We Always Do It Nice & Rough: Guest post by filmmaker Sheila J. Hardy of Eve’s Lime Prods.

Los Angeles, California —

Sheila J. Hardy

People often ask me the meaning behind the unique the name of my production company.

Eve is the first woman, mother of every race.

Lime:  An “ism” I picked up when I lived in Barbados.  It means to watch the movements of the people, usually done from a porch or a stoop:  a party.

This West Indian term is used in the Caribbean both as a noun and verb:  “Come lime by me.”  Or “I’m having a lime this Saturday night.”

So much is changing and has to change in our world.  In order to continue to inhabit this planet, we are really going to have to do things differently.  This is just one of the many reasons why I am committed to growing ideas about how we, as an industry and community, can better maintain a balance between what we take and what we give back.  That way we can have longevity in the work we do, as well as an impact that goes far beyond our original circle of collaborators.  I believe the first step in this is to open the dialogue on what “real” collaborative work is, as it relates to filmmaking.

Nice & Rough: Black Women in Rock (Poster features Starr Cullars)

I believe that with the right combination of collaborators, you can do anything!

This is why collaboration is such an important part of Eve’s Lime.  We are able to see just how prolific the concept of collaboration has become by just looking toward the Web and social media.  LinkedIn blows my mind daily, as it continually affirms that there are only six degrees of separation between me and those I need to connect with to get my work done.  We have everything we need at our fingertips to complete our projects.  Once we embrace that fact, it’s easy to move forward. There is an audience for every film; a community for every project and this is the approach I bring to my work.

Still from the "ecosystems production" for the California Science Center TV ad campaign, produced by Sheila J. Hardy

Eve’s Lime represents a convergence of collaborators – uniquely gifted directors, writers, producers, crew, industry executives, vendors, corporations, and non-profits committed to this mission, to bring real stories and authentic voices into the limelight via documentaries and commercials.

Last summer, I was given the nickname, “The Zen Producer” because of the energy I commit to build the right team, and to create a production environment in which people have the freedom to do their best work.  This experience, and others like it are the result of my need to create a framework that reflects what I want to do – work that is collaborative, humanistic, sustainable, enjoyable, and creates value.

I come to production as an entrepreneur and journalist/author. After researching writing my first biography collection, I decided I wanted to learn how to retell these stories through film, so I enrolled in the Writer’s Bootcamp two-year screenwriting program.  After I graduated, I realized that I was still very green.  I had never even been on a film set.  So I looked for work on various productions – first as a location manager on a PSA.  Then I began to associate produce, and on to taking the lead as Producer.

Part of the team from the Daniel's Place PSA, produced by Sheila J. Hardy

Often after a production I would feel wiped out … No.  Not from the 14 hour days, but from all of the drama and politics. I was determined not to let the madness of others control my experience.   The work had become dissatisfying because the voice of the project or creative brief would get lost in translation because of politics and egos that we are all too familiar with in this industry.  That’s how collaboration became the cornerstone of my production model.  In collaborative production everyone is equally valued.

My goal in creating Eve’s Lime was to develop a new paradigm and to create a space where talented people can come together and truly collaborate.  Collaboration is accessible, and solution-focused, to fill the needs of the project or situation.  I have had the opportunity to witness, first hand, how crucial collaboration is in my work with non-profits.

In this shifting economy, non-profits need to do far more with less.  Because of Eves Lime‘s collaborative production model, I am able to draw on a community of resources built through like minded individual, businesses and organizations, to produce an ad campaign for a non-profit, at a fraction of the usual cost. It is so satisfying to watch this work.

Camera crew from the California Science Center TV ad campaign

This philosophy lays a solid foundation for how the work gets done, creates a dynamic interpersonal space in which I interface with my clients, and it is a perfect methodology for creating real stories, authentic voices.  As a historian I cannot stress enough the importance of telling our own stories.  This model provides a framework for story-development that ultimately conveys the DNA of the community it’s depicting. – not someone’s fantasy of that community.  For example, in the research for one of my recent commercials we interviewed members of the organization being depicted and incorporated elements of their day-to-day activities into the story, providing a genuine feel that engages viewers.

Opening opportunities for new dialogues and new possibilities is a wonderful by-product of collaboration.  I am on the warpath to connect with people who want to support my doc project.  Nice & Rough celebrates black women in rock.  These women dare to do their thing – no matter what the norm dictates. And I am taking my lead from them.

I decided to direct this doc as well as produce and write it, because I have such a strong sense of what I want this film to portray and why it’s so important.  Plus, I was simply no longer willing to expend my energies convincing another bull-headed director that Melba Moore is not a black woman in rock. (Long story. . .but true.)

The best part of the work I do is to help people make connections.  As we drift through our lives, we come across countless others whom we don’t believe we have anything in common with– until we experience a story, a film that uncovers the human journey that we all share. It connects us through the universal themes that are revealed. Film has the power to bring people together. That’s what I love to do.

Nice & Rough has literally become a metaphor for my own process.  It’s the sweet satisfaction of doing the work I love, coupled with the imperfect scenarios I am challenged to rise above in order to continue this insane journey called filmmaking.  I remember shooting the initial footage for the trailer.  With not much more than $150, I was able to make what appeared from the onset impossible possible, and to secure the resources for a small crew to shoot in Boston.

The night of the closing concert I cried because all I could think of was that if I had given up, I would never have been able to witness a beautiful and ageless, Nona Hendryx climb onto Cindy Blackman’s designer drums and jump back to the ground in hard rocker fashion, sporting thigh-high, stiletto boots, and swaying her hips in African dance movements.

ZEN Production anyone?

A Facebook fan commented “I don’t even know these women, and yet they speak to me.” It’s because these women are warriors and represent the power and freedom we all want –  especially as women filmmakers – to be ourselves, do our thing, and not be restricted by race or gender.

“Come lime by me:”

www.eveslime.com

Read more about collaborative production.

View Nice & Rough trailer and join the behind-the-scenes journey.

Become a Facebook Fan!

Follow me on Twitter @eveslime @niceandrough.

Check out Eve’s Lime’s YouTube channel.

Read about the Daniel’s Place PSA.

– Sheila J. Hardy is President & Executive Producer of Eve’s Lime Productions, Inc.

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Many thanks to Sheila Hardy for writing this guest post!

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Words & Actions from New Zealand: Strategies for helping women filmmakers, the Compostela Declaration and the Writing of a Biopic

As you may know, Her Film is a sister blog to the New Zealand-based blog Wellywoodwoman by Kiwi writer/filmmaker/cultural activist Marian Evans who this year earned the first Ph.D. in Creative Writing ever awarded in New Zealand.  Marian is making a film called Development about women filmmakers and the people who love them.  She’s using an alternative financing model that does not depend on the national film commission or other state-based film funds as many other Kiwi films do.  Inspired by Sally Potter‘s production model for The Gold Diggers, Marian and her production team are also tackling the larger issue:  gender parity within New Zealand filmmaking, working toward the goal of Kiwi women directing 50% of all Kiwi-made films.  Her doctoral thesis focused on women in the filmmaking industry and issues of gender parity, and the script for Development arose from that research.  It’s a global movement rapidly gaining traction but up against many obstacles.

Marian recently blogged about how women are helping other women to gain opportunities to participate in making films:

“There are so many strategies available to support women’s participation in feature filmmaking. I love them all.

Some people record, analyse and write about the numbers, provide the evidence…

Some women experiment with funding structures and new ways of distribution…

Some women illuminate the diverse—and often poorly understood—structures some women use when they write scripts…

…their effects are enhanced every time a distinguished member of the international film-making community speaks out about the issues—Jane Campion and Meryl Streep are the outstanding examples.”


The Compostela Declaration is part of this larger movement to bring about gender parity within filmmaking.  Generated by CIMA — Asociacion de Mujeres Cineastas y de los Medios Audiovisuales (Association of Women Filmmakers and Women in Audiovisual Communications), or Women in Audiovisual Europe.  (Use google to search the association’s Spanish  name for an option to translate the page.)  A major CIMA meeting was held in May of this year in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.  In reference to CIMA and its Compostela Declaration about women’s participation in film and media, gender parity and the “voicelessness” resulting from the current imbalance, Marian stated that it was:

“…the first time I’ve read about women using terminology that embraces the contemporary screen media convergence.”

(The declaration is included in Marian’s post for those who’d like to read it.)

And here’s a bit of her newest post which really made me jump for joy as it was “ballsy” in what seems to be a very Marian way, at least from the eight months or so that I’ve known her — one of my favorite things about her.  What I like to call a “modest proposal,” Marian takes on the topic of Sony Pictures looking for a woman screenwriter for the new project by producers Amy Pascal and Elizabeth Cantillon.  Based on Sheila Weller’s book GIRLS LIKE US, the film is a biopic of the lives of singer-songwriters Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Carly Simon.  And Marian says:

” ‘OH, I thought: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon– Then, ‘I can do this. And I want to.’ “


GO FOR IT, Marian!

READ MORE of Marian Evans’ incredible blog at Wellywoodwoman: For Women Who Want to Make Movies, and for the People Who Love Them, and check out her site for her new film Development (currently in production).  Join the Development page on Facebook and read Marian’s tweets @devt.  Start a dialogue!

Over 5,000 DVDs On Sale! Where Are the Ladies?

Last week I looked in my mail and found 5,000 DVDs on sale, all nice & reduced in price, listed with a cover image of the film in a 70 page news-style rag.  Of course, with over 500 titles priced at $2.98 (or lower, “starts on page 17”) I had to set aside some time in the evening to pore over this catalog which contained some brilliant works — classics like Anna Christie, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang; Now, Voyager; King Kong; Casablanca — Garbo!  Muni!  Davis!  Wray!  Bergman & Bogart!  But wait — No Sunset Blvd.? (One of my all-time favorites.)  Not only classics were on sale — everything from kung fu flicks (Jet Li in the 1992 Deadly China Hero, and  Jackie Chan in the 1973 Young Tiger) to “Classic Exploitation” (The Flaming Teen-Age, Ghetto Freaks aka Love Commune, Scorpions’ Revenge aka Sasori in U.S.A.) — from Finding Neverland (good film!) to The She-Creature (sounds bad, but a good kind of bad?)   Unless you’re a fan of the little-known, the excruciatingly esoteric or the comfortably mediocre, this was a definitely underwhelming selection of films.   But it gets better…

Hey, Ladies!

As an early cinema nerd, I was proud to find a small, but not insignificant silent film section.  I’m a sucker for these — but no Lois Weber? — perhaps the most prolific silent-era American woman filmmaker.  At first, it seemed to have it all, from Cantinflas to Chaplin to Corman.   (If you don’t know Cantinflas, he’s probably the most famous comedic actor Mexico has ever produced.  A writer, singer, actor and producer, he made over 50 films.)  Then I started noticing the few women directors’ names.   OMG, Gillian Armstrong is in here twice!  Dorothy Arzner?  Okay, she gets one, the typically tragic story of a pregnant unmarried woman…. who’s also a pilot: Christopher Strong, starring an up and coming Katharine Hepburn.  No Ida Lupino I could identify — yes, she directed about 40 or so films and TV episodes and wrote at least eight feature screenplays — nor Allison Anders, Amy Heckerling, Kathryn Bigelow, Darnell Martin, Betty Thomas… and where, please, where the HELL was Jane Campion?  But I found Catherine Hardwicke, Agnieszka Holland and Rose Troche! Whew!  But I wasn’t quite satisfied…

It was a bare-bones catalog and listed no film descriptions, just the top-billed actors and the director.   I had to stop looking for, and marking, the films I wanted to buy — Alexander the Great (1956), The Lady from Shanghai (1948), Broken Blossoms (1919),  A Dry White Season (1989) — script here — by Euzhan Palcy; Vernon, Florida (1981), Run Lola Run (1998) and a few more — and had to start marking those films that were directed by women.   I began to count.  Out of the 5,000 DVDs listed, which also comprised a few pages of books and television shows, I found 27 films which had a woman director listed.  A few of those directors had multiple films listed as well.  I thought this was awfully refreshing, especially given the fact that women directors are often pigeon-holed as the director of one “big film,” either the rare blockbuster or a critically acclaimed picture.  Many times they become known for that, and that is “who they are.”   So which directors had more than one film listed?

Gillian Armstrong

Nancy Meyers

Rebecca Miller

Their films?

Armstrong’s were:  Little Women and Fires Within

Meyers’ were:  Something’s Gotta Give and What Women Want

Miller’s were:  The Ballad of Jack & Rose and Personal Velocity

There were no women directors who had more than two films listed.

I not only wanted to find the films directed by women, but I wanted to find out who these women were.  Had they directed other pictures?  Many of the names I didn’t know, although some titles I knew popped out at me, never really knowing (for most of them) they were directed by women.  So,  I counted, then began to do a little research.

The directors I found?  There were 24.  Here’s the list, with the titles of their films found in the catalog:

Gillian Armstrong (Little Women, Fires Within)

Dorothy Arzner (Christopher Strong)

Liliana Cavani (Francesco)

Julie Davis (I Love You, Don’t Touch Me!)

Tamra Davis (Best Men)

Tiffanie Debartolo (Dream for an Insomniac)

Marita Giovanni (Bar Girls)

Amanda Goodwin (Living ‘Til the End)

Catherine Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown)

Agnieszka Holland (Copying Beethoven)

Diane Jackson (The Snowman)

Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give, What Women Want)

Vanessa Middleton (30 Years to Life)

Rebecca Miller (The Ballad of Jack & Rose, Personal Velocity: Three Portraits)

Claudia Myers (Kettle of Fish)

Euzhan Palcy (A Dry White Season)

Clare Peploe (High Season)

Evelyn Purcell (Nobody’s Fool)

Susan Seidelman (Making Mr. Right)

Julie Shles (Pick A Card aka Afula Express)

Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl)

Marisol Torres (Chicago Boricua aka Boricua)

Rose Troche (Go Fish)

Linda Yellen (The Simian Line)

How many were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture or Best Director?  None.

Defining One’s Work

What is the work that defines a director?  Is it one project?  Yes, sometimes, and occasionally that’s because it’s the only project they do, but more often it’s because it was critically acclaimed, a box office success, or completely tanked.  Is it different for women than for men?  As a beginning filmmaker who doesn’t work within a larger filmmaking community at the moment, I can’t say.  But what I often read is that yes, it is different for women, by and large. One reason is that male directors often handle much larger budgets than women directors.  Again, let’s ask “why”?  As one blogger recently put it:  “How long can we hold Ishtar against Elaine May and the rest of her gender?”  Now, a part of me would argue against this comment — Ishtar had a wacky premise with two giants of cinema starring opposite each other (each known to have quite strong on-set personalities), and the production was plagued with problems.  That can definitely throw off a film’s mojo, no matter who’s starring or who’s directing.   (Nice to know, though, that there is now a faithful cult following for Ishtar.)  Elaine May, the writer/director of Ishtar, is a giant of American comedy and recognized by multiple generations of male and female writers and comedians as such.

But part of me would also support this comment, though — holding up a project which has tanked at the box office and which was also directed by a woman gives male-dominated studios an excuse (not a reason, an excuse) to undervalue and devalue women’s directorial work and therefore not fund it on par with a man’s.  But this also begs the question:  Why do male directors whose work has tanked at the box office continue to get the opportunity to keep working with big budgets?  Hmm… I think I hear crickets.

One interesting point about this list of women directors is that many of them moved into television directing AFTER they made their first film(s).  Is television an easier medium for women in which to work?  Do male directors, after making their first film or two, (especially with low budgets) gravitate toward that medium as well?  I’d be interested in reading something about what seems to be a trend for many women filmmakers.  I notice it not just with this group of directors, but in other cases as well.  If you readers have any information you can send my way, please do!  And don’t be shy to share your experiences as well, especially if you moved into a different medium after making your first film.

Have You Seen This Film?

If you have seen any of the films listed above, let me know!  I’m particularly interested in women filmmakers’ opinions on other women filmmakers’ work and the context in which they work to make their films.   Over the next few months I plan to utilize my trusty DVD-by-mail service to try to secure some of these films to watch, then will review them here.  I might even try to get one of these directors to comment, but we’ll wait and see about that.  Until then, here’s to happy viewing and continuous employment!