All posts by dawnsam

So, we have merchandise…

It’s not much, but it’s a start.  More to come when we have time to create it and upload it, piece by piece.  If there is something specific you would like to see, navigate over to the Contact Us page and send us a note via the nifty form.  Thanks!

You never forget your first film contest

Vicarious has never sponsored a film competition before, and as a tiny organization, the task seems a bit daunting, but some ideas will not be ignored.  Therefore, I am happy to announce that Vicarious Films is sponsoring a short film competition inspired by the article “Casual Predation” by Arikia Millikan, as published in LadyBits on Medium.

As evidenced by the #yesallwomen thread on Twitter,  and the murders in California that inspired it, women live in a different world than men even while side by side with them.  Mention certain experiences and all the women in the room will nod their heads in sympathy and recognition, while the men in the room will scratch their heads in puzzlement.  The experience of feeling like Prey is one of them.

When I first read this article, I was flooded with so many ideas for making short films that I had no idea how to make just one.  I wanted to get this idea out, as a teaching tool, as an expression of a hidden reality that I don’t see represented in mainstream media, despite it being so ubiquitous.  I wanted to see what other women filmmakers would choose as their take on the experience, how they would tell this story.

In keeping with Vicarious Film’s mission of providing opportunities for women both in front of and behind the camera, submissions will be required to have majority representation of women in key creative roles.

With the invaluable assistance of the fabulous Diana Chiritescu and Jessica Rothert, Vicarious Films will be launching this, our first short film competition on June 21st, 2014.  Details on how to enter the competition will be posted here on June 21st, 2014.

A deep breath, and a leap!

How Women Were Written Out of Film History – re-blogged article

Monika Bartyzel is a wonderful writer, and blogs on The Week (among other sites) with a column called “Girls on Film.”  Here is one of her articles I wanted to share:

Influential filmmakers like Alice Guy-Blaché were essential to the development of cinema — but modern filmmakers and historians still overlook their accomplishments

“I Hate Strong Female Characters” – re-blogged article

“Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong.”

read full article here

Re-blogged from Sophia McDougall‘s article in NewStatesman, because she says absolutely what I have been trying to say on the topic.  The article is brilliant – give it a read!

Director’s Notes for Use Me Up

Have you seen our Project page for Use Me Up?  Here are the notes the film’s director wrote about the genesis and theory behind the piece – enjoy!

Use Me Up is a movie intentionally shot from the Female Gaze; but what does that mean, exactly?

There is quite a bit of literature about moviemaking and the “Male Gaze” but when I looked for a definition of what a counterpoint “Female Gaze” might be, I found very little.  What I did find was divided into two camps:  either a movie shot by females (director and DP, possibly producer and writer as well) would automatically qualify as being shot from the Female Gaze, or the movie industry has institutionalized the Male Gaze as the proper technique for shooting a movie, and therefore the Female Gaze must be a conscious reversal of this “conventional wisdom.”

The education I had received in moviemaking seemed to me to support the latter theory, and so I did some research on what models or techniques might help to bring about this reversal.  I found remarkably little information but did come across mention of a course taught by Rebecca Ormond at Webster University, during which she and her students consciously created a movie from the Female Gaze.  I contacted her and she was kind enough to share her materials with me, the most extensive I had thus found.

Using her model as a jumping off point and working within our budget constraints, I settled on a few simple rules to cinematically empower the female characters on the screen.  They were:

1)    women would be shot with the camera looking up at them, men shot with the camera looking down

2)    the lighting would reverse the traditional Hollywood convention of bathing the women in lighting that softened all the lines and planes on their faces, while the men are lit in a way that highlights the planes and angles of their faces, sometimes leaving parts of their faces in shadow

3)    close-ups of men would be shot in a “clean” frame (they are alone in the shot), where the camera appears to gaze directly at them, whereas women’s close-ups would be shot in a “dirty” frame, where the camera appears to be unable to gaze directly on them, but must catch glimpses from behind and around other people

4)    everyone involved in the making of the film and the shaping of it would be female; an all-female crew, female editor, female producers and female writers

5)    whenever possible, male bodies would be on display as objects of sexual desire, whereas women would be seen as those for whom the men performed

Having completed the project, we are now curious whether it is noticeable to the viewer that there is a different dynamic in play with this film.  Do viewers even consciously notice a difference?  Is it pleasing to the female viewer in a way traditional films are not?  Does it make male viewers uncomfortable?  Does the viewer feel there is something different or “off” about the film, but are unable to pinpoint what that is?  With the short now being submitted to film festivals, we are eager to hear feedback from audiences on these topics and others involving the themes in Use Me Up!

When a woman calls, say Yes

I was reading through the notes from the Women Directors Summit that the DGA held in April of this year.  The “Employment Equity Matters” panel had a summary of suggestions from the panelists on action steps to help achieve equity:

Debbie Allen:  “It’s action, not sitting in a room and talking. We need ACTION, ACTION, ACTION!”

Nancy Meyers: We need to support women execs.

Nia Vardalos: “Use our economic power.  Boycotts.”  

Mimi Leder: “Start an all-women studio.”

Debbie Allen suggests “…holding out, starting a movement, a revolution.”

Robin Swicord suggests we “…hire an attorney to go to court; a Federally protected civil rights case.  The DGA has the power and resources sitting right here.” 

Betty Thomas: “Stand up!”

Martha Coolidge asks: “What can we aim for to make the equity a reality?”

Mimi Leder: Aim to start a studio for women.

Amy Heckerling: For women to support women.

Debbie Allen: Create a committee for a movement.  Must have a concept, title, be viral, use economic power, inspire, and respect action.

Catherine Hardwicke: Celebrate & encourage people who do hire women.

Martha Coolidge: Utilize the internet to do our own publicity/promotion.

Nancy Meyers: Embrace all women executives at studios and meet w/studios.  Make noise wherever you can.

Robin Swicord: Employment access is a federally protected civil right.  Involve US labor bureau and hire a lawyer.  Approach the problem legally.

I particularly love Mimi Leder’s idea of an all women studio (Mimi, how can I help you make that happen??) but the one thing that wasn’t said directly that I would contribute is “When a woman calls, say Yes.”

Hollywood is a cutthroat environment.  Everyone is out for themselves, which means you have to be out for yourself as well, or you will continually be taken advantage of.  Women learn this lesson harder than men, I feel, because there is a definite perception that women will take and should be satisfied with less.  Financially, artistically, psychologically.  There is an expectation that women command smaller salaries than men (this is so much the paradigm that it makes news headlines when there is an exception to the rule), women are expected to be satisfied with less compelling characters (one-dimensional) who are less central to the story (the wife, the girlfriend, the f*ck), and they should be grateful for the positions behind the camera that are graciously allowed to them (offer her 2nd AC instead of 1st AC, she’ll take it because she’s a girl, whereas a man wouldn’t be satisfied with being 2nd fiddle).

This perception that women will be satisfied with less (it’s that or nothing, after all), carries over when we interact with each other.  We women use that same set of rules interpersonally, and tend to bargain harder, try to get more, and say No more easily to other women – after all, they should be satisfied with what they get, right?

If we really want this to change, one of the components is that we need to say Yes to other women in the business.  Not quite the project you were looking for?  Say Yes anyway.  Not quite the salary you wanted?  If it’s a woman’s project, say Yes anyway.  If you are in a position of power, use it to open the door for more women – remember the noise Natalie Portman made about demanding a female director for Thor II?  She made it quite clear that she would say Yes if a woman directed the project. That’s exactly what we need.  Let the business know, the way to get women to work for you is to get more women involved in the project. To put women in positions where they are making the offers.

I’m asking other women to put the ensemble above the individual – in this case our ensemble is our gender.  This is not at all what Hollywood has beaten into us, so it requires a definite mental shift.  A rising tide lifts all boats, however, so remember:  When a Woman Calls, Say YES.

watching t.v. as a woman

I was staying over at a friend’s house who has cable.  I cut my cord years ago, so this was like coming across a secret buffet of all the foods you gave up on your diet.  In the menu of On Demand shows, it has the first season of Magic City, a show I had been curious about because it stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

I loaded up the first episode and settled in to enjoy the ride.  The first thing we see are the credits, which feature a naked woman swimming through space or a pool.  It has the look of a James Bond credit sequence from years ago.  Okay, it’s a period piece, so I get the reference.  The next scene features Mr. Morgan quietly leaving a bed shared with another naked woman.  We get to see that he is also naked, so okay, maybe this is a cable-style show where everyone is naked.  I have no problem with equal opportunity nudity, so I keep watching.

Next comes some exposition where we learn that Morgan’s character Ike Evans has worked very hard to own his very grand hotel free and clear of any mob involvement, and that he now is battling the Unions.  We also learn that the ticking clock is that he has Frank Sinatra staying in his hotel, ready to sing in a show that night, and he has picket lines in front of the hotel.  Someone drowned his wife’s dog to intimidate him, and he throws the corpse back on the picketers, as well as a few punches.  He then orders a flunky to buy a new dog that looks just like the old one so his wife doesn’t notice it’s gone.  So, Evans cares about his business, but not about dealing with his wife’s grief.  Hmm.

The next scene introduces us to a young man driving a car rather recklessly down the highway.  It is revealed that this is because he is receiving a blow job while he drives.  Oh, how edgy and scandalous!  And when he crashes the car into a public fountain, he simply wanders off, leaving our unnamed and unimportant female character wailing about her ruined car.

We learn this young reprobate is Evan’s son when he goes to see his father.  He finds instead the woman who I am presuming is Evan’s wife, clearly a second wife as she is roughly the same age as the son.  He spies on her while she is sunbathing, naked of course, eyeing her salaciously for a while while the camera also eyes her, encouraging the audience to feel the same lust for the offering of her nude body that the character does.  When our young man does make his presence known and she covers up to speak to him, he asks after his father, and the young wife gives a reply that includes an analysis of her husband’s emotional state, about which she is clearly concerned.  She thus establishes her role in this drama is to be the support for her man, as his character takes the journey with which the plot will be concerned.

And that was enough for me.  I switched back to the menu to look for something else to watch.

But, you say gentle reader, this was a period piece!  Of course the women were not central to the action, because real women in that time were just there to support their menfolk!  It wouldn’t be true to the given circumstances if they made three-dimensional female characters who moved the action!

Well, yes, not all women of that period had agency.  But not all men of that period owned large hotels in which Frank Sinatra was about to sing.  These male characters are by no means Average Joes either – rich and powerful and concerned with Very Important Things.  We choose to tell their stories because they are such men.  And yet, we choose not to tell the stories of such women.  It’s also a choice to only put into the stories we do tell, the small (albeit present) percentage of women who had no power or agency of their own, but could only try to influence the actions of the men who did.  This is a choice.  Don’t tell me there aren’t good stories that can be told about powerful and influential women.  They are plentiful, if you do the barest amount of research.

So I’m sorry, Magic City.  You are shot beautifully, and have some great talent telling your story.  But it’s a story that is being told without me in mind, and has nothing to say to me, like so many other pretty stories produced by Hollywood.  I’ll pass.