The LA Femme Film Festival: By Women, For Everyone

The LA Femme Film Festival: By Women, For Everyone

Leslie LaPage launched the LA
Femme Film Festival
in 2005 after a dispiriting trip to the Sundance Film Festival, where she saw precious few films directed or written by
women. The first LA Femme festival featured 40 films and two seminars; this
year’s festival screened over 100 films, hosted six seminars, and culminated in
a fully produced awards show. Six films garnered distribution deals from Origin
Releasing.

Celebrity
honorees
this year included Michelle Vicary, Executive Vice President of
Programming for Crown Media Family Networks (owner of the Hallmark and Hallmark
Movie Channels) for Executive Achievement; comedian Sara Rue, who recently sold
her first movie as a producer to Dimension Films and her first half-hour pilot
as the writer/creator to Warner Brothers and the CW; and Judy Reyes (Devious Maids), who was honored with the
Lupe Ontiveros Image Award. Julianne Michelle & Joycelyn Engle took home
the award for Best Feature Producer for Awakened, while
Ilse van Lamoen won for Best Documentary with Daughters of the
Niger Delta
.

I spoke with LaPage, who said that the seminar component aims to
educate women filmmakers who haven’t necessarily gone to film school but
nevertheless have stories they want to tell. As part of this effort to make
more women into experts in the field, she provides filmmakers who submit to the
festival but do not get in with VIP passes to the 4-day event and hopes they
will use what they learn to submit again.

The “Alternative
Methods for Breaking In
” seminar, composed of the women’s committee of
the Writer’s Guild, provided perspectives on a variety of avenues to success,
from working in a foreign country to winning obscure screenwriting contests.
Panelists offered practical advice such as “you need a lawyer more than
you need an agent” alongside encouragement never to give up. “Don’t
take no for an answer” was also the theme at the “From
Web Series/Internet to Primetime
” seminar, where panelists enthused
about the opportunities provided by the internet not just to create your own
content but also to monetize it.

The festival’s tag line “By Women, For Everyone”
was evidenced in the fact that neither of the seminars were about the
fact that the participants were women. They were, as at non-women centric at
festivals across the country, simply panels of creators talking about their
craft. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist asking the Alternative Methods panel how
being a woman factors into their careers. Elizabeth Martin shared that she and
her writing partner, Lauren Hynek, who are working on a script for Amazon,
managed to leverage an earlier script–a zombie stoner comedy–based on the
fact that they were not the bros that producers expected to find
attached to such a project. On the other hand, some of the men they work with
regularly refer to them as “the girls.” Martin shared, “Every
time they say it I get a little [makes face] ugh. I’m a woman. I’m a lady, and
I’ve been doing this for a while. I’m not really a girl.” Other panelists
shared similar experiences of being treated as novices just because they are
women.

In an encouraging sign of progress, this year half of the
films in the domestic drama category at Sundance were by women. LaPage says she
thinks women in the industry have taken important steps in the last few years,
but that we still have a ways to go. Her ultimate goal is to create a 100,000-person
attendance 10-day festival that includes live theatrical and musical
performances by women, a convention of women video game creators, and fine art
exhibits. She also plans to expand the film component to ten screens that show
both domestic and international movies.

I want to be one-stop shopping for women creating art for
the globe, whether that is in TV and film or fine art and theater, because
media is media and entertainment is entertainment. It’s about women creating
art for the globe.

__________________________________________

Holly L. Derr is a feminist media critic who writes about
theater, film, television, video games and comics. Follow her @hld6oddblend and on her tumblr, Feminist Fandom.

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