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

Behind the Scenes: Women in Film and Television

The What I See team recently attended a Women in Film and Television UK (WFTV) event, where we chatted to a selection of the exceptional women from the film, television and media industry. Each woman that we met is a shining example to all young girls.

It is clear from the statistics we heard from Women and Hollywood blogger Melissa Silverstein that females are massively underrepresented in front of the camera. But what about those behind the camera? According to the San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, in 2012, only 26% of individuals working behind the scenes (such as directors, producers and writers) were women. The figures for the amount of women who worked on the top 250 films of 2012 are even more depressing; they stand at a mere 18%.

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Camera operator Lulu Elliott filming the Opening Ceremony at the London 2012 Olympics

What can be done to change this? Some women have taken it on themselves to bridge the gender inequality gap by taking matters into their own hands. Kristen Wigg penned the £198 million smash-hit film Bridesmaids after been quoted as saying: “It’s not that there aren’t good roles for women, there just aren’t enough.”

In May of this year, camera operator Lulu Elliott launched her own agency, Reel Angels, to help women who work behind the camera. “We hope to raise much needed awareness with Reel Angels as [it is] the first and only agency representing female camera, lighting and sound freelance crews,” she told us. “With 100 UK members and growing, it feels great to shine a light on skilled women who have been traditionally been under-represented.” The women that are represented by the agency already have a myriad of crew credits, everything from Hollywood blockbusters to British soap operas.

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Writer/Director Sarah Gray

We also met Sarah Gray, whose latest film Wicked Yeva, a psychological thriller about sibling rivalry, was featured as Film of the Day on Gerry Films. Sarah wrote and directed the film herself.

“I made Wicked Yeva because I’m fascinated with the cycles of behaviour created within families. Yeva’s revenge is fuelled by her need for her mother’s love, [which her mother] Heather is unable to give. The cycle continues as Yeva bullies her little sister Susie so she can control the family and ultimately Heather. I wanted to tell the story of siblings because it’s a relationship most of us understand and is often our first experience of rivalry. I find it frightening how we easily we pass on the unspoken darkness in our hearts to those who need us most.”

Sarah openly admits that she is using her film and talent to break common stereotypes about women that are held in the film and television industry. “I’ve found that, being a woman, my skills and vision are often automatically underestimated. It’s only when I can prove that I know what I want from my films, and have a clear vision of what I’m trying to achieve, that attitude changes. By being concise, calm, and communicative, I’ve managed to make it work so far!”

These women show that females are now finding new and creative ways to express themselves. How do you think we can further break down those barriers of ignorance and prejudice? Let us know in the comment section below.

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!

Are you going to watch the Battle of the Sexes?

By Harlen Leonard

Today (June 26th) will see the release of the much-anticipated documentary Battle of the Sexes.

Poster and trailer belonging to Live For Films

Poster and trailer were found on Live For Films. Click here for more details.

The film’s historical footage chronicles Billie Jean King‘s journey from amateur tennis player to her 1973 defeat of Bobby Riggs, the match that earned her instant respect as a feminist icon.

King was the number one American world tennis champion and won 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 singles, 16 women’s doubles, and 11 mixed doubles titles. She also founded the Women’s Tennis Association and Women’s Sports Foundation.

In 1973, Bobby Riggs challenged the leading women of the tennis world to beat him in a match. At the time, he was quoted as saying “I want to prove that women are lousy, [that] they stink [and] they don’t belong on the same court as a man.”

The 55-year-old first challenged Margaret Court, on the basis that no women could beat him even at his age, and he won on May 13, 1973. This caught Billie Jean’s attention.

Riggs said: “Billie Jean King is one of the all-time tennis greats. She’s one of the superstars, she’s ready for the big one, but she doesn’t stand a chance against me. Women’s tennis is so far beneath men’s tennis.”

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Image of Billie Jean King – courtesy of The Huffington Post.

On September 20, 1973, Riggs and King met each other at the Houston Astrodome, where Billie Jean went on to beat her competitor and instantly became a figurehead for the feminist movement. Over 1 million people watched the match on television and it is still considered to be the most-viewed match in tennis history.

This must-see film, produced by King, contains historical footage as well as interviews from Margaret Court, Chris Evert, and Venus and Serena Williams.

It is released in cinemas today. Let us know if you’re going to see it!

Watch the trailer below:

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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Female Perception through Art: An Exploration of the Tate Modern, London

By Marése O’Sullivan

How does female perception relate to art? The What I See team went to the Poetry and Dream Exhibition at the Tate Modern in London this week to find out.

The images of modern women were strong and dramatic, evoking very fine and different depictions. The male artists I’m discussing seem to have a visual focus on the power of the physical body – the woman figure dominates the frame – while the female artists insist on the detachment and solitary nature of the woman.

Below are some of the male representations of women. All image credit to the Tate Modern.

Meredith Frampton – Portrait of a Young Woman, 1935

Portrait of a Young Woman 1935 by Meredith Frampton 1894-1984

Frampton’s portrait centres on a tall woman who dominates the frame. Her sharply-angled body evokes tension, as do the taut strings on the double bass, enhanced by the dark atmosphere. Half her face is in shadow, perhaps a reflection on the pre-World War Two era. The contrast of light and dark – including the black and white floor – perfectly demonstrates the inner conflict of the woman: both wanting to be herself and who the painter wants her to be. The seemingly natural environment, with music and flowers, is full of arrangements and falsities: the bended plant sways towards the border of the painting, echoing the woman’s need for release; the instrument sits unplayed, its bow at the edge of the table; her tight curls are set in place and emphasise her frown.

This should be a traditional portrayal of feminine beauty – with her red lips, flowing figure, and pastel clothing, but her almost angry expression, tense body language, and somber surroundings reveal a subverted moodiness and discontent. She does not look at the viewer, her eyes fixed on a point in the distance.

Meredith Frampton – Marguerite Kelsey, 1928

Marguerite Kelsey 1928 by Meredith Frampton 1894-1984

This woman remarkably almost blends in with her surroundings. She manages to appear almost expressionless, but there is a hint of sadness in her eyes.

Her beige dress reveals little of her pale skin. Her red shoes, tucked behind her, hint at a joyful personality that she’s hidden from the viewer and painter.

Her tightly-pinned hair and stiff fingers add to the taut structure of the painting. These women don’t seem comfortable in the environment that they’ve been placed in by men.

Francis Picabia – Otaiti, 1930

Otaïti 1930 by Francis Picabia 1879-1953

This woman is portrayed a lot more sensually. With a fantastically evocative blend of darkness and light, her uncovered body is powerfully sensualised. She is kneeling, defined in black, with pursed red lips. Her focus is on the creature above her. The entanglement of brown and yellow colour gives this painting a more earthly feel. Merged with drawings of beasts and faces, this woman is firmly connected to her natural self.

The What I See Project’s Travel Competition

Would you like to win £500 for telling an amazing story?

The What I See Project is launching the What Do You See? Travel Competition for people over 18 to contribute words and photos or videos from their travels, telling the stories of fascinating women that they meet along the way by asking them “What do you see in the mirror?”

We’re looking for a minimum of two submissions over the summer. We’re offering a prize of £500 for the most outstanding submission, with £250 each for two runners-up. The top ten finalists will also be invited to a networking event in London where they’ll get the chance to meet our Features Ambassadors, the inspiring and powerful women who have backed the What I See Project.

Work that catches our eye will be published on our website and will prove a great addition to any CV. The closing date for entries is the end of September. The winner of the competition will be announced at the start of October. All candidates must ensure each woman they profile completes a consent form, which should be returned to us.

Check out the What I See Project’s website to get an idea of what we’re looking for. Please email us by June 30 for an application form and entry pack at competition@whatiseeproject.com.

 

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