Why We Loved Our Collaborator Filming Days

By Marése O’Sullivan

Wow! It’s been an incredible week. Two filming days over and done with – and the What I See team is feeling more inspired than ever before.

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We really enjoyed getting to meet so many of you at our collaborator filming event. It was fun to chat in person and talk about what really matters to you.

We had the perfect location: the Art First Gallery, Eastcastle Street, London. Thanks again to the Art First team who were very kind and generous in allowing us to film there.

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The footage is looking great – we’re so looking forward to sharing the final films with you next month. We’re delighted you came along!

Check out our photo blog from both days on our website:

http://whatiseeproject.com/news/a-selection-of-behind-the-scenes-photos-collaborator-filming-day-2

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What I See Blogger Film Evening: Behind The Scenes

Jaclyn from The What I See Project with Anna (ScienceGrrl), Lindsey and Claire (Ballad Of…Magazine), and Becky Clarke (Microchicks). Thanks to all our wonderful women who came to the film evening. Keep an eye out for their videos on our … Continue reading

Women and Hollywood: A Review of the WFTV Discussion

By Marése O’Sullivan

The perception of women in Hollywood is fraught with judgement and jealousy.

Even now, women in the film and television industry are being sized up not on their talent, but on their appearance.

Why are studios determining the right person for the job based on their sex? Since when are women not trusted to lead a big-budget movie? And why are the top ten grossing movies of all time all directed by men?

Last week, the Women in Film and Television UK (WFTV) organisation led a discussion on the current status of women in Hollywood. From actors, to writers, to producers, to editors, we heard the hard-hitting facts: women still do not exert the kind of power in the industry that men do. Right now, under 30% of behind-the-scenes and front-of-camera roles are filled by women.

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Most of the women in the film and television industry are known for their acting success, but not behind the scenes.

Melissa Silverstein, Women and Hollywood blogger and author of In Her Voice, took to the stage to debate these figures. She is about to celebrate the sixth anniversary of her blog and is a co-director of the Athena Film Festival. She questioned the lack of female CEOs for the six major film studios in the U.S. – Disney, Paramount Pictures, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios, and Warner Bros Pictures – with only one, Warner Bros, boasting a woman as a co-executive.

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Melissa Silverstein, author of In Her Voice, and guest speaker at the WFTV event.

Melissa explained how Hollywood works, indicating its focus on the opening weekend and on earning the highest gross possible, and revealed: “It’s all about the money, not all about the movie.”

Women are not seen as a market by Hollywood, she said, nor apparently does Hollywood believe that women go to see films. This illusion directly contrasts with data published by the Motion Picture Association of America, which revealed that, in 2012, women actually attended more films than men.

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She remarked that a woman’s story is just as important to be told as a man’s story, but that doesn’t seem to have clicked with the film industry yet, because female success is generally believed to be a fluke.

Producing is a far more popular career for women in the industry – but if only 19% of screenwriters of British films and 15% of UK directors are women, it’s clearly time for a change.

“In 2006, less than a dozen of the 307 films eligible for Oscars were women-driven,” Melissa told us. “Only three women have directed a film with a budget of over $100 million. Those films were animated.”

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Jennifer Yuh Nelson, director of Kung Fu Panda 2. Image from Hollywood Reporter.

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Brenda Chapman, co-director and screenwriter of Brave. Image from MailOnline.

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Brave. Image from Disney.

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Vicky Jenson, center, co-director of Shark Tale, along with Bibo Bergeron and Rob Letterman. Image from movpins.

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Shark Tale. Image from unionfilms.org.

Incredibly, only four women have been nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards in nearly ninety years (Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for The Piano, Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker) – with just one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, winning the title. Ever.

Although Melissa is hopeful for the future of women in the industry, she believes that we need to continue to support each other to make a real difference. She encouraged us to believe in our female vision.

“Trust in your stories – they matter just as much,” she smiled.

How do you think women can have their voice heard more clearly in the film and television industry? Comment below with your thoughts!

Ladies Who Impress: A Night of Celebration

By Marése O’Sullivan

The What I See team headed to Cecil Sharp House in Camden on Monday to check out the Ladies Who Impress event, organised by Jana Bakunina.

The theme was ‘London In Her Eyes’, and the host made sure to quiz her guests of honour on how they see London. Jana herself moved to London from Ekaterinburg in Russia over a decade ago and has since established a career in media. With wonderful guest speakers in the shape of Jenny Dawson, founder of chutneys and jam business Rubies in the Rubble; Katherine Grainger, Olympic gold medallist and Homicide PhD graduate; and Xiaolu Guo, filmmaker, novelist and one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 2013, we were certainly inspired.

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Ladies Who Impress: Founder Jana Bakunina

“In the modern day and age, whom do professional women, juggling work and family, balancing desire to look good with cravings for treats, carrying The Economist and Grazia in their totes, find impressive?” writes Jana on her blog. “I realised that there are lots of amazing women out there from very diverse backgrounds. […] And so I have decided to do something to celebrate those amazing ladies and inspire other women to be more confident, daring, creative, enjoy life and give more to others.”

Jana plans to regularly host events to encourage interaction with women in the public eye who have made huge achievements. Sponsored by GOSH Food and fundraising for Alzheimer’s Disease International, Ladies Who Impress was a true revelation of the strength and determination of these women.

“Entrepreneur, athlete, writer…let’s look beyond these labels,” said Jana.

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JENNY DAWSON, Founder of Rubies in the Rubble

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Jenny’s home-grown company, Rubies in the Rubble, started in November 2010 and the young entrepreneur, who has a Masters in Maths from Edinburgh University, has quickly developed a knowledge of her market. Inspired by her mum, Jenny hit on the idea of using surplus fruit and vegetables to make delicious and resourceful chutneys and jams. Now she’s selling 300 jars a day.

“I stumbled across something I was passionate about,” smiled 27-year-old Jenny. “I realised I can make a really fun business out of [food that could be] wasted.” She said that approximately 60% of thrown out food is good. She employs several disadvantaged people at her stalls and kitchens to help them get their pride and self-confidence back in a work environment – two of the women that work for her are homeless.

Her chutneys and jams have had interest from America and she plans to expand the range of products that she and her business partner Alicia Lawson currently produce. “I guess the thing that all entrepreneurs have in common is a little naivité or lack of fear,” she declared. “Even if you fail, give it your best shot. I care about it so much – [but] if it all goes to pot, I’ll try and laugh about it…if possible!”

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KATHERINE GRAINGER, Olympic gold medallist and PhD graduate of Homicide Studies

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Although she is a three-time Olympic silver medalist and a six-time World Champion, Katherine revealed the struggles she went through to achieve victory as an Olympian. She fell into rowing at university. The mantra behind her team’s first silver Olympic medal was “We’ve never really reached our limits. Why don’t we tap into something we’ve never tried before? We believed it was possible – the different mindset transformed us.” Her competitive nature encouraged her to pursue the sport, but it also led to downcast periods in her life where she felt disappointed in herself. “I genuinely felt like a massive failure,” she said of not receiving gold at Beijing in 2008. “It was really tough to come to terms with it.”

She promised her mum that she’d compete at London 2012, although she didn’t know if she would at the time. “[Mum had said] ‘Promise me you’ll be in London, because I know you can do it.’ It’s just hard work,” she told us. “You don’t make assumptions [that it will not be].” Her determination paid off at the 2012 Olympics when she won gold in the double skulls with Anna Watkins. “I love what [the sport] brings out in me…the journey is worth it.”

She revealed that Princess Anne told her that she had no foreknowledge of the Queen’s surprise appearance in the James Bond spoof during the Opening Ceremony. When the Princess asked the Queen what made her do it, Her Majesty apparently declared: “We needed to find a way to beat Beijing!”

XIAOLU GUO, filmmaker and novelist

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The bestselling author of UFO In Her Eyes (the title of which inspired the Ladies Who Impress event name) and A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, which was nominated for the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction, also made an appearance. This multi-talented lady has penned screenplays, poetry and fiction and is known for the deep emphasis on cultural awareness and alienation in her feature films, which she directs and produces. Xiaolu studied at the Beijing Film Academy and earned a Masters from London’s National Film School. She was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists this year.

Photography courtesy of Jana Bakunina, Harlen Leonard, Marése O’Sullivan, Xiaolu GuoKatherine Grainger and Rubies in the Rubble.

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