Women in Film and Video: November President’s Message

On Thursday, October 29th, Mayor Bowser bestowed Women in Film & Video DC with the Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts at the 30th Annual Mayor’s Arts Awards organized by the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities.   In my first message, I said I wanted to hold another award this year…one that belongs to you.  And now that’s come true.  This award belongs to everyone — Executive Director Melissa Houghton, our all-volunteer board, members, sponsors and partners.  It’s been an exciting month! I hope you enjoy reading about some of the amazing filmmakers at the Middleburg Film Festival in my message below.

LEE_0672“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good,” is one of Olivia Wilde’s favorite quotes from Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  In a candid black and white interview on Off Camera with Sam Jones, Wilde explains her recent leap of faith with Meadowland, directed by Reed Morano, and how the film helped her to develop both her business skills and her acting chops.  Wilde took on the role of producer along with the role of actress, portraying a mother devastated by the disappearance of her son.  The artistic journey for these two moviemakers involved an unexpected pregnancy for Wilde, and an unexpected illness for Morano, a female cinematographer making her directorial debut with the film — and battling cancer along the way.

And then there’s Meg Ryan, whose directorial debut Ithaca was shot on location in the Richmond-Petersburg area of Virginia, and had its world premiere at the Middleburg Film Festival this October.  Ryan also acted in this film, doing double duty like Wilde and Morano.  Set in the early days of World War II, the film follows the story of a 14-year old boy tasked with delivering telegrams from the Secretary of War to the families of the small town he lives in.  Ryan was one of seven women directors with films at this year’s MFF, and was in good company with Catherine Hardwicke, whose film Miss You Already also screened at the festival this year.

Hardwicke, known for Thirteen and the megahit Twilight, participated in a “Conversation” event at Boxwood Winery.  These special events give festival attendees the chance to enjoy an intimate setting while filmmakers answer questions from LA and NY correspondents. Maureen Orth, special correspondent for Vanity Fair, asked Hardwicke about her directing career, and noted she serves as a role model for women in Hollywood – where only 4% of movies directed by women make it to the big screen.  The tone is meant to be relaxed and conversational; the same tone Sam Jones uses in his Off Camera series, augmented in the MFF setting by a delicious glass of wine.

Lee Daniels, writer, director, and co-creator of Empire, FOX television’s original series, was also asked about diversity during his “Conversation” event at the Salamander Library at MFF.  Daniels’ responses to John Horn, host of KPCC’s The Frame in LA, were frank and unapologetic.  “I do stories that matter to me.”  Daniels recounted how he could not finish directing the scene in Empire where a boy walks to his father in high heels…that was his story, that was his father, and he froze in the director’s chair.  His sister, who was on set that day, stepped in and began directing, finishing the day for him.  Daniels’ satisfaction comes not from awards or critical accolades for his work in films Precious, Monster Ball, The Butler, but from a person who walks up to him and says, “Thank you for telling that story.  I was abused.”  Join us as we celebrate and support artistic vision this month with two of our signature events:

  • A Conversation with Joan Darling and Dawn Porter – Nov. 12 Celebrate with 2015 Women of Vision honorees Joan Darling and Dawn Porter, moderated by Peabody-Award-winning Senior Producer/Reporter on the Arts Desk at NPR Elizabeth Blair.  RSVP here.
  • Words to Action at ScriptDC – Nov. 13 – 15 Enjoy directing and producing master classes, pitch critiques, and a special screening.  Register now to get your free ScriptDC mobile app.  Special thanks to Yolanda Arrington for helping us go mobile!

When Wilde talked about not “being perfect”, she was highlighting how movies like Meadowland and Drinking Buddies allowed her to stretch artistically, and break out of the glamorous “box” that Hollywood had defined for her as a leading actress.  When we let go of the labels that other people stick on us, we’re able to approach our artistic work from a place of deep connection and unflinching honesty.  Be fearless.  Be fierce.

Changing media one story at a time,
Rebecca

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