Melanie Wise is the founder of the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival and to use a phrase she uses often, Melanie is one “bad ass” female actor/producer. Her festival aims to bring awareness to action-driven female content and women in action roles and now in its second year, the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival is doing exactly that. I was immediately taken in by the abundance of passion Melanie has for women in action films, which is demonstrated through the work she does. This month, Ms. In The Biz turns the spotlight on Melanie, who generously chatted with me via phone days before this year’s festival.
Q: What was your motivation to start a film festival?
A: Having produced content that definitely featured strong female leads and not having a decent home for it. For me and my other team members, [co-founders] Zac Baldwin and Sean Newcombe, we’ve seen [things like]a lead character get turned into a male. And about a year and a half ago, we were just commiserating about it and decided if we wanted to see more content like it out in the world, we’d have to create a space for it to play. Last year, our first festival from concept to execution was six months… In two months, we got 200 submissions from 25 countries. Yeah. Okay, people like this content.
Q: Going into the second year of the festival, what do you hope to achieve with it, in addition to creating a space for these films to play?
A: Bringing some awareness to the women that have been saying yes to doing the stunts and have been playing the roles. Being able to bring those kinds of people out in force so the public eye can focus on them, I think, is an extraordinary opportunity. Characters like Black Widow wouldn’t exist without the stunt chops of Heidi Moneymaker.
Q: In your own words, how would you describe your festival?
A: Badass. (Laughs.)
Q: Do you notice any differences from last year to this year in terms of content?
A: This year in our festival, we have many documentary female directors. Last year we had no narrative female directors. This year we actually have them. I don’t know why women don’t really direct women in action. I mean, Kathryn Bigelow does action but all of her [leads]are guys. So seeing more women showing up in the role of director is really awesome.
Q: What have been some important programming issues you faced?
A: In our second year, resources are incredibly tight. I think our biggest programming issue is we literally don’t have the resources to book more theater space to show tremendous movies. Scheduling this year was an absolute bear. [Melanie passionately describes some films to me that she was able to schedule.]
Q: What are the qualifications for a film to screen?
A: The subject of the story, whether it’s a narrative or documentary, has to have a woman in what would be considered the leading role or co-leading role and they’ve got to be kickin’ ass and takin’ names. So the lady who goes down the street and protests the dry cleaner for their chemical stuff, she’s definitely in action, just not physical action.
Q: What’s the most exciting part of the film festival?
A: There’s a lot. It’s one of those where you get to see a lot of our honorees. There are very few women out there that actually do badass action women. There’s not a lot of them, and while their shows and movies may be well loved, they really never get recognized for the fact that they did it. So, it’s really cool to bring these ladies out and recognize them literally for that piece of it. And obviously, it’s amazing to see the filmmakers watch their films. There’s a lot of really cool parts [to the festival.]My entire thing is when we see films about women doing stuff that’s wild and unimaginable, women that watch that go, ‘Oh, wait, maybe I can go run for this, or do that…’ [We’re] putting ourselves into bigger boxes.
For more information on Melanie wise and the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival, please visit: