Tag: Gender

“We Are All Struggling to Swim to the Top…”

“We Are All Struggling to Swim to the Top…”

Yesterday, I had the great blessing of interviewing another fabulous filmmaker with a purpose, the amazing Carlotta Summers.  She has a new project called Butterflies coming out; and, she recently completed a successful Seed and Spark campaign for that project.

Carlotta Summers is an actor, writer, and filmmaker currently based in NYC. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, she holds a degree in theatre with a minor in psychology. She loves using a multitude of elements from her training to create complex characters grounded in realism. She started her acting career performing in a Text Alive performance of Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare Theatre Co., when she was 16. She went on to perform for the Strawberry One Act Festival’s Just Off the Pike and most recently finished a production of Coriolanus, From Man to Dragon. In her spare time she helps with fight choreography, most recently had the honor of working behind the scenes with Evan Cabnet on the Broadway production Therese Raquin.

Carlotta’s passion for film stems from the idea that the power of cinema can change perception, and with this provoke action. She is the President and CEO of Wild Cat Film, LLC. Her hub for all things Carlotta can be found at www.carlotta-summers.com

Carlotta Summers 2

JON MEYERS INTERVIEWS CARLOTTA SUMMERS

JON:     Hi, Carlotta.  Let’s jump right in to this.  We all have our causes, for instance, mine are invisible disabilities and gender equality (particularly when it comes to women in Hollywood) — How did bullying become a subject you wanted to address now?

CARLOTTA:     I have a lot of issues that I am passionate about so it’s hard to pick just one! A few years ago I found that I wasn’t getting too much work in the indie film scene and the roles I was given, were not the ones I ultimately wanted to pursue in my career. So, I decided to start creating my own work. I have always been a writer and freelance filmmaker. At NYU, I focused on crafting theater pieces with my studio, The Experimental Theater Wing. I asked myself, what would I like to tackle first?

Bullying has always been a personal subject for me. I am a biracial woman who was teased consistently throughout grade school for being different. I remember the shooting pain in my stomach every time I went to class and had to face my bullies.  I remember how I felt when being berated in gym class. I think it’s sad when young girls find it necessary to push down other young women, when we are all in the same boat; when we are all struggling to swim to the top. I wanted to create a film that showed, not only some of the things I went through, but the psychology behind bullying so that we can start positive conversations on what we can do to help the victims and solve the issue. I wanted to share what I did to overcome the obstacles that stood in my way, in hopes that some girl will see it and feel empowered.

JON:     I love that.  I’ve had some similar experiences, even as an adult, believe it or not.  I’ve discovered that the only way to move forward is to surround myself with positive people and have positive conversations.  Speaking of positive conversations, you just hit your goal on Seed & Spark.  Tell me a little about that, and how you move forward now.

CARLOTTA:     We are so lucky to have reached our goal! For those who still want to be apart of the journey, feel free to follow us on instagram, twitter and facebook.com! We will be posting updates on these platforms, consistently as we move forward with production!

If anyone wants to contribute separately to the film, but did not have a chance to do so during the campaign, feel free to email us for how to do so.  The short film is a part of a larger feature of the same name.   [ Editor’s Note:  Here is that email:  butterfliesfeaturefilm@gmail.com ]

JON:   Very good.  So Butterflies The Feature is next after Butterflied The Short.   What’s next then after the Butterflies? What does the next 4 or 5 years look like for Carlotta Summers? Anything you specifically would like me to mention?

CARLOTTA:   This is just the beginning. I have secretly — now not so secretly) — been working on another piece, just as long, if not a bit longer then Butterflies. But, I am going to keep that quiet for now.

JON:  Too late

CARLOTTA:   I also have a few short films in the works as well. All will be created through my production company Wild Cat Film and in collaboration with other producers and creatives. If you would like to keep up with what new provocative stories we have in store, as well as casting opportunities, follow or like the Facebook page at WildCatFilm.

JON:  I’ll put a hotlink to the page in that last sentence.  I know we are both crazy busy this week, so I’ll let you get back to your day.  Again, Carlotta, congratulations on hitting your goal for Butterflies on Seed & Spark.  I’ll be posting this on the blog before Wednesday.

CARLOTTA:  Thanks again, looking forward to it!

 

 

Butterflies emerging
(c) Photo provided by Holly Tomlin Photography

SUPPLEMENTAL LINKS PERTAINING TO THIS STORY

 

Featured Photo (at top) Credit: A.J. Wilhelm (http://www.ajwilhelm.com/)

 

 

 

 

TESTING THE JANE TEST

TESTING THE JANE TEST

We all know what the Bechdel test is,  The Bechdel test asks whether a film (or any work of fiction, for that matter) features at least two females who talk to each other about something other than a male.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that on the HAGS Podcast, HAGS co-hosts Riley Rose Critchlow and Nicole Wyland brought up the Jane test during their second episode which centered on INTELLIGENCE.

HAGSnew

What though is the Jane test, and where did it come from?

On twitter, a professional script reader named Ross Putman pulls the introduction of female characters out of screenplays, changes all the characters names to “Jane,” then tweets the description the first time we see them.  Putnam’s findings reveal a superficial focus on a female characters’ looks, and a telling dearth of information about what makes them tick as a person.

Specifically, Putnam examines three things:  1) Does The Introduction Focus on the External Attributes of the Character?  2) Is She a Twenty- or Thirtysomething?  3) Is She Dating Someone Decades Older Than Her?

Here’s where I’m torn:  In RIDING ARISTOTLE, the last feature screenplay I wrote, the protagonist is a female.  It’s 1908, and she is the first female dean of a major university.  The first time we see her, she is splashed in the face when a nearby horse steps in a puddle of water.  So it’s a focus on an external attribute (Rule 1), but it is by no means a sexy description of her physical looks.  Next, she is 37, which would trigger Rule 2.  However, I didn’t write her as 37, to portray her as sexually vibrant, nor anything close to that.  Since she is a fictional character, I wondered what the youngest age that a person could become a dean — and for it still be somewhat believable, but more importantly, remarkable.  The point was she had made amazing achievements in grad school (finishing at 26), then as a professor (five years, making her 31), then as a department head (another 6 years, making her 37) — achievements so large, every step of the way, that they could not be ignored.  She exceled her way up the academic ladder at a time when the odds were stacked against her.  There’s no way THAT’S sexist.  To the contrary, her age is a testament to her advanced abilities.  Lastly, Rule 3 — not only is my protagonist NOT dating an older man, she is married to a much younger man (in 1908, another nod to her independent streak).  On the other hand, I do have an older man chasing her.  Am I guilty of violating Rule 3?  Or am I subverting it, by having my protagonist (SPOILER ALERT) stay loyal to her younger husband?

See what I mean?  A case could be made that my protagonist does not pass the Jane test — but there’s no way my protagonist is anywhere near the same as a lithe Meagan Fox glistening with sweat in her Daisy Dukes in Transformers.  This is not to say that Putnam’s observations are wrong.  I agree with him that there is a problem.  I’m just saying that describing the problem is not as cut-and-dried simple as 1 – 2 – 3.

Clearly there is more to be said about this topic.  This won’t be the last time we discuss the Jane test on this blog.

TODAY IS A GOOD DAY FOR REBEKAH FIESCHI; WILL YOU HELP MAKE TOMORROW EVEN BETTER FOR HER?

TODAY IS A GOOD DAY FOR REBEKAH FIESCHI; WILL YOU HELP MAKE TOMORROW EVEN BETTER FOR HER?

What better day than today to release my interview with Rebekah Fieschi?  Today, Sylphvania Grove, her latest project on Seed & Spark, just passed the $11,000 mark.  (That puts them at 183% of their initial $6,000 goal.)  You can click through to that page on any of the links embedded in this page to see how all that money will be used.  And if you still want to join Rebekah (shown above with Maxine Wanderer who plays the lead, Mycena) on her journey, it is not too late.  As of this writing, there is a little over a week left.

SylvaniaGrove11005

Now,  equally important to the money, is the number of followers they have on that page.  This gives you an opportunity to help them out FOR FREE.  They just surpassed the 350 follower tally — and now we need to help them to get to 500 followers.  We can do this!!!  Again, following them is FREE TO YOU; and yet it unlocks all kinds of promotional assistance for Rebekah on Seed & Spark.  So follow them now — and if you really want to help them even more, share this blog post on facebook, or twitter, or reblog it on your blog.  The more eyeballs that see this plea, the better.

Your reward?  Besides the fact that you have the self-satisfaction of helping a worthy project, I’m also giving you this exclusive interview with Rebekah, right now, as a Thank You…

JON MEYERS INTERVIEWS REBEKAH FIESCHI

Jon:   Hi, Rebekah. Thanks for taking my questions. I think it’s great that five out of six of the characters in Sylphvania Grove are female. What was your inspiration for Mycena? Where does her name come from?

Rebekah:   Hey Jon, of course I am happy to. My inspiration for Mycena first came while baby sitting a lot, witnessing how kids interacted with their parents and how their behavior or even personality would change when they wanted a specific reaction out of them. I also find it fascinating and heart wrenching when a child would question everything they like or dislike, everything that constitute the world they live in and who they are because of comments heard at school. How words of judgement have the power to make them feel vulnerable even in their safe place. Then Mycena’s character evolved as I started to add autobiographical elements such as wanting to always stay true to myself and preserving my integrity while dying to fit in. I think all these are universal feelings, we all want to fit in somewhere and we all want to be ourselves but it makes us vulnerable not to put on a face to confront the world. The word mycena is actually a type of mushroom, I really love the way it sounds and I liked the idea that the name of this 10-year-old character battling not to fit in a mold came from something that has a tendency to grow too fast and is considered unpleasant.

Jon:   Great answer. When I name my characters, I do the same thing. By giving them a unique name which has a significant meaning (sometimes only to myself) it also helps me keep each character’s voice distinct.

Although I do enjoy Wes Anderson and the Coens, all of my other favorite hyphenates are female — Penelope Spheeris, Kat Candler, and Debra Granik, come to mind. (And now you of course ) When I met Kat Candler, she was such a positive force in the room, it literally changed the course of my life. Who are your personal influences, and have you had the pleasure of meeting any of them? If so, what did you take away from those meetings?

Rebekah:   It’s so great that you got to meet an influence of yours and that it had such an impact on you. I love the works of Guillermo Del Toro and Tim Burton because they are such strong visual storytellers and tell the type of stories I want to tell. Unfortunately, very few of my cinematic influences are female, probably because I love genre films so much and that’s the hardest place to find a woman director. Sofia Coppola’s work had a huge impact on my teenage life and I’m still hugely inspired by her aesthetic and poetic way of telling a story. I’ve yet to meet any of the filmmakers that have inspired me, but I would love to meet a woman like Susan Sarandon someday, she always speaks her mind and is not afraid to fight for her beliefs.

Jon:   Another great answer. Thank you. Do you know Dianne Bellino’s The Itching? She’s her own person, of course, but I see Tim Burton influences in her for sure. Check it out here on Vimeo; it’s only 10 minutes.   Haunting and lovely at the same time.

My next question is about you.  Presupposing you can’t have both….     Would you rather be the Big Fish in the Small Pond (get the Big Fish reference?) or helm a blockbuster with no award chatter surrounding it?  Indie darling or Hollywood anomaly?

Rebekah:   I do know The Itching; it’s a wonderful short and I’m a big fan of stop-motion. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

On the big versus small…. hmmm that’s a tough question. Of course I would love to make a movie that’s extremely successful at the box office, it would mean that my film has reached a wider audience and it technically should enable me to make another film. But I feel that if you make movies in Hollywood you lose some artistic freedom, and that a big chunk of your audience only sees your movie as a piece of entertainment they consume, while festivals and the indie world has more respect and interest in the artistic and meaningful aspect of a film. Really, it doesn’t matter much, what I really want is for my films to be seen and for people to feel something when they watch, to connect with the characters and feel invested in the story. I hope that my films will give people the magical feeling I get when I watch a movie I love.

Jon:   Thank you, Rebekah.  Not a week goes by that I don’t think about The Itching.  (Chuckles.)  Now THAT’S an interesting sentence.  Seriously, though, that movie really touched me. I agree with you. I can’t wait to see what Dianne does next.

Speaking of next, once Sylphvania Grove gets made, the “next” for that will be festivals right? Mauvaises Têtes received so many laurels.  I know some of those were from horror festivals, but many were not — since Sylphvania Grove is fantasy, not horror, about what percent overlap do you think you’ll see as far as festival entries? Do you see the success of Mauvaises Têtes helping Sylphvania GroveTell me a little bit about that — possible comparisons and differences for the two films in terms of festival runs.

Rebekah:   Yes, I will be submitting Sylphvania Grove to festivals. I’m hoping it will be even more successful than Mauvaises Têtes, which is a very different movie that targets a different, probably smaller audience (even though some of the audience over lapse). My guess is that it would fit in both genre and regular festivals, but even though I put a lot of research in festivals, it’s always a little bit of a guessing game and you can never know what is going to happen.

Jon:   Thanks.   I’m not surprised that you do put a lot of research into them [the festivals].  It appears you are very thorough about everything you do.

Last question… for this interview anyway.   What’s next for Rebekah Fieschi? After Sylphvania Grove, how will you decide which project to tackle next? I have an ongoing binder of the next five scripts — at least five– I’m going to write, with approximate start and finish dates over the next four years. It changes a little but not much — do you have a similar process? What’s “five years from now” look like to you?

Rebekah:   After Sylphvania Grove, I plan on very quickly getting into pre-production for my first feature film.   It is currently untitled but it is a new turn on the classic gothic haunted house story.   It is a story that is very dear to me — the script is not yet completed but will be by the end of summer.  I have another feature script I am working on but that one is much more expensive to make and I feel I really need the experience of making a feature film before getting it into production. But I love short films and I always have short tales to tell, I hope to be able to shoot a no-budget micro short this fall called The Unvisited, and I have been working on a stop-motion animation short for a year which is a great challenge.  I count on creating it continuously for another year.  It is entitled The Old Man and the Cradle. The next five years look very busy with productions and hard work, and I’m sure they will be full of surprises.

Jon:   All of those sound so cool. Your first feature!!!  Can I name it?  (Chuckles.)  And simultaneously the stop-motion project, on top of everything else? Now THAT’S my kind of ambition!!!

Thank you again for doing this interview, Rebekah. It has been a total pleasure for me to meet you, and learn about you and what makes you tick. I’ll let you know when I post it on the blog.  Thank you one last time, and we’ll talk again, I’m sure.

Rebekah:   Absolutely — it is my pleasure, I’m very happy to have made a new friend and film connection! I can’t wait to see what happens with your scripts!

Jon:   Merci! I can’t wait either. Have a great weekend, Rebekah.

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LINKS
Sylphvania Grove’s Seed & Spark Page — FOLLOW THEM FOR FREE !!!
WHY REBEKAH FIESCHI MATTERS

WHY REBEKAH FIESCHI MATTERS

Before I get sideway glances for touting another Seed & Spark project, let me just say that Rebekah Fieschi ‘s latest project, Sylphvania Grove, has already surpassed 169% of its goal.  Of course, more followers would be great (more followers = more benefits unlocked for the project) — but that’s not the purpose of my blog post this week.  My purpose is to introduce you Rebekah because she has the ability to change the way we see things, as well as the things we see.  I have no doubt she will do both.

Rebekah is an advocate of fair gender representation in filmmaking.  In fact, let me let her tell you in her own words:

“I do not want to be a female filmmaker, I just want to be a filmmaker but I have been thrust into a world in which women are not fairly represented so I’m proud to give nuanced voices to female characters and to be part of the group seeking to transform the industry.”  — Rebekah Fieschi

WHO IS REBEKAH FIESCHI?

Rebekah Fieschi is a New York based writer/director from a tiny island in the south of France who makes peculiar fantasy and gothic horror films through her company Horromance Productions. Her most recent short, Mauvaises Têtes, is an award-winning reinvention of classic Hollywood horror films such as Frankenstein which was well received in film festivals around the world. Her focus is to bring more entertaining, yet layered, character driven gothic horror and fantasy films to the screen. Her career as a storyteller began as a small child, making up elaborate tales to tell her family and friends. This natural talent for make-believe and keen visual imagination, had by age eleven, led her to decide on a directing career. After studying filmmaking in Paris, Rebekah moved to New York in 2010.  Equally important, as I mentioned at the outset, she is also an advocate of fair gender representation in cinema.

In Sylphvania Grove, five of the six characters are female, including the ten-year-old lead, Mycena.  Rebekah and her team want to help empower young girls and contribute to fair gender representation on screen, especially in the fantasy genre. Their writer/director and much of the crew are also women.

SylphvaniaCast

Rebekah explains the lack of female representation in fantasy by stating, “A big reason for the lack of female protagonists in fantasy films is that women are not being hired to direct big budget films and fantasy films typically require larger budgets.”  Rebekah wants to see that change.  She is doing her part to see that it does.
I asked Rebekah why she feels a focus on a young female protagonist is so important to the genre.  She told me:
I remember very strongly that as a kid I wanted to be like a boy and that I felt a sort of shame for being a girl, according to a study recently published in Science girls start believing they are less capable than boys by age six, even though their academic achievements are usually higher. Stories help construct our view of the world and historically in fairy tales, fantasy/adventure movies, books etc. the woman character (if there is one) either has to become a princess or find happiness/be rescued by prince charming or a knight in shining armor. I think it’s important that girls/women don’t have to think of themselves in relationship to boys/men, and that they can have a professional ambition other than becoming a princess. There’s no reason we can’t have female characters that behave the same ways as male characters in movies like The Never Ending Story and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial characters that make decisions and take actions to be in control of their own life. If I can identify with the likes Atreyu, Elliot, Frodo and Harry, I don’t see any reason why boys can’t also identify with girl heroes.
I agree with Rebekah completely, of course.  If you agree with us, put your fingers where your mouth is (ew!) and click over to the Sylphvania Grove page and follow it right now.
Help her get to 500 followers so Seed & Spark will unlock some cool assistance ($9000 worth) for this project.  You can watch a promo clip for it here.  Then watch this blog for excerpts of my upcoming interview with her.
Oh, one more thing,  Rebekah turned me on to this podcast:  PunchFarm Podcast.

I will be blogging about that podcast next.

WHY HAGS MATTER

WHY HAGS MATTER

It’s a podcast, people!!!

As you know, among other things, every week here, I blog about at least one podcast.  Usually it is about an episode of screenwriter John August’s Scriptnotes.  But today, I want to tell you about a brand new podcast I discovered this month.  (Thanks to the women of TeamRAD who put this on my radar.)  In fact, it’s only been around for a month.  New episodes air every Tuesday, so if you start right now, you can get caught up on the back episodes — and it is worth your time to do so.  So, without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, direct your attention to:

HAGS Podcast.

Who are the hosts of HAGS?  From their website:  “HAGS co-hosts Riley Rose Critchlow and Nicole Wyland met on the set of a hit web show and have been creating feminist content together ever since. In 2016, they co-produced a gender-bending parody series called Get Bent, which highlights the way women are portrayed in Hollywood by putting women in the men’s roles and vice versa.”  They have both worked in a variety of positions in the film industry.  More on them at the bottom. 

This week I want to talk about their second episode which centered on INTELLIGENCE.  They discuss, among other things, how intelligence is monetized and commoditized so that a women’s cleverness can be devalued.  The societal value applied to female intelligence is for the benefit of men.  A woman’s intelligence, they argue, is yet just another element of the “full package” making her more attractive to a man.  Rather than say, this education, or her inherent brightness, will serve her well in accomplishing her personal goal, or in serving our planet better, a woman’s intelligence is turned into a commodity for the benefit of the male gaze (well, the male gaze is done by the eyes, so whatever-a-male-brain-does-instead-of-gaze).   And I agree with Riley and Nicole completely — not that their positions need male validation, because they do not.

HAGS

Nicole Wyland (left) and Riley Rose Critchlow (right).

 

I promised more information about these hilarious and insightful feminists.  Here it is, again from their website:

RILEY ROSE CRITCHLOW – HOST

Riley grew up on a small island in Maine, moving to Los Angeles to pursue a BFA in Acting from USC’s School of Dramatic Arts. After graduating, Riley founded sketch comedy troupe Bowling for Tiffany, whose content caught the eye of Funny or Die, Tosh.0 and Discovery. Out of BFT, Riley and fellow comedian, Daniel Montgomery, formed comedy duo Mary-Kate and Ashtray. MKA recently performed at SF Sketchfest and has a pilot slated for completion later this year. Riley has appeared mostly as criminals on such television shows as Southland, Rizzoli & Isles and Marcia Clark’s pilot, Guilt By Association. She is also the lead of Julia Max’s film, Distortion, which is currently touring college campuses as a cornerstone of the Obama/Biden “It’s On Us” campaign to end sexual assault.

NICOLE WYLAND – HOST

Nicole is an actress, writer, and vocalist.  A native of Eighty Four, Pennsylvania, Nicole received her degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Pittsburgh before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film. She is known for viral videos like freddiew’s “Flower Warfare” which has over 15,000,000 views online. In addition to playing Moriarty on the critically acclaimed webseries Video Game High School,  Nicole writes and performs sketch comedy for her own YouTube channel.  Her parody Lady Gaga music video has been viewed over 12,000 times. Nicole also owns her own production company, Verdant Pine Productions, and is looking forward to producing her first feature later this year.

Next week, I will revisit this same episode, because I want to dig deeper into their discussion of the Jane test for scripts.  (Not the Bechdel test, the Jane test.)  What is the Jane test, and what do I think about it?  You’ll have to come back here next week!