Thursday, July 13, 2006

What a Weekend!

I am so happy that the Festival weekend in Venice was such a success. The filmmakers who came watched each other's films and talked in the lounge and enjoyed not only the satisfaction of having other people see their work, but also of meeting other women whom they admired. There was much to admire in this crowd.

What I loved in all the conversations was the spirit of problem solving vis-a-vis women's invisibility in the film biz. Unlike last summer's WIFTI summit, where much of the message was, "Sue the batards. We did and now we have work. We have to struggle to maintain our status, so we can't help you. You need to help yourself." The feeling here was more, "Okay, things are skewed. But look at all this great work done mostly without any support. What can we do with it?" The problem becomes how to unite or at least coordinate our energies so that some of it goes into making opportunity for all and not just for oneself.

The image I have in my mind is a dry creek bed. There, women are building boats - some tiny rafts, some canoes, some sailboats, some the Queen Mary. But without water, the boats will do nothing but rot in the sun. A flash flood will carry a few further downstream, maybe even to open water. There we are, working on our boats, praying for rain and hoping not to be smashed by the others when it comes. We are afraid of each other's work and success as if only a lucky few will make it,and their finding the way out will block or smash our own escape.

At many industry and networking events, people are always asking for help on their "boat." Instead, we need to be thinking of ways to get water to our little river. A rising tide lifts all ships. And who knows, we may find we have created our own reservoir where we can sail our flotilla and the world will come to us for a break from the vast, indifferent blockbuster ocean.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Tote bag or purse?

I kept hoping somebody would donate tote bags for the filmmakers. I imagined the experience for the filmmakers arriving and wanted them to feel they were part of something real. We are a first-year festival and they sent their money in on faith with nothing promised in the way of prizes beyond the festival itself.

Well, I got another one of my ideas. You see, for all of my adult life, I have carried from town to town, apartment to house, a large box of fabric. My mother used to sew. When she died, my sister and I cleared out a whole roomful of unused cloth, some of it fabric she had owned since before I was born.

I know how to sew, more or less, the way I know how to cook - from watching my mother. Well, I hauled out that box and found more than enough fabric to make every single filmmaker a tote. I know, I'm crazy busy, the festival is looming, and sewing is not my area of expertise. But two rectangles and a much time could it take?

I forgot that I am constitutionally unable to make thirty of the same thing, or even thirty similar things. I started getting fancy. I played with shape and rick-rack and stitching. Lili and Ferrania got in the spirit and whenever they had idle time would pick up a square and start playing around with it.

Well, we're two weeks out and almost done. We have about thirty bags made so far, and depending on how many filmmakers actually can come, we may already be finished. True, none of the stitching is straight, nor are the corners square or the straps even. But every single one is one-of-a-kind, like the women who made these films.

The plan is to let each filmmaker choose the bag she wants. The early arrivals will have the most pick. But no Filene's basement tug of war, ladies. If someone else has a bag you must take home: negotiate the deal.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Let me just say that choosing is not fun. I am more stressed out by the thought of saying 'no' than I would have expected. In the abstract, it is a simple matter. And in reality, the binary nature of the 'yes' or 'no' carries a cartesian clarity. Unfortunately, none of the films or scripts was submitted by a computer that speaks in binary coding.

Monday, June 05, 2006

High Gear

One month to go and we go into overdrive. There are now too many things for my brain to remember. A list on paper I can lose, so I stick my list on the archway. The post-it notes go up one side of the doorframe and down the other.

Whenever the stress of too many important decisions and looming deadlines with everything important and needing to happen RIGHT NOW! starts pushing my manic button, I take up the arts-and-crafts cure employed by summer camps and mental institutions. Cut, paste, stitch, iron and zone out. Hats and shirts: we will be making them. Costumes are part of the festive atmosphere - hence the word festival - but the price of even cheap promotional wear is too deep for our pockets.

Like the films in the festival, like many an indie producer with a project, things either take money or time. The interns have come on board, and while the more mundane business tasks are basically what they are handling, they too find the crafts project s relaxing. And I am grateful for the many hands.

In and Out burgers anyone? My treat.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Thanks for Noticing

Talk about a feel-good couple of days. So many of the gals who got our email thanked us. And while 'thanks' is not why we're doing this, 'thanks' sure makes us feel like we're doing something good.

Here are what some of you said. Thanks back at you.

What a delight to get such a thoughtful, generous e-mail from a film festival programmer! I truly admire your commitment to your mandate andn not only to recognizing and honoring the work of funny broads, but to maintaining the caring nature requisite for women to support women in this industry. It is beyond rare.

(What's beyond rare? Raw? Sushi? There's a joke here, but I digress...)

thanks so much for the nice email. you have no idea how cool it is just to have someone say hey we got your film we may even watch it!!!

(Not watch it? That's a sad thought. Rest assured, we watch them all.)

Thanks for your warm and informative e-mail. ROCK ON!

(Don't mention it. Okay, mention it. Thanks for taking the time to reply)

I just wanted to send you a quick note to say thank you for the kind letter you sent to fellow filmmakers and screenwriters last week. It was a much appreciated email. :)

And here's a letter we really appreciated for its balanced view of the whole process of festival selection.

Dear Susan,

Thank you so much! What a great email. I truly appreciate it. I always want festivals to at least acknowledge and thank me for my submission (I find it amazing that some festivals cash your check and never acknowledge you in any way -- all I want is just two words -- thank you) but your email went above and beyond that. Just to acknowledge what a lot of work it is to write a screenplay, never mind making a whole film -- well that speaks volumes to me.

Of course I'm hoping so much to be included in your festival but I won't take it personally if not selected. Another filmmaker and I have compared notes and found that while we both go accepted and rejected to some of the same festivals, that there were some festivals he got in that I didn't and vice versa. It made me realize it didn't mean one of our films was "better" than the other, just that the selection process is so subjective and one film that may work for one festival or impress some screeners, may not do as well for another festival or other screeners. I don't think a film exists that everyone likes.

I don't want to ramble on because I know you have tons of work to do and don't need to be spending time reading emails! Which leads me to say thank you for putting all your heart and soul into this festival to make it happen. I appreciate that greatly. And thank you for offering to speak to us about our films, whether we are selected or not. It tells me that you are truly passionate about filmmaking and that you just want to help us make the best films we can.

Well, happy screening and best wishes in putting together the festival!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006



To all the broads and the broad-minded:

Submissions have closed for the Broad Humor Film Festival, and while a
few entries that have gotten mis-routed or sent from other countries
may yet trickle in, the first stage of this first year is now complete.
We met and surpassed our goal of 100 submissions and we’re now planning
how best to showcase and support the filmmakers and screenwriters. By
the end of this week, I personally will have reviewed every entry.
Then the entries go to the other members of the team for viewing or
reading. And we will make our selections in a couple of weeks.

I must stay I am stunned by the energy that everyone has put into
telling stories for the purpose of laughter. Even those of you who did
not make or write comedies but sent your films or scripts anyway must be
commended on the product. The number of people who wish to write a
screenplay or make a movie are legion; the ones who actually do it are
rare and in my opinion should be honored for that very fact. So I say
congratulations to you all.

Sadly, we cannot show all the films nor honor all the screenplays.
Selection is not objective, cannot ever be completely fair, and will
not do justice to the work you have done. As we begin selecting films
and screenplays this weekend, there will be horse-trading among us.
One person’s favorite might lose out in favor of three broads’ general
approval. I can’t predict.

What I can do is talk to you. So, after the festival ( not before - I
will not have the time), if you want to email me and set up a time, we
can talk about your work if you want. I will be happy to tell you both
what I liked about the film or screenplay and where I got confused or
just found myself out of the story. I will not tell you how to fix it,
or how to get a production deal, or what to do next. I do not do
coverage. I do talk about stories and how they work for me and what I
saw of value. We all need to keep focused on what we do best and fan
those flames. If you want, I will do that with you about your work.

Three or four of our sponsors have announcements they would like to send
out to you. We are not selling your names, but would like to pass them
along to a few resources that might be of use to you. In addition, we
have received requests from companies looking for content. If you do
not want to receive these emails, reply to and put
“remove from mailing list” in the subject line.

We will do our best to keep you all informed as we move forward.

Susan di Rende
Executive Director

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Oscar Envy

Look at this picture. Do you see what I see?

Oh. My. God. These billboards are all over town. Talk about a statement!

The Guerilla Girls have been putting up at least one billboard in Hollywood for years now trying to shame the movie community into acknowledging its near exclusion of women from the Oscar ranks. The Oscars have chosen a billboard ad campaign this year that not only rejects shame at the unfairness, but actually celebrates the penis connection. In your face girlie.

As Freud himself said a hundred years ago about penis envy but applies equally well to Oscar: The young girl has noticed the difference between boys and girls and feels that she, somehow, doesn't measure up. She would like to have one, too, and all the power associated with it.

In this way, women's complaints are a form of envy, and we all know envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. So the semiotics of the billboard throws it right back at us: women lack the necessary tools or are guilty of envy. Either way, men are inoocent. They can't help it if they have more of what it takes than women do.

Shaming clearly doen't work. So in one way, I agree with the mainstream - stop complaining. Not because we are wrong, but because it won't work. We need to develop a bit of our own jiu jitsu to turn the hulking goliath's own strenths into liabilities.

Any ideas?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Feel-good Emails

Since the festival was announced, we've been getting emails like these:

This is perfect for me, since most of my films have been comedies which have not seemed to attract the more socially conscious women's film festivals. I'm all for the films that can change the world, but all I want to do is entertain people.

What a fabulous idea! Women, humor, film! There is a G-D!

We started this on the hunch that there was a need, but every message from the great wide world that the need is indeed real makes us so happy. We are very excited about the Festival, about screening the movies and meeting the people.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Second Venue

The Epoxy Box gallery is officially our second venue for the Festival. They will host the filmmakers' lounge and filmmaking workshops as well as the "Instant Dating" brunch on Sunday, July 2.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Don't Just Blame the Men

While women are 52% of the population, they average 25% of the creatives on prime time television. Yes, that number means a woman has only half the chance of a man of equal ability. But the numbers as a lump are also deceiving. Women in power average 20, 24, and 36% as creators, but only 22, 16, 13, and 2% (!!) as hired creatives. Check the numbers below. Why aren't the women execs giving women directors, writers, editors and dp's the same odds they have? Not a pretty picture. Pass these numbers along.

-from "BOXED IN: Women On Screen and Behind the Scenes in the 2004-05 Prime-time Season" by
Dr. Martha M. Lauzen of San Diego State University

Women comprised 24% of creators. Seventy five percent (75%) of the programs considered had no women creators.

Women accounted for 20% of executive producers. Thirty six percent (36%) of the programs considered had no women executive producers.

Women comprised 36% of producers. Only 8% of the programs considered had no women producers.


Women accounted for 13% of directors. Eighty nine percent (89%) of the programs considered had no women directors.

Women comprised 22% of writers. Seventy eight percent (78%) of the programs considered had no women writers.

Women accounted for 16% of editors. Seventy five percent (75%) of the programs considered had no women editors.

Women comprised 2% of directors of photography. Ninety eight percent (98%) of the programs considered had no women directors of photography.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Where Are the Women?

The Writers Guild of America posted its nominees the the awards this year.

Original screenplay

Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman: "Cinderella Man," story by Hollingsworth
Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco: "Crash," story by Haggis
Judd Apatow & Steve Carell: "The 40 Year-Old Virgin"
George Clooney & Grant Heslov: "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Noah Baumbach: "The Squid and the Whale"

Adapted screenplay

Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana: "Brokeback Mountain," based on the short story by Annie Proulx
Dan Futterman: "Capote," based on the book by Gerald Clarke
Jeffrey Caine: "The Constant Gardener," based on the novel by John le Carré
Josh Olson: "A History of Violence," based on the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke
Stephen Gaghan: "Syriana," based on the book "See No Evil" by Robert Baer

One woman with half a credit. Where are the women????