Short Films By Women Directors and Why We Love Making Them, by Paige Morrow Kimball

HUFFWOMEN

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I love short films. I love watching them almost as much as I love making them. A well-done short film is satisfying to watch and doesn’t require a huge time commitment. Also, because there is usually no financial upside to making short films, the business is taken out of the entertainment, resulting in pure creative expression.

While it’s well known that women struggle to be equally represented in Hollywood (only 6 percent of the top Hollywood feature films were directed by women in 2013) in the world of short film, women filmmakers are creatively thriving.

ShortsHD, the only short film network is showcasing and celebrating women filmmakers by airing month-long programming, 100 Films By Her. The entire month of November is dedicated to airing all women-directed short films… the most extensive collection of women’s films ever programmed on television.

“We have so many fine women filmmaker short movies in our library that one of the challenges was getting the list down to only 100,” said Bruce Rider, Head of Programming, at ShortsHD. “These 100 films touch on about every film genre.”

“We’re not doing the Lifetime TV version, filled with dramas and ‘women’s films’,” said Linda Olszewski, Short Film Guru and Senior Acquisitions & Programming Consultant at ShortsHD. “We’re presenting films that are quality pieces of work that are for everyone…that happen to be directed by women.”

“Having 100 films all directed by women makes the project collectively important. It shows that there is a vast body of work out there with a lot of variety,” said director Susan Seidelman. Seidelman began her career in 1976 by making the short film, And You Act Like One Too and went on to direct such iconic features as Desperately Seeking Susan, Making Mr. Right and many more.

“Short films have their own set of rules,” said Seidelman. “They still need a beginning, middle and end and they still need to be emotionally satisfying but you don’t have time to dilly dally. You have to be very specific and clear about the story you want to tell, so when the short film works it shows a great level of skill.”

100 Films by Her includes short films by the Top Ten: Wonderful Women Directors who, like Seidelman, have gone on to become successful feature film directors. The festival also showcases short films by top emerging directors: Top Ten: Females of the Future and also spotlights Lunafest Shorts, Movies of the Week and more, running the gamut of genres from romantic comedies and action films, to science fiction and horror.

My short film, Ending Up is included in the 100 Films by Her line-up and I spoke with five other directors whose films are also slated to air in the festival. Each film is as diverse as the filmmakers themselves; each with their own distinctive voice, from their own set of unique experiences and backgrounds.

Jen McGowan – Touch
An ode to city life, Touch explores the universal themes of isolation and need for community when two strangers make the most important connection of their lives while waiting for a train.

PMK: What are some of your favorite aspects about making short films?

JM: I love the short film format. It’s a great to place to experiment as a filmmaker and it is a different type of storytelling than any other form. You need to engage your audience right away with little time for development – that’s a unique challenge.

PMK: What did you learn from making Touch and how has it helped shape your career?

JM: I learned that the most important thing is to find material that you can get excited about and to commit fully to it. If I find a script that can keep me interested for a year or so to make it that’s a good sign it will be able to keep an audience interested for ten minutes to watch it.

PMK: What have you done since Touch and what’s next?

JM: Since Touch I made the feature film, Kelly & Cal, starring Juliette Lewis. It won the Gamechanger Award at South by Southwest and it’s now available On Demand. I’m working on my second feature film, shooting Spring of 2015.

Kari Barber – The Fifth Horseman
The Fifth Horseman is a coming of age tale of a Japanese medic who befriends an American pilot prisoner and chooses to rise up against what he knows to be wrong; the medical experimentation of prisoners of war.

PMK: What inspired The Fifth Horseman and what are its central themes?

KB: I’m part Japanese and feel terrible that the Imperial Japanese Army sweep their sins under the rug. I know that The Fifth Horseman will not ameliorate the tensions over night, but perhaps it can spark a dialogue. What appeals to me about filmmaking is that it extends the conversation and has the power to inform and bring about profound change.

PMK: Has being a woman filmmaker been a disadvantage for you?

KB: It’s been challenging making the leap to the next level. I got Horseman to some prominent industry gatekeepers and was told they were blown away by it. They just didn’t know what to do with me, or the project. Sadly I’ve seen some male filmmakers immediately get signed with material that was all style and no substance. Fortunately there are trailblazers like Kathryn Bigelow who are showing that women are just as good as men when it comes to directing action and drama.

PMK: What advice would you give to other aspiring filmmakers, and particularly women who want to make a short film?

KB: Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and go big.

Torrill Kove – The Danish Poet (Animation)
A Danish poet with writer’s block goes on a trip to Norway to find inspiration, and along the way his journey intertwines with others in unexpected ways.

PMK: What inspired you to make The Danish Poet?

TK: I wanted to tell a story about the ways in which people’s paths cross and about how the people we love the most, enter and enrich our lives.

PMK: Has being a woman filmmaker been a disadvantage for you?

TK: I have never experienced any disadvantages associated with being a woman filmmaker. There are many women in the international animated short film milieu, and I am surrounded by them in studios where I work, both in Canada and in Norway, and that makes for a very woman friendly environment.

PMK: The Danish Poet won both the Academy Award and the Genie Award for best animated short film. What did you learn from making this film and how did its success affect your career?

TK: I just learn new things all the time. The Danish Poet was well received, which helped pave the way for me to make more films. I like to see each experience as a step towards building a body of work.

Beryl Richards – Recession
In a state of despair Scarlet hitches a lift with a mysterious stranger who seems unnervingly familiar, taking her back to a place she’d forgotten.

PMK: Why did you decide to make a short film?

BR: I have been writing features and it is very frustrating to spend a long time writing a good script but then not see it made. I decided to write what I could achieve myself with a small budget that would look good so I could try out ideas.

PMK: What are some of your favorite aspects about making short films?

BR: I like the complete freedom of expression of short films combined with the certain chaos caused by having ambition greater than your very small budget.

PMK: What advice would you give to other aspiring filmmakers, and particularly women who want to make a short film?

BR: Don’t let anyone undermine you or question your ideas because of your gender. Make what is close to your heart.

Suha Araj – The Cup Reader
Shamed as a young girl in Palestine and now renowned for her mystical ‘matchmaking’, Warde reads the fortunes of her clients who all must choose between love and marriage, not having the luxury of both.

PMK: What Inspired The Cup Reader and what are its central themes?

SA: The inspiration came from sitting in the kitchen for hours with the women of my family and laughing at everything that came out of their mouths. It’s about the choices we have as women and the choices we don’t have in love and marriage. It’s an exploration in societal opinions and fate.

PMK: How has being a woman filmmaker been an advantage for you?

SA: As women we have such immediate access to our visceral emotions and intuition. I always try and remain open and vulnerable while leading (directing) … it’s an interesting balance.

PMK: What advice would you give to other aspiring filmmakers, and particularly women who want to make a short film?

SA: Trust the spark that made you want to make the film. Surround yourself with people smarter and more talented than you are and let them take you somewhere you haven’t thought of. Leave room for the magic.

For schedule information for 100 Films by Her, go to shorts.tv.

 

 



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