October 18, 2011

Where My Girls At?

 I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago with some local film enthusiasts/art house theatre guys. The topic of conversation was the lack of women in the local scene and throughout the world. When I told them that I write and direct, they were ecstatic! But they wanted to know, where are the others? Do they exist? Have they been wiped out by the Lord of Darkness? And it got me thinking. Am I really that rare?

Most of the  women I know in the local industry are either in production or striving to be successful actors. When I worked as a Production Assistant for a reality TV series, I met amazingly talented women who were natural leaders, problem solvers, great writers, and generally, women who get shit done. Awesome right? So why did I hate my life? Well, because we were behind the scenes, locked away in a room in the industrial complex of south Edmonton, working 10 hours a day in an office and bombarded with endless binders of paperwork, release forms, and transcribing. We were all miserable, stressed-out, and surviving on adrenaline and cortisol. Workaholism was encouraged. Burnout, inevitable. I started to realize that production in the film industry is as the kitchen in the home: women are expected to go there and stay there. And they do.

Acting isn't a much better alternative. This industry suffers from a lack of feminine perspective. Thus,  we see the absence of women in our storytelling and the roles available for actresses are often secondary, limited, and flat. I'll never forget the time my casting agent forwarded me the sides for a local production where my options where Slut#1 and Slut#2. True Story. How disappointing. It just makes me so grateful for the productions I have worked on and the wonderful, creative minds I have worked for: Yvonne DuBourdieu, Travis Barton, Galen W.E. Pendleton, Deanna Kayne and James Scott. Thank You, Thank You!! It is a rare luxury!

Actresses really struggle and from what I have witnessed, the women who are becoming successful -particularly in our local theater scene - are the women who are putting on their own productions, writing their own work, and casting themselves. BRAVO!!

If I were ever to have a manifesto, it would be this: if you don't see it, build it.

So I work as an actor when the opportunity arises, I refuse to fill out another daily production report, and I focus on writing to create roles for women with films that are still mainstream, entertaining, but intelligent. So far, so good. My film Truckstop Bloodsuckers has just been awarded funding and will be moving to the next stage of development.

It will be very interesting to see if I can achieve my goals. Working with a female producer is a blessing. Having a female executive at Superchannel wanting a Thelma & Louise-esque vampire film is an absolute joy. But whether I will have the opportunity to tell the women's stories, from birth to final wrap... well here's hoping. I think it's time.

Fear not. Women are out there.

Alison Anders (Gas Food Lodging) Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark, Hurt Locker) Jane Campion (The Piano) Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) Claie Denis (Beau Travail) Mary Harron (American Psycho) Nicole Holofcener (Loving & Amazing) Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!) Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry) Lynn Ramsey (Movern Callar).


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