The conversation on the bias and inequality in the entertainment industry has been going on for some time now. In 2015, the movement behind raising the bar for women in film and entertainment has thankfully stretched beyond idol mentions and has consistently boiled up into action beyond words. Tonight’s Moonfaze Feminist Film festival at LA Mother aims to “disrupt the status quo” of homogeneity and patriarchy by dedicating a night solely to outstanding talent in feminist film.
“The idea struck me like a bolt of badass lighting,” states Moonfaze creator, actor and filmmaker, Premstar Santana.
The idea became a reality, as short films with a feminist view point were curated, hitting on topics outside the mainstream, stories of oppression in the every day lives of women, transgender people and people of color.
Written and directed by Megha Ramaswamy, the short out of India, “Newborns,” is the story of Laxmi Agarwal, a women who was the victim of acid violence and now works as a human rights activist. Set in Mexico, “The First of the Free Girls,” written and directed by Alexandra Velasco, is a young girl’s quest into womenhood, and “Vivien,” by Lexie Helgerson, is a narrative on the monthly delivery of anonymous letters to the protagonist, and decision to take a look inside.
Female archetypes take center stage in “Prom Night,” and the comedy series, “Be Here Nowish,” features “two sexually progressive women who move to Los Angeles in search of a spiritual awakening.”
All in all there are twenty shorts, hitting on a wide variety of topics and genres, but with one unifying theme: the feminist viewpoint and the opportunity for viewers to hear and see HER story.
The timing is indeed perfect for the Moonfaze festival and a powerful way to end 2015, which kicked off the unofficial awareness campaign with Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech on fighting for wage equality for all.
The LA Weekly series by Jessica P. Ogilvie, “How Hollywood Keeps Out the Stories of Women and Girls”, appeared with Part 1 in April and Part 2 in November. In May, one month following LA Weekly’s expose, the ACLU “demanded that state and federal agencies investigate the secrecy-shrouded hiring practices of the top Hollywood studios, talent agencies and networks, with an eye to bringing gender-discrimination charges against them for their persistent failure to mentor, hire, recruit or promote female directors.”
In October the EEOC began to investigate the lack of female directors in Hollywood, interviewing female directors, asking for “personal stories and obstacles” they’ve faced in the business.
A few weeks later on November 5, the inaugural Women in Film Summit took place at the ArcLight in Hollywood, with hundreds and hundreds of women, and a few men, in attendance. The speakers, from directors, producers, and writers, to activists, entrepreneurs and journalists, took to the stage to share their insights and experiences. The day also included a keynote by
Deborah Snyder of Cruel and Unusual Films (“Watchmen,” “300,” “Wonder Women,” “Batman vs. Superman – Dawn of Justice, “Justice League Part One”) had this to stay, “As story tellers, we have to tell stories about women. As producers, as directors, as heads of studios that are choosing the material, women have to be part of the equation.”
A few weeks later “The Women of Hollywood Speak Out” article appeared, written by New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, including quite a number of interviews by women in the business. The piece begins with a glaring example of how men, in this case, Colin Trevorrow, can frog leap from a $750,000 indie film (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) to directing a big-budget, $150 million film (“Jurassic World”). “That kind of leap — from indie to blockbuster — is almost exclusively reserved for young guys in baseball caps who remind older guys in baseball caps of themselves,” writes Dowd.
During Snyder’s interview at the summit, she went on to express that both men and women need to be part of the solution to equality; setting a different standard of opportunity for the next generation of female directors, writers, producers, and other roles in film and entertainment, since it is men who currently hold the majority of control in who is hired and who is not. “Hopefully the deliberate choices will become the norm. But it’s going to take time.”
True. In 2015 we have seen twelve months of progress. As Gretchen McCourt, the founder of Women in Film, host of the summit, and executive vice president of ArcLight stated, “It has been an extraordinary year for women across all forms of entertainment. We have seen our colleagues and mentors raise the bar for the industry in the past year. We are learning every day that when it comes to advancement of women and girls, people really do want to step up.”
Part of stepping up includes a deliberate decision on how and where we spend our money-going dollars. Tonight is a perfect opportunity to make a supportive choice for women in film.
Tickets for Moonfaze are still available at http://moonfaze.lamother.com
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