Filmmaking is for Warriors: Does gender matter?

Filmmaking is for Warriors 2

I think it’s pretty clear at this point that I am a woman. I don’t consider that to be a good or bad thing especially. I am who I am.

I’ve been making films for 10 years. When I started I was a teenager so leadership was relative. I mean, we were all kind kids so me being in charge was just as valid as the next person.

Not that ANYTHING we made back then was good. But that was entirely due to ignorance and inexperience (ain’t nobody blaming equipment or money here – you can make a good movie on a zero budget if you are a good filmmaker).

College made it clear that the film sector, as far as the production side, was primarily made up of men, but there were strong women in my department. I mean, the main teachers were successful female filmmakers. But again, their gender had very little to do with their abilities as filmmakers.

Haters of Hollywood appear to believe that there’s some kind of specialness attached to filmmakers who are considered to be in the “minority.”

Good filmmakers are good filmmakers no matter what race, religion, gender, color, disability, ability, painting techniques, silliness quotient, bilingual status and whatever other demarcation is so popular by which to group individuals.

Are we not all human?

To quote Harry Potter, “…While we may come from different places and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one.”

I’m not a better filmmaker because I am a woman. A man is not a less interesting filmmaker or less capable filmmaker because he is a man. This silliness that is rampant in our thinking is just ridiculous.

Filmmaking is for warriors. There is no value distinction between us, just our work.

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A Word on American Universities

I attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  I liked my school.  It was a gorgeous campus, great facilities, good teachers, mostly helpful administration, located not far from my home…I enjoyed my time there.

But it didn’t teach me how to make money.  It didn’t teach me how to get a job.  It didn’t even teach me how to make a good resume, something I learned the hard way when attending an internship brunch and a potential employer went on a rant and wrote all over my resume the things that were wrong.  There’s few things more intimidating than the representative of a TV station telling you how stupid students are getting with their resumes when you’re attempting to impress him.

Didn’t I spend over 5 years and thousands of dollars paying someone else to teach me something as basic as how to craft a good resume?

“Did they teach you about working with clients?” I asked my co-worker about an internship she did in college.

“No,” she said.  “I wish I had learned that…”

She majored in Graphic Design, focusing mostly on print and drawing by hand.  She told me she wished she had focused more on building websites and digital art.  Apparently we both graduated with ignorance, not knowledge.

Here’s the thing though, I knew that I didn’t have to go to college.  I knew that college was just a way to get to where I wanted to be.  I made a calculated decision–based on my introverted nature–that college would be the better option to prepare me to get to Hollywood.  I didn’t think I would get paid more.  I didn’t think it would be easier to get a job, per se.  In fact, I knew that it was in my future to be at working-class income (possibly lower-class, depends on your point-of-view).

Because I was pursuing art.  And really, how many people make a lot of money at art?

BUT.  I did expect that my university would provide a magic list of steps to take to get a job, equip me with a list of all the jobs (like real companies) that I could apply to, and/or automatically place me on the radar of top people in the media and film industry (like Disney, Pixar, Bad Robot, J.J. Abrams, etc).

Why did I expect this?  I have no idea.  I honestly don’t know who told me that.

Why do people keep expecting magic to happen when they just spent 4, 5, 6, 8 years working, studying, testing, writing, running to class, forgetting their parking pass, going into debt, paying a parking fee, staying up all night to fail a test, drinking too much coffee, watching boring class-required movies, eating ramen, lugging brick-like textbooks everywhere and hating their teacher who just assigned that stupid 7-page paper over the weekend?  Seriously.  Why do we expect that after all that–college–we should hop out of school and be ushered into the job force within the week?

Yeah, I paid a lot of money.  Yeah, I’m qualified to film and edit live events, commercials, web videos, training videos, short films, long films, competitive films; write papers, books, screenplays, blog posts; take orders, directions, feedback, and criticism and not DIE (honestly, I’ve not died once from too much work).  But did that entitle me to walk off the podium at my college and into a steady, paying position at a company within my expertise?

Why do we assume that getting a job shouldn’t require work?

I don’t know.  I know that all that time I spent sitting alone before class I should’ve spent chatting with the teachers, staff, anyone, about jobs in Hollywood, how to build a nice-looking resume, and how to sweet-talk a producer into letting me hold lights or equipment on set for a film.  And I should’ve been making calls, sending emails, messages, snail-mail, whatever, to companies and directors and producers BEFORE I graduated and let them know how awesome I am and that they should consider making me part of their team.

I mean, that’s kinda how I got into college.  I pursued it and they couldn’t say no.  I also paid them a lot of money, but hey, I want Hollywood so that might come with the territory.

But I didn’t know.  No one taught me that.  Or maybe they did, and I just wasn’t paying attention.

Impossible Impossibilities

Making a film is impossible.  Come on, the only way Hollywood does it is to call on an army of thousands, millions of dollars from investors and the finest directors, writers, cinematographers, composers, actors and editors on the planet.  They have an establishment.  If you’re not in it, if you don’t know someone, if you don’t sleep with half of California, you’ll never be a part of filmmaking.

Right?

At some point, usually many points, artists are told something very similar to this.  I’ve heard it…a lot.  And I’ve bought into it at times.

A long time ago my mom taught me to keep going.  She did this through encouraging me to stay in choir, keep writing, take this class, oh you like to draw–take this other class, theater sounds good–here’s a theater program even though we can’t afford it.  So I’m going to work extra just so you can go.  She came to my shows, most of the time she had to–she was helping.

When I started making films, my mom started hosting actors.  She has been on set…many times.  She offers feedback on scripts, first edits, actors, and anything else.  She has acted in my films and recently co-wrote a short film with me.

It’s hard to give up on something when someone else refuses to give up on you.

Because of this, I am about to attempt an animated film.  Hand-drawn.

Yeah, I know.

Here’s a sneak peek of some of my conceptualizing.

Story

“By the 1990s script development in Hollywood climbed to over $500 million per annum, three quarters of which is paid to writers for options and rewrites on films that will never be made.  Despite a half-billion dollars and the exhaustive efforts of development personnel, Hollywood cannot find better material than it produces.  The hard-to-believe truth is that what we see on the screen each year is a reasonable reflection of the best writing of the last few years.

Many screenwriters, however, cannot face this downtown fact and live in the exurbs of illusion, convinced that Hollywood is blind to their talent.  With rare exceptions, unrecognized genius is a myth.  First-rate screenplays are at least optioned if not made.  For writers who can tell a quality story, it’s a seller’s market–always has been, always will be.  Hollywood has a secure international business for hundreds of films each year, and they will be made.  Most will open, run a few weeks, close, and be mercifully forgotten.”

~Robert McKee, Story

My DP friend has forcibly loaned me his copy of Story.  I have a lot of trouble reading non-fiction, which is why I didn’t read it in film school when my teacher repeatedly recommended it.

Well I’m reading it.

Thanks.

And I take great comfort in the above passage.  To some people this may sound depressing–a lot of my friends have little respect for most of the movies coming out of Hollywood.  If this lot is the top-of-the-line, what hope do we have for future films?

That’s where my own self-conceitedness takes flight.  I know I can write better or at least as good as those films.  I was taught screenwriting by an expert.  Mentored by genius writers and storytellers.  Critiqued by friends and family and you, whoever you are.

But mostly, I really, really, really want to make films.  That will be seen.  And you can’t stop someone when they really want something.

Hollywood taught me that.