‘Twas the night before filming and all through the house not a creature was stirring…except for me. My kids were tucked in, my husband had sensibly gone to bed over an hour ago, and even my brother, our line producer Matt, was sawing logs in our guest room. Meanwhile, I was in my PJs, nervously double-checking that I had everything in what felt like 80 bags I had packed to bring to set.
I’ve had many of these prep-nights getting ready for shoots, yet I felt totally out of my element on this particular Sunday night. Because, it was the night before my first day directing a feature film. Holy crap.
Every Monday our project chooses a weekly quote or saying to inspire and remind us why we are sacrificing sleep and sanity as we make our film called Dragonfly. This week our Monday Mantra came from Joan of Arc: “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.” It summed up what I wanted to feel that Sunday night.
But, do you want to know the truth? I was terrified. What if I wasn’t up to this? What if the project was a complete failure? What if no one showed up the next morning on set?
Despite all of the fears, I was also deep down really excited. Excited to see months of planning and vision for a story with real heart to come to life. Also, so excited to be working on project that is helping to work towards gender equity in film.
I feel really fortunate to have two other women, Cara & Mim, leading the charge with me for the Dragonfly film. And while we have been met with strong support and genuine encouragement for the project, the lack of women in film overall cannot be overstated
In 2013, women made up only 16% of all directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors. This discrepancy is clear in front of the camera, too. In 2013, only 11% of identifiable protagonists were female and 78% were male. Women only made up 25.6% of leading roles.
But there is hope! Women have shown to support other women in film. Female directors increase the number of women working on their films by 21% for narrative films and 24% for documentaries. Tina Fey’s Mean Girls had the highest perentage (42%) of female crew members of any Hollywood film in the last 20 years.
When we sat down to think about it, we realized that our Screenwriter, Directors, Executive Producers,Three Main Characters, Production Designers, Animator, and Storyboard Artist are all women. Not to mention the other absolutely brilliant women working on this film.
Only four female filmmakers have ever been nominated for an Academy Award for best director: Lina Wermuller (Seven Beauties—1977), Jane Compion (The Piano—1994), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation—2004), and 2009 winner Katheryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker).
Kathryn Bigelow is the only female director that has taken home an Oscar so far. She is a personal filmmaking role model for me, because her storytelling is so strong and also because of her wise perspective about women in film:
“If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies. It’s irrelevant who or what directed a movie, the important thing is that you either respond to it or you don’t. There should be more women directing; I think there’s just not the awareness that it’s really possible. It is.” – Kathryn Bigelow
So how do we make a change? How do we support women in film? Women with vision, talent, and a whole lot of passion for telling great stories. By following the advice of Brenda Chapman (the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature): “Mentor. Inspire. Move forward together.” By valuing the perspective that women bring, not as new or other, but as apart of the full human experience.
I’m proud to be breaking the mold, not only because I want to help share the voice of women through film, but also because Dragonfly is a story Cara, Mim and I are very excited to tell. We couldn’t do this film without the women and men in our lives—without you!