Looking for an audience? Deadlines for fests, funds & workshops

JANUARY 4
San Francisco International Women’s Film Festival (WAB Extended deadline)
Click here for submission information.

JANUARY 9
AFI Directing Workshop for Women (Application deadline)
Click here for more information on the DWW.

Dortmund Cologne International Women’s Film Festival (Submission deadline)
Click here for submission information.

JANUARY 15
Seen and Heard Festival (Submission deadline)
Click here for submission information.

JANUARY 31
International Black Women’s Film Festival

(Submission deadlines: earlybird Jan. 31 / regular Mar. 10 / late Mar. 17)
Click here for submission information.

FEBRUARY 1
Through Women’s Eyes Film Festival (WAB Extended deadline for documentaries)
Click here for submission information.

FEBRUARY 2
Through Women’s Eyes Film Festival (WAB Extended deadline for features and shorts)  Click here for submission information.

FEBRUARY 3
International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul (Submission deadline)
Click here for submission information.

FEBRUARY 9
Sundance Institute Documentary Fund (Application deadline)
Click here for more information.

FEBRUARY 24
Mostra Internacional de Films de Dones de Barcelona (Submission deadline for medium-length & feature films)
Click here for submission information.

FEBRUARY 29
Viscera Film Festival (Submission deadline)
Click here for submission information.

MARCH 1
Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival (Submission deadline)
Click here for submission information.

MARCH 15
Lunafest (Submission deadline)
Click here for submission information.

Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series

(Submission deadlines: earlybird Mar. 15 / regular June 11 / late June 20)                             Click here for submission information.

MARCH 16
Native American Public Telecommunications 2012 Public Media Content Fund  (Application deadline)

Click here for more information on how to apply.

Reading Albert Nobbs

With Oscar buzz around Albert Nobbs for Glenn Close (who finally deserves one of those golden bad boys — 5-time nominee!) and her recent Golden Globe nom for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama (2-time winner!), I’m dying to see the film.  It’s in a platform (limited) release now with select screening engagements, but it rolls out in a hopefully wide release across the U.S. on January 27.  Itching to know more about it, I googled the website and visited it for the first time, only to find a nugget of creative gold: the SHOOTING SCRIPT!  How stoked am I?! And because it’s a shooting script, the film will play out as it’s laid out in the script.  I’ve been burned before, especially by a brilliant Charlie Kaufman script for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, only to find that after reading it, the film had a totally different ending.  Disappointed by an earlier draft! (But still a very good film.)

Has providing a shooting script online been done for many other films?  I haven’t heard of it before, and usually find scripts through websites dedicated to providing them.  But I think it’s absolutely brilliant and would like to see more studios and production companies follow suit.  Do you know of other scripts that are online of movies just being released or soon to be?  Send the links my way, please!

I’m now planning a time today to curl up with my laptop and read all 108 pages of what’s sure to be a lovely romp through Gabriella Prekop’s, John Banville’s and Glenn Close’s minds…

Would you like to read it, too?  Here it is, and please, if you’re feeling the urge, leave your comments below!  I’d love to hear what others think.

Read the Albert Nobbs shooting script by clicking here.

The Women of the Golden Globes

With another week gone, we’re inching closer to the end of yet another year and marching into yet another season of film and television awards.  Golden Globe nominations were announced about a week and a half ago and Oscar nominations are soon to come (Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 5:30 AM pacific standard time, to be exact).  Variety just announced that the ballots have been mailed to 5,738 members of the Academy.

Though I’m usually excited around this time of year for nominations and examinations of nominations and analyses of examinations of nominations, I’m downright pissed off and a little saddened that Nadine Labaki’s film “Where Do We Go Now?” was not nominated for a Golden Globe (Best Foreign Language Film).  Oh, the humanity!!!  This is by far one of the best films of 2011, painstakingly crafted and beautifully told.  It’s hard to say when my bitterness will begin to subside.  I take solace in the fact that Labaki has secured U.S. distribution through Sony Pictures Classics for this film.  At least American audiences will get to see it in theatres.

Interestingly, two films directed by women snagged the lead actresses nominations for their performances (drama), but the directors received nothing (see Streep’s nom for The Iron Lady directed by Phyllida Lloyd, and Swinton’s nom for We Need to Talk About Kevin directed & co-written by Lynne Ramsay). As everyone seems to be adding their spin, take and well-deserved grumpy analysis of the continued lack of nominations for women’s stories and women artists and artists of color, I’ll try to avoid that here (though I do agree!), but I will say here’s to a new year of continuing to promote the work of women filmmakers and women in film!  Check out the names of women below who’ve played key roles in the making of these nominated films.

MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA

“Descendants”

(Based on the novel by KAUI HART HEMMINGS)

“The Help” 

(Based on the novel by KATHRYN STOCKETT; Executive Producers include: Jennifer Blum; Co-producer: Sonya Lunsford)

“Hugo”

(Executive Producers include: Barbara De Fina, Christi Dembrowski, Emma Tillinger)

“The Ides of March”

(Producers include: Barbara A. Hall, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Nina Wolarsky)

“Moneyball”

(Producers include: Rachael Horovitz; Co-producer: Alissa Phillips)

“War Horse”

(Executive Producers include: Revel Guest; Producer: Kathleen Kennedy; Co-producer: Tracey Seaward)

MOTION PICTURE, COMEDY OR MUSICAL

“50/50”

(Co-producers include: Nicole Brown and Kelli Konop)

“The Artist”

(Co-producer: Nadia Khamlichi)

“Bridesmaids”

(Writers: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo; Associate Producer: Lisa Yadavaia; Co-producers: Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig)

“Midnight in Paris”

(Producers include: Letty Aronson; Co-producers include: Helen Robin)

“My Week With Marilyn”

(Associate Producer: Cleone Clarke)

ACTRESS, DRAMA

Glenn Close – “Albert Nobbs”

(Writers include: Glenn Close and Gabriella Prekop; Producers include: Glenn Close, Bonnie Curtis, Julie Lynn; Co-executive Producers include: Marcia Allen)

Viola Davis – “The Help”

(Based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett; Executive Producers include:  Jennifer Blum; co-producer: Sonya Lunsford)

Rooney Mara – “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”

(Executive Producer: Anni Faurbye Fernandez; Co-producer: Berna Levin)

Meryl Streep – “The Iron Lady”

(Director: Phyllida Lloyd; Writer: Abi Morgan; Executive Producers include: Tessa Ross; Co-producers: Anita Overland, Colleen Woodcock; Editor: Justine Wright)

Tilda Swinton – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

(Director & Co-writer: Lynne Ramsay: Executive Producers include:  Paula Jalfon, Lisa Lambert, Christine Langan, Lynne Ramsay, Tilda Swinton; Producers include: Jennifer Fox; Co-executive Producers include: Suzanne Baron; Associate Producers include: Molly Egan)

ACTRESS, COMEDY OR MUSICAL

Jodie Foster – “Carnage”

(Co-writer and based on her play: Yasmina Reza)

Charlize Theron – “Young Adult”

(Writer: Diablo Cody; Executive Producers include: Helen Estabrook; Producers include: Diablo Cody, Lianne Halfon, Charlize Theron; Co-producers include: Beth Kono, Kelli Konop; Editor: Dana Glauberman)

Kristen Wiig – “Bridesmaids”

(Writers: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo; Associate Producer: Lisa Yadavaia; Co-producers: Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig)

Michelle Williams – “My Week with Marilyn”

(Associate Producer: Cleone Clarke)

Kate Winslet – “Carnage”

(Co-writer and based on her play: Yasmina Reza)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, MOTION PICTURE

Berenice Bejo – “The Artist”

(Co-producer: Nadia Khamlichi)

Jessica Chastain – “The Help”

(Based on the novel by KATHRYN STOCKETT; Executive Producers include: Jennifer Blum; Co-producer: Sonya Lunsford)

Janet McTeer – “Albert Nobbs”

(Writers include: Glenn Close and Gabriella Prekop; Producers include: Glenn Close, Bonnie Curtis, Julie Lynn; Co-executive Producers include: Marcia Allen)

Octavia Spencer – “The Help”

(Based on the novel by KATHRYN STOCKETT; Executive Producers include: Jennifer Blum; Co-producer: Sonya Lunsford)

Shailene Woodley – “The Descendants”

(Based on the novel by KAUI HART HEMMINGS)

BEST DIRECTOR, MOTION PICTURE

I hear crickets for women in this category.  Hmm, par for the course?

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

“The Adventures of Tintin”

(Producers include: Kathleen Kennedy)

“Arthur Christmas”

(Director and screenplay: Sarah Smith; Executive Producers include: Carla Shelley)

“Cars 2”

(Producer: Denise Reahm)

“Puss ‘n Boots”

(Executive Producers include: Michelle Raimo; Producers include: Latifa Ouaou)

“Rango”

(Co-producer: Shari Hanson)

BEST SCREENPLAY, MOTION PICTURE

Really?  No women?  Yup.  No women in this category!

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“The Flowers of War” (“Jing Ling Shi San Chai”) – China

(No women credited as key creatives)

“In the Land of Blood and Honey” (“Le Gamin au Velo”) – USA

(Director & Writer: Angelina Jolie; Executive Producer: Holly Goline; Producers include: Angelina Jolie; Editor: Patricia Rommel)

“The Kid with a Bike” (Belgium)

(Executive Producer: Delphine Tomson; Associate Producers include: Bernadette Meunier, Arlette Zylberberg)

“A Separation” (“Jodaeiye Nader az Simin”) – Iran

(Executive Producer: Negar Eskandarfar; Editor: Hayedeh Safiyari)

“The Skin I Live In” (“La piel que habito”) – Spain

(Producers include: Esther García; Associate Producer: Bárbara Peiró)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG, MOTION PICTURE

“Lay Your Head Down” – “Albert Nobbs” – Music by: Brian Byrne; Lyrics by: Glenn Close
“The Living Proof” – “The Help” – Music by: Mary J. Blige, Thomas Newman, Harvey Mason, Jr.;Lyrics by: Mary J. Blige, Harvey Mason, Jr., Damon Thomas
“Masterpiece” – “W.E.” – Music & Lyrics by: Madonna, Julie Frost, Jimmy Harry

DVD Releases

Looking for some flicks to watch, especially over the holidays?  Me, too!  I’ve amassed a list below of several new and upcoming DVD releases.  Did you miss a lot of these on the festival circuit or in the theatre like I did?  Included in the list are also some foreign films (like Happy, Happy, from Norway) and documentaries (like Bag It and The Other F Word, looking forward to seeing this one) as well as some TV films (like Toast).  These are all films either directed by a woman or featuring female protagonists (or written/co-written by a woman), so get your movie on this holiday season by supporting these new films!

DVDs out now:

THE TEMPEST (directed by Julie Taymor, starring Helen Mirren)

TANNER HALL (directed by Tatiana von Furstenburg and Francesca Gregorini, starring Rooney Mara)

January 2012:

HIGHER GROUND (directed by Vera Farmiga)

TOAST (directed by SJ Clarkson)

DIRTY GIRL (directed by Abe Sylvia, starring Juno Temple and Milla Jovovich)

ROMEOS (directed by Sabine Bernardi)

ANOTHER HAPPY DAY (directed by Sam Levinson, starring Ellen Barkin (who also produces), Kate Bosworth, Demi Moore, Ellen Burstyn)

HAPPY, HAPPY (directed by Anne Sewitsky, written by Ragnhild Tronvoll, starring Agnes Kittelsen)

THE OTHER F WORD (directed by Andrea Blaugrund) Currently playing & opening in cities across the U.S.

SPORK (directed by J.B. Ghuman Jr., starring Savannah Stein)

CHALET GIRL (directed by Phil Traill, starring Felicity Jones and Brooke Shields)

ELEVATE (directed by Anne Buford)

February:

SEDUCING CHARLIE BARKER (directed by Amy Glazer, starring Daphne Zuniga and Heather Gordon)

TINY FURNITURE (directed by and starring Lena Dunham)

BUTTERFLY CRUSH (directed by Alan Clay, starring Hayley Fielding and Courtney Hale)

HEART OF NOW (directed by Zak Forsman, starring Marion Kerr)

HONEY 2 (directed by Bille Woodruff, co-written by Alyson Fouse, starring Katerina Graham)

THE SPACE BETWEEN (directed by Travis Fine, starring Melissa Leo and AnnaSophia Robb)

MIGHTY MACS (directed by Tim Chambers, starring Carla Gugino and Ellen Burstyn)

INSIGHT (directed by Richard Gabai, starring Natalie Zea)

 

March:

BAG IT (directed by Suzan Beraza, written by Michelle Curry Wright)

FRESH (directed by Ana Sofia Joanes)

Multiple lives: Transmedia storytelling

Transmedia is rapidly becoming a more well-known term, and has been THE buzz word for new films, games, TV shows and web series for awhile now, but do you know what it is? And if you do, do you have a transmedia component to your film?  In short, transmedia is the multiple lives your story can have across multiple media: apps, graphic novels, interactive websites, web series to support a TV show, game to support a film, etc.

I’m not sure what the U.S. film and TV industry expects in terms of transmedia, whether we’re ahead of, behind or right in line with many other nations, but I know that in Canada, most TV networks won’t give you much time if you don’t come to them with a transmedia component fleshed out when you pitch your story.  This year, a couple of transmedia efforts have caught my eye, and I just stumbled across an awesome transmedia wiki set up by Transmedia L.A.

THE FUTURE (2011)

Directed by Miranda July

Visit July’s site for her latest flick, The Future, and you can click on “Your Future” which directs you to the “oracle,” a multicolored mosaic-like circle.  You click on it and it acts like a fortune cookie, producing a cryptic or humorous piece of advice for you to follow.  You can “spin” the oracle once to have your future told and then sign up to get daily fortunes via email.  I think this is a brilliant idea, one which really keeps the film fresh in potential audience members’ minds.  Even if people don’t see the film, or can’t, depending on whether it’s playing in their local theatre, it’s a great way to build and hold onto an audience.  Each person’s email goes into a database and can be used in future (no pun intended!)

Look into your future — click here to visit the oracle:

http://thefuturethefuture.com/oracle.php

 

DREAMS OF A LIFE (2011)

Directed by Carol Morley

Interactive experience: Dreams of Your Life

If you read this blog at all, you know that I’m a supporter of British filmmaker, Carol Morley’s new documentary Dreams of a Life.  The film recreates and explores the life of Joyce Carol Vincent, a resident of London who died in her flat and wasn’t discovered until three years after her death.  It’s a haunting story.  I haven’t yet seen it, but it was released in U.K. cinemas starting December 16 and is playing all over the country at least through March 2012.  One reason I find this story so fascinating is because it explores the life of a woman whose experiences are all too common:  how we live our daily lives, many in isolation, perhaps taking for granted people are alright, living their lives the same as us.  So, how does something like an unnoticed death happen?  Who’s responsible?  How can we better keep tabs on one another, to check in on each other, just to see if we’re doing alright?  Vincent died of an unknown cause, her TV blaring, surrounded by Christmas presents it looked like she’d been wrapping, and other bags of items as if she’d just gotten home from shopping.

To support her film, an interactive experience (a “sister project”) has been launched called Dreams of Your Life, which takes you through a conversational type of exploration of what we like to keep private, what we share, what scares us, and intersperses bits of information about Joyce Carol Vincent throughout.  You’re also asked for your name (though you can make one up), which you can type into a box, and later on, an email if you’d like to give it.  Of course, these go into a database for future communications regarding the film.

Choices are also given when the player is asked a question, both “yes” and “no,” responses, but also ones which encourage further exploration of some of the topics of the experience, the background, though static in terms of design, begins to age and change: a vase of red flowers wilts, withers and dries;a sunny day turns cloudy and rainy; a green bush changes color and then becomes bare, etc.  It’s quite a self-reflective game that allows you the opportunity to delve into some subjects which we don’t always open ourselves up to exploring.

Check out the Dreams of Your Life interactive experience here:

http://www.dreamsofyourlife.com/

 

TRANSMEDIA L.A. WIKI

While I’m not versed in transmedia — I know what it is, though — I’m really keen on learning more.  I came across this resource from Transmedia L.A. which has put together a wiki to allow people to share resources.  Think of it as a type of clearing house where you can just click through and find things you might spend hours trying to find through google searches.  The group has focused on the following topics to include in its wiki:

– games

– publishing

– social media

– technology

– transmedia

– writing

Almost any story can have a life on multiple platforms, and as someone who writes and is developing my own TV shows and screenplays, I can’t forget about the importance of transmedia.  I’ll be using this resource to make it easier to imagine how I might tease out storylines to design a game, or explore a situation through a map, or whatever might be appropriate.  Have any of you dear readers used this resource?  Can you suggest any more useful transmedia links?  Please do!!!

Check out the announcement of the Wiki here, with profiles on four tools to use:

http://transmediala.net/2011/12/profiling-our-new-wiki-a-collaborative-toolkit-for-transmedia-storytellers/

Check out the Transmedia L.A. Wiki here:

http://transmediala.pbworks.com/w/page/48427037/FrontPage

 

Women’s stories this week

DREAMS OF A LIFE RELEASES IN THE U.K. TODAY

Since I read an article in The Guardian newspaper in October written by director Carol Morley on her newest film, Dreams of a Life, I’ve been haunted by the story and following Morley’s film as best I can.  I wrote a short piece here a couple of months back.  Morley’s documentary focuses on the mysterious life and enigmatic subject of Joyce Carol Vincent, a woman who died in her small London flat, only to be found three years later, nearly mummified.  How did it happen? Why? Who was Joyce Carol Vincent?  Carol Morley’s film is being released in cinemas in the U.K. today.

Check out the following links for more information on her and her film, Dreams of a Life:

SCREENING DATES (through March, 2012):  http://dreamsofalife.com/screenings

Website: http://dreamsofalife.com/

Twitter:  @_CarolMorley  and  @DreamsofaLifeUK

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/DreamsofaLife

Dogwoof (distributor):  http://dogwoof.com/films/dreams-of-a-life

_______________________________

PRODUCERS GUILD OF AMERICA & INDIE PRODUCER KARIN CHIEN

Some of you may have been following the recent developments with regard to the Producers Guild of America’s (PGA) stipulations about accepting English-language only films for awards considerations.  Karin Chien, producer of many films, including the recent Circumstance by director Maryam Keshavarz, has taken issue with this given the complicated production and financing realities of film today.  During the debate surrounding this issue, Angelina Jolie’s film, In the Land of Blood and Honey (her directorial debut) received a major award from the PGA despite the fact that the film is in the Bosnian language.  Karin indicated to me in a tweet about my asking “why?” that celebrities can often get around these rules.  I wonder how often this happens?

Check out the following links to catch up on what’s happening.

Karin Chien wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on Dec. 13:

An Open Letter to the Producers Guild of America – by Karin Chien

(Chien’s letter was also released by Filmmaker Magazine.)

Indiewire posts an article with a response:

PGA Responds to ‘Circumstance’ Producer, Says Rules Will Be Revisited

Marian Evans of Wellywood Woman posted a stellar interview with Karin Chien on Dec. 14 talking about Asian film, women filmmakers in Asia and Chien’s distribution company dGenerate Films.  Check out Marian’s piece: “Karin Chien: Producer & Distributor Extraordinaire” and follow her project, “Development,” on Facebook and Twitter @devt.

You can follow Karin Chien on Twitter, too: @producerkarin and @dgeneratefilms.

_______________________________

WOMEN FILMMAKERS TAKE TOP AWARDS IN DUBAI

At the recent Dubai Film Connection and the Dubai International Film Festival, proper, several women received top awards for their films. Among them are:

Susan Youssef – Habibi Rasak Kharban (Darling There’s Something Wrong with your Head) / Best Arab Feature, Duba International Film Festival

Dalila EnnadreWhen Home Becomes Hell / DIFF Award for Documentary

Kaouther Ben HaniaZaineb Hates the Snow / Screen Institute Beirut (SIB) award for documentary

Nujoom AlghanemAmal / First prize, Muhr Emirati section

Marian Al Sarkal – London in a Headscarf / Special Mention, Muhr Emirati section

Katia JarjouraThe Eye Of The Devil

Najwa NajjarEyes Of A Thief

(Warp Films in the UK and Oktober Productions in Iceland are now attached to Eyes of a Thief.)

Deema AmrA 7 Hour Difference

Danielle ArbidBeirut Hotel  (This film has been censored by the Lebanese government. Read the article here.)

Taghreed ElsanhouriOur Beloved Sudan

Yasmina AdiHere We Drown

Check out more:

Screen Daily (“Women directors take top prizes at Dubai Film Connection”)

The Daily Star (“Arab women filmmakers shine at Dubai Film Festival”)

IBN Live (“Women directors dominate awards night at Dubai film fest”)

Follow Delphine Garde @Delphinegm and the Dubai International Film Festival @dubaifilm and see the lists of winners on the DIFF website.

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SWAN Day / Support Women Artists Now Celebrates 5th Anniversary in 2012

 

 

 

 

The organization WomenArts in San Francisco has announced SWAN Day 2012 and is gearing up for the big event!  SWAN Day is now an international holiday which coincides with Women’s History Month (International Women’s Day is every March 8 and turned 100 this year).  SWAN Day is a special day to celebrate women artists all around the world, and WomenArts has some great ways to become involved, including organizing and posting events, accessing fundraising materials and publicity materials, plus much more.

Check out the SWAN Day page at http://www.womenarts.org/swan/, and START ORGANIZING!!!

To connect with other women artists, be they painters, filmmakers, sculptors, etc., you can create a profile at WomenArts.  It’s easy and free!  Start networking now by clicking here.

CROSSING THE RIVER: Guest post by filmmaker Emilie McDonald

Filmmaker Emilie McDonald (Photo credit: Tia Schellstede)

BIOGRAPHY

Emilie McDonald is an NYC-based filmmaker who graduated from Vassar with a BA in film and drama.  She wrote and directed the short narrative film “Other People’s Houses” in 2010 (Big Apple Film Festival, NewFilmmakers, Blue Sky Film Festival & Flicks in the Garden) and was co-writer and producer of the short “My Elena” (2008).  She is currently in a development on a feature film based on the true story of a doctor she knew as a child, a Bronx-born Jewish doctor who relocated to rural South Carolina in the 1950’s (semifinalist Tribeca All Access 2010; semifinalist Creative Capital 2011).

_____________

 Emilie McDonald here.  I’m a female filmmaker and mother to a young child and am based in NYC. I basically grew up in the back of a VW bus, traveling throughout the U.S. and Mexico with my mom and younger brother.  We lived among Cherokee basket weavers in North Carolina; traditional Navajo communities in Farmington, New Mexico; generations of farmers in Oregon; and native residents in Mexico.  I learned to adapt to many different situations and to find connection with many different kinds of people.  It is my goal to continually put people and situations in my films that aren’t often in the limelight, and to seek to understand the misunderstood.

Place plays a large part in the films I write.  South Carolina is one place I lived as a child and has always stayed in my memory as a mesmerizing place that feels like it has frozen in time for decades.  I feel a deep personal connection to the South and to South Carolina in particular as I have dear family there who are among the warmest people I’ve ever known in my life.  I am continually compelled to write scripts that are set there.  There is a languishing, old-fashioned feeling that lends itself to imagination.  Downtowns continue to look as they did in the 1960’s.  Country roads feel as they did when I was a child.  There is a slower, genteel pace that is both appealing for those that are accepted, but alarming for those who are not.  It is a place that is fascinating to me in its contradictions.  There are folks in South Carolina who are fighting for equality and tolerance and always have been (my feature film BUCKLE MY SOUL which I plan to make next is about this very subject), but there are those few who decades later are still holding on to the old Jim Crow laws.

Tree (Photo credit: Emilie McDonald)

South Carolina will be the location for my next film, a short narrative film called CROSSING THE RIVER, which will be shot in rural South Carolina in March 2012.  The film is sadly inspired by a true story and is about a young bi-racial girl who is traumatized when her family is targeted by a cross burning.  This extreme act of hatred is carried out by two white boys who come under the influence of a racist man.  The film explores the points of view of both the victim and the perpetrators, and seeks to reveal how someone can be influenced to do something morally unspeakable.

A year ago, I met my friend Martha’s grandsons Tyler and Landon in South Carolina, and immediately felt that they would be compelling onscreen.  A short time later, I received an article from a friend of my family who runs a civil rights watch group.  The article was about teenagers who were accused of burning a cross on a family’s lawn, and how the family was affected, especially their 13 year old daughter.  I was very moved by the story, and especially by how it was apparent that the girl truly believed that people were good and wanted to continue to believe it despite her experience.  When I later read that the two boys turned to the family in court and apologized, it gave me hope.  The seed of an idea for a powerful short film quickly developed.

Country House (Photo credit: Hunter Desportes)

I’ve recently become reenergized about telling this story, especially after reading a statistic from the Southern Poverty Law Center that estimates that 40-50 cross burnings happen in the U.S. every year!  I was startled and saddened by this, as of course I knew it happened (the incident that CROSSING THE RIVER is inspired by occurred in 2010) but not to that extent.  Most Americans assume that cross burnings are part of the U.S.’s past.  This lack of awareness is partly because these crimes are rarely reported nationally.  I feel it’s urgent to get the word out about this…it should not be happening in our country in 2011!!!!  All the more reason to make this film and release it widely!

When doing research on cross burnings, we discovered that this hateful act often targets bi-racial families.  The perpetrators’ intention is to send a message to the families that they are unwelcome in the community.  This act terrorizes families in their own homes and has a lasting psychological impact on its victims.  CROSSING THE RIVER is being made to bring to light the importance of putting an end to this hate crime.

“It is my goal to…seek to understand the misunderstood.”

We are thrilled to be partnering with WNCCEIB (Western North Carolina Citizens for an End to Institutional Bigotry), an amazing community organization and nonprofit in Western North Carolina that has been coordinating individual and community responses to hate activity, hate crimes and institutional discrimination on a shoestring budget for more than 20 years.  Our partnership will include promoting the organization’s work and mission and raising funds for WNCCEIB in conjunction with CROSSING THE RIVER film screenings.

I am working with a team to create an educational distribution component of the film, including a curriculum and teacher guide for educators to incorporate the film into their lesson plans, hopefully at colleges and high schools around the country and Canada.   We are interested in working with anti-racism and social justice teaching organizations such as Teaching Tolerance and Facing History and Ourselves, and will target film festivals that make a difference such as Media That Matters.  The film’s website will also link to anti-racism advocacy efforts happening all over the U.S.

Grant and Shawn (Courtesy of Anonymous)

It is important to note that cross burnings don’t just occur in the South (and as I mentioned earlier, there are many people in the South dedicated to eradicating racism).  There have been recent cases reported in New Jersey, Southern California, and Canada, to name only a few.  We are hopeful that ignorance can be turned to understanding, as challenging as that is, and CROSSING THE RIVER will reflect that.

I want to mention that I am extremely excited about working with an amazing team of women: producer and social justice advocate Tammy Arnstein, independent film producers Natasha Giliberti and Robyn Mackenzie, marketing director Andrea Rose, and editor Erin Fisher.  Of course I am looking forward to working with some amazing men as well, including my husband Bruce Smolanoff, (in the role of “Ted”) and Robert Kennedy doing sound design, but it is a pleasure to be surrounded and supported by women filmmakers.

Thank you for this amazing blog and resource, both illuminating and important for the global female filmmaking community!

_____________

To connect with this filmmaker and to learn more about her work (or to support it!) visit the following links:

Kickstarter campaign (five days left to go!)

Tumblr:  http://crossingtheriverfilm.tumblr.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/CrossingTheRiverfilm

“Other People’s Houses”: http://www.otherpeopleshousesfilm.com/

Blog:  http://filmmakermama.blogspot.com/

Twitter:  @emiliemcdonald