find articles by Author

You Are The Zeitgeist

0

If you are a woman in the entertainment industry, this is for you. Our time has come. The mass exposure of gender inequity (in pay, position and power) reflects pervasive cultural sexism across a multitude of professions and fields. Journalists and media outlets are running hot with the story, especially as prominent celebrities speak out with personal experiences of prejudicial maltreatment. A ton of badass females are working hard to independently promote, celebrate, engage and empower other women. Women are finding the needs of our community and building infrastructure to fulfill them. It’s a historic moment for feminism in the cinematic arts, remarkable by a mass, organized, yet individualized conduciveness spirit of women in the independent entertainment realm. By helping each other thrive, we therein build community. With the amplification of our collective voice, and articulation of a shared dissatisfaction with the current system, our desire for accelerated progress is fueled. Awareness is growing about the countless organizations, start-ups, businesses, non-profits, movements, informal groups, and individual actions made by women, for women, to empower our presence in the industry, made concrete with increased demands for equal hires and equal pay. While any definitive change may still be on the horizon, our concerted effort to unite is paying off. The momentum is spreading like wildfire. What’s your place in the zeitgeist?

During the first half of September, Barbara O’Leary’s Directed By Women movement is promoting a global viewing party, which celebrates all films directed by women, across genres and viewing lengths. “We’re building a culture of appreciation,” the website reads, “Inviting the world to fall madly in love with and wildly celebrate films #directedbywomen.” This is a powerful concept, beautifully executed, that embodies an ideal of inclusivity for women directors in resistance to an industry of exclusivity. Anyone can participate from any location – the unifying thread is a shared love of films by women. Additionally, the directedbywomenwayfinders.tumblr.com page is a great compilation of women-based organizations in entertainment (far too many to list here, I recommend starting there). The Director List, run by Destri Martino, is garnering strength and visibility with its database of 1000+ women directors who have feature, television, or considerable commercial/music video experience. We have the numbers and the people, we are now reporting the facts both to executives who hire, and the world at en masse. And, we are doing so unapologetically.

The reality is that opportunities are difficult for most indie directors, whether male or female. Most people work hard to survive outside of the system. However, inside of the system, the numbers of women who deservedly should be getting directing jobs simply aren’t getting hired or re-hired. Something has to change… and it is. Women Occupy Hollywood, started by director Ivana Massetti, calls for a strong and outspoken opposition to Hollywood sexism. As the media scrambles to “brand” this movement and give it a single figurehead to market, the truth is that there are countless strong, fearless, brave, brilliant women individually spearheading their own piece of the movement, and rather than fracturing by default, we are coming together with tremendous strength.

I recently completed a crowdfunding campaign on Seed&Spark and raised $25,000 for my first feature film, and one of my biggest surprises was the avalanche of support (both financial and otherwise) I received from my peers, many of whom I just met or have never met. I truly felt empowered from other women filmmakers, because they understand how hard it is, and many of them stepped up with compassion and solidarity to show their support. What a beautiful thing.

TELL YOUR STORY.

You empower yourself, and all women filmmakers, by telling your story and other women’s stories. We are consciously re-appropriating the cinematic lens and redefining what it means to honor our subjectivity in cinema. One of my favorite films, The Piano by Jane Campion, is the perfect example of a woman-directed film with a strong female protagonist that captures female desire and subjectivity in a revolutionary manner. We need more films like this brought to the attention of the masses. The more women we have behind the camera, writing scripts, financing films, hiring other women, and creating or portraying female protagonists, the more our stories are incorporated into the fabric of our culture. Women have predominantly been written out of the history books. We are currently writing our own histories. Politics may play into the spirit of the times, but cinema is a very personal space, and redefining the power of the lens is monumental. It means that YOU, the female filmmaker specifically, you define this movement with your actions or inactions. You are the flow or the obstacle. You embody compassion or apathy.

If you’re reading this article, you clearly have some interest in the zeitgeist. In order to benefit, you should participate, but may wonder where you fit in? Start by connecting and join like-minded local groups (many of them found on Facebook or social media). Look into Film Fatales, Alliance of Women Directors, WIF (Women in Film) and others. Connect with other women in the industry with a similar mission. Build relationships with other women in the industry. Research the plethora of women-oriented companies such as X-Factor Films, Seed&Spark, and Cinefemme, to see if they fit your needs, or start your own company. Continue reading and supporting the articles on Ms. In the Biz and attend one of their fantastic networking events. Support women-helmed projects with social media promotion and donations if possible. HIRE OTHER WOMEN when possible. Empower your own voice, in whatever way works for you, to tell your story. Find a need (there are always needs!) and take action to fill it. Above all, remember you are important and valuable. In an industry that will not tell you this, you must know it for yourself. Be unapologetic. A zeitgeist is only as strong as the action of its people. Don’t hesitate to take action.

It’s an exhilarating time to be a badass and make history. YOU ARE THE ZEITGEIST. We all are.

Editor’s note:
We have a database here on Ms. In The Biz called #HireaMs for you to find women to work in crew as well as production and post-production on your projects! Go to: http://msinthebiz.com/hireams/

Michelle Kantor

About Michelle Kantor

Michelle Kantor co-founded Cinefemme, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization for women directors, while studying at San Francisco State University. She is the youngest daughter of political refugees who fled Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1960's, and is currently producing two films about her family's historic escape from behind the Iron Curtain: RED STAR, a feature documentary following her father's return on the 50th anniversary of his escape, and THE REBEL, a narrative feature film screenplay written by Michelle, based on their lives. She also directs performance art videos for painter Tara Savelo, former Haus of Gaga member and writes the blog www.ultra-luxurious.com. Michelle's body of work includes short films, experimental narratives, documentaries, and live work for circus performers at San Francisco's Teatro Zinzanni. Her music video "Highway To Yodel-Ay-Hee-Huuu," starring America's Got Talent's Manuela Horn, won Best Music Video at LA Femme Film Festival in 2014. Her production credits include work for HBO, FYI, The History Channel, Sony, Universal, and NASA. An advocate for epilepsy, her groundbreaking film "Bettina in the Fog" won the Thunen Award by the Illuminating Engineers Society. Michelle's other distinctions include the Goldfarb Award for Best Student Film and funding from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation for Cinefemme. She holds an MFA in Cinema from San Francisco State University and BFA in Film Production from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Michelle is a certified paralegal, mother, writer and artist. An active member of the female filmmaking community, Michelle belongs to WIF, AWD and Film Fatales.