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Telling women’s stories will change the world, Sundance filmmakers say

Sundance Film Festival » There’s a scandal in the low numbers of women directing movies, which has led to an emerging network to change the field.



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Women are reaching out to each other in multiple directions. "Nobody needs the studio" anymore, said Soloway, who worked on the TV shows "The United States of Tara" and "Six Feet Under." "All you need is the confidence and the voice to start creating."

Soloway is piloting a comedy show, "Transparent," that will stream on Amazon, and with a friend has launched wifey.tv, a website spotlighting videos made by women.

At a glance

Women behind the camera

A study commissioned by the Sundance Film Festival and Women in Film Los Angeles identified gender issues beyond the low number of female directors. When interviewed about directors, industry leaders were likely to use stereotypical male attributes or to make claims that women wouldn’t be interested or able to direct horror or action or other genre films. “When industry leaders think director, they think male,” the report states.

At the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, of the 1,163 content creators working behind the camera on 82 American films, nearly 30 percent were women. In narrative films, 24 percent of content creators were women, while 40 percent of documentary directors were women.

In another bright spot, female filmmakers who participate in Sundance filmmaking labs are as likely as their male colleagues to finish their films and have them accepted at the country’s top 10 film festivals.

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One powerful example of the emerging ecosystem is Gamechanger Films, a $6 million investment fund Dreyfous helped found last fall, with a mission as straightforward as its name: "Gamechanger aims to shift the gender disparity in the film marketplace by tapping into the enormous yet undervalued talent pool of women directors and providing the financing necessary to bring their work to audiences worldwide."

"Our idea is we want to help discover new voices," says Dreyfous, the Academy Award-winning producer of "Born Into Brothels." Gamechanger supports narrative films directed or co-directed by women, with budgets of $2 million or less.

And just months after Gamechanger was launched, its track record looks good. Its first film, "Land Ho," a buddy comedy about a road trip in Iceland by two male retirees, co-directed by Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz, made headlines late this week when it was purchased by Sony Pictures.

For a younger generation, seeing beyond gender » Stephens, 29, said she’s not sure how her gender factored into the script, beyond the tone of the movie’s female supporting characters and how they reacted to the two male lead characters.

Many of her influences as a storyteller are drawn from her history of growing up in Appalachia and living in West Virginia. Stephens said she co-wrote and co-directed the film with her male filmmaking partner, but she was the one who pushed for the more colorful language in the story.

"And I think that comes from me being a kid growing up in the hills where people are a little more outspoken," Stephens said. "That plays into who I am. My age plays into who I am. I’m sure something about me being a girl added to the film. I just don’t know what."

ellenf@sltrib.com


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