Filmmaker Snapshots: Kate Montgomery

Fast Facts: Kate Montgomery


IMG_8870.JPG.jpegCinematographer, Writer

Current project: CHRISTINE

Recent work: An untitled project with the late actor Martin Landau

You might have seen her: Premiering CHRISTINE at OutFest LA or WINNING Best Short Film in the Women in Film & Television Atlanta Short Film Showcase

Based in: New York

Spends summers: In Bronxville. Kate has worked as an instructor during IFI’s Five-Week Summer Filmmaking Intensive held at Sarah Lawrence College. The program is designed to completely immerse students into the filmmaking process, from screenwriting to post-production. In 2017, Kate taught IFI’s Camera Tech course.

See below for a trailer of CHRISTINE:

With the help of her best friend, Christine redefines her perception of strength and what it means to be herself.

Written and Shot by Kate Montgomery
Directed by Jessica Adler
Produced by Stephanie Serra of Triserratops Productions

 

👋 Thanks for getting to know IFI.


The elements of a successful movie have remained constant since the inception of the art form. The International Film Institute of New York (IFI) was founded in 1997 to provide those with a sincere and abiding interest in filmmaking with a high-quality, low-cost education in all aspects of the filmmaking process: screenwriting, directing, producing, cinematography, and editing in a curriculum combining classroom instruction and hands-on technical workshops. http://www.nyfilmschool.com 

 

From 50% to 4%: A Virtual Roundtable on the Drop-Off of Women Working in the Film Industry

What Happens to Women Between Film School to the Film Set?

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The disparity between how much women and men are paid in the film industry is no secret. Patricia Arquette’s clarion call for wage equality at the 2015 Academy Awards and Jennifer Lawrence’s viral essay later that year about being paid less than her male co-stars brought the gender pay gap in Hollywood out of the shadows and into the klieg lights. And last year, Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions was behind a docu-series on women in film that went behind the scenes to highlight the lack of women on the other side of the camera. The title of “The 4%: Film’s Gender Problem,” a collection of short films directed by Caroline Suh on the dearth of female directors in Hollywood, references a discouraging statistic: Only 4 percent of top-grossing movies over the past 13 years have been directed by women.

This year, an annual academic research report on the number of women in film revealed that in 2016, women working on the top 250 domestic grossing films declined 2 percent from the prior year, with women comprising 17 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers. Among that group women accounted for just 7 percent in the coveted director’s chair, down 2 percentage points from 9 percent in 2015. And among the top 100 domestic grossing films, an even smaller circle, that exclusive girls’ club within the boys’ club shrank even further with just 4 percent of higher echelon titles helmed by a woman, down from 7 percent in 2015.

Meanwhile, nearly 50 percent of students at some of the nation’s top graduate film schools are women. So what happens after graduation to account for this gaping disconnect? This Women’s History Month, IFI reached out to professor Kate Hearst, who specializes in teaching gender, race and sexuality in film, after polling six current female graduate and undergraduate film students at programs across the globe to create a virtual roundtable on women in film.

“The women interviewed were very articulate about their film school experience,” Hearst says. “Their classes were usually half men, half women but often the male voices were heard more than their voices so I think that they start in film school already feeling the pressure of being a woman in a male environment.

“I was in film school in the ‘90s and the class was made up of 50 percent women and men, we were all given the same opportunities, and we all had successes in film school, men and women,” Hearst recalls. “And then getting those jobs in the industry afterward that was really the stopgap for being successful in filmmaking. What I’m hearing is a lot of the same story today, and of course the statistics bear that out.”

Here are the fascinating, inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking thoughts on being a woman in film that we heard from the women who are poised to lead the film industry of the future:

[Out of respect for our respondents, IFI has omitted their last names’ and schools to protect their identities while they continue to study in their respective programs.]

 

How competitive is your program?

“It is the #1 film school in the country, according to The Hollywood Reporter.” — Lina, MFA candidate with a concentration on directing.

The film program is very competitive. Not only is it difficult to get in – within the program there is a lot of competition. Peers are often competing for allotments, internships and other opportunities.” — Kristi, film and television undergraduate student

“It’s not super competitive because it’s so small, not a true “film school,” so it’s self-directed; opportunities are limited if you don’t surround yourself with the right people.” — Alisha, film, black and women’s studies, undergraduate.

“It is very competitive. Every year, senior theses are limited in numbers and students try really hard to stand out both in class and at office hours to have the opportunity to shoot a short film.” — Tiffany, undergraduate majoring in film with a certificate in writing.

There’s definitely a lot of competition to get into Cinema Studies classes, because there’s not a whole lot of them in comparison to some of the other departments (like English) and I think there’s a lot of people that are interested in at least dabbling in it.” — Juliette (Jules), English and Cinema Studies double major undergraduate.

The program is reasonably new – I am in the second year it has run. The students are hand selected by our heads of program, and out of hundreds of applicants, only up to 30 are chosen. I graduated from The Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts in December, 2012. I then moved to California to work the film industry from January 2013 to August, 2015, after which I decided to go back to school to refine my business skills for producing.” — Courtney, master’s student and MA International Film Business (MAIFB) London.

 

What would you say is the ratio of men to women in your program?

“I am not certain, but for my semester, I think fairly even.” — Lina

“In the school overall, the ratio of men to women is more or less equal. Certain classes I have taken, however, had an uneven ratio. I was the only woman in my directing class.” — Kristi

“Maybe 2:1 because the school’s population has more girls than boys. Also, not everyone falls into the gender binary so they don’t identify as either. Regardless, the loudest voices are boys. It’s a boy’s club and a lot of the women aren’t heard or seen.” — Alisha

“I actually counted the number of males and females in my lecture class because I noticed there was a large disparity. The ratio is roughly two-thirds men and only one-third women.” Tiffany

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that women have actually been the majority in many Cinema Studies classes – I would say it’s something upwards of 8 women to 1 man, which is huge. I wonder why that is? I’m not complaining though, I love it!” — Jules

“Our class is rather unique in the sense that it is majority women. We have five men (truth be told – they love it). This is the first time I have ever been in a film-related program that there is a higher ratio of women to men.” — Courtney

 

Would you consider your program fair to aspiring female filmmakers?

“I personally have not experienced difficulty because of being female in the program.” — Lina

“Yes and no. The program itself does not overtly offer any benefits to male students – but the majority of professors are men and they often favor the boys. I have talked to many women in my program who have had the experience of a male teacher failing to take them seriously or being sexually inappropriate.” — Kristi

“If you know what you’re doing, yes, in a way. I think more things should be done to make sure that females aren’t being left out of decisions. Sadly, it’s preparing us for the industry that we’re about to enter.” — Alisha

“The film program offers equal opportunities, regardless of gender. However, I find that more males apply for the major than females.” — Tiffany

“I would say that my professors are extremely encouraging – both in my undergraduate and in my masters. They do not differentiate between male or female in the classroom and are generally unbiased in their lessons. While this is an excellent approach, I think it is still important for students who have never worked in film to understand there is a gap in the industry – and across almost all industries – between women and men. It is a major problem that women are still earning less than men. You can’t ignore the problem, but fortunately there are people who are coming out of the woodwork to discuss instigating change.” — Courtney

 

Do you have any mentors / teachers that have inspired you to make a difference (in the disparity of women in film)?

“Absolutely. I have had a couple of writing and production teachers with whom I have had close personal relationships. They provided me with invaluable career advice They were also extremely encouraging to me and inspired me to believe in my own abilities. One of my professors was an incredible role model and inspired me to continue my pursuit of directing even though it is a male-dominated field.” — Kristi

“Yes, but indirectly. Through my women’s and black studies, I’ve had teachers who have shown me that I can be in film through their curriculum. Also my first year studies teacher, although a man, has helped me greatly with making the right moves with the politics of the film department. He’s also helped put my name out there and telling me that my ideas that have to do with race and gender aren’t crazy. Between my teachers and the girls that I do meet in the department, hearing their stories and watching their film always pushes me forward. Gives me some inspiration.” — Alisha

“I owe so much to Dr. Ana Maria Trenchi Bottazzi, my past piano teacher, and Mrs. Margaret Gullotta, my middle and high school orchestra teacher. They were perhaps the strictest and most demanding teachers I’ve ever had. They pushed me to perform in front of large audiences and taught me how to keep an audience’s attention, and keep a rhythm. But most importantly, they showed me that I can conquer any piece of music or task if I dedicated enough time and effort. I wouldn’t be allowed to leave class until I performed a song “five times perfect” in a row. The skills I learned from my music teacher, both in technique, work ethics, and perception of difficulty have had a huge impact on my pursuit in filmmaking.” — Tiffany

“I took a Chinese Literature and Film class my first semester, and I was surprised to see how much I already knew about Chinese cinema just having grown up in a Chinese-American household. For example, I didn’t realize how familiar I was with Zhang Yimou’s work before I even began the class until my professor started listing his filmography.I would say she was instrumental in my fairly newfound identity as a female Chinese American filmmaker (quite a mouthful to say), especially when she sponsored my independent Winter Term project where I wrote my first feature length screenplay. She’s encouraged me a lot, especially with my writing, which made me really happy because thinking back on it, that screenplay was a wacky combination of a lot of things I like.” — Jules

“All of my teachers have been inspiring, in different ways. The benefit of my program is that you have many guest lectures attend the classes. One of the best lectures we had was with Anna Godas who is the CEO of Dogwoof, a documentary distribution and sales company. She and her husband started Dogwoof in 2005, and have since grown it to host some of the top documentaries, such as Blackfish and Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Where to Invade Next? She is a go-getter, and extremely inspiring. Tough, no nonsense and clear about what she wants and how she wants it.” — Courtney

 

How has your experience in school prepared you for the real world?

“I think that’s one important aspect that the school is not as strong in preparing the students for. I graduated from undergrad in New York, and struggled for a few years afterward doing odd jobs while writing. If I didn’t have that experience of learning how tough it is to get ahead in the industry, I wouldn’t know now that I have to really start preparing and involving myself in the “real world” while I’m still in school and not wait until after I graduate.” — Lina

“It’s hard to say whether the school has prepared me for the real world when I haven’t experienced the real world yet! I have learned a lot about how to work with difficult people and work under them when they are authority figures. On a more positive note, however, I have learned the joy of collaboration at its best and I had the opportunity to learn a lot about the industry.” — Kristi

“I believe so. Even though it’s hard and definitely limiting because of marginalization but that made me try harder. In an industry that doesn’t have a very big female or of color population, you have to make your own opportunities. And if you don’t have the funding for that, put yourself out there, work hard and show that you can do anything that boys can do. Not just in film but even at food service job, I had to learn how to be assertive and fearless in regards to business and my worth.” — Alisha

During our Film Major orientation, the professors explicitly stated they had zero tolerance for tardiness because in the film industry, time is everything. The professors promptly lock the doors when class starts and drop students who are late or absent. Unfortunately, I have witnessed more than one classmate who was dropped from the course due to an absence. Although these are tough expectations, I have definitely noticed that I prioritize meeting deadlines and showing up on time. I believe that this practice provides great training and time management skills for any career.” — Tiffany

“I’m not sure yet! I think it’s definitely taught me how to be more independent in pursuing my own projects. It’s like that Yoda quote, “Do or do not. There is no ‘try.'” — Jules

“In any industry, you learn “on the go”. Film is no different, and while Florida State provided an outstanding education, there is no way a university can prepare you for all of the challenges in the film industry. I was spoiled in my world view – that all was fair and equal – and once I had started to work, I learned quite a few tough lessons. Someone can tell you the industry is tough, but you never truly believe it until you’re working full time…It is now almost the end of my course here in, and I cannot believe the change I’ve experienced in myself and also my approach to work. While I lived in LA, I felt a bit shy even though I had acquired state of the art production skills. What I missed was how to connect my skills with the real world of actually making a film. I talked about what I wanted to do, but I did not know how to actualize it. I suppose it is age and experience as well as a learning curve, but since being in the MAIFB, my confidence has soared and I can now boast that I have produced a short film in London and am currently working on two documentaries. I have also been signed on as a producer on a competition commercial. It provided me with the ‘missing link’ between my skills and how to implement them.” — Courtney

 

What is the biggest challenge you are facing as you continue to pursue your film career?

Money. It’s not easy to find money for your films, especially for newer filmmakers. I’ll have to prove my ability to tell a story and somehow gain the trust that I can deliver a good film – without much money.” — Lina

“I think my biggest challenge when it comes to entering the film industry is accepting the uncertainty of my career path. It can be very stressful when you are not able to have a solid plan for your career. It can be even more anxiety-inducing when you are starting out with very few connections in the industry.” — Kristi

“My biggest challenge is not allowing people to take advantage. I had one awful experience this year with a bad film set ran by guys who were taking advantage. The biggest challenge for anyone is knowing when to walk away and not being afraid of doing so. But that comes with knowing your worth and who you want to be known as.” — Alisha

“Personally, and this isn’t a huge problem at all, but still one that bothers me, is the comparisons I often get to Lena Dunham because we are both women in the industry that went to the same school and are from New York. It’s not that I dislike Lena, I admire the fact that she made Tiny Furniture all on her own, it’s just that her work is very different than mine and I don’t want to be pigeonholed on the basis of my alma mater. I think this may speak to a larger issue at hand with women in this industry. Because there’s so few of us that are super well known in mainstream consciousness, if an upcoming filmmaker has any similarities to an already established artist, the younger one might get labeled as being “the next ______,” which is frustrating because then she’s not given any room for her work to speak for itself!” — Jules

 

What will be the most challenging aspect of entering the film industry for you?

“Pushing back against doubts about my ability, and figuring out how to rise among the amount of massively talented people in the industry.” — Lina

“What I should be putting out there, honestly. Anyone a part of an oppressed group, whether it be race, gender or sexuality, there’s pressure to make all your art about that. I’m sure it’s expected from you later on in the actual industry but right now I feel like I have to be taking a stance with my art. It’s strange how white cis male issues are just stories and ours are political stances. I see my fellow male filmmaker aspirers making very mundane things with no point and I wish I had that luxury but I feel that everything that I put out needs to have purpose because how many opportunities will I actually get? I can’t waste it.” — Alisha

“I am the first in my family to venture into a career related to the arts. I don’t have a specific path or person to help me enter the film industry. Its a scary venture but I hope that with hard work, I will come to meet the right people and opportunities to help me earn a career in film.” — Tiffany

“I feel like it’s all networking, networking, networking and you either “know people” or you don’t…Also I’m very conscious of the fact that I’m an Asian American, and that my community is severely underrepresented in Hollywood, so I just have to be very conscious that I have that going on as well as my female identity, which totally shouldn’t be seen as a challenge, but unfortunately is.” — Jules

 

What would you do to change the tide of the lack of diversity in the film industry as it relates to Women?

“A lot of the same things we’ve been hearing. Make more characters in scripts to be women. Employ more women directors and writers. It sounds so simple but it’s not being done quite enough. Also making sure that women speak up more, not only in the public space, but in meetings and on an everyday basis. We can’t say that one thing will change the lack of diversity because the problem is at a root level of how girls AND boys are told they need to behave early on, but it’s also at the adult systemic level.” — Lina

“On a personal level, I would try to make sure to support fellow female filmmakers instead of seeing them as competition. If female filmmakers work together instead of against each other, I believe it can make a real difference. And I would tell a female filmmaker looking in to film school to remember to be assertive about networking in school. It is easy to become discouraged or insecure when you’re in classes with confident and connected male filmmakers who do not take you seriously or acknowledge you as an equal. It is important to continue to believe in yourself even when this happens. I would also tell her to challenge herself to do classes or internships that scare her. It is empowering and helps you expand your knowledge of film and the entertainment industry.” — Kristi

“By creating things and bringing them to fruition. If I hadn’t seen Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham, and Beyonce’s work all these years I wouldn’t have kept going. All of these women have worked so hard and believed in their talent and are killing it. For me it takes seeing one other girl in a room filled with men to keep me in the room without feeling anxious. Having conversations with women who are upperclassmen at my school does it for me. Knowing that it is possible does a lot in itself. Making conversation is important but just grinding is also beneficial because you’re aspiring another girl who doesn’t think she can do it.” — Alisha

“I would start at the undergraduate level and encourage male and female filmmakers to work together. During our production course, film crews changed every week. I got to work with a lot of students I’d never talked to before and made really great friendships. After the class, several of them reached out to me and asked if I could help on their theses. I think these team projects offer a great opportunity for women to show that their work abilities overshadow their gender. In the end, people want to make films with other skilled and compatible individuals. I think if we work to encourage male and female collaborations within a new generation of filmmakers, we will definitely see more female presence in the film industry’s future.” — Tiffany

“One thing I am so, so frustrated with seeing is badly written women. I mean, without naming names, I saw this movie the other day with a cast made up of some of my favorite actors that was written by a very famous male novelist, and the script’s treatment of its female characters made me both gag and laugh at the same time because of how ridiculous and out of touch it was. I think some of my goals as a filmmaker are to use my voice as a woman to create characters that are much closer to how women are in real life, which is a total spectrum with no specific features other than that women are very complicated! As an Asian American woman, I would like to help put an end to the “dragon lady” stereotype I see on the screen all the time, because that’s been a trope that’s haunted Asian women since the time of Anna May Wong, and that’s really messed up. To speak further about my Asian American background, I would also like to create stories about cultural differences across generations pertaining to Asian American women that my mother told me all about when I was growing up. There’s a lot of conflict there that is never really spoken about or explored, and I think it’s time America gets its own Bend it Like Beckham.” — Jules

“I think the best example of a community changing gender equality is in Sweden, where the gender gap has been forcibly closed by the head of the Swedish Film Institute. Anna Serner has completely changed the funding strategy and promotional aspects of the institute to allow for more female directors to receive money and publicity. It is now 50/50 female to male directors, to exceptional international acclaim – the female directors are pulling in money and fame to the industry. This change was not without major controversy, but Serner kept pushing to make the change. She believes that change is easily done, if you have the drive. She is the perfect example of a strong female CEO championing our cause. I think there is a lot to take away from The Swedish Film Institute – by forcing the change to take place, Serner has allowed female filmmakers who may never have had the opportunity in the past to receive funding and exposure, finally get in the limelight. She changed the dialogue and that is what I am attempting to do within my small pocket of the industry.

I believe we often allow the stereotype to continue because we are too afraid to stand up and say, hey, I can do that. Or, I don’t like how you’ve described the female in this script. Or, why don’t we think about making the lead a woman? By changing how we approach these issues, by encouraging strong, non-sexualized roles for women in film, we can actually inspire generations to not “see” gender, but rather, see opportunities.” — Courtney

 

What advice would you give to an aspiring woman filmmaker looking into film school?

“Be the woman that you are, and have confidence in yourself. Always strive to get better at your craft. Don’t feel like you are in competition with other women because there are so few spots for women. Make more spots for women. Encourage your fellow female filmmakers to grow, and grow with them. Collaborate with people – men and women. Hone your craft so that it is legitimately competitive so that you know you deserve your dream job. Yes, there is pushback and doubt and sexism, but don’t let that be your excuse not to become the best so when it comes time to fight for that job, you truly, truly do deserve it. Then make yourself heard.” — Lina

“Don’t beg to be on any guy’s sets. Obviously work on their sets but if you feel like a quota or like your ideas aren’t being heard, get out. Get your own set, which is easier said than done, but if you have an idea go for it. It’ll take time but no girl should ever feel like she’s there for vanity purposes or for someone to save face.” — Alisha

I would tell them to only focus on their own work, work hard, watch A LOT of movies, and improve on their craft. Do not feel intimidated by those who appear to have more experience because no one starts as an expert.” — Tiffany

“During my time as an undergraduate, I did not fully realize how important a network was. I began to focus on honing the art of networking and negotiating when I went to Sundance Film Festival in 2013. There, I was essentially tossed into the world of deal-making and selling. I loved it. Needless to say, networking is an ESSENTIAL aspect of our industry. If you have the opportunity to attend a major festival, TAKE IT. Your mind will be blown, you’ll have a blast, and it will benefit you greatly. In a class I took with Sandy Stern, Producer of Being John Malkovich, in Los Angeles, Sandy said something I will never forget – “If you get a party invite, GO. Never turn down a party in LA.” Take his advice. Parties are to the film industry like golf is to conventional business – a place where deals get made.” — Courtney

 

What area of filmmaking do you see the most opportunity for women to step into/have more of a presence in?

“We need to see more women writers, directors and cinematographers.” — Lina

“Producing. You have some say and it’s a pretty fun job where guys actually listen to you. I don’t think that there should be one area though, make space in the room for yourself. If you want to be on the cinematography side, which in my opinion is the most male dominated, then go for it. — Alisha

“I think there is room for a larger female presence in the fields of directing and cinematography.” — Kristi

“I think everywhere! Lately I’ve been hearing a lot from women cinematographers in articles on Indiewire. Cinematography has a woeful number of women, but those that are already there are speaking up and so I feel really optimistic about the future of female DP’s. Also I’ve noticed lots of women editors too, and I’ve watched them get nominated and win Oscars for their work, so editing is also an area I see a lot of potential in for women as well, since it seems that a lot of ground has been broken already. It’s also been very exciting to see actresses such as Angelina Jolie, Jessica Chastain, and Katie Holmes stepping into directors’ seats or starting their own production companies supporting female voices.” — Jules

“Women can be ANYTHING they want. I know female cinematographers, editors, camera operators, ACs, sound, et cetera. There are some physical restrictions to certain roles, but if you want to do it, then DO IT. For example, don’t let someone telling you “You’re a woman – you don’t have much upper body strength” prevent you from pursuing that dream position of a gaffer.” — Courtney

 

Do you see a divide between men and women in the film industry? How so?

“Absolutely. There are more male directors, male cinematographers, male writers, male producers, etc. … Oftentimes, they get paid more, and they are trusted more to do the job. There are prejudices that they don’t even realize they have about how a woman thinks or sees or what her taste is. Once a gentleman of an actor that I was directing, started tiptoeing with his words as we discussed his character, and I told him politely but pointedly, “Don’t talk to me like I’m a woman. Talk to me like a person.” That’s a terrible thing to have to say in order for him to see what he was doing. But then we started having more open discussions.” — Lina

“Yes. I see the industry as a boy’s club. Even when Noah Baumbach came to my school (it was my first time seeing a real film set), his set was full of men. I see lack of opportunities but more strides are being taken and that’s all that really can be done.” — Alisha

There is such a huge divide between male and female directors. I don’t think I’ve seen a single action or superhero movie directed by a woman. It is also a shame that the first and only female to win “Best Director” at the Academy Awards happened only a few years ago. I think women are capable to take on the heavy role as director and it would be fantastic to see studios and producers give larger projects for women to direct.” — Tiffany

“I feel like the divide has been pretty much created by a lot of man dudes on set that feel weird about being directed by a woman. They thus treat women on set differently, and automatically gender things with the way that they talk to them. I feel like women are just trying to live and do what we love to do, it’s just that we’re doing so in an industry that still can’t completely wrap its head around the presence of women on film sets yet. Also it’s really upsetting to see the ways that some actresses have been mistreated by male directors that it’s no wonder the industry has been so cold to women over the years. In a way, I also hope that that’s generational. It’s strange to me, because over the last few years that I’ve been making movies, I’ve almost always been “in charge” of crews made mostly up of teenage boys, and my “authority” or “vision” has never been questioned, probably because we were operating under the pretense that I knew the most about filmmaking, so I was in possession of the “key of knowledge,” so to speak. It’s also made me wonder if it’s because my physical self/presence isn’t extremely feminine, like say Kim Kardashian or something, or if it’s because I was a tomboy in elementary school and have always been friends with lots of dudes. I think it will be interesting to see how this pans out for me in the future. That said, I do feel that there’s some male directors that really understand and empathize with the struggles that women filmmakers face in the industry, like Steve McQueen. It’s guys like him that me think that there isn’t always such a divide, because he clearly understands the situation and acknowledges that it is a problem! Perhaps the divide is strangely stratified in that respect.” — Jules

“There is an epidemic within the female community, and I have personally experienced it, with the glass ceiling. For some reason, some women (men too, with each other) decide to hold their fellow female back. The glass ceiling shouldn’t exist, but it does, and it’s important to be aware of it. A key element of the glass ceiling however is ‘giving into it’. If you believe in yourself and do not get discouraged by external forces, then you have won more than half the battle against it.

I’ve worked at one company that basically promoted the glass ceiling, and worked at another that broke it. The company and my boss, a female Executive Director, was exceptional at providing equal opportunities for men and women in the office. I don’t think I’ll ever find a place that open minded, accepting and, overall, pleasant place to work.

With the divide in mind, however, I do not believe men and women are the same. Men and women, just from person to person, have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, on a physical level, I know I am not as strong as my male counterpart on set on the grip team. That doesn’t mean I can’t reach his physical level – it just means I have to work extra hard to achieve that strength. Apply that to anything, and you’ll see you can change the divide.

Sometimes you need to accept that people are different, and not see something that isn’t there. Maybe a man is hired into a position you wanted. Do not just automatically assume it’s because you’re a woman that you did not receive the job. That kind of thinking is actually what holds us back – assuming the role of the victim. Don’t be a victim – be a champion.” — Courtney

 

In your experience, do you believe men and women in film are compensated equally for the same job?

In my undergraduate film studies experience, I don’t really see gender have an impact on the reception of their work. There was one incident where a male colleague was surprised I could carry all the film equipment. But there were no negative feelings. Unfortunately, I believe many people in the workplace still perceive men as a stronger and more capable candidate and bias is prevalent.” — Tiffany

“I am not sure yet, because I’ve always been paid to work as a one-woman crew, or I’ve compensated actors I’ve worked with with equal amounts of pizza. But the preexisting wage gap does make me fear that there is lots of wage inequality that my female peers are experiencing.” — Jules

“Absolutely not. We all remember Patricia Arquette standing up at the Oscars after winning Best Supporting Actress for Boyhood and insisting we fix the gender gap in Hollywood. I know I do. The statistics are shocking, but finally actresses and female members of the film community are coming out, discussing the problem. The ultimate question is, however, what can we do to change this? We could adopt the ideals showcased by Anna Serner in Sweden and force the pay gap change. This has been successful, but not without controversy. But really, what we, as women in a sexist industry need to do, is stand up for ourselves.

In my opinion, it is often women that are allowing the gap and discrimination to continue due to fear. Women need to change their attitudes to their communities and lives. We are not on the planet as “extras” to our male counterparts. We aren’t “borrowing” the space we occupy. It’s ours – we own it.

I think Jennifer Lawrence articulated her reaction to the pay gap she experienced on American Hustle perfectly. She was not angry at the company for doing what they have always done – sticking to their standard, learned practices. She was mad at herself for not realising her own self worth and negotiating. I believe the only way we can really change the approach to the gender gap in film is to accept that we, as women, as humans, have worth. That we can provide the same, if not more, than others around us. We are special and we have a lot to offer.

So, with this in mind, start studying up, ladies, because the only way we can make change is if we acknowledge the issue and take responsibility. To quote the 1968 slogan for Virginia Slims, “We’ve come a long way baby”, but, there is still more change to go.” — Courtney

Book-to-Movie: How To Successfully Adapt Novels into Screenplays

“Boil down the story to its very essence and think how it can be reborn in the new form.”

Today, we sat down with International Film Institute of New York‘s friend, screenwriter and producer Frederic Richter to learn more about adapting novels into screenplays. We wanted to know how to approach this task, what tips Frederic has for our community of filmmakers, and what his favorites are in this category of film. Read on for details from our conversation.

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What’s the first step to adapting a novel or play for a screenplay?

Read it. Read it again. Take notes and internalize the story and narrative. Put it aside for a little time, think about how it would best work as a film or television show structurally and story wise. What would have to be changed to work in that format, and what can be kept? Boil down the story to its very essence and think how it can be reborn in the new form. Even authors of books themselves realize this, as illustrated by interview with the author/ screenwriters of “Room” (2015) and “Gone Girl” (2014), writers who adapted their own work. Sometimes the most successful adaptations are not entirely faithful to the book or work as it is written, but are very successful to the essence of the story. Look at “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), which could easily be considered to be more successful and meaningful than the original, very short and arguably under developed, short story. It is also depends on the original work itself. For instance, a writer like Cormac McCarthy is likely less difficult to adapt than an interior and dense writer like Thomas Pynchon.

 

Would you recommend having a relationship with the original author? What are the benefits and drawbacks?

That’s really a personal choice and decision on the part of both writers. I would say many don’t have this luxury; the author is very often deceased. Sometimes the author is not even interested in talking. It is so dependent on the situation. It could be very helpful to learn what the essence and most important aspect of their story and characters are to them. They are the ones who originally created the world of the book, and sometimes they can help enrich the adaptation in that way. However, if they are precious with their work it could also be crippling to the process. A few meetings or calls could beneficial and interesting. But, it could also become very troublesome, especially if they are involved the whole way through the project. This may be the case with certain very powerful novelists. In at least one case – John LeCarre – has been quite involved with several of his adaptations as a consultant, and they have turned out quite favorably.

 

What are the risks a director should take in adapting a screenplay? 

In my experience, directors don’t “adapt a screenplay.” Instead, they are using the screenplay as a blueprint for their own film. In any event, I think the most important thing a director can do is to make sure the actor’s performances are there, and create the most lifelike scenes possible.

 

What is your favorite novel to film adaptation and why? 

I have several: “The Godfather” (1972) “Empire of the Sun” (1987), “Schindler’s List” (1993), and “Lincoln” (2012). They’re all terrific adaptations – and incredibly ambitious – in many ways. “Lincoln” is even more amazing considering it is adapted from an excellent, albeit still very historical, non-fiction book by Dorris Kerns Goodwin. The original screenplay was hundreds of pages, and yet Tony Kushner and Spielberg managed to whittle that down to the film that was produced. As an overall film, I would have to say “The Godfather” or “Schindler’s List”. Honestly, “Schindler’s List” was the movie that made me want to work in this business.

Thank you, Frederic, for your insight and sharing so many useful tips for our filmmaking community!

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Frederic Richter received his BA at Sarah Lawrence College, and was a Screenwriting Fellow at The American Film Institute (AFI), where he earned his MFA. His thesis short-film, MACHSOM, was the recipient of the Deluxe Production grant, amongst others. The film was accepted into over twenty-five festivals including AFI FEST, and won numerous awards around the world. His feature-length screenplay APPEARANCES, won 1st place in the Slamdance Screenwriting competition. He has a number of feature projects in active development with producers. Frederic has been employed for years as a Story Analyst for numerous companies, including Goldcrest Films, Film Rites (Steven Zaillian’s company), QED International, Black Label Media and The Black List 3.0. He is a producer and executive with Tradition Pictures, a newly formed LA based production company. He worked on an upcoming television series for Stephen David Entertainment. He teaches classes on screenwriting, script development, story structure, film studies/ history and the entertainment industry at Sarah Lawrence College, NYU SPS, Mercy College and The Ghetto Film School. He is a Teaching Artist at The Ghetto Film School, and an Adjunct Instructor at NYU SPS. He is a proud member of the Sarah Lawrence College Alumni Board.

When you have dreams of becoming the next Wes Anderson

A first-person account of the International Film Institute of New York’s Five-Week Summer Film Intensive

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We can spend a lot of time daydreaming and talking about future plans, but taking action is what will change our lives. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to press pause on life and pursue your interest in film, we welcome you to the International Film Institute of New York. While directors have taken various paths to success (Ava DuVernay, Mira Nair, Wes Anderson to name a few), they have all gone on record about how important it is to learn and absorb as much as possible to get started in filmmaking. IFI offers intensive professional training in a classroom setting to introduce students to the world of moviemaking. Our short term five-week program revolves around STORYTELLING, which is the ability to properly translate the written page onto the screen. Every student will graduate with a final film and the foundational skills necessary to continue working towards a life in film. Instead of us telling you about the experience at IFI, we decided to have an alumna share her thoughts.

Meet Zena from Cairo, Egypt who was a 2016 Summer Filmmaking Intensive student. Zena joined us at Sarah Lawrence College in June for five weeks of screenwriting, directing, lighting, camera tech, casting, editing and production courses.

Why did you choose IFI?  I’m still in high school in Egypt, but I sought out a true filmmaking experience to explore the parts that I found most interesting. I wanted to take my first film course with IFI to learn everything about filmmaking – how it works from writing a screenplay to production and screenings.

What did you work on at IFI?  I wrote my first-ever screenplay, and it was such a cool experience. It is about a guy who is Schizophrenic and makes clay figures. He believes they are real people, but they’re not.

How was your experience making your first film?  It was exciting. I was excited and anxious about the screening of my first film. We worked on it for a long time, so it was fun to share it with other people and see/hear their reactions.

What was the most difficult part of filmmaking for you?  I kept looking over my footage. I’m a perfectionist, and I always want to do better. But, the thing is that most people don’t see the mistakes that you do in your own work. So, the most difficult part of filmmaking for me was seeing my mistakes, knowing what I would improve next time, and accepting it. In the end, I put together the footage that would be the best for my first film.

To see Zena’s and other films from the 2016 Summer Filmmaking Intensive click here.

Our 2017 Summer Filmmaking Intensive (June 25 – July 28) is already filling up. To secure your spot or ask questions, visit www.nyfilmschool.com.

 

4 Filmmakers Envision Their Art Post-U.S. Election

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Well, we weren’t expecting 2016 to turn out this way, but our wheels are turning. If we look back at some of the biggest and most notable films of the past year, there has been no shortage of heated political cinema, inspiring features on social issues and thought-provoking documentaries to get us through this election. These films have laid the groundwork for topics we’re likely to explore in greater detail in 2017 and beyond. Our IFI community took note of a few standout works – in no particular order:

  1. Ava DuVernay’s “13th
  2. Michael Moore’s “TrumpLand
  3. Oliver Stone’s biopic “Snowden
  4. Michael Bay’s war film “13 Hours
  5. Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nation

Now, the question becomes “Where do we go from here?” As a whole, our IFI community has had time to digest the U.S. Presidential election results and to realize there will be a greater role for us in the coming years.

When we stepped away from reading Facebook feeds, angry tweets and bogus news stories, we chatted with a few IFI instructors to ask “How might the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election influence your work as a filmmaker?” Overwhelmingly, we heard that everyone is inspired to create new art and “hungry” to make a statement with it. You will see from their responses below that we are going to make MORE films that stand for something. We are going to raise our voices louder as a film community and lift up our fellow Americans through our art.

  • “My work has always been spurred by the identity politics of immigrants and minorities in America. Who are we, where are we, what defines us, etc. Although I’m disappointed about the outcome of the election, I’m glad that the harder questions we need to face and ask about ourselves, as people struggling to coexist in this thing called America, is coming to the forefront. There’s a great deal of work to do if we want to live up to the ideals of this country. I think you’ll find a lot of new, unheard voices in these troubling times. Hopefully one of those will be my own.”Stephen Lee, Directing Instructor
  • “Well, I think we’re past the point of ‘might.’ Throughout history, there have been moments where art is needed to bring to the surface whatever reality is trying to subdue. We find ourselves in such a moment. Trump appealed and brought to light America’s worst impulses. Now, it’s on the rest of us to show, to prove, that this is not all what America is. This is a time when we’re called on to do things we may not have done before. This is a time to write and film outside of our comfort zone. This is the time to tell stories that make us connect, because God knows we need to strengthen our empathy for our fellow men. And, it is a moment to make a statement. Not only in the stories we tell but also in how we treat those who work with us in order to make those stories into film. It is time to improve our art and us, ourselves. So today, more than ever, I’ll try harder to be a better person. We stand together; we stick up for the vulnerable. Today, more than ever, stop judging, be kinder, feel empathy, respect women, stop being racist, stop being a bully, stop being homophobic, listen more, argue less and make good art. Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” –  Jesús Alarcón, Directing Instructor
  • “The uncertainty surrounding President Elect Trump’s agenda – what he has said he will do, what he really intends to do, and what he is actually able to do – makes it unwise for me to speculate about how my work as a filmmaker will be affected in the next four years, specifically. Generally speaking, filmmakers have the ability, and therefore the duty, to inform and hopefully educate, to entertain and hopefully inspire, and to seek out and amplify otherwise-underrepresented, credible voices. The election was engulfed in misinformation; where we were owed thoughtful discourse, we were instead distracted with name calling for our entertainment; and, credible voices – underrepresented or otherwise – were awash in a sea of much louder, angrier voices. My most recent work, and the work I hope to do moving forward, seeks to help educate children by encouraging them to reach beyond borders and to learn about cultures outside of their own. The anti-intellectualism embodied by the election stands counterpoint to my work and reaffirms the need to take seriously the duties involved with filmmaking.”Stephanie Serra, Producing Instructor
  • This election influences my work on both a creative and a monetary level.  Creatively, I am hungry to edit more truthful factual media and put it out there. I am eager to use my work as both an outlet to express myself, but also a resource to learn more. Something that is clear to me is that I did not really understand my country or what problems that others face are causing so much irreverence and hate speech. And so every day I look to see the footage we take or Americans and listen to them. I also have this unique opportunity to be working at a news organization during an administration that is rather closed to the media and this presents an interesting challenge. Monetarily I must make decisions that will secure my future – this presidency will not be friendly to freelancing. Therefore – I am making choices to move towards more permanent positions in order to secure health insurance and proper tax rates.”Danielle Beeber, Screenwriting Instructor

Without question our community of artists have turned into activists, armed with the power of the pen and the lens. We are hopeful people will come together to support one another, accept each other and keep the American spirit alive and flourishing.

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BOO! We’re back with more terrifying tips to trick & treat a horror film watcher

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We’re not quite finished talking about the horror genre for today. Joining the conversation is Rona Mark, Directing and Screenwriting Instructor at IFI and avid horror movie watcher. “To my mind, horror is the most liberating, transgressive, and expressive film genre there is,” says Rona. “Many of the great directors have tried their hand at it and so should you!”

Check out Rona’s tips below for creating a truly terrifying movie-watching experience.

  1. On screen, the scares often come not so much from a good monster, but from a great, horrified REACTION to the monster! Get those terrified reaction shots on screen.
  1. The suggestion of violence is often more powerful than on-screen violence. I’m no prude about violent scenes, but sometimes, literal attempts to portray violence fall short of my imagination. Let the viewer imagine the horror.
  1. Creating the atmosphere is half the battle. A movie like The Exorcist (1973) scares partially because it feels like the impossible is happening in the real world. Whereas, a movie like Suspiria(1977) creates a world unattached to reality, one that relies on dream logic and expressionistic sets. Music, set design, lighting, and camera moves should all come together to create a nightmarish (and stylistically coherent) atmosphere.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from IFI!

— Rona Mark is an award-winning writer, director, and producer. She received her BA from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and MFA from Columbia University. A few of her festivals and awards include: Best of Fest—Edinburgh International Film Festival; Filmmaker Magazine—Audience Choice Award; Scenario Award—Canadian International Film and Video Festival; second place, Best Short—Galway Film Fleadh; Best Comedy/Best of Night—Polo Ralph Lauren New Works Festival; BBC’s Best Short Film About the Environment—Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival; Opening night selection—Three Rivers Film Festival; Hong Kong International Jewish Film Festival; Irish Reels Film Festival; Seattle True Independent Film Festival; NewFilmmakers Screening Series; Hoboken International Film Festival; Miami Jewish Film Festival; Munich International Student Film Festival; Palm Beach International Jewish Film Festival; Pittsburgh Israeli Jewish Film Festival; Toronto Jewish Film Festival; Vancouver Jewish Film Festival. Finalist in Pipedream Screenplay Competition; third prize—Acclaim TV Writer Competition; second place—TalentScout TV Writing Competition; finalist—People’s Pilot Television Writing Contest; Milos Forman Award; finalist—Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Student Film Awards. Current feature film projects include screenwriter/director/producer, Strange Girls—Mdux Pictures, LLC. Screenwriter/director, Shoelaces. SLC, 2007.

Oh, the HORROR! How to elicit fear from your viewing audience

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Blood, guts, darkness, screams, an eery silence, and then … BOO! At IFI, we look forward to the Halloween holiday because it plays so well into a favorite filmmaking genre of horror films. We sat down with scary movie fan Andres Rosende, Screenwriting, Directing Instructor and Coordinator at IFI to learn what three key elements a filmmaker must include when creating a true horror film. “Horror, like every other genre, follows certain convictions,” says Andres. “Learn and play with them but don’t forget that is not what makes a horror film great.” Read on for more from our spooky chat with Andres.

1. Horror films are an ideal vehicle to talk about issues that were important to the filmmakers. Think about how the first Carrie (1976) was so good. It was the first time that an audience saw the interpersonal dynamics among high schoolers and the first time someone talked about “bullying”. The 2013 remake had better special effects and more spectacular sequences, but it has already been forgotten. Last year, It follows (2015) talked about STIs (HIV in particular) among young people connecting to a century tradition that started with Dracula. Did you guys know that Bram Stoker suffered from syphilis? What does Dracula feed on? That’s right, blood!

2. What scares you? Is it the night? Insects? Dead people? Or, is it something else? Director Guillermo del Toro has made many films using horror aesthetics that aren’t horror (scary) films. A couple of quick “don’ts” for you: don’t think because there is a monster in your film, it will be scary. Don’t copy other films scare tactics. Now, what you should “do” is find within you the images that scare you; the situations that freeze you; your worst fear. Then, try to recreate them for the screen.

3. Create interesting characters and pay attention to your actors. Think about Jack Nicholson in The Shining or Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. Directors can often type cast actors (pretty, young, sexy, etc.) and forget about the performances. No matter how “cool” your atmosphere, location or cinematography looks, if we – the viewers – don’t care about the characters, we won’t fear for them.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from IFI!

 

— Andres Rosende was born and raised in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. He graduated summa cum laude from Universidad Complutense of Madrid with a B.A. in film studies and communication. In 2006 he received the prestigious Fundacion Barrie de la Maza scholarship and moved to New York City as an MFA candidate in Film Directing at Columbia University. He has written and directed six shorts films and he was awarded a directing fellowship and grant. His film “Snapshots” premiered in the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival and went around the globe to numerous film festivals. His non-thesis, “Escape”, was selected to be a part of the ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop and premiered at the 2010 Columbia Film Festival. “Escape” was given honors by the faculty and won the E.P. Producing Award at the festival. Andrés was also awarded the James Bridges Award for excellence working with actors.   

Talking Cannes With Filmmaker Shrihari Sathe

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With the 2016 Cannes Film Festival fresh underway, we turned to some of our esteemed faculty here at the International Film Institute of New York in order to gather their personal insights and observations regarding Cannes, the surrounding excitement, which films and filmmakers to look out for in 2016 and also to gather their opinions about the industry as a whole.

Today, we sat down with Shrihari Sathe, an independent filmmaker, producer and longtime IFI instructor, for a Q&A to discuss his company’s involvement in the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and provide inspiration to aspiring filmmakers looking to burst into the festival scene. Here’s the full Q&A with Sathe:

Q: What films, if any, have caught your eye from this year’s selections?

A: Money Monster, The Nice Guys, Psycho Raman, Tramontane, Mademoiselle


Q: What filmmaker/film program is doing a consistently good job presenting films year after year?

A: Bruno Dumont, Dardenne Brothers, Anurag Kashyap


Q: What does it take to compete at Cannes?

A: Cannes is the mecca of the film festival circuit so the films have to be of high quality – typical the main festival selection is made up of masters and the parallel sections are a combination of emerging filmmakers and masters.


Q: What one piece of advice would you give someone pursuing Cannes?

A: It’s important to understand the festival marketplace and know the right people in order to set up the right meetings. It’s also important to have a specific purpose in coming to Cannes.


Q: Are you currently participating in Cannes in any way?

A: Yes, I launched a new distribution label – Silk Road Cinema in partnership with Kino Lorber, an established American distributor. I’m also doing meetings for my projects in the development and financing stage.


Q: Besides Cannes, what other international moment is important to film?

A: From a marketing perspective, these four: The Berlin Film Festival, the European Film Market in Europe, the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival in North America. In terms of major festivals, these are important as well: Festival del Film Locarno, the Venice Film Festival, the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, the Telluride Film Festival and New York Film Festival.


About Shrihari Sathe:

Shrihari Sathe, an independent filmmaker and producer, joined IFI as an instructor in 2015. Sathe recently launched Silk Road Cinema in partnership with Kino Lorber, an established American distributor, with the aim of bringing top films from South Asia over to the United States. In addition to producing and co-producing several films (i.e.: Jaron Henrie-McCrea’s Pervertigo (2012), Eliza Hittman’s It Felt Like Love (2013) and Elisabeth Subrin’s A Woman, A Part (2016)), Sathe’s feature directorial debut, 1000 Rupee Note, has won over 40 awards. Sathe is a Sundance Institute Creative Producing Fellow and Trans Atlantic Partners Fellow who has also received fellowships from the HFPA, PGA, IFP, Film Independent and more.

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INSTRUCTOR PROFILE: RONA MARK

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Rona Mark, IFI teacher and Independent filmmaker, has been creating thought-provoking work for over fifteen years. A graduate of the Columbia University MFA Filmmaking program, Mark has written and directed seven films, three features and four shorts. Mark is known for her independently unique style, breaking stereotypes of the ’typical’ female filmmaker with her advanced understanding of horror and sci-fi genres. Although when asked if she could think of any instance when being a woman influenced her career, Mark commented, “I don’t view myself as a “Woman Filmmaker,” although I am very happily a woman. I see myself as a “Rona Mark” filmmaker.”

On top of her impressive writing-directing resume, Mark teaches film at Sarah Lawrence College and has been fairing incredibly well in the film festival circuit. Mark recently won the Cinequest Film Festival 60-Minute Teleplay contest with her script “Brookyln Bus.” In a Premise and Plot Blog interview, Mark explained, “I’ve been writing for a while, but I had not entered a screenwriting competition in several years. I usually enter these things (contests) impulsively and then instantly try to forget about them. Once I enter a competition or a festival, and the decision is out of my hands, I try and move on; start the next project.” Marks next project seems to be post production on her short, Dream Work, a horror film, one of Marks specialty genres.

Click here for the link to the full interview from Premise and Plot, should you want to read more about Mark’s impressive career. We’re incredibly proud to have her in the IFI family, congratulations Rona!

Sorry Hollywood: 17% Doesn’t Cut It

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Sorry Hollywood: 17% Doesn’t Cut it

The International Film Institute of New York (IFI) has always been a firm supporter and advocate for women’s rights in Television and Film.  We are incredibly proud of our high enrollment of female students, and yet we understand that gender-equal enrollment is only the beginning.  Every year, the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film releases an annual report on female representation in the industry.
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Sponsored by the CSWTV, Women and the Big Picture¹ was the “first study to track women’s behind the scenes employment on the top 700 theatrically released films (foreign films omitted) in a single year.”  They found that women made up only 20% of “key behind the scenes roles” in the top 700 films released in 2014.  Furthermore, women only comprised 17% of key roles in the top 250 films.  We should by no means be happy or complacent with 17 or 20%, which is why the IFI encourages aspiring women filmmakers of all ages to come study with us!  Let’s change the industry for the better, together.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams thinks the world is more than ready for women to be given more opportunities in the industry.  When asked who he his pick for the next director of a Star Wars movie would be, his response was none other than acclaimed Selma director, Ava DuVernay.  Abrams continued to say, “She is as much a fan of genre movies, and hearing her talk not just ‘Star Wars,’ but hearing her talk about those kinds of films is evidence that she would just kill it.”²

Abrams touches on an important point.  There is an unfounded perception that women filmmakers are only talented at producing a very stereotypical and specific type of material, romance movies.  This could not be further from the truth.  Katheryn Bigelow, director of movies such as The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, is perhaps the most famous director to disprove this theory.  However, there are countless other accomplished female filmmakers who have slipped through the industry gaps.  Mary Harron, a former punk-rock reporter turned filmmaker, is known for her impressive work in art house cinema.  Harron’s most famous directorial work is American Psycho, although she has many other noteworthy accomplishments.  We can only hope that women like Harron and Bigelow continue to shine bright, and soon become not just the exception to the rule, but an industry standard.

By Juna Drougas, Staff Writer

¹”RESEARCH.” Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film: SDSU. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.

²”J.J. Abrams Wants Ava DuVernay to Direct a ‘Star Wars’ Movie.” Variety. N.p., 09 Dec. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.