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Guest Post: The Film Fatales Inspire DIY Chapters

Guest Post: The Film Fatales Inspire DIY Chapters

On Tuesday night, a
full house of Independent Filmmaker Project members gathered at the Made in NY Media Center in downtown
Brooklyn to meet the Film Fatales face-to-face. Earlier this month, Filmmaker
published an article entitled “A Collective Will” by Danielle Lurie,
which spoke of an almost magical troop of female filmmakers who were banding
together to help empower each other to get their films made. “Instead of
dwelling on statistics and waiting around for people to give us money, we
decided to all get together and help each other make our own films,” said
Leah Meyerhoff, founder of the Film Fatales, whose first feature film I
Believe in Unicorns
 premiered at SXSW festival earlier this year.

Joining her in the
discussion were Filmmaker Magazine contributor Danielle Lurie (director of “In
The Morning”), Ry Russo-Young (director of Nobody Walks, which she
co-wrote with Lena Dunham), Deborah Kampmeier (writer-director of Hounddog), Paola Mendoza (co-writer/director/star of “Entre
Nos”), and Malika Zouhali-Worrall (co-director/producer of Call Me
), all members of the Film Fatales, which is now 60 women strong.

The Fatales started
the evening by explaining how their group works. “It’s like having a dinner
party with twenty of your closest filmmaker friends, only you just haven’t met them
all yet,” said Meyerhoff. On the first Monday of every month, they hold a casual
dinner party at a different member’s home, but it’s not a regular, freestyle
hangout. The women credited the deliberate structure Meyerhoff created with the
group’s resonance. 

Every Fatales meeting starts with the women going one-by-one
around the room saying their name, the project they are currently working
on, and one positive thing that has happened in the last month. They then have
a half-hour discussion on a topic chosen by the host, and finally they wrap up
by going around the room and one-by-one asking for something they need. Often
times, they say, someone in the room is able to solve their “ask” right there
on the spot. Russo-Young
credited the meetings with giving her a “weird high,” stating that in spite of
struggling to fit the meetings into her busy schedule, she often leaves feeling
like “the world’s a really good place.”

Out of the monthly
meetings have come a Fatales Writing Group (where they workshop each other’s
scripts), quarterly master classes (where they teach each other new skills,
i.e. how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign), and resource spreadsheets
(an ever expanding list of resources they recommend to each other, i.e. DPs, lawyers, etc.)

“It’s vulnerable
when you are making your first film,” said Russo-Young, “You don’t want to get
ripped off.” They all credited the collective with being “a safe place to be
honest” where you can ask enough questions to move from being an amateur to
understanding the landscape with minimal growing pains.

Beyond networking,
the Fatales is fostering strong friendships. Mendoza spoke about the
competition and solitude of the industry and how this group fosters a sense of
community. “There’s a great joy in helping someone else,” she said as the other
women nodded. “I loved it from the first meeting,” said Zouhali-Worrall. “This
is a group of highly ambitious women used to getting stuff done alone, coming
together.” “The world is ours when we get together,” added Lurie. “I’ve been waiting
for a community like this for 15 years,” said Kampmeier. 

And indeed that
sentiment is striking a chord. Other chapters of the Film Fatales have already
sprung up in Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, New Orleans, and most recently
London. The response has been so strong that Meyerhoff has even put together a
do-it-yourself packet for starting your own local Film Fatales Chapter. “If you
email us, we will email you back with materials — soon. Our inbox is overflowing
right now,” Meyerhoff said with a laugh, gracefully trying to meet the needs of
women filmmakers everywhere, while also currently managing an international
festival tour for her film.

If you’re a female
filmmaker interested in starting a local chapter of Film Fatales, email the
Fatales at

Previously: NYC Women Filmmakers Mentor Each Other

Elizabeth Orne was recently named a “New Director” to watch by SHOOT. Her short film “Crazy Glue” was nominated for the Student Academy Awards, was an Official Selection at the Telluride Film Festival, and aired nationally on PBS in 2013 as a part of the series Film School Shorts. 

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