Support the women who have the same desire, ambition and talent that you do, but not the resources. Giving resources to women from all cultures and walks of life will only make our chosen medium of storytelling that much stronger and powerful.
5. Lift your head, put your shoulders back – and do the same for a man. We are equals, not rivals.
6. You can make your own money and your own decisions. Crowd-source and fundraise to make the film, and put the finished project on an online platform that helps you generate revenue. A large part of the beauty of indie-filmmaking is being able to hold on to your artistic choices. You don’t have to create a film with “someone’s else’s eye behind the lens”, unless you give them permission to be there. And if you do decide to work on a film that is not yours, make sure you believe in it enough to take it away from your own project. This is what you expect from people working on your film, this is what you should give on someone else’s.
7. Have the confidence to direct and make decisions. If someone in your cast or crew is undermining you, they can stop or get their lunch from a different truck. Cast and crew should believe in the project and in your ability to helm it – that’s the core of collaboration and respect. There are plenty of talented people out there, keep working with the ones you like, and treat them well. Now, there will be times when you’ll feel Obligated to do something instead of Inspired – I’m going through that right now – but every project has its purpose, even if it’s “I’m never going to do this again”. Don’t beat yourself up – be professional, follow the idea through to completion, then move on.
8. You’re out of film school now, start acting like it. Stop the brainy-over analyzing and criticism of every filmmaker on the planet, and for godsakes don’t post it to Facebook. It’s a bore. What I do want to hear is what you like, what inspires you, and what creative thoughts and risks you’re thinking about for your next film. It will take a good 10 years (probably more) before you feel comfortable in your artistic skin as a director – so strap in.
9. Don’t give up. Don’t stop making movies. Even if you have to do it on your evenings and weekends after work. If you’re like me and you’ve been walking around since you were 4 announcing you were going to be a film director, why stop at 40 because you haven’t won an Oscar, or been paid a million dollars? Make them until you’re 101 and can no longer lift the megaphone to call “action” – then hire an assistant to do that, and keep making movies. Because that’s how it should be. You should never have to stop something you love.
10. If you like your film – that counts for a lot. You know what works and what doesn’t according to your own perspective. Please don’t spend too much time wondering what others have said about it – easier said than done, I know. I once tucked away a film I really loved because I found out that the author of the source material didn’t like it. That’s a big one – I wanted to please her, I was crushed. I worked honestly, felt I had respected the material and then she dissed it. So I hid it – until I was asked to show it at a small convention. I did so and cringed the entire time, finding everything wrong with it. The next day, 9 people came up to me to tell me how much they loved the film, had found it posted on Vimeo and sent it to their friends. Lesson learned: don’t let other people’s shit get in the way of having pride in your work or confidence in your artistic choices.
11. And finally – Thank You. For all the women directors that have come before, and all the one’s that will come up behind you, Thank you. You carry on a wonderful tradition. You are brave enough to take charge and share your story. And the audiences in your screening are just a small fraction of who you will affect with your films. Generations after you’re gone, your films will remain and your stories will continue to tell themselves. And that is a beautiful thing to leave behind.