Women In Film and TV: On Creating Content That Represents Women In The Three Dimensional Fierceness They Deserve

It’s been a year since my first feature film, as producer, Empire of Dirt premiered at TIFF (The Toronto International Film Festival). So much has happened for this little film since then, including a theatrical release in Canadian cities, play on Air Canada, iTunes and Rogers On Demand. All great platforms that I’m grateful to have been showcased on.

But, I have to say that some of the most exciting times for me and this film have taken place on the festival circuit. It has travelled around the world and I’ve accompanied it to some. (These days I don’t travel as much as I used to because I want to be with my kids as much as humanly possible.)

“If I Could Snap My Fingers and Make One Happen…”

The wonderful thing about festivals is that it incorporates that “thing” that theatre has and film doesn’t. A live relationship with an audience. Sitting in your movie WITH an audience full of strangers and then standing in front of them for an extended period of time for a Q & A, creates that spark between ME and the audience that a film actor doesn’t otherwise get.

By the way, I was also IN Empire of Dirt.

So, as I stood in front of audiences across the continent, fielding questions and reacting to criticisms and accolades alike, I realized something new about this film and my experience making it.

As if it isn’t already challenging enough telling a “Native” story, this film also happened to star 3 generations of Native women.

We (writer, Shannon Masters and director Peter Stebbings), set out to tell an honest story about a family. What I didn’t realize was that the weight of the cultural component was less impactful than the weight of the gender issue. I mean when and where do you ever see stories that are told through the eyes of women? And even then, when do you see THREE strong, three dimensional female characters at the helm of any feature film. Yes it exists, and definitely more so in television but I have to say; the most common comment about my film is how refreshing it was to see women being women. Flawed and still captivating. Women from all over are relating to this film.

I’ve been at festivals where women of all backgrounds are crying as they ask their question.

It didn’t occur to me that we were making a WOMAN’S story as much as we were making a “Native” story.

I suppose it makes perfect sense, I am a woman. I’ve been storyteller all my life. They say you should write about what you know. It makes sense that I gravitated towards a story of women who don’t feel like they fit in. A story of teen moms, (I’m the product of one). A film that touches on themes of cultural shame, residential school and a family’s inability to openly talk about their pain. And of course, all of this told through the perspective of women. It isn’t my own personal life story but I relate intimately to all its pieces.

All of this to say, I am incredibly grateful to have been able to tell this story. I plan on using my experience making the film to help other filmmakers tell their stories, especially the ones that exist in the margin and might have a hard time finding an audience. I will use it as a tool to educate audiences around the world and I will continue to create content that represents women in the three dimensional fierceness they deserve.

Thanks for listening,

One Comment

  1. Reply
    David Reid 09/09/2014

    How fortunate these audiences (women and men alike) have been to have had you at these screenings.

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