Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Directed by Women Worldwide Film Viewing Party and Me

I love movies. I've loved watching films all my life. The movie theater was a good place for a babysitter to take us (bags of homemade popcorn in hand), and when we were older, my mother could drop us off for a whole afternoon. Two features, and sometimes we stayed to watch one again, if we had walked to the show. At Academy Award time, if we hadn't seen everything nominated we had a marathon weekend of watching. 1965. Ship of Fools year was a marathon viewing weekend. 1976 Marathon Man year. 1980 Atlantic City year. I read about filmmaking, and learned about the early years of Hollywood when women made big money, were studio heads, scriptwriters, production designers, directors, producers. And then how it all went away when the money men from the east got to town. At the millennium, I got mad. It was clear that women, who had regained a small percentage of ground in the film industry, saw those gains eroded year to year. Women moviegoers began staying home in droves. What was there to look at on the screen? Buddy movies, bromances, comic book guys in tights, throwaway woman roles, stories with no soul or truth. I blogged like a lunatic, doing what I called railing against Bellus. Bellus is the planet that will crush the earth in the movie When Worlds Collide. Not much good to scream at an approaching obliterator.

In 2009 I met a young woman at AFI because I sent her a film noir doll I made to encourage her on a noir project. I told the friend who mentioned the student that she was in the belly of the beast. A woman +  <35 + smart + Hollywood and she was feeling alone. Right?

From that point, I was whinging louder. Didn't anybody get this? I tweeted, wrote, wailed, bellowed, banged my head against walls and every friend's head in my range. Made more doll art: women who had been forgotten by history, or worse, their story mulched into the male realm. There are few women cinematographers because cameras used to be heavy. It took some muscle to lift and carry. A woman can direct; women do, but their work is not on our local cineplex screens.

The journey of the AFI student through graduation to her first film I witnessed up close and personal. Written and directed by a woman. From 2010 to 2014. The film festival submissions, screenwriting submissions, submissions, submissions. And the names on the written by, directed by credits of films accepted. Percentages of women directors represented we then knew were real and disappointing.

Following women directors, and focusing tightly on women filmmakers, I read the intention of Barbara Ann O'Leary to watch a female-directed movie for every male-directed movie. Daunting, I thought, but my interest was snagged. I followed her journey for a year, and watched as many of the women-directed films as I could get my hands on. Barbara started what would become the Directed by Women Worldwide Film Viewing Party the next year: two weeks in September when we all celebrated the vision and the work of women directors around the world. By watching movies.

During the months before September 2015, Barbara Ann O'Leary devoted her own time to gathering women directors into a database that reached 6,000+ before the party, and now names 8,948 women directors. Bounty! Abundance!

She also changed my brain and retrained my heart. Focusing on lack gets more of the same back. I know this cognitively. But I don't practice this. We notice absence, and the hole stays empty. When I saw what transpires when attention is beamed at what is, and what we have, and celebrate that, my home life changed as well. All those overused contractions - don't, haven't, can't - became will, can, has. Loved ones around me benefit from what grows me.

I volunteered to help the party. I called on people I didn't know, made appointments to see anyone who would listen to the party invitation. Everything I did to celebrate women film directors brought a glow that comes from inside. I met people as thrilled to be a part of this appreciation as I was.

I'm volunteering again this year because joy keeps going, appreciation grows the love, and movies need voices and vision that must be heard and seen, especially women voices and vision. I love movies.

Everyone can contribute. Keeping the energy going requires administration, research, record keeping. There are 8,948 women directors on the Directed by Women site, and the list is now searchable. $1 donation to the Directed by Women Worldwide Film Viewing Party 2016 from that many interested people will keep the party going. I donated. You can, too. Keep the celebration alive. Please.

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