It’s easy to feel alone or overwhelmed by the grim statistics in the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film report. When there are seemingly so few opportunities to go around, some are inclined toward jealousy or frustration with those who seem to have more or receive more recognition, while others allow self-doubt or rejection to throw them off their path. It’s a challenge to remain convinced that your day, too, will come. Mentorships, jobs, labs, fellowships, grants – they are all fiercely competitive and can leave filmmakers questioning if they will ever get the opportunities and success they deserve.
The concept of a scarcity mindset vs an abundance mindset was first introduced to me in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, “Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else…The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life. People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people.”
Of course, this concept did not originate with Stephen Covey. There’s a Buddha quote I love (and have on the wall of my children’s playroom), “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases from being shared.”
This idea of operating from a perspective of abundance is incredibly important, critical maybe, to making progress in the quest for parity among voices in the filmmaking world. The answer, I believe, if there is one, is not to compete with each other for the crumbs, but to grow and create a greater abundance through our shared energy, collaboration, network, and support of each other’s work. By amplifying and lifting each other at every opportunity, we create a new currency among our filmmaking community. Every time a woman succeeds in breaking new ground, it is a success for all of us. There aren’t enough investors financing our films. Collectively, if we all contribute what we can to the economy of underrepresented voices, I believe it shifts the current. Money is energy. Where we put it, even in our tiny $5-10 contributions, says to that artist and the world – you matter. We matter.
This month, Femmemaker Productions posted a request on Facebook in honor of International Women’s Day, for filmmakers to nominate female filmmakers that they thought were deserving of recognition. After 24 hours, they selected one to receive a cash prize. “FemmeMaker wants to celebrate women who keep trying (against considerable obstacle) to share great stories with film/TV audiences (big or small). We want to make space for women who champion other women.” I found this to be an extraordinary gesture. I immediately nominated Brooke Purdy, a writer/director I had worked with on Quality Problems, a fictional comedy about her real-life cancer survival. It felt great to be able to celebrate a filmmaker I think deserves a boost – and this amazing opportunity through Femmemaker suddenly and seemingly out-of-the-blue honored her. Additionally, they turned around and gave me a little grant as well to give a shout out to women supporting other women. I was so moved by the power of this initiative. Taking funds that obviously are not overflowing but dedicating a percentage to pushing the rest of us forward because it’s a value they hold. It reminded me of the feeling I get when I go onto Seed & Spark and pick a project to support with a few dollars – people I don’t know. It makes me feel like a gatekeeper opening the gates, and less like someone on the outside. It’s empowering.
Brooke described it this way. “There are days that are harder than others. That’s life. But sometimes, you can fall into the rut where it seems as if even the smallest tasks are an uphill battle. Then, someone – out of the blue, does something kind. Something heartfelt and real and you are reminded of all the amazing and wonderful people and gifts around you. It can snap you right back into all that is good about this ride and makes ‘the struggle’ all that more worthwhile and precious.”
In that spirit, I’d like to challenge us all to do even more to amplify each other’s work. Buy a ticket. Go to a screening (even one that you don’t have time for and is inconveniently located). Use your social media to champion a project that asks you to. Review every women-led project you watch on IMDB, Amazon, iTunes, Rotten Tomatoes. Tell programmers about films you see at smaller fests that deserve attention. Tell your reps (if you have them) about other filmmakers that you’ve met that they should be aware of. Talk about more than yourself. If you feel defeated, challenge that with something you can control, your own activism – support of another’s work.
About abundance, Covey says, “The Abundance Mentality flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.”
Thank you for the idea, Femmemaker Productions! Tweet at me in solidarity, and I’ll give $25 of the prize money we received to one crowdfunding campaign randomly selected from these tweets. A small gesture, but I’d love to see how far we can carry the energy forward.