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Artemis Film Festival: A Celebration of Women in the Stunt Community

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Every year, in Beverly Hills, a group of people come together to celebrate women and the stunt community. This group is a mighty force and growing every year, helmed by the film festival’s founder, Melanie Wise. This festival, the Artemis Film Festival believes that the more strong women that we see, the more it becomes the norm in society. This message resonates throughout the weekend that is filled with incredible films and panels celebrating these communities that don’t get the recognition they deserve. The festival starts every year with a gala awarding women in the stunt community with various awards such as Artemis Action Powerhouse and Artemis Next Wave. These awards celebrate the exceptional work of women in stunts who bring action to life.

This year, the gala, which is presented by legendary director Paul Feig, was hosted by Ms. Chase Masterson (Actress, Writer, Producer, and founder of the Pop Culture Hero Coalition) who gave a fascinating glimpse into the history of women in stunts. Masterson stated “since this festival began five years ago there have been many changes when it comes to female empowerment in television and film.” For example, “two superhero blockbusters with female leads (Captain Marvel & Wonder Woman), a male superhero who’s invincible army is made up of women (Black Panther), etc.”

“Things are moving in the direction that we want, but there have been waves of female empowerment like this in the past. In the 50s there were Westerns starring women. In the 60s there were more Westerns and Private Eyes who were women. The 70s and 80s had moments where it really started to look like we had a hold on really being accepted as stars in action films, being empowered both mentally and physically. But those moments would ebb and we would be back to the studios only making action films with men in leading roles. We haven’t yet reached that tipping point, where momentum meets synergy and suddenly there is no second guessing, just women in the leads equal to men in the leads. Women directors and men directors, equals, all bringing their visions to fruition, all the while inspiring little girls and boys to say ‘yes, we can do that.’”

Equally important to celebrating the accomplishments of women, is bringing awareness about the accomplishments of the stunt community. As Masterson said at the gala, “One of the most important collaborations in films is between the actors and their stunt performers. They really are two sides of the same coin, equally important.” This important collaboration is not heralded the way it should be and I know one of the goals of the Artemis Film Festival is to increase awareness and encourage others to participate in the celebration.

The weekend was chalk full of incredible films and panels like the “Powerhouses of Female Fortitude” panel in which six powerful women in the industry talked about overcoming obstacles, making space for women to be creative, and supporting women in film. As filmmaker Sarah Moshman put it, “The system wasn’t built for us, so we have to build our own system and define success for ourselves.”

And this is exactly what the Artemis Film Festival is all about. Giving voice to unsung heroes and making space for everyone in the industry to find and follow their passion. Every year I am awed by the incredible talent in the stunt community that is not celebrated the way it should be. But heck, this is the start of a new system and Melanie Wise and her incredible team have created the Artemis Film Festival to share with the world that “we are the women we’ve been waiting for.” They are creating their own system to create and celebrate the women and stunt community because, after all, #WomenKickAss.

Honorees for the 2019 Awards Gala:

  • Director KIMBERLY PEIRCE, Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss, American Crime
    • Actress DANIELA RUAH, NCIS: LA, Hawaii Five-0, Red Tails
    • Actress DOT MARIE JONES, Glee, American Horror Story, The Resident
    • Actress LEVY TRAN, MacGyver, The First Purge, Furious 7
    • Stuntwoman | Stunt Coordinator JEANNIE EPPER (Wonderwoman, Hot Pursuit, Book of Eli)
    • Stuntwoman | Stunt Coordinator | 2nd Unit Director MELISSA R. STUBBS (Suicide Squad, Deadpool, Jason Bourne)
    • Stuntwoman | Stunt Coordinator SHAUNA DUGGINS (GLOW, Peppermint, Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
    • Stuntwoman LISA HOYLE (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Snatched, Arrested Development)
    • Stuntwoman MAHSA AHMADI (Z Nation, Heathers, Skyfall)
    • Stuntwoman CRYSTAL MICHELLE (Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Infinity War)
    • Stuntwoman DEJAY ROESTENBERG (Jessica Jones, The Following, OA)
Deborah Lee Smith

About Deborah Lee Smith

Deborah Lee Smith is an actress and producer whose love of performing, storytelling, and new experiences has led to filming projects around the world. Originally from LA, she studied Theater and English Lit at UC Berkeley before moving to Australia to pursue her master’s degree in Film Production. She started acting in the Australian film industry before returning to LA and diving head first into acting and discovered a love of producing. Currently, she has two films in post-production that she has starred in, and has received several awards for her acting and producing work. Additionally, she has partnered with another incredible female producer to create Deep Sea Pictures, a full-service production company that has several projects in various stages of development. She believes in working hard, playing hard, exploring the world, and supporting others to tell stories that expand our understanding of the world and the people, places, and things that reside within it!