Females made up only 12 percent of protagonists featured in last year’s top 100 grossing films. In Academy Award history, only four female filmmakers have ever been nominated for best director, and only Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 has won. Debra Granik’s 2010 film Winter’s Bone—which emerged out of the Sundance Film Festival—was nominated for four Academy Awards in 2011 including Best Picture and Best Actress for Jennifer Lawrence, catapulting Lawrence’s career. The film’s writer-director Granik, on the other hand, hasn’t had the same deserving mainstream success. Did Hollywood come knocking at Granik’s door? Several of her male competitors in the 2011 Best Picture category have gone on to launch multiple blockbusters since—David Fincher with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar. This is the climate of the mainstream film industry that female filmmakers are up against, creating “the ultimate culture of scarcity for women,” said filmmaker and founder of Seed&Spark Emily Best during a women’s filmmakers symposium at this year’s Sarasota Film Festival.
In this culture, everyone must be against everyone else with no room for friendship or collaboration. “In a culture of scarcity, it is a perfectly natural response to clamor to survive by the rules as you understand them,” said Best, the founder of crowdfunding and distribution platform Seed&Spark. If the business models inside the studio system is not built for women, who is its intended beneficiary? For Best, the simple answer is white men conceived to be impervious and whose perspectives have shaped the tools within the filmmaking industry. But what if we found new models to help us define and collectively reimagine what we want the industry to become over the next decade?
“Every woman who has made a film on her own terms, raising her own independent film financing is the basis of a new empowered mythology,” Best said. “We aren’t paving the road for future generation of women who will benefit from our sacrifice, we already are the solution.” What Best calls for is the embracing of “independence film,” a class of film that contributes to the rise different voices in which filmmakers share resources and audiences, teaching what they learn to create films made on the most efficient budget possible on the greatest possible return. Within this culture of plenty, filmmakers ruthlessly hold each other to standards of excellence. Who better suited to lead this collective effort of independence film and raise new and larger audiences than women?
A century after the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, Turkey still won’t recognize it occurred and President Obama won’t press the issue either. But a filmmaker raised in Sarasota wants to make sure the event is not ignored on this important anniversary. Professional vlogger Datev Gallagher has spent the past seven months working on the short film I Am Armenian, a 26-minute documentary telling the story of the genocide through its impact on her own family. “It’s a part of history that is not officially recognized, but over 1.5 million died and suffered,” Gallagher said. “I’m just trying to do justice for these people.”
When director Brett Haley first came to the Sarasota Film Festival five years ago, he was immediately concerned. His directorial debut, The New Year, had sold just 10 tickets, so he started hustling on the streets, begging folks to see a micro-budget shot with no recognizable actors in Pensacola, Florida. He would leave after three days—he had a paying job shooting a Levi’s commercial that took priority—so he wasn’t in town to year that his work more than paid off. The New Year won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature. “That was crazy,” he recalls. “And then that movie got a lot more traction because it won here.”
Organizers believe the Sarasota Film Festival this year was the first major festival in the country to include 100 feature films directed by female filmmakers. The milestone adds to the reputation of the festival, which already partners with the U.S. National Committee for United Nations Women to include women directors in the Through Women’s Eyes Festival and that has for the last several years held the Side by Side Symposium to encourage relationships among women in the industry.
“It’s the unintended consequence of doing things the right way,” said Sarasota Film Festival President Mark Famiglio.
It’s safe to say it was a surprise to Ross Partridge when his film, Lamb, won the Independent Visions competition at the Sarasota Film Festival on Friday. You could tell just from his seat in the theater. A more confident director might have seated himself near the front of the theater, at least the ground floor. But Partridge situated himself in the balcony near the back of the Sarasota Opera House, far from the stairway to go on stage.
From the world of James Bond the wild west around Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Jane Seymour has stayed active on screen bringing characters to life. In Bereave, a Spotlight film at this year’s Sarasota Film Festival, she played opposite Malcolm McDowell in a film that explores a couple facing the prospect of death. Seymour spoke with SRQ about bringing this picture to Sarasota. Continue reading Jane Seymour Believes ‘Bereave’ Work Among Her Best→
The madness of film festival is over; but the films continue for one more day. In this last installment of our festival guide for 2015, we spot a few things still left to do before the Sarasota Film Festival calls it a wrap.
12:00 — NYU Shorts These films were all made by students from one of the best recognized film schools in the world, here showing shorts today that serve as proof of concepts for tomorrow. The relationship between SFF and NYU has been a solid one, and this program is proof.
2:00 — Drunk Stones Brilliant Dead We must admit we’re as interested in the venue as the topic. What better place to see this documentary of the National Lampoon than at the new McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, the most important stand-up venue in town
5:30 —Walking Under Water This underwater documentary shot under the waves in countries including Poland and Indonesia was noted for its outstanding craft when it was awarded SFF’s Documentary Award last night.
6:45 — Hollywood Nights The greatest showcase of student films at the festival each year, red carpets for local student filmmakers will be held at Regal Hollywood 20 at 6:15pm and 8pm, before batches of their work get projected on the big screen.
7:15 — White God This was so controversial a selection for SFF’s Narrative Award that audience members booed, and a few in the first screening this year walked out. But jury member David Edelstein (New York Magazine) assures us no dogs were abused in this Hungarian tale told from the point of view of dogs rising against the government.
Your peek behind the scenes of Sarasota, Florida's growing film industry