Unsung Heroines Get a Voice at Artemis

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“Action women have a home at Artemis.”

Ms. August McLaughlin, creator of the empowering brand Girl Boner, opened the Artemis Film Festival 2016 gala with those words. It’s difficult to find people and places in Hollywood that truly “get” what you do, but Artemis has proven to truly “get” female action heroes. This film festival is a home for the amazing actresses and stunt women who bring to life the action heroes on our screen. This festival is a celebration of the accomplishments of these women

I have the pleasure of attending the “Ass-Kickin’ All Stars of Stunts” panel discussion and red carpet gala at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills. I am a huge action movie nerd and absolutely love being surrounded by such incredible women. There was a common theme that was repeated throughout the night, these women grew up without knowing that stunts were an actual job, but when they stumbled into it they felt themselves light up. To me, this proved how similar stunt people are to the faces in front of the camera. Unfortunately, currently the actors get all the credit but Artemis Film Festival and its incredible founder, Melanie Wise, is working at changing that. The opening events honored several stunt women for their contribution to the women action film and tv world.

It is literally impossible to capture their awesomeness so I suggest you take a few minutes to watch and learn what they are capable of…

Ms. Zoe Bell (Stunt Icon Award) – Zoe started in the stunt world by doubling Lucy Lawless on Xena: Warrior Princess and has since doubled Drew Barrymore, Amy Acker, and Uma Thurman. Now she is acting in front of the camera to merge the actor and stunt worlds. Need I say more? Just watch her badassness

Ms. Yancy Butler (Action Powerhouse Award) Yancy was honored for her role as troubled New York cop in Witchblade as Detective Sara Pezzini. For this role she was not only the face of the character but also performed many of her own stunts thus granting her “Powerhouse” status.

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Ms. Dayna Grant (Stunt Warrior Award) – Dayna is a truly a warrior. A native of New Zealand, she began her career there also on Xena: Warrior Princess but has since traveled the world for her stunt career. Most recently she doubled Charlize Theron for Mad Max: Fury Road. I know, right?!

Ms. Heidi Moneymaker (Stunt Unsung Heroine Award) – This kickass woman is a body double extraordinaire. She has doubled Julie Benz, Elizabeth Banks, Amanda Seifred and is officially Scarlett Johansson’s double as Black Widow. That awesome chair fight from The Avengers? Yup, that’s Heidi!

Ms. Jessie Graff (Stunt Next Wave Award) – This incredible stuntwoman started as a gymnastic which is apparent when you watch her amazing stunt reel. Since the start of her career she has worked on projects like Supergirl, Transformers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and many more. The best part? She is just getting started

Paul Feig (director of Bridesmaids, Spy, The Heat, and the new Ghostbusters) calls himself a “Rebel with a Cause” which makes sense since he received the Action Rebel Award to recognize his constant devotion to battling Hollywood stereotypes. He started his acceptance speech by revealing that he always wanted to be a stuntman himself, which began his love affair with physical action comedy. When the stuntman hobby didn’t pan out, and he decided to be a writer and director. When he first went to Hollywood and pitched several ideas with female leads he was immediately shut down. He was told that if a woman was on the poster for a movie society would immediately think that it was a chick flick and it wouldn’t do well in a foreign or domestic market. He was told to choose between a job and his happiness and his answer to that was,” fuck you Hollywood.”

This statement was met with thunderous applause from the audience which proves that the Artemis Film Festival is full of his people. These people are writers, directors, actors, producers, and creators that want to make stories about females that are three dimensional, not caricatures. Paul Feig and the other festival attendees are working towards writing these wrongs. D’s kick ass women deserve worldwide recognition for their ability to bring difficult stories to life. The next time you see an action film, think about the stunt women whose faces are not onscreen. The unsung heroines who are being given a voice by the Artemis Film Festival. I know I will.

I want to end on one of my favorite quotes of the evening, “We don’t want to be told where to sit at the table. We want to build that table and sit wherever we damn well please.”

Deborah Smith

About Deborah Smith

Actress/ Blogger/Storyteller - Deborah is the ultimate girl next door/ gal pal but don’t underestimate her wit or brains. Originally from Los Angeles, she fell in love with the Bay Area while attending UC Berkeley in English and Theater. Since she caught the travel bug, she moved to Australia to pursue her Master’s Degree in Film Production and Marketing. Five years, and one Aussie boyfriend later, she has worked in the Australian film industry while starting a construction surveying company and her own marketing/web design freelance business. She has returned to Los Angeles to continue building characters, chase her dream of becoming a superhero, and write about powerful historical women whose tales’ go unheard!