Let Those Voices Roar: Female Filmmakers Talk the Future of Film

Through various events, including screenings, talks, workshops and competitions, Barnes Film Festival is providing a small Mecca for young filmmakers over three days in September.

With diversity so topical in society and the film industry, to coincide with International Women’s Day we celebrated female filmmakers through a special In Conversation event on Wednesday 6th March 2019 - held at Barnes’ own Olympic Studios.

The Panel

The event was chaired by Charlotte Bogard Macleod, founder and co-director of The Script Factory. She’s also the former chair of BAFTA’s Education & Events Committee.

The panel also featured playwright and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Her Naked Skin, Ida), writer and director Rashida Seriki (Invisible Strings, Fried Rice), film and television producer Sarah Curtis (Run Fat Boy, Run, Hysteria), and film and television producer Finola Dwyer ONZM (An Education, Brooklyn).

You can find out more about the panel right here.

And there, a talented force was assembled and the conversation on female filmmakers was about to get that little bit louder.

In Conversation

Having just come off the back of this year’s awards season, discussion turned to the notion of female recognition.

It’s notable that no female directors were recognised in this year’s Oscars, despite there being a large collection of those deserving of the nomination, such as Debra Granik (Leave No Trace) and Karyn Kusama (Destroyer).

Curtis states that Hollywood is the “most backward [and] conservative” community and, in this case, it may be worth noting that the only female to win Best Director at the Oscars was Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) back in 2010.

Statistics show that 73% of the wins went to men at this year’s Oscars, to which Lenkiewicz remarked that there exists a “linear masculinity that goes forward”. The “focus” or “favour” towards male narratives and perspectives somewhat overlooks the importance of exploring female stories.

There exists the necessity to, as Dwyer puts it, “keep on pushing” with female narratives and expression.

The 19+ category of Barnes Film Festival 2018’s film competition saw the festival’s first female winner - Esmé Hicks took home the prize after presenting her piece, The Old Woman and the Sea.

This exemplifies that Barnes Film Festival acknowledges and appreciates the female artistic and creative voice, and certainly pushes to encourage the next generation to uncover their filmmaking talents.

Seriki’s work focuses on female protagonists and their experiences. She conveys there’s a passion and a requirement to explore female stories, mentioning that she finds solace in writing those voices she can relate to as a woman – providing her with an “authentic space” for connection and empathy.

Seriki feels that, regardless of gender, filmmakers’ projects are chosen based on their personal instincts. Curtis notes that, for her, there’s a tendency to sway towards those female narratives, which perhaps show more confidence in exploring the emotionality and sensory sensitivity of humans and society.

The New York Film Academy’s recent studies provide light to reflect this as we discover that only 30% of speaking characters in films are women. The need to commit and push for these female stories to be uncovered continues.

In this respect, it’s worth mentioning the importance of exploring a diverse range of narratives – those mediums, which allow audiences to discover new cultures, complex identities, or realms that a filmmaker wishes to unearth.

There’s a community with the need to explore the human condition and society from a variety of angles, and filmmakers with this storytelling skill are communicating and responding to this demand.

The panelists discussed that a basic double standard in the film industry is, in fact, very much a true actuality with which they have had first-hand experience with.

Lenkiewicz suggested that should a female filmmaker be adamant and resolved in her creative vision, this can be viewed as somewhat of a “provocative” quality; whilst should a male filmmaker demonstrate these attributes, “he is brilliant” and expressive in his creative voice.

This shared experience between our female filmmakers was explored as they unpacked stories indicating that, as women, they perhaps were not suitable for particular jobs or projects. But the general consensus from our panel for our young filmmakers is this:

Walk with your head held high, persevere, believe in the role you play in a project, and be tenacious.

Despite these negative encounters and instances that the panelists, and I’m sure many other female filmmakers, have experienced, this must not discourage young female filmmakers to chase their dreams and want to turn the volume up on their creative voices.

Industry Advice

In terms of words of wisdom from our panelists to budding filmmakers, Lenkiewicz expressed the importance of “letting more female voices roar”, and encouraging young female filmmakers to believe in their abilities.

Seriki remarked on the effort going into including female filmmakers in the continuously growing collective conversation we experience.

Curtis enriches young filmmakers to “not think about barriers” and express their individual identities; and Dwyer places utmost importance on perseverance and determination.

Finally, whilst Barnes Film Festival focuses on the importance of uplifting and celebrating those young filmmakers of the next generation, it also places a strong reliance and significance on the filmmaking industry as a community.

Barnes Film Festival wishes to teach those young talents of the strength they can find through believing their creative instincts and trusting those artistic voices.

The conversation of female filmmakers is loud, prominent and public with changes towards a more equal and communal industry underway.

Gender – or sexuality, ethnicity, class, or any characteristic that defines you – should not be an excuse or hindrance to your life or your filmmaking path. These female panelists not only embody success and strength as women, but as hardworking individuals in a challenging industry.

Though the film industry can be seen as somewhat glamorized, it is one that undoubtedly has some of the most conscientious, motivated and resilient individuals: proof that dreams do come true, and that we have many lessons to learn from this community.

We should celebrate what makes us, us. As a young female, with film and television industry ambitions, I feel inspired after this panel discussion to hustle and grant myself opportunities to use this courage and determination.

Young filmmakers – both male and female – should have confidence to propel themselves into their dreams. Regardless of what creates your background and identity, opportunities are a game changer for all creatives.

Barnes Film Festival celebrates diversity, passion and creativity, whilst connecting those in the industry; it sees the value in encouraging and perpetually supporting budding, and fellow, filmmakers to express their voices on the big screen.

By Mickey Catelin

Mickey is currently working as an Events & Marketing Manager, as well as freelancing with the British Film Institute, being Course Manager for Barnes Film Academy, and also working with the Barnes Film Festival.