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TIFF 2015 Women Directors: Meet Katherine Monk – ‘Rock the Box’

TIFF 2015 Women Directors: Meet Katherine Monk - 'Rock the Box'

Katherine Monk is a film critic and writer based in Vancouver, Canada. Formally the national movie critic for Postmedia News, Monk is a regular contributor to CBC Radio, Global Television and Corus Radio and has lectured and taught film at various institutions, including McGill’s Centre for Canadian Studies, Simon Fraser University and Capilano University. She is the best-selling author of “Weird Sex and Snowshoes and Other Canadian Film Phenomena” –- later produced into a documentary feature directed by Jill Sharpe — as well as “Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell.” “Rock the Box” is her first film. (Press materials) 

“Rock the Box” will premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival on September 14.

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.

KM: “Rock the Box” is a 10-minute documentary short about a female DJ named Rhiannon, a straight-A student who hits the glass ceiling in the male-dominated world of Electronic Dance Music and did something she never thought she would do: Pose for Playboy.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

KM: I was originally approached by a National Film Board producer named Jennifer Roworth, a DJ herself, and she wanted to explore the huge gender gap in the industry. As a journalist and a feminist, this seemed like a magnificent and grotesque example of the endemic sexism we don’t often see because it’s so deeply ingrained.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

KM: The biggest challenge making the film was getting the green light. People were concerned about the controversial nature of the film and the angle of approach. They were also concerned about my lack of experience as a director. It was a tough package to sell.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

KM: My biggest hope is that people look at the boxes we live in. Boxes don’t exist in nature. They are human-made, and Rhiannon is living in a specific box she didn’t create. I hope people judge the moronic boxes of value, instead of judging the behavior of an individual doing her best to suceeed.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

KM: It’s not easy. But try not to complain too much. As my Granny used to say, “No one likes a Gloomy Gus.”

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?

KM: Given that this is my first film, that’s hard to answer. But as a career journalist for the past 25 years, and as a movie critic for close to 20, I think people see me as a critic. And they probably make a variety of assumptions based on that — which I can’t control.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

KM: This film was produced entirely through the auspices of the National Film Board of Canada. And I am extremely grateful to the excellent producers who befriended the film along the way, particularly Jennifer Roworth and Shirley Vercruysse, as well as Lynne Stopkewich, who helped me get past some significant paperwork hurdles. None of this would have happened without those three women. They are all spectacular people. And super-smart. I’m so happy that they had faith in me.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

KM: I think Jane Campion’s “The Piano” is a perfect film. With so little, she created an emotional epic — a complete world with real people. Every character in that film is recognizably human, yet also heroic. Combined with a theme that juxtaposes all that is civilized with all that is supposedly savage, “The Piano” plays a timeless tune with feeling.

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