WIFTI Summit 2012 and ScriptDC
Location: University of California Washington Center in Washington, DC
Saturday, November 30, 10:00 a.m.
Writer: Elizabeth McGraw-Austin, Women in Film & Video Member
Four unique voices who blog on various aspects of the role of women in the film industry discussed promotion and marketing strategies for women’s films at the “Commanding Your Voice” panel.
This group of bloggers, a who’s-who of pro-female energy focusing on the Hollywood movie industry, talked about their experiences using blogs to promote the work of women in film. They discussed different ways to help women break the “celluloid ceiling” and get hired as directors and writers of seriously funded films.
The panel was moderated by Paula Silver, a marketing strategist who revitalized the grassroots approach to outreach with Mr. Hollands’ Opus, (1995) and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, (2002).
The panel included Melissa Silverstein, the founder and editor of the Women and Hollywood blog, and Artistic Director and co-founder of the Athena Film Festival, Jan Lisa Huttner, an award-winning author/activist and the creative force behind WITASWAN: Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now, http://www.films42.com/witaswan.asphttp, and Hannah Buchdahl, “Mainstream Chick” at the blog “ChickFlix.”
Silverstein’s Women and Hollywood blog is a top site for coverage of women and film as well as other areas of pop culture. Her work on this site inspired her to create the Athena Film Festival, which offers a view of women’s leadership in real life and the fictional world.
As the discussion commenced, Silverstein (Women and Hollywood) commented that it took her at least two years to feel comfortable using her voice, and advises that a blogger has to develop a tough skin to avoid being hurt when someone criticizes what they say. She also stressed the importance of content:
“work it everyday, all day long… If you want people to take you seriously, you have to deliver… have the mindset that this is what you do!”
She tries to provide her content to as many places she can without “dying or burning out.”
Silver commented that there are different kinds of audiences for films, but that audiences should know how to vote with their dollars. It is important to be prompt in supporting a film you like.
“Opening weekend is the only one that matters in this industry,” Silver said.
The proceeds from that important three-day stretch can determine the length of a film’s theatrical run.
Jan Huttner’s WITASWAN ( Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now) initiative is an internet alliance of women who use the power of the purse to increase opportunities for women artists. She believes that through our support for women filmmakers, we can redefine what consumers everywhere get to see on their movie screens.
Huttner was spurred to advocacy by a 2002 article in the Sunday New York Times asking why there were not more female film directors. She wrote a letter to the Times suggesting that it turn the mirror on itself and its’ own film reviewers- who, at the time, were all male. She feels that the dearth of female critics can make it hard for films with broad themes to find their audience.
As a reviewer, Huttner can spend weeks researching a film’s subject before writing a review. Comments made by male critics can be “knives in my gut,” says Huttner, “but they are also what’s making me work at 2:00 in the morning.”
Huttner’s book, “Penny’s Picks: 50 Films by Women Filmmakers,” can help you decide which women-directed films to you’ll want put in your Netflix queue.
“Don’t give up if you don’t get traction immediately- it can take years.”
Hannah Buchdahl is one of three ChickFlix bloggers who are on a mission to offer fun, informative and easy-to-digest movie reviews from a uniquely female perspective. Originally “hatched” from a lively discussion about what makes a good “chick flick,” the ChickFlix site now supports a broad exploration of what makes a good movie.
Buchdahl noted that the film industry has been known to try to influence bloggers and reviewers to give positive notes on a film. Expense-paid screening junkets are designed to incentivise good reviews, but a blogger will lose credibility with their audience if they stray from their real values.
She also commented that mention on a well-followed site can really increase a blogs exposure, noting how traffic on her blog “Inherit the Hoard,” spiked into the tens of thousands when it was mentioned on a blog with a large following. Additionally, a mention in Oprah’s O magazine brought many new readers to the ChickFlix blog.
Paula Silver added that visual information architecture can be very important in a blog– statistics, charts, and numbers carry a lot of impact.
Silver rounded out the comments by emphasizing the importance of keeping women’s voices in the discussion about Hollywood content:
“Teaching young males that the solutions to problems are violence… is a catastrophe for this culture. For your children, your grandchildren, your sons and daughters in this culture, we have got to keep (women’s films) alive at the cineplex.”
Although few blogs will pay the bills for their writers, when combined with savvy use of Twitter and Facebook, blogs can help a filmmaker or writer create a following. No matter what subject they address, blogs are a communication tool with the potential to deliver a huge audience.
About the Writer: Elizabeth McGraw-Austin, Women in Film & Video Member
Elizabeth McGraw-Austin is a hands-on video producer, writer and editor who uses words, images and sounds to inform and entertain. The blog for her documentary in progress, “An Inconvenient Car,” tracks thoughts about how the day-to-day choices we make can impact climate change.