“Wild” and the Power of Women

2

IMG_4402I took myself to see Reese Witherspoon‘s “Wild” last night.  I went alone.  I could have gone with my husband. I could have gone with a group of other women. I could have waited to go up to Vancouver to see it with my Mom.  But I went alone. I am so glad I did.

You see, this year has been one full of ups and downs.  A year with heartache and triumphs.  Creative explosions and inner implosions. 2014 will be a year I will never forget and I needed closure. I needed a catharsis. Last night, sitting in that dark theater in the back row by myself, I for lack of a better phrase, “let it go”.

Watching Cheryl Strayed as played by Reese Witherspoon was magical for me. Not only did I feel myself empathizing with her journey, I somehow experienced healing from my own crap of this past year.  This very transformation is the reason I wanted to be a storyteller from the very beginning.  First it was in song and dance, then in the written word, then in portraying other characters, and now I’ve coupled all of those things with producing projects that allow me to play in all of those sides of myself.

I am so honored to be a storyteller, and I am overjoyed to be surrounded by other strong female storytellers. There is a moment in “Wild” where (spoiler alert) she sees another female hiker, and I felt the same overwhelming warmth in my heart at that moment that Cheryl does.  I walked out of the theater incredibly proud of having created Ms. In The Biz, and feeling truly blessed to have so many phenomenal women in my life many of whom not only write for this site but are my best friends who I would go to the ends of the earth for.

On that note, I wanted to honor some of the ladies whose work has inspired me this year.  There have been so many great female helmed projects, but these are ones that for various reason struck a chord in me that is still buzzing to this day.

1)  “Wild”

Produced by Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea

This film needs no further explanation as to why it truly moved me, but I do need to say THANK YOU Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea for forming your production company Pacific Standard and producing this gorgeous gem.  You inspire me to no end.

2) Black Rock

Directed by Kate Aselton , Produced by Adele Romanski

Now, this is technically a 2012 film, but I saw it in 2014 on Netflix. Thank you Netflix. I freaking LOVED this film.  Kate Aselton acts as well as directs this phenomenal thriller with one of the most intense and real scenes between 2 women I’ve ever seen.  If you love suspense, if you love women kicking ass, you need to watch this flick.

3) Camp Takota

Produced by Hannah Hart, Mamrie Hart, and Grace Helbig

I was a camp counselor back in college and I’ve had this fantasy of going back and being a counselor again. This film helped me fulfill that wish.  It’s a great comedy about life, growing up, and friendship. This flick is not only a kick ass film because it’s helmed by 3 amazing female YouTube celebs (who I’m surprised I haven’t met yet in the digital circle in Hollywood), but it is THE break out distribution story of the year.  And now Grace Helbig has a book available…although not about this flick…about pretending to be a grown-up. And she’s a rockstar, a true freaking rockstar.

4) June, Adrift

Written by, Produced by, and Starring Christine Moore, Amanda McCann, and Cassie Ramoska

Directed by Adrienne Subia

When I saw that one of my Ms. In The Biz writers Christine Moore had produced, written, and starred in a female lead flick with 2 other ladies, I HAD to get my hands on it!!!  It’s not yet available to the public, but I was lucky enough to see a sneak peek of the film and I LOVED it.  Full of heart and fun, “June, Adrift” is a complete gift of an indie film.  Also, first time feature director Adrienne Subia is definitely a woman to watch! Stay tuned for more info on this flick as things progress with their festival run.

5) The Sea Is All I Know (short film)

Written by, Produced by, and Directed by Jordan Bayne

One of my acting coaches, director Adam Davenport forwarded me this absolutely phenomenal short film.  It stars Academy Award Winner Melissa Leo and is an incredibly powerful piece of filmmaking.   Filmmaker Jordan Bayne is a woman who is taking this industry by storm.  Keep an eye on her.  Her career is going to be EPIC.

6) Catching Faith

Produced by and Written by Alexandra Boylan and her sister Andrea Polnaszek

So some might say that “Catching Faith” made my list because writer/producer Alexandra Boylan is one of my best friends and also my partner for the Ms. In The Biz book, but that would negate the wonderful job she did with this film.  Directed by her husband John K.D. Graham, who also wrote and produced with Alexandra and her sister Andrea Polnaszek, “Catching Faith” is a heartwarming faith based film with a female minority lead.

While I don’t identify as Christian, the lead character’s struggle really spoke deeply to me, and I found myself assessing things in my own life while I watched it.  I was incredibly moved throughout the whole film and have been thinking about it every day since.  In fact, there are things in my life that I’ve already changed for the better because of seeing the movie.

Available soon!

7) Best Friends Forever

Directed by Brea Grant, written by and produced by Brea Grant and Vera Miao, and also Produced by Stacey Storey

Ok so disclaimer, Brea is also a friend of mine, but I originally first saw “Best Friends Forever” last year before her awesomeness came into my life.  This film became available this year on VOD and it’s freaking RAD.  Apocalypse, friendship, and a road trip. What more do you need?  Well..this film has a crap load of heart and a female Cinematographer…so there’s that. 😉

Again, there were many more female directed, produced, and written projects that I saw this year that I loved, but I decided to keep this list to the ones that managed to dig deep into my heart.

Now I would be remiss if I didn’t note that with the exception of “Catching Faith” which has a female lead who is Puerto Rican and “Best Friends Forever” which has an Asian lead actress, there is definitely a lack of ethnic diversity which everyone knows is a soapbox I like to get on.  But even though raising awareness about the need for racial diversity is big passion of mine, so is seeing films that reflect dynamic, flawed, and interesting female characters, because unfortunately those stories are still in the minority!

The fact that these stories are being told is vitally important whether they have diverse casts or not.  The next step for our culture is even more ethnic diversity in filmmaking and heck, that’s why I’m here along with all of my other minority female writers, directors, producers, and actors.  We need to all raise each other up no matter what race we are, and these women deserve all of the praise that we can give them.

So ladies, it’s time for the revolution, and I know many men who are right there to support the cause with us.  If you are sick of the male centered Hollywoodland that has existed for…forever, let’s band together, support one another, and keep creating amazing films.

If you have flicks (features or shorts) written, produced, and/or directed by women that you think I should definitely see, leave me a comment below! 

Helenna Santos

About Helenna Santos

Helenna Santos is the Founder of “Ms. In The Biz” and a producer, writer, and actor with Mighty Pharaoh Films. She can often be found on panels and appearances at conventions such as San Diego “Comic-Con”, and has been interviewed by major press outlets including CNN and FOX News. ​Her work as a contributing writer has been featured in MovieMaker Magazine, Backstage Magazine, and IndieWire, and she co-authored the book "Thriving in Hollywood! Tenacious Tales and Tactics from Ms. In The Biz". She is currently in post-production on 2 feature films that she produced and stars in, the adventure/thriller "At Your Own Risk" and the sci-fi/thriller "RESOUND".

  • Ellie Ann Fenton

    In addition to Best Friends Forever, June, Adrift was also crewed up with several amazing women in other key roles. The on-set producers, editor, cinematographer, colorist, gaffer and post-production coordinator where all strong leading ladies in the film industry. Best Friends Forever also had a female sound mixer and female Key Grip.