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Hot Docs 2015 Women Directors: Meet Laurie Kahn – ‘Love Between the Covers’

Hot Docs 2015 Women Directors: Meet Laurie Kahn - 'Love Between the Covers'

Laurie Kahn started her film career by helping a friend make an adaptation of a Guy de Maupassant story. While working on this project, she found paying work on the side writing film reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and Time Out. In 1992, Laurie founded Blueberry Hill Productions, where she could work with excellent independent filmmakers who wanted their stories to be heard. Her first independent film, “A Midwife’s Tale,” was based on the daily diary of an 18th-century midwife in Martha Ballard and Laurel Thatcher’s Pulitzer prize-winning book. “Love Between the Covers” is Blueberry Hill Productions’ third feature length film. (Press materials)

“Love Between the Covers” will premiere at the 2015 Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto on April 25. 

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

LK: While romance novels and their signature covers are ubiquitous around the world, the global community of millions of women who read, write and love them remains oddly invisible. “Love Between the Covers” is the fascinating story of five very different authors who invite us into a vast female community that’s running a billion-dollar industry on the cusp of an irreversible power shift.

In “Love Between the Covers,” we enter one of the few places where female characters always center stage, where justice prevails in every book, where women win what they want and the broad spectrum of desires of women from all backgrounds are not feared, but explored unapologetically.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

LK: I want to bring the lives and work of compelling women to the screen because any industry dominated by women is typically dismissed as trivial and “merely domestic.” My previous films,”A Midwife’s Tale” and “Tupperware!,” are very different from one another, but they were both shaped by my desire to look honestly at communities of women who haven’t been taken seriously but should be — who deserve to be heard without being mocked.

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

LK: Two things, really. Raising the money — isn’t that always the case? — and figuring out how to structure the film. “Love Between the Covers” is more than the story of five characters; it is the story of an unrecognized global community. Structuring this film was even harder than structuring a film with five characters, which is a difficult task in and of itself! We finally found a solution in the editing room.

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

LK: I want people to realize how deeply ingrained we all are in dismissing anything that is by women, for women and about women. Many romance readers told me stories of complete strangers looking over their shoulders on a train, or at the beach, leaning over and asking them, “Why do you read that trash?” I really don’t think that would happen to someone reading a mystery or a thriller! Romance novels are dismissed as simplistic. People who’ve never read a romance novel tell me, “They are formulaic. They all end happily.” But all genre fiction ends with a happy ending. Mysteries all begin with a crime and end with the case solved — a guaranteed happy ending. Arnold Schwarzenegger is never killed in his movies. The good guys always win. So why are romances singled out? I think it has to do with a devaluation of women’s work and a deep-seated fear of women’s desires.

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

LK: Be persistent! If there’s an obstacle in your way, try to find a way over it, under it or around it.

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

LK: People tend to dismiss my ideas as fluffy. When they see the finished films, they realize the topics are not fluffy.

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

LK: I started out with development funding from Mass Humanities, the Romance Writers of America and the Nora Roberts Foundation. I then raised $58K in a Kickstarter campaign, which was more than my $50K goal. That allowed me to start shooting. Most of my production funding came from the National Endowment for the Humanities. And several foundations and dozens of individuals came through for me at the end when I needed to pay for music rights, do our sound mix and color correction.

Believe it or not, “Love Between the Covers” and the larger Popular Romance Project it’s part of have been attacked in the US Congress. Senator [Tom] Coburn railed against the project in the Senate, insisting it was silly and trivial. And Rep. [Matt] Salmon introduced a bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 5155, to kill this project! Fortunately, the bill didn’t pass! 

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

LK: That’s a really tough question! There are so many films by women that I admire and love. I’ll say “Winter’s Bone,” directed and co-written by Debra Granik, which has a powerful script, brilliant but understated directing and stunning performances.

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