Shannon Sun-Higginson is a documentary filmmaker from New York City. In 2009, her first documentary short, “Hapa Perspectives,” aired on Current TV. She has worked as a Production Coordinator at Zero Point Zero Production on the documentary television programs “No Reservations” on The Travel Channel and “Parts Unknown” on CNN. She has also worked as an Associate Producer on such programs as “City.Ballet” on AOL On and “The Getaway” on Esquire Network. She is currently producing her second feature documentary about a family enduring an unspeakable tragedy entitled “The Witman Project.” (Press materials)
“GTFO: Get The F#$% Out” will premiere at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival on March 14.
W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.
SSH: Around half of all gamers are women, and yet female gamers are disproportionately subject to harassment and abuse. “GTFO” seeks to investigate misogyny in video-game culture and questions the future of this $20 billion industry.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
SSH: In 2012, a friend forwarded me a video of a young woman being sexually harassed during a gaming tournament. Not knowing much about the gaming community at the time, I was shocked. I immediately began researching and filming this documentary and titled it “GTFO” in reference to the exclusionary response that many women encounter while gaming.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
SSH: I was surprised to discover that the vast majority of the women I reached out to were willing to share their personal and professional stories with me. The biggest challenge was probably paring down the dozens of hours of great, thoughtful interviews and organizing them in a coherent way. Because the film is non-linear, we decided to use chapters or “game levels” to delineate the various issues discussed in the movie — marketing, online harassment, etc.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theatre?
SSH: I want people to continue the conversation beyond just the movie. I want non-gamers to gain a well-rounded understanding of this issue, and I want people in the industry to start thinking about and addressing the problems that these women face on a daily basis.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
SSH: Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you admire for mentorship or guidance. When I was trying to figure out how to make “GTFO,” I cold-called documentary-production companies asking for advice. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to take a few minutes out of their day to help out a fellow filmmaker.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
SSH: After a year of funding the movie by myself, I decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign. I was very lucky to have a few major gaming publications share information about the movie, and as a result, the project was funded over 150% of what I had asked for. This budget was indispensable, and allowed me to travel to conferences for shoots, hire a professional post-production team, and apply to film festivals.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
SSH: “Clueless” by Amy Heckerling. Who doesn’t love this movie? A heartless robot, that’s who.