Independence Film: New Models for Female Filmmakers

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.

Filmmaker and Seed&Spark Founder Emily Best

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?

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