International Women’s Day: Celebrating Women Filmmakers

On #IWD2021 we are celebrating our DGC Ontario Members, their work and advice for aspiring women filmmakers.

Director Patricia Rozema

Patricia Rozema

On her film Mouthpiece:

“I was introduced to the stage play Mouthpiece by my eldest daughter who was working as an intern at Toronto’s Nightwood Theatre. As Jodie Foster and Alexandra Hedison said when I got them tickets: Mouthpiece touches on every part of the female experience from birth to death using dance, music, and wicked humour with just a bathtub for scenery. The result is a new kind of feminist language which ignites pure, intravenous emotion. It’s impossible to describe and truly unforgettable.”

On being a woman filmmaker now vs 30 years ago:

“I was the exception to the rule then. Now the rule is changing. Though we have a long way to go. I think my ambition meant I played the charm card more than necessary and minimized by femaleness and also my gayness so I could hang with the boys. I love male energy though. Most of my buddies are guys. But I’m now more comfortable at calling their entitlement. Machismo is mercifully a little more muted in Canada than in the US so that helped. I always just felt I had as much right to tell a story as any man. I also believed like to make things fun and am conflict averse so that made it all easier. A big difference is the attitude towards me when I walk into meetings in LA. They WANT to like me. They WANT me to be good. Before I think there was suspicion from the get go.”

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Tiffany Hsiung

Tiffany Hsiung holding a Peabody award flanked by two colleagues

On her film The Apology:

“The films I have seen in the last decade which document sexual violence survivors have been mostly directed by men. I believe, for a subject matter like this, the nuance and understanding that comes from being able to sit and hold space with another woman, with a crew of women, make a huge difference. The process of having a Korean woman (Anita Lee) produce this film, as well as a female editor (Mary Stephens) cut the film had a huge impact when documenting such a specific story. I believe that our female gaze allowed us to bring the essence of that story and to look beyond victimhood to see the strength and courage of these women who had experienced such horrific sexual violence.”

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Jovanka Vuckovic

Jovanka Vuckovic and colleague looking at the screen of a production film camera

On women in horror: 

“In the horror genre, women are historically misrepresented in front of the camera and underrepresented behind it. This is a systemic problem in the film business, but the horror genre in particular is in need of new perspectives. Bela Lugosi once famously said, “It is women who love horror. Gloat over it. Feed on it. Are nourished by it. Shudder and cling and cry out — and come back for more.” Women love horror. And yet in 2019 where more than half of all horror film ticket buyers are women, people still believe we aren’t interested in scary stories.”

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Jasmine Mozaffari

Jasmine Mozaffari

On telling stories from the intersectional feminist point of view:

“Taking an interesctionalist point-of-view means that I need to be constantly acknowledging that feminist portrayals on screen should also consider examinations of race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability. I will be the first to admit I do not always get this right, but I have made it my mission to honour these explorations more carefully in my work.”

Her advice for young aspiring women Directors:

“Be bold and unrelenting in your vision. Don’t compare yourself to others. Develop your own unique voice. Never give up.”

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Director Catherine Reitman

Catherine Reitman sitting on the floor holding her baby

Her advice to fellow women filmmakers who might be struggling with finding their creative spark again after having kids:

“You must carry on! Even if it feels like failing (which it will), you must continue to water the plant that you nurtured prior to having children. It is your responsibility (whether it is professional or personal) to keep thriving. Your children will grow up to respect you for it… And have rich subject matter to discuss with their future therapists!”

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Director Aleysa Young

Aleysa Young, directing things.

Her advice to aspiring women Directors:

“Being a woman is an asset, not a disadvantage. There are so many funding, festival, and shadowing opportunities geared towards levelling the playfield. It’s annoying and ironic that we have to be segregated in order to be considered equal, but until then, take advantage of the gender parity wave. That said, you still have to work twice as hard to prove that you deserve to be here.”

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Production Designer Britt Doughty

Britt Doughty

On working with Directors DeMane Davis and Kasi Lemmons for Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker:

“Designing Self Made was a production designers dream come true. Every set was a journey involving countless hours of historical research to recreate Madam CJ’s life. The challenge was blending a colourful whimsy throughout, in addition to staying true to the various time periods. Madam CJ was a dreamer, and I wanted to reflect that part of her personality from her early years living in the tenements of St Louis as a washer woman, to the end of her life when she lived in Lewaro & Dark Tower. Every set had to reflect the inspirational woman Madam CJ was.

Working with Kasi, DeMane and Nicole was a fantastic experience. Both Kasi and DeMane were so creative in their approach to the story, opening up numerous opportunities for me to push the visuals beyond being merely a historical piece. It was incredibly inspiring to work with such strong, creative and supportive women.”

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Director Amy Jo Johnson

Amy Jo Johnson

On working in a male dominated industry:

“I just don’t think about it. I’m a doer and never dwell on the challenges of a situation or goal. I just push through them. Some of my biggest supporters and mentors are male veterans in this industry and I appreciate their work and am eager and grateful to learn from them.”

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Editor Christine Armstrong

Christine Armstrong

On working in a male dominated industry:

“I have always been in a male dominated environment and I just really make it a non-issue and always aspire to be on top of my game. I keep the mindset that my gender has nothing to do with whether I can do my job. When it boils down to it, I am a human helping other humans tell their stories regardless of race or gender.”

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Production Designer Zosia Mackenzie

Zosia Mackenzie with some colleagues

On the influence of photographer Nan Goldin: 

“It always depends on the project but I usually love referencing photography. We were all very much inspired by the photography of Nan Goldin, especially in light of the fact that she has survived opioid addiction and is now very much involved in spearheading the fight against pharmaceutical companies who promoted the use of these drugs.”

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