Professor Stacy Smith is calling Hollywood Out for it’s Sexism. And She’s got the Data to back it up.

Stacy Smith recently caught my attention as the Los Angeles Times featured a great article highlighting the issues of sexism in film and television by referring Smith’s research. Check the article out below:

Professor Stacy Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that women made up only 4.3% of all directors of the 1,100 top films released from 2007 to 2017. That represented a ratio of 22 males to each female director. In addition, only four black females, three Asian females and one Latina directed any of those 1,100 films.

“When people think of a female director — it’s a Caucasian female,” Smith said Thursday in an interview. “There were only eight women of color directing those 1,100 films, including only one Latina — that shows something in the system is broken.”

She has been mobilizing and taking her research to more stages. Enjoy her TED Talk  Here.


issarae.pngIssa Rae is everything. She is one of the most exciting and talented women in the game right now. Most recently due to her success with her new HBO series “Insecure,” but she has been a favourite of mine for much longer than that.

Issa Rae is someone any aspiring web series developer should be taking note of. First, because she’s incredibly talented and hilarious, but also because she’s incredibly open about her process and journey getting to the level she’s at today. She even produced a series called INSIDE -Issa Rae Production where she gives an inside look at how the series and the projects she’s working on comes together. Wow, what a great resource and tool. If you’re someone aspiring to create a successful web series and need some inspiration- Issa is IT!

She started with an idea and minimal equipment, she had her friend hold the camera for her to shoot her first episode of “Awkward Black Girl” . Guess what? It is hilllarrrriiouss. It was the jump off point of her career. She didn’t wait for a big budget or for all the right pieces to come together- she just began with what she had.

If you haven’t seen Awkward Black Girl or Insecure- do yourself a favour. You can find the whole season of Awkward Black Girl on youtube or check out her new show “Insecure” on HBO. I would also encourage you to check out some interviews with her because all that comedy and drive doesn’t only express itself when she’s producing a web series- she’s also brilliant and funny in interviews as well. Word is that Issa Rae is working on a Sci- Fi Project and show about black teens. Find out more: Here.

Investing in one another

I came across this kickstarter campaign and it gave me all the feels. It’s a film festival for documentary films about women athletes. In a time where the hype is at its highest for movies about fictional, bad ass women such as Superwoman, let’s not forget our own super women- the talented women and girls around the world competing in the sports they love! While the top men’s basketball players are signing hundred million dollar contracts, the Lebron James of the WNBA aren’t even pulling in a million. There is so much strength to be celebrated in real life, by real women – what a beautiful campaign to honour the fierce dedication and strength of women of all ages in sports. Those of us who are media makers and film buffs can see the opportunity, the necessity and the hunger for content like this. People want to see films and media celebrating the diversity of our strength. Check out their campaign. I hope you get inspired as I did.

The Second Annual Women Sports Film Festival

Black Women Film

Be sure you check out these incredible organizations for black women in film that act as a resource and community for black women filmmakers. Black Women Film even offers scholarship and membership opportunities. Also, if you are Canadian based and looking for a community closer to you- be sure to check out Black Women Film- Canada.

I hope these resources are helpful to you, please let us know if you know of another organization doing great work who we should feature that is helping to support and showcase women in film.




I love this post. Instead of talking about the ingrained sexism present in the film and television industry, I come bearing exciting and encouraging news- the best kind! The National Film Board of Canada has committed to allocating 50% of its production spending to women producers, writers, and generally just women led projects. They are making it a priority to invest in women- This is HUGE!

Word on the street is, over the next three years, the NFB is going to be on the lookout for women driven projects to invest in to support the goal of diversity and inclusion in the film industry in Canada.

I love to bring you such exciting news. I hope that it inspires you the way that it has me. Now is the time, more than ever, we need to be in communication and collaboration with each other to create amazing content. To learn more, go to the National Film Board of Canada. Comment below and let us know how you feel about this promise of resources to women filmmakers in Canada, and please share with all the creative boss ladies in your life who may need a little encouragement. 

Hidden Figures

Related imageIt’s hard to stay calm about Hidden Figures. Not only is the cast include Hollywood’s most talented leading female actresses, but the story itself is a remarkable, refreshing narrative that highlights the genius of black women- something not often seen on the big screen. Hidden Figures shines a light on the success and struggles of the real life African-American women responsible for one of NASA’s greatest accomplishments. The work of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson goes unacknowledged no more, as Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe play these incredible mathematicians and engineers who each had to transcend race and gender barriers to succeed.Image result for Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson

This film is a tribute to the brilliance of women of colour- stories of remarkable women of colour are not hard to find, however they are rarely chosen for the big screen. We applaud those who saw this story as note worthy and hope that it’s success will set a precedence around portraying black women as the full, dynamic and intelligent women they have always been, rather than playing into a tired stereotype that demeans them. I hope that Hidden Figures is just the beginning of many more stories to come shining out from the shadows of history to make their debut on the big screen.

The film has received outstanding amount of support thus far, even First Lady, Michelle Obama hosted a special screening of the movie at the White House. Hidden Figures won the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the 23rd SAG awards. Their acceptance speech is enough to make you want to watch the movie.

And of course, if you haven’t already – Check out the Trailer here:

Check out our latest Interview with Documentary Filmmaker, Colleen Cardinal

Tell us about your latest project? What inspired its creation? Why is it important?

My latest project The Sixties Scoop: A Hidden Generation started in 2012, I was looking for a way to share my story of what happened to my sisters and me.  At the time I was volunteering with Families of Sisters in Spirit, a grassroots initiative for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women. With their encouragement and support I became empowered through sharing my lived experiences at presentations, panels and workshops. My sisters and I had been trafficked through colonial child welfare policies and placed into a non-Indigenous households now loosely named the 60’s Scoop. We experienced a staggering amount of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in that household without any protection or intervention by the State who had failed to protect us. We ended up fleeing that household to escape the physical and sexual violence at the ages of 15. My sisters and I were navigating the world on our own with no supports facing racism, poverty, unresolved trauma and more violence. My eldest sister was murdered when she was 20 years old, she left behind two small children. For my surviving sister and me we would continue living in violent relationships for many years until one day I escaped the violence to start over with my children.

I knew something terrible and profound had happened to us girls as children due to our abusive adoptive household but at that time I didn’t realize how many other Indigenous people were impacted by the systemic racist colonial child welfare policies and how those policies have othered Indigenous people as disposable, incapable or unworthy. The documentary is meant to expose the impacts of intergenerational trauma across generations, loss of language, ceremony and the familiarity of belonging but also the journey of reconnecting with culture, language, birth family and the work that needs to continue for people impacted by assimilative policies like the 60’s scoop.  The film seeks to address the many issues Indigenous adoptee cope with daily in their lives such as living with HIV/AIDS,  being a family member of a missing or murdered Indigenous woman, poverty, mental health, addiction and raising children who are also impacted by our trauma and stopping the cycle of violence.

I had no experience in film making or journalism, I just knew I had a story that needed to be told. I began to look for ways to learn how to make films which led me to take some workshops at Saw Video Media Art Center which is a production center for independent media art. I submitted a grant application for a small equipment grant for equipment and workshops. I successfully won the small grant and it was there I began to learn videography.

I was inspired by a friend of mine who was a journalist, she believed in me and knew sharing my story was important, that it would make waves and help others while exposing a hidden generation of adoptees who have largely been forgotten about and/or whitewashed as Canada’s best intention to save Indian children.

It is another important chapter in the crimes committed by the State against Indigenous people, the stealing of Indigenous children children, erasure of culture and identity for access to lands, resources which Canada is built on.

 The number of women in positions of influence in the film and television industry is few, but this level of representation falls even shorter in terms of First Nations women’s voices. Could you speak to these issues of representation and the importance of who controls and contributes to the popular narrative?

Since my childhood I’ve had very few Indigenous women in the film and television industry to look up to, role model or see myself as a First Nations woman reflected in popular media. In my early adulthood I began to see Indigenous women like Tantoo Cardinal, Tina Keeper, Michelle St. John portraying roles where racism, violence, alcoholism or the stereotypical role of addiction, child welfare involvement and poverty were predominant. These were the images being reflected of Indigenous women in popular media in the early 80’s & 90’s l For the most part, I could relate but there was never context given to why Indigenous women were experiencing these issues. On the very extreme spectrum  I’ve also seen documentaries exploit Indigenous women continually as being victims which lends to this saviour type of ideology that we have no agency and need help or saving which is exactly the mentality that has led Indigenous people being precariously portrayed as perpetual victims.

As a grassroots Indigenous woman, I have no illusions about how little control or influence I have on the popular narrative which is why I chose to do independent media. It is important for Indigenous people to represent their own work, in their own words without taking out critical connections of how State policies have impacted generations of lives. I feel like we still have steep barriers to climb just to break into the world of film and media. Not only is the industry controlled by men, there is an unwritten code of “how things are done” which caters to the patriarchal heteronormative gaze, my goal is not to cater to the old way of doing things but from an Indigenous way that centers wellness, healing and ceremony.

What led you to documentary films?

Documentary film is way to reach a wider audience through storytelling and digital media art. Oral story telling is part of culture and how we share teachings and history. But since colonization we’ve been taught to not talk about our experiences, not be emotional, not to dwell on the past or leave things alone. Not talking is not healing or dealing, we need to create safe spaces to have a dialogue where listening, validating and meaningful healing takes place.  Digital media is a way to amplify the voices of those who wouldn’t normally be heard or seen in mainstream media. I’ve always preferred documentaries that are revealing with critical thought, truth baring but also showing the work or way to do the work that needs to be done to make things right. I’ve always believed that documentaries can be used in many ways besides truth telling but also for community building, understanding and of course, reconciliation.

How have you chosen to tackle methods of finance and distribution?

One of the biggest challenge is not knowing where to start and retaining control of how the story is told so that it is not white washed, or sanitized that might be required from working with people who do not center Indigenous . Not only am I making a documentary but it is a commitment to building trust and relationships with those who have joined in the effort of making the documentary, sharing their stories and trusting the process. It has also been a learning curve understanding realizing we are all in different stages of grief, loss and healing.

I’ve chosen to keep the documentary grassroots, funded carefully by grants and donations.  It has been a challenge because when people have asked to be involved, I have been guarded to make sure it stays true to the goal of being grassroots with Indigenous voices being amplified and told from an Indigenous perspective not through a settler’s interpretation.

As of right now, distribution is in the back of my mind. I want to make the documentary public and available, with subtitles and in French. I plan to host it on a website, and if there are donations they would be donated to initiatives for Indigenous adoptees who are doing grassroots organizing that includes healing, cultural knowledge and cultural education and or repatriation. The documentary needs to be included in any work that talks about reconciliation as a learning tool for community building, schools and institutions, especially anyone working front line with Indigenous people in health and social services.

What barriers have you faced during this project and what kind of support makes it possible?

The biggest barrier is my health, I live with Complex PTSD and a chronic pain disability that impedes my mobility along with compromised immune disease which flares break outs of psoriasis triggered by stress. Learning to manage my health and find balance has been a challenge, my second biggest challenge is learning the film making process on my own. Of course financing has been an on-going obstacle, funding the travel and equipment to get footage while connecting with the adoptees who have been impacted. Making sure adoptees feel safe, listened too and supporting through the sharing of their experiences.

What do you hope to accomplish with your film?

I hope to reach a national and international audience to expose the 60’ Scoop for the Canadians who do not know about it, but also the adoptees who may have been taken oversea and foster cared children who may be searching for a reason why it happened, find support, put a name to the unknown loss they might be experiencing and gain support.

Help other adoptees connect with other adoptees, build community with non-Indigenous people but most of all story-telling is healing, I think this has been a huge project that started out as a personal journey and turned into a movement of adoptees connecting from all over the world.

Tell us about your interests and influences in documentaries, television, media… What are you watching? Who’s inspiring you lately?

Alanis Obomsawin documentaries reeled me in, they were so revealing and showed the side of Indigenous realities that needed to be seen. Her films because my source of inspiration because they were so authentic using stories of Indigenous people affected by government policies. The late Gil Cardinal is also a source of inspiration, his documentaries were the first films I have seen that reflected images of other Indigenous children who experienced child welfare policies. I remember feeling like I wanted to know more and see more documentaries that were so profound.

Another one of my favourite documentaries is Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside by filmmakers Alejandro Zuluaga and Harsha Walia which showed the real life strength and survival vs. victimhood of Indigenous women living and thriving in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver where hundreds of Indigenous women have been murdered, disappeared and othered because they use drugs, alcohol or sex work. Go Home Babygirl by Audrey Huntley which talks about one First Nation family’s struggle for justice and healing as they deal with having a young woman die a violent death.  Empire of Dirt by Jennifer Podemski, Rhymes of Young Ghouls and Drunktowns’ Finest are among the films that I can relate to the most when it comes to seeing Indigenous lives and realities reflected on the big screen. Each year there are more and more Indigenous film makers and documentaries exploring and delivering profound artistic mediums of cinematography, music, and dialogue about the most emotional, deep wounds that we are dealing with from. It makes my heart soar with pride for the resiliency and determination we as Indigenous people have to heal and move forward.

A Hidden Generation Poster by Colleen C

Pacific Standard Films: Creating opportunities for women in lead roles both on and off screen by Liija Cassidy Eskola


There was a lot I couldn’t watch as a child (now referred to as a tween) in my house. Nothing violent (sorry Power Rangers), nothing featuring serious teen issues (take a hike Degrassi: Junior High) and certainly nothing sexually explicit (no Dawson’s Creek for me). So I can only assume I was at a sleepover the first time I saw Cruel Intentions. It was the teen drama of the millennium, and by the principles I had grown up on, completely scandalous.  In the final scene as Annette peeled away from town and seemingly her troubles, it was as if Reese Witherspoon herself was speeding towards a promising future. She followed up Cruel Intentions with hits like Election and Legally Blonde, eventually leading her to the Oscar winning role of June Carter in Walk the Line. The Oscar curse is not much more than an old wives tale for the A-list set, a promise of career misfortune once that gold statue has been won.  For Reese Witherspoon it may have been the Oscar curse, or just poor timing but a career that once seemed locked on a one way towards success was turning into a dead end.

In a humble interview for 60 Minutes, Witherspoon referred to the period after her Oscar win for Walk the Line as a slump; taking roles with little consequence just to keep working, her mind tangled by her divorce from Ryan Phillippe which came only months after the Oscar win. By the time the fog had lifted and she found herself back in meetings with top film executives in 2012, she was confronted with a lack of opportunities for women of a certain age and for women period. For some I suppose it can be difficult to look past her porcelain skin, beautiful blonde hair, southern drawl and the fact that she dated Jake Gyllenhaal. Yet in spite of all that privilege, she was still being met with resistance in her career; a field in which she had been awarded the highest of accolades.  If opportunities were scarce for America’s Oscar winning sweetheart, what must it be like for others? For women still in the opening act of their careers? For women who aren’t Meryl Streep?

Gender inequality in film is not an anecdotal conversation to be had over the dinner table or a debate to engage in online for professionals like Bruna Papandrea and Reese Witherspoon; it was a lifetime devoted to an art form of storytelling and expression that apparently no longer had a place for them.   The pursuit of a renewed faith in filmmaking resulted in Australian born producer Bruna Papandrea and Witherspoon joining forces and founding Pacific Standard Films, a production company aimed at creating comparable opportunities for women in leading roles both on and off screen.

Screenshot 2015-12-08 16.48.54

At the Produced conference back in May of this year, Witherspoon noted that if half the population is made up of women, perhaps the films we watch should be a reflection of that. However this is more than a numbers game for Witherspoon and Papandrea; Pacific Standard is not only concerned with an increase in the quantity of roles and production positions available to women, but in the quality of these assignments. Do the acting roles have depth? Are the characters a true representation of the strength, resilience, race and age of the women who provide inspiration all around us? Whose stories are being told? Are the production positions cultivating new female talent? In an interview with The Frame, Witherspoon asks not only of herself but of the industry at large “What are you putting into the world and why?”.

Pacific Standard is setting a standard all their own; screenplays are being sought out and adapted from novels with strong female protagonists that are then transformed into meaningful leading and supporting roles for women. The films are performed, produced and directed by Hollywood heavyweights and the industry has taken notice. The company’s first films, Wild and Gone Girl, garnered Oscar nods for best actress in leading and supporting roles and made a half a billion dollars at the box office. Gender inequality in Hollywood seems to have a ripple effect; the absence of women in positions of leadership and innovation as writers, directors and producers, impacts the types of roles being designed and written for women. In discussions of privilege I am often met with the idea of representing what I know. Who could possibly be a better story-teller of women than women? The representation will always be more accurate from someone who has lived the experience, and judging by the projects Pacific Standard has dug into, nurturing a strong female voice is at the forefront of their mission. A single person, group or production company that can fully and accurately represent all women is a tall order.  Pacific Standard will not be filling the gender gap in one fell swoop using only complex character writing and a team of female producers and assistants.

A quick search (yes, back to Google) of the top production companies in Hollywood led me to Warner, Disney, Universal and Columbia, not surprisingly there was not a female CEO in the lot. Pacific Standard can’t, isn’t and won’t be changing the face of women in film alone, but Papandrea and Witherspoon have already taken leaps and bounds in the right direction. They have upwards of 20 film projects currently in varying stages of production and 3 television shows in development. While there are always improvements that can be made, their success is already worth celebrating

After reading a few articles on the conception of Pacific Standard and watching the film Wild, I couldn’t help but draw a dot or two and connect them. Both the journey in Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and the creation Pacific Standard were born out of a desperate need for change in the status quo. Perhaps I recognized the feeling, the one that stems from the realization that somewhere along the line a few bad calls were made, that trust was not placed in the right people and help was sought in all the wrong places.  Cheryl Strayed fought for atonement in the solitude of the Pacific Crest Trail and found a new lease on life while Reese Withserpoon fought for a resurgence of her own and found a new lease on her career. Yes, these are radically different in so many ways, but both are stories of soul searching, challenges being accepted and obstacles overcome; they are stories of strength and ingenuity. Stories of women, for women, by women.

Matrilineal Matters and Masculine Moves: ImagineNATIVE Film Review by Margot Frayne

Lesson number one: when attending a film festival at the TIFF Light Box in Toronto, if you don’t have one of those super cool press passes, for the love of everything holy pre purchase a ticket. As I was anxiously waiting in a lengthy overflow lineup to attend a compilation of shorts that was part of the Imagine Native Film Festival, the excitement in the foyer was so palpable it seemed to have wrenched my eye balls from my head as my focus darted around the crowded foyer. I was in the midst of a family reunion, members of which had traveled from the ends of the earth to experience such camaraderie. Everyone belonged.

Lesson number two: strength is showing your growth, not show casing your grievances. By injecting humor and humility into issues of being not only native but a member of humankind, the shorts in Matrilineal Matters dealt the themes of hardship, optimism, and the path to insightfulness while being navigated through the ever changing  entity that is life.

Lesson number three: there cannot be an honest understanding of life for a female without acknowledging the likeness of our male counterparts. Truly, it is the interactions of the two that impacts each facet individually and cannot be teased apart without negating the fragility of gender. It wasn’t until I was heading for the foyer, warmly anticipating my sweatpants, that I knew in my heart I could not leave before hearing the men’s side in Masculine Moves: Short Program; conveniently placed half an hour after its sister counterpart.

Strength: Comparisons of its meaning for both Indigenous Males and Females

And my cinematographical study reached its apex at this thesis: In close investigation of the themes and portrayals in the disparate shorts, the concept of strength and “being strong” is viewed in a gender neutralizing manor.

Here me out.

In each short film, both male or female inspired, strength was the thread running through each segment. Females showed strength through their ability to hold their communities and families together, despite how they continuously overcome loss and displacement, and with grace and good humor. Female strength shows a balance between being a warrior in the face of adversity and being a whimsical wealth of comfort and empathy.

Conversely, Masculine Moves shorts depicted a disappointment in the gendered way the meaning strength has been conveyed to men. Each short carefully peeled away layers upon layers of expectations about what it is to be a strong man, exposing the misconceptions of entitlement and brutish physical dominance that have poisoned the relationship between the sexes. The true meaning of strength seen in the protagonists of each short was seen in their the ability to care for and help families flourish and their willingness to see past insubstantial societal conventions to embrace a deeper understanding of their individual needs that are not gender prescribed.

And thought I sat in the dark absorbed in thoughts of the complexity of humankind, I had never felt so enlightened.


Sudbury Launches Women in Film Wednesday




A monthly showcase of the work of women directors. This holiday, what better way to warm up than with a film. Just check out this great line up.

Wed Dec 2nd: After the Last River by Victora Lean
Wed Jan 6th: Les Loups par Sophie Deraspe
Wed Feb 3rd: Diary of a Teenage Daughter by Marielle Heller

View the website for more information: Here

Meet one of our Writers: Liija Cassidy Eskola



I can’t actually remember the last time I opened a search engine for research. Googling how to cook a turkey without giving everyone you know salmonella or launching an inquiry into the meaning of the hieroglyphics on your clothing labels so you don’t have to call your mother again, doesn’t qualify. The empty search bar was an open invitation; a blank slate. As I stared at the screen, something began to shift. With each flash of the cursor, that feeling of infinite possibility became increasingly distant, in its place grew bewilderment. Why exactly do I have to google anything? I wasn’t searching for something specific; I was googling a starting point. Why was it that I couldn’t immediately think of an engaging topic to write about? I had been presented with a no-holds barred opportunity to write about women and my first instinct was Google? What was I afraid of? Last I checked, I was in fact a woman, so why was it so difficult to write about my own gender? How exactly did this happen? When did it happen? How had I become so apathetic that the subject of feminism might as well be the Egyptian script on my tags?

I listen to the news while I get ready for work in the morning, occasionally becoming outraged by the ease with which people post insensitive comments on social media and consider myself to have a decently calibrated moral compass. However, I am no activist. I am not designing signs to hold or organizing rallies; I’m certainly not against them, but I’m not exactly with them either. I have a certain placation with life, an umbrella of blissful ignorance I use for shelter from the torrential downpour of reality.

Like an animal enjoying a deep winter sleep, when provoked I can easily (and gleefully) fight with the best of them. The need to advocate my point of view with zeal is a genetic marker; a gift from my mother. I have never met anyone who can execute a debate quite like she can; she is fierce, opinionated and argues while remaining deeply rooted in fact. She speaks up and out unapologetically and is never afraid of doing the right thing. Somewhere along the way, that instinct she passed along fell into hibernation.

Meanwhile, seemingly overnight, everyone had become an activist. I was besieged with cyber activism and while so many were finding their causes and more importantly their voices, I had lost interest in my own. Never before in our history have our opinions had so many platforms on which to be explicated and means by which to be absorbed by the general public. Making a statement on any form of social media is no longer simply a post on your wall; that statement is now out in the public sphere, ready and waiting to be copied, pasted, shared, linked and made into a clever meme, giving any thought the potential of going viral. In the midst of this outbreak of conscience, I couldn’t help but feel inoculated.

It has become easy to scroll past posts that should outrage me, only occasionally stopping and even more rarely feeling the urge to react. Perhaps for some the law of averages comes into play; only so many posts could be ignored, one will have to land and change their point of view forever. For me it was too much noise; things were being posted haphazardly and the true believers were never satisfied. There was always someone more environmentally friendly (you’re a vegan and your pants are made from conflict free hemp, we know), more politically conscious (I actually did vote, thanks for assuming I didn’t though) or more feminist (sorry, I still love Disney movies and their princesses) than I could ever be. But in spite of the comment wars being waged all over social media, I came to realize it isn’t about being ‘enough’.

There must be others who wonder if they are the right kind of feminist or if they’re feminist enough. I appreciate the fact that my mom kept her last name at a time when that was an unpopular choice, I support equal pay and value my rights to vote and choose. Then again I also like Taylor Swift, shaving my legs and when men hold the elevator doors so the 500 bags I constantly seem to be carrying and I can get in first. Is that feminism light? Feminism for beginners?? Feminism for the basic bitch??? I don’t know where exactly I fall on the spectrum of feminism but I do know everyone, every woman, has a lens through which they view women’s issues, each one unique. I’m probably always going to want to shave my legs but that doesn’t have to limit how I participate in the conversation. I may not be the perfect feminist, but I’m also no longer convinced there is such a thing.

Systemic inequality, entrenched sexual suggestion and chauvinistic representation surround women every day in nearly every facet of life and film is the perfect example. Having this website as an open forum on women, their position and representation both behind and in front of the camera is a modern and ubiquitous gateway into the foundations of feminist theories.

I choose not to focus on the embarrassment of the indifference that led me here, instead the optimism in my renewed sense of resolve. Every woman has a lens through which they view women’s issues, and while mine is a bit crooked and rose-colored, it’s never been clearer.

Where We’re At: The First Pilot Episode


The first objective of the Women’s Film Collective is to finish writing the pilot episode for the first season of our web based television show.

Some of the women of the collective have already begun brainstorming characters and scenes. Please contact us for the next Skype meeting to jump in on the writing.

The pilot is important for garnering support from investors, organizations and crowd funding in order to produce the rest of the season. We want to have a finished script for the pilot by December so we can move to production phase.

We’re looking for feminist comedy writers, women of all backgrounds and experiences to come write about theirs with a team of other women who are interested in producing something with funny, feminist and original written and directed by a team of all women.

We are in the writing phase of this project, please contact the women’s film collective if you’d like to get involved.

The next in person meetings will be held in Sudbury on the 26th at 5:30 pm at the Fromagerie.


The Ottawa International Film Festival: Miss Conception with Melinda Shankar


Guess what?! Everyone’s favourite Next Generation Degrassi television star, Melinda Shankar is starting her own inspirational project addressing both industry and personal misconceptions. The Women’s Film Collective caught up with her at a conference she gave at the Ottawa International Film Festival on industry insider knowledge beneficial for those of you embarking on a career as an actor.

Melinda was raised in Ottawa, but moved to Toronto when she got her big break on Degrassi’s Next Generation. Today, she stands just over five feet with a mountain of knowledge and experience to share with those wishing to get into the industry.

Melinda graced the room with poise and humour. She gave a refreshingly honest account of a day in the life of an actor in a Canadian context. She shared about the inspiration and purpose of her new project MissConception which she created to be the kind of resource she would wanted when she was trying to find her way into the industry. Melinda bridges the gap of insiders and outsiders by speaking openly about what it’s like on set. She offers key advice for actors and actresses wishing to make their own way on screen and has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to branding such as how to utilize social media to your advantage. Her advice would be an asset to anyone when discussing image and branding- just look at Melinda’s Instagram.

What made her talk really engaging was her own personal accounts and stories. She opens up about her own misconceptions as an actress. She connects to the audience in a way that gets us to think about misconceptions that we all hold that may be preventing us from recognizing what we really have that is unique to offer.

Melinda is refreshingly herself. Often we wonder how much of someone’s personality or beauty is contrived for television. Melinda was just as gorgeous and fun loving in person and the Women’s Film Collective left talking about how we had just met a true Canadian gem. She is making a name for herself through these projects as a mentor and talented image consultant. We look forward to hearing more from Miss Conception and Melinda Shankar in future.

Listen Up: Natalie Lacasse on the Overrepresentation of Canada’s Indigenous population in Correctional Facilities


One of our members, Natalie Lacasse did an interview this morning on CBC. Natalie is a Master’s student and First Nation’s community member in Moose Cree First Nation looking into the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in correctional facilities in Canada and how traditional practices can be used to prevent young people from ending up in jail. Natalie has spent time working inside correctional facilities and recently finished her Master’s thesis on her own community reservation, Moose Cree First Nation.

Natalie reveals a startling statistic: Indigenous people make up 23% of the prison population, while totalling in at only 4 % of Canada’s total population.

Tune in to her interview on CBC to learn more about her work here:

Getting down to Business at the Ottawa International Film Festival

It was Saturday morning amidst lush VIP seating, with notebook in hand, I sat ready to retain the wealth of knowledge pouring from the six panelists showcased at the Ottawa International Film Festival conference on “The Business of Filmmaking”. The conference featured Edwards Professional Corporation and offered a chance to learn something from the film industries brightest lawyers, producers, entrepreneurs and filmmakers. The conference touched on a variety of subjects including budgets, distribution, the various types of funding available to aspiring filmmakers in Canada, as well as showcased inside knowledge on some of the major players with regards to funding.


Out of the panel of six, two of these industry professionals were women. One of the first things I noticed was when referencing budgets, the two women on the panel were working with significantly smaller budgets than the rest of the team. This comes as no surprise to those of us who study and live the gender wage gap and a lack of equity in film and television, but I thought it fitting that even within this smaller demographic, the numbers seemed representative of the reality that women in film and television, on average, receive less funding than men. These two women managed to transcend this obstacle, creating remarkable productions.
Check out their trailers here.

1.) Karen Harnisch with “Sleeping Giant”

2.) Laura Perlmutter with her film “Don’t Get Killed in Alaska”

Now, let’s get down to business…

In the Canadian market, in contrast to somewhere like the United States,  filmmakers are able to benefit from subsidized government grants and funding to help fuel the Canadian film and television industry. Somewhere like the United States, however, relies heavily on private equity.

In Canada, Telefilm is the largest funder of Canadian films. For first time filmmakers, Tele- film has a larger than life ora; It often seems unattainable. Thomas explained, sympathized and emphasized that this wondrous giant, though seemingly inaccessible, is really not too big to care. This organization goes out of it’s way to help and support Canadian filmmakers, so don’t count yourself out. Try to reach out and talk to them- they are there to support.

It is quite commonplace to acquire your film funding from many different sources, typically, even a well equipped source like Tele-Film would provide a third of your proposed budget. When preparing a budget for your film, prepare different versions for varying amounts of funding. You want to be well prepared and flexible when it comes to your budget as often you don’t know exactly how much funding you will get for your movie beforehand.

Telefilm also provides “Finishing grants” which are a great resource once you’ve completed your film. Karen has received two of these grants and feels that Telefilm is really looking to invest in careers. Finishing a film proves that you have what it takes. If you can show them a completed production, and you receive a finishing grant for your film, it will usually be in the 10,000- 40,000 dollar range.  Karen says, “they are an open door” and urges that it’s never too early to contact them and start a conversation.

Private equity is a great option for funding.  A filmmaker can appeal to three motivators to acquire private equity towards the making of their film. One of the key motivating factor for private equity when it comes to a first time feature filmmaker is love and friendship. The first investors in your film will usually be from friends and family- these are often great ways of funding your first feature film as it will be easier to receive funding from other sources once you’ve established yourself as a feature filmmaker. Speaking from experience, one female panelists explains that creating a feature film has done more for her career than her Master’s degree ever did. Friends and family are often eager to help with the funding of your feature to advance your career.

The next motivator is association. Sometimes investors are looking to receive advertising, a courtesy credit in the film, or if your funder has an interest in film, the ability to go on set can be particularly appealing, especially if you manage to score a well known actress or actor in your production.

The last motivator is someone who wants a return on their capital. These are people looking to make money off of the film industry. This is less popular in Canada, but is very common in the United States. One of the panelists, a man who had experience garnering millions of dollars in film funding, spoke of pre-buying, where companies will buy the film before it’s completion. These happen at select conferences in hotels where buyers go around from room to room to hear about the various prospective films for investment. They will buy the film before it is made, thus, providing funding to the making of the film before it has been completed.

It’s also essential to maintain contact and relationships with your investors, keeping them up to date on the film’s progress. This is something to remember for the less experienced, as you will easily get carried away with the making of your film.

A great way to showcase your film, whether you want to crowd fund the film or search for other means of funding: after completing your script, scroll through and highlight the scenes that seem like “trailer moments”. Creating your trailer before you’ve produced the whole film is common to garner interest and attention for the completion of a film.

Lawyers and entrepreneurs working together with creatives is so beneficial-  When you make a film, wether you are employing union or non union actors, you are creating jobs- this makes you eligible to receive back 25-60 % of your cost of labour. It’s important to understand filmmaking as a business and clients of Edwards Professional Corporation have the benefit of running through scenarios with seasoned professionals, finding the best way to use the government tax cuts to your benefit.  Tax credits can give you up to 50-60% of your costs back in a tax credit.

However, while numbers talk, it’s important to bring the focus back to quality. Knowing how to make a film, knowing how to get the funding or the tax credits to make a film simply isn’t enough. What any filmmaker should be focussed on first is making the best possible film they can. Don’t make a mediocre film because you understand the business of film, only make excellent films. Making an excellent film will get you the furthest. This is what’s going to set you apart. Even without any interest or support from distribution companies, if you manage to make an excellent film that gets into a reputable film festival, you are going to have these organizations ringing off your phone the minute you get accepted into a film festival like TIFF.  Only an excellent film will get you into places like these- you really want to put your focus on making an extraordinarily well made, stand-out film.


After the conference, I caught up with just such a filmmaker – Laura Perlmutter. Laura was kind enough to indulge me in conversation on the topic of equality for women in film. She seemed optimistic about the future saying that the game is changing, however she posited that it’s not enough to simply leave it at rhetoric-  we need to actually support it through our legislation. I followed up with Laura who is currently in NYC, I look forward to further conversation with her, until then, be sure to follow her at First Love Films and continue to support women in film.

The Tarnished F-Word

More actresses are coming out.

They’re stepping out of their closeted lives during a sea of flashing lights, red-carpet ceremonies and fancy dinners to claim their own labels. “I am not a feminist,” I’ve heard multiple times; too many for my own personal liking.

I am all for women being able to assert their own “labels,” define their own sense of self. As a feminist, this is what I do. But too many actresses are setting a bad example for girls and boys everywhere by publicly stating they’re not feminists – and for all the wrong reasons.

The blatant definition of feminism stands as such (depending on your version of the dictionary): “feminism is the belief in the social, political and economic equality between the sexes.” That’s it, that’s all. And yet here we have Meryl Streep advocating against calling herself a feminist during an interview with Time Out, where she’s promoting her new film “Suffragette” – ironically enough.

“People at agencies and studios, including the parent boards, might look around the table at the decision-making level and feel something is wrong if half their participants are not women,” Streep stated. “Because our tastes are different, what we value is different. Not better, different.”

She went on to say that, “When you’re in your teens or 20s, there is an abundance of ingénue parts which are exciting to play, but at my age, you’re usually the wife or the girlfriend, a sort of second-class citizen.”

Meryl’s words are clearly those of a feminist standpoint, however she still does not associate herself with the word. Instead, she identifies as a “humanist, for a nice, easy balance.”

Another issue our society seems to have when refusing to accept the feminist movement – trying to defer it into another movement all together, “humanism.” While feminists also fall into this category, it is an entirely different stature. The definition for humanism states – “humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.”

Why are we not pointing out the differences here? Our famous, fearless ladies are confusing their terms. Feminism is called such because it is a movement that derives from the underprivileged and inequality of that gender – females. To achieve equality, you need to sponsor the rights of the disadvantaged gender. Hence the term FEM-inism.

Marion Cotillard, another well known actress in the industry, has come out with her stance against feminism. In an interview with Marie-Claire, she opposed the term as she feels it creates a separation between the genders.

“For me, it doesn’t create equality, it creates separation. I mean I don’t qualify myself as a feminist. We need to fight for women’s rights, but I don’t want to separate women from men. We’re separated already but we’re not made the same and it’s the difference that creates this energy in creation and love. Sometimes in the word feminism there is too much separation.”

Yet another example of an actress throwing the word “feminism” to shame without even understanding its core definition. Why are we still under the impression that feminism = women are better than men, and deserve more rights? Have we gotten so caught up in the whirlwind of media that our blurred lines are getting more and more… well, blurred?

She, like Meryl Streep, points out that men separate women because we are “different” and that’s what’s good. And I agree; there are some good differences between the two. However the major differences are the ones that are stopping us from being able to express our individualities without being slut-shamed, ignoring our basic rights to control our own bodies, placing both genders in a binary table with specific traits that mean boy and girl.

In a career dominated by men, these two wonderful actresses are not, unfortunately, helping the issue at hand by placing a bad example right in the news feeds of young girls. We need more feminist conscious actresses and actors to fight for equal rights, the ability to make young people listen and fight for their rights. After all, we spend the most time paying attention to the media. Why not make it worthwhile?

The Toronto Palestine Film Festival Sparks Conversation around the Syrian Refugee Crisis with the film, “On The Brides Side” by Sydney Osmar

On Sunday September 27, 2015 I attended my first ever Film Festival. I also sat down to write my first blog post. Having said that, I will have to apologize in advance, I am not a writer. My brother is though, so maybe by virtue of association with him, this won’t be an entirely awful piece.

Before beginning my, hopefully not futile, attempt at blog writing, I would like to recognize and acknowledge the point of privilege I am writing this from. I am a white woman and a Canadian citizen and my lived experiences are vastly different from those featured in the films presented by the Toronto Palestine Film Festival (TPFF). I cannot and do not seek to have this blog piece used as any sort of “authority” or even as a “review” of the film I attended. I am merely writing this from the standpoint of an ally who seeks to share an opinion piece that hopefully critiques the international refugee “system” in a thoughtful manner. 

To do this, I must warn, I delve into details of the film I viewed and would like to take the chance now to provide a “reader beware”: spoilers are ahead.

Films, Festivals, and Hope

From TPFF’s website, I learned that it is a volunteer run Festival dedicated to bringing Palestinian cinema, music, culture, cuisine and art to Toronto audiences. However, after having attended only one event, I can see that it is much more than this. It is about community, resiliency, hope and defiance in the face of overwhelming challenges and suffering.

This was made evident when Shirin Haghgou, the programming volunteer for TPFF, opened the screening by quoting the following:

“It is said that resistance is the disease of hope. And as long as our people continue     to suffer from this disease, our stories, our music, our poems will continue to be heard.”

Retrospectively, I believe the heart of this quote was intricately woven throughout the film I viewed.

So, what film did I see?
I, along with a friend, went to the screening of “On the Bride’s Side”. It was the closing event for TPFF and it left me with the lingering notion that I truly should have made more of an effort to see as many TPFF films as possible.

The film follows the journey of five Palestinians and Syrians who enlist the help of a Palestinian poet, Khaled Sloman Al Nassiry, and an Italian journalist, Gabriele Del Grande, to get them from Italy to Sweden. “The Five” are Adballah Sallam, Ahmad Abed and Mona Al Ghabra, and Alaa Al-Din Bjermi and MC Manar.

To get “The Five” from Italy to Sweden, Gabriele and Khaled came up with the idea of faking a wedding procession, to decrease the likelihood of being stopped by immigration officials. Tasnim Fared, an activist, volunteered to be the bride, accompanied by many of Gabriele’s Italian friends who volunteered to make up the wedding party.

The film documents actual events that took place in the aftermath of the October 2013 Lampedusa disaster where 250 refugees drowned. Unfortunately, this film is just as relevant today as it was in 2013, with the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis (as well as countless other refugee crises around the globe).

The film beautifully tells the story of the four-day journey that takes the group from Italy to Sweden. However, what was even more profound was the way in which the film navigates through the experiences and life stories of The Five. In this sense, the audience is watching many stories unfold at once. The audience has what can only be described as the privilege of learning of the hopes and dreams of The Five.

Throughout their journey, little by little, The Five begin to share what happened to them, why they are attempting to get to Sweden, and what they want for their futures. It is an intimate telling of a father-son relationship, and the lengths that family will go to ensure the safety of their loved ones. It is a telling of a love that has persisted throughout years of happiness and unimaginable crisis. It’s a telling of a resounding international injustice that carries with it an equally resounding international responsibility, a responsibility that continues to be too easily ignored.on_the_brides_side_2

Tasnim Fared is quoted in the film stating that “the sky is for everybody, so is the sea.” Juxtaposed with this sentiment is Mona Al Ghabra lamenting on the ludicrous reality that people are being forced to pay thousands of dollars to drown in the sea. Mona and her husband Ahmad as well as fellow member of “The Five”, Abdallah, were among those left in the bay of Lampedusa to drown.

When recounting this experience to the audience, Ahmad doesn’t speak of the terror he inevitably must have experienced, but the deep hurt that came with the realization that rescue ships only responded after hours of activism put in by the Syrian and refugee community already safely ashore. Had their community not responded as they had, the death toll would have been even higher than the already unimaginable total of 250.

Despite this human betrayal, The Five have a determination and resiliency that does not seem to waiver throughout the film. It is evident they “suffer” from the disease of hope, sharing songs, poetry and stories with each other throughout their journey. Manar, son of Alaa Al-Din, is a young and talented Palestinian rapper, who uplifts those around him with his lyrics and his passion for not only music, but also the role that music can play in achieving justice.

While the film’s focus is clearly on The Five, we also get a glimpse into the lives of Gabriele and Khaled. Both are risking penal sentences if discovered “smuggling” refugees across European borders. Gabriele, having reported in Syria, knows that the risks associated with this are worth it.

Khaled and his family live in Italy and, on the day he begins his journey to Sweden, he learns that his family has finally been granted Italian citizenship. His joy emanates off the screen. It is the first time in his family’s life that any of them have ever been citizens of a country. After leading stateless lives for so long and living with the precarious realities of that, he is even more inspired to assist his companions in their journey, despite the stakes having been raised even higher with the granting of his citizenship. 

As Palestinians, Manar and his father also know of the realities of being “stateless”. Upon arriving to Italy, Alaa Al-Din is forced to allow Italian immigration officials to take his fingerprints. Throughout their journey to Sweden, Alaa Al-Din is distraught with worry. In the European Union there is a general principle that you are to claim refugee status where you enter. Sweden is almost never the first place of entry, though it is the desired destination for claiming status. If immigration officials of another country have already obtained your fingerprints, chances of being deported back to that country are high. 

The audience let out a collective sigh of despair when the ending credits rolled and disclosed to us that Manar and his father had been deported back to Italy.

While this is an issue that is particularly amplified in the European Union, given its geography and close relation to countries currently impacted by civil war and other disasters, it is also an issue present in North America. On December 29, 2004 Canada and the United States’ “Safe Third Country Agreement,” (The Agreement) came into effect. This has largely the same impact on refugee claimants as the European policy has had on Manar and his father.

While this may seem like a peculiar statement to make, given that Canada and the US are typically conceptualized as “safe” countries, The Agreement has had deadly and “indirect” impacts on refugee claimants. Similarly to Alaa Al-Din’s fingerprints being taken by Italian officials upon arrival to Italy, refugee claimants are expected to request protection from the first “safe third country” they enter.

A “third country” is identified as a country a refugee claimant passes through en route to their final destination. The Agreement has defined both the US and Canada as “safe” countries and has essentially bureaucratized a formal process of deflection.  Refugee claimants who first land in the US and then attempt to move through the Canadian border to make their claim are “deflected” back to the US and vice-versa.

This agreement was largely negotiated as part of a number of post-United States’ 9/11 measures known by the title “Smart Border Action Plan”, and has been the subject of controversy since it’s coming into force.

It has been argued by refugees and allies, such as the Canadian Council of Refugees, that the Agreement results in the indirect refoulement of bona fide refugees on part of Canada, through the US. The international principle of non-refoulement establishes that no state can deport a refugee to a territory where their life or freedom would be threatened by persecution (on any of the grounds set out in Article 1 of the 1951 Refugee Convention), it also makes clear that in these situations, states shall not impose penalties on account of refugees’ “illegal” entry or presence.

The indirect refoulement produced from the Agreement comes as a result of inconsistencies in the two state’s refugee laws and policies, with the US providing a significantly diminished level of procedural and substantive protection.

The Agreement functions on the understanding that “true” asylum seekers would apply for protection in the first country of arrival, rather than “shopping” around for the most desired country. This logic ignores the very necessary reasons for an asylum seeker to choose a country for refuge that may not be the first country of arrival. For example, Arab Muslim men entering the US after 9/11 faced (and continue to face) a very real threat to their security of person in the form of “preventative detention” as well as disproportionate concerns of having their claim denied. Furthermore, the reasoning could be as simple as family reunification.

With the widespread and increasing use of detainment, as well as increased securitization of borders, deflecting asylum seekers back to where they may be detained, or at worst refouled, it is not surprising that refugees may take matters into their own hands and increasingly resort to “illegal” methods of entry and/or go “underground” for as long as possible.

Despite both the US and Canada being parties to the 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, the Agreement is likely to lead to an increase in trafficking. As the borders and sanctions become stricter, the price of smuggling risks rising and eventually leading to migrants and refugee claimants resorting to more and more exploitative means of gaining access to transportation and entry. This itself increases the level of exploitation, precariousness and vulnerability of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers while simultaneously barring them from the protections they would otherwise have received as a “legal migrant” under migration laws, or as a “real” refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Despite this having been explained in a Canadian context, it is equally applicable to the refugee crises that are occurring globally. While The Five were eventually fortunate enough to find Gabriele and Khaled, many refugee claimants are not so lucky.

The tightening of borders coupled with the general lack of response from the international community has increased negative connotations of refugees and resulted in people resorting to desperate measures to attempt to find asylum. This has been proved to result in disaster time and time again, look to the 2013 Lampedusa disaster, the death of Aylan Kurdi, and the 2014 disaster where almost 700 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.

While The Five are now safe, some settled in Sweden, others on their way to Germany, most reunited with families, their journeys can’t truly be said to end until they have the choice of returning to their homes, if they wish.

Conclusion: Where do we go from here?

What can we do?

Gabriele Del Grande Skyped in to TPFF after the viewing of his film, and this was a question he faced by the audience. To him, the answer is simple: instead of funneling money to the increased securitization of borders and detainment of people seeking asylum, the international community needs to focus on directing funds to streamlining immigration systems. Making it easier for people to gain visas and to claim refugee status while simultaneously de-criminalizing the process needs to formulate the focal point of this movement.

While this may be a hopeful, or even idealistic solution, it seeks to tackle the systemic issues with current refugee and immigration processes around the globe.  It’s not a solution that will happen over night, but is something that is achievable if the international community begins to step up to the plate.

So what role do we play?

Most importantly, we need to be vocal. If attending protests isn’t your thing, write a letter to your local government or MP. As cliché as it sounds, public pressure works. In Iceland, the government was forced into creating a refugee action committee after massive public outcry resulted from the government’s pledge to accept only 50 refugees from Syria. For more long-term change, the public needs to be loud on what they wish to achieve. It will take changes to domestic legal systems before any international change will be seen.

For more short-term, direct responses, there are various ways of taking action. While sponsoring a family may not be feasible, donations of any sort can help. This can be directed to specific families, or to organizations that are themselves dedicated to sponsoring families or supporting refugees in Canada. Similarly, you could donate directly to aid organizations working on the “front lines” of the crises. For students, many Canadian universities are now setting pledges to assist in the current Syrian refugee crisis, stemming from collecting donations to sponsoring families.

For more systemic involvement, you could get involved with organizations that have broader mandates that intersect with issues pertaining to refugees. For example, you could join the Canadian Council for Refugees or involve yourself with local organizations that assist refugees with settling or are engaged in preventative work.

You could reach out to grassroots organizations in refugee communities who are already in Canada, ask them how you can best assist them, what do they need? What are their immediate concerns that need to be met?

While these are merely a handful of suggestions, most directed at the short-term, they are at the very least a way for people to get involved in some manner. They are for those who want to help in making the land safer for all, and for those who have begun to acknowledge the words of Warsan Shire, “you have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

Leaving TPFF after viewing “On the Bride’s Side,” a documentary film by Antonio Augugliaro, Gabriele Del Grande and Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry

Women’s Film Collective Researcher and Writer
Sydney Osmar
Sydney holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Rights from Carleton University and is currently studying law at Osgoode Hall Law School at York university, Toronto. 

Currently, she is part of a team conducting research for a documentary film looking into the Canadian Criminal Justice System’s handling of gender based crimes.

Contact for the original paper- complete with sources.


Stay In Your Lane

At this years Emmy Awards, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls made the rounds asking stars questions that matter instead of the usual – “What are you wearing?” dribble we’ve become so numb to. The response was amazing. I wanted to share one interview worth noting as it applies to this film collective. As a women’s film collective that encourages diversity, to avoid unnecessary harm, we do not encourage white women to write characters for women of colour and here’s why:

Screenshot 2015-09-22 21.14.20


Chelsea Bellrose

Featured image“… We need to get over the bizarre notion that North American audiences wouldn’t be able to stomach, comprehend or even enjoy popular culture that veers beyond G.I. Joe and Malibu Barbie saving the world and falling in love. How can we continue like this, using the excuse of needing to appease the masses, when what seems like the majority of the population isn’t represented or accurately reflected in film and television at all.” 

Artist and Printmaker, Graduate from Queens University
Illustrations – Story Boarding
Member of the Women’s Film Collective
– Chelsea Bellrose

Screenshot 2015-09-21 23.35.56

Learn More about Chelsea Here:

Viola Davis Breaks Barriers at the 2015 Emmy Awards

The 2015 Emmy awards marked a breakthrough for Viola Davis as the first Black female to win Lead Actress in a Drama series.

View Viola Davis‘ speech in Full here:

It was an iconic moment and befitting such, Viola took the opportunity to speak with depth and intelligence about the challenges and successes of women of colour on screen. She moved the audience to tears, giving thanks and pointing to other women of colour who have contributed to the strength and progress of women of colour within the film and television industry. Kerry Washington was among those mentioned.


“You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people, people who have redefined what it is to be beautiful and sexy and black.”

As the women part of this collective, we need to push for this change and move to create the spaces where these roles are created – where diversity is celebrated both in the writing room and on screen.

What I think I liked best about this moment is the level of support and sisterhood exhibited there that night.

Screenshot 2015-09-21 17.20.43

While most of us were rooting for Viola Davis and celebrating this amazing achievement and moment in television history, unfortunately, there was one salty soap operaette who caused quite a stir on social media.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 26: Actress Nancy Lee Grahn speaks onstage at the 'General Hospital' panel during day 6 of the Disney ABCTelevision Group portion of the 2012 Summer TCA Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 26, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

It’s unfortunate this story has to be interrupted with anything but praise, but I think it’s important to talk about in order to raise awareness to the racial ignorance many white people exhibit- Nancy Lee Grahn proved herself to be no exception when she went on an All Lives Matter rant in response to Viola talking about racism within Hollywood.

Nancy Grahn did not win an award that night, but she did manage to be trending on twitter later that night for her negative public comments that ranged from undermining Viola’s choice in speech, or more importantly, undermining the importance of speaking about racism by trying to turn the focus away from Black women and their experiences to talk instead about herself and women actors in general. She even questioned the legitimacy of Viola’s message by expressing doubt that Viola has experienced racism. Here’s an example of one of her tweets where she seems to be agitated about the conversation of race- trying to turn the focus back to all women instead of allowing Viola her time to speak to issues affecting the Black community.

Screenshot 2015-09-21 17.35.21

See more tweets here:

Twitter responded unfavourably to her tweets with fans coming to the rescue to tell Nancy that they wanted none of what she was bringing. Nancy later tried to “apologize” by citing that she had done a lot for Human Rights and that she would have marched for the Black Lives Matter movement …..and other things that don’t excuse her behaviour.

Screenshot 2015-09-21 17.31.41
This scene spiralled into Nancy frantically responding to twitter followers until being repeatedly told to just – Stop.

Screenshot 2015-09-21 17.54.18
 Screenshot 2015-09-21 17.57.03

Liz Manashil: Women Filmmakers to be Featured at the Ottawa International Film Festival

This year at the 2015, Ottawa International Film Festival, we find an impressive list of female directors. This is no doubt thanks to Nina Bains, the director and founder of the festival since its creation in 2010. First time Director, Liz Manashil makes this year’s list of Directors to be featured. Her debut film “Bread and Butter” is what we like to call- a must see.


Liz is an American director whose feature film will be lighting up the screen in the Canadian capitol for film enthusiasts to enjoy the cool and understated indie vibe that she brings to the wonderful art of filmmaking. Check out the “Bread and Butter” trailer bellow.

“It’s an awkward anti-romantic comedy,” Liz describes in a podcast interview posted for your enjoyment below. Much of the film is based on dates that she or her friends have had, so it offers a more realistic portrayal of the trials of modern dating than say- Hollywood’s version of a rom com. She made the film as her final project at film school, only to produce it now. In Bread and Butter, she actually cast members of her inner circle into her first film. Liz’s own boyfriend can be found in this film. Somehow, she has managed to produce a compelling, well casted, comedic indie film that everyone is talking about.

From viewing the trailer and learning more about Liz, a few things really stuck out that make this a must see at the Ottawa International Film Fest. Liz has managed to master the art of the common conversation in a way that lacks ego. Her characters are not unrealistically charming or trying to be cool. The concept of these characters not being the typical kind of perfection we get used to seeing in high budget, staged romantic comedies works to Liz’s advantage to reveal what I would refer to as a more honest approach. As a rom com fan, I love to see the genre evolve thanks to indie directors such as Liz and their ability to provide more realistic and relatable characters.

The dialogue and the interaction that takes place between the characters is masterful. It reminds you of those lines that we bring up to our friends, reminiscing of the time time you both laughed till you were sure you had finally developed abs after one of you said something funny.
“I know enough about myself and other people to say what I want.”
“Oh, you sure don’t.”

And it wouldn’t be complete without an amazing choice of soundtrack, which judging by the trailer, is something that has not escaped Liz Manashil for a moment.


We also see a familiar face in “Bread and Butter” – Lauren Lapkus, the female police officer from the hit television series, Orange is the New Black.
Check out more about her on this list of underrated female comedians.
6 Underrated Women In Comedy

Find out more about Liz and her film, “Bread and Butter” on this great interview podcast called “Just Shoot It.”

Visit the Ottawa International Film Festival Website to check out the fantastic list of directors that will be taking part in the 2015 Festival Here:  Ottawa International Festival 2015 Line Up;

Morgana McKenzie: Women Filmmakers to be Featured at the Ottawa International Film Festival


When I First saw Morgana McKenzie’s name on the 2015 Ottawa International Film Festival lineup, I thought to myself how refreshing it is to see such a young face garner recognition on this scale.

After researching more about Morgana, I have come to find that this young woman is not to be underestimated. She is dedicated to the mastery of her craft and has used her articulate voice on behalf of women in the television and film industry. A particular interview worth mentioning is where she is asked about her experiences being a female filmmaker. She articulates some of the double standards she experiences, but then really effectively drives home her point with one plain statement, “Female filmmakers are filmmakers and nothing less.”
Watch the full response Here:

Morgana received tremendous praise for her short film, “Gifts” about a young girl with the gift of premonitions in the form of dreams.
Watch Here:

This year at the Ottawa International Film Festival, Morgana’s film- “Kurayami No Wa” makes the prestigious 2015 lineup. Morgana’s films tend to be dark in nature. This particular film synopsis reads as follows: “When Hallowe’en is hijacked by a Japanese doomsday cult, a girl and her siblings are forced to flee into the harsh conditions of winter.” I can’t wait to see the how this talented filmmaker takes us through the beauty and terror of winter with this new film she’s created.  Morgana has recently embraced and perfected an indie vibe to her dark films. She is noted for her editing abilities and I think this film will only serve to reinforce her notoriety for excellence.



Currently, Morgana is working on a new film called “Ellie” which reached it’s crowd funding goal in just 18 days.
Find out more Here:

Visit the Ottawa International Film Festival Website to learn of the many other dynamic filmmakers that will be taking part in the 2015 Festival Here:;

Ann Shin: Women Filmmakers to be Featured at the 2015 Ottawa International Film Festival

The Ottawa International Film Festival has released it’s list for the 2015 line up which you can view here:


Ann Shin is an award winning Canadian director from Toronto, Ontario, who’s list of credentials is undoubtably distinguished- producing and directing program series for HGTV, CBC, Discovery Channel, History Channel, PBS, W Network and Fine Living Network. She is the recipient of the Canadian Screen Award whose films have been showcased internationally, garnering the attention of festivals such as Hot Docs, IDFA, The San Francisco Film Festival, Montreal World Film Festival, Mumbai International Film Festival, New York Festivals, and the Chris Awards. Her credits include Canadian Screen Awards for Best Documentary Program and Best Director in a Documentary Program and the Diversity Award for The Defector: Escape from North Korea. Her new media work, The Defector Interactive, has won an FITC Award for Best Motion Graphics, Digi Award for Best in Cross Platform Non-Fiction, and SXSW Award for Motion Graphics.
“The Defector: Escape from North Korea” follows human smugglers who help defectors from North Korea make their escape into China and onward to Thailand on a dangerous mission. In this film, Ann went with these women on their journey led by a guide or “broker” known as Dragon. The film highlights the issues of vulnerability for individuals (mostly women) struggling to safely escape North Korea and gain refugee status.

Ann’s list of achievements is long – however, I’m interested in knowing the kind of woman who’s responsible for directing and delivering such incredible films, mastering the art of documentary style film as well as animation. With family still living in South Korea, the choice in subject matter for the documentary was clearly informed by her own personal interest and affiliation to this area.

“The Defector” also won awards for it’s diversity as it contained an impressive list of contributors from all over the world, risking their very safety and freedom in the making of this film. Trailer Here:


Upon my quest for a deeper understanding of Ms. Shin, I found to my surprise, that I have already been introduced to her work during a university women’s studies class. A professor of mine chose to feature Ann Shin’s work, “Western Eyes”, a film she made at the kick off of the millennia, in year 2000, which highlights the struggle of women of colour dealing with internalized racism in a culture saturated by Western-white supremacist standards of beauty.

Watch Here:

This year at the 2015, Ottawa International Film Festival, an Ann Shin film entitled, “My Enemy, My Brother” will be featured. The story follows an incredible true story about two former soldiers from the Iran and Iraq war.

Watch Trailer Here:


Mad Max: an Ode to Girl Power

I have to admit I didn’t know anything about the Mad Max films before I watched the most recent installment, Mad Max: Fury Road. It was on father’s day this year that I got to see it in all its feminist glory for myself – or rather, with my dad. We’d planned on watching Jurassic World but due to unforeseen circumstances (aka my dad napped a moment too long) we ended up in the twisted world of director George Miller.

I could confirm the rumours after I left the film: Mad Max Fury Road was in fact a feminist film in all its guts and glory. For some reason, the thoughts in my head while I sat down to watch the previews went something like this: “Mad Max is a guy’s film, is it not? It’s all blood and action and car chases with a hot female on the movie’s poster. Why am I here? Chris Pratt is calling my name…”

There I was conforming to gender norms before being thrust into the most shock I’d ever endured in a film. The film’s female lead, Furiosa, played by the beautiful Charlize Theron, had more lines than Mad Max himself! My god, I was flummoxed by this fact alone. But there was more, much more, than dominate female screenplay in this film.

Furiosa leads a pack of women who’d been used and abused as breeders in this dystopian world away to freedom. We watched them charge against the gunpowder and flaming vehicles that threatened their path. These women, while still managing to hold sex appeal despite their horrible backstories, are strong enough to cut off their own iron chastity belts and scream “WE ARE NOT THINGS!” while the antagonist shouts “MY PROPERTY!” at them during the chase. This alone seems like a smack in the face to sexists having to endure this feminist action film – “but aren’t women property?” I wonder how the men felt watching this film. Max, the movie’s protagonist, spent a vast amount of screen time tied to a chain with his face muzzled in a mask before he finally broke free.

I was enamoured in my own realization that this film, that I had dumbly dubbed a “boy movie” in my head, was making the news as Feminist Propaganda. Good. The fact that this film did so well in the box office proves that audiences are craving what George Miller gave us – badass women on the big screen. And don’t get me wrong; this film doesn’t come without its sexist moments. There’s a risqué shot in which the women traveling with Furiosa douse themselves in water. Their clothes cling to their clad bodies like an ad for Victoria’s Secret and I could see my dad’s eyes light up in surprise while we watched it together.

Yet the film does a good job in its ability to show the need for demolishing patriarchies while having a woman serve as the movie’s main character. (Come on, Tom Hardy might be first on the credits but we all know this was Charlize Theron’s movie.) I left the theatre wanting to beat the shit out of some sexists and burn my bra. All right, maybe I did something a little less violent like tweet an optimistic cheer for women. You get my point. But the film isn’t just feminist because the women are equally violent as the men, but more so because we get a setting that revels in shedding light on sexism within our society. Mad Max blatantly slaps us in the face with the reality of it. And I think that’s what scares men the most about this film; the horror that in the end, when the world is burning to dust and our own patriarchies are crumbling, perhaps women won’t want the added protection of men. Maybe they’ll fight for themselves.


Tips and Techniques: Superimposing

Fill footage is a great place to get creative. You can superimpose footage to create a layered film effect- showing two shots at once by lowering the opacity. This is called – superimposing.


gerund or present participle: superimposing
  1. place or lay (one thing) over another, typically so that both are still evident.
    “the number will appear on the screen, superimposed on a flashing button.”

Here’s an example I just did: The children and the boat are layered over each other- with the opacity of the image brought back- thus making the images see through. The clip with the higher level of opacity will always be the more prominent image- more visible.

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Superimposing expands your ability to play around artistically with the design and feel of your film.

screenshot (1 of 1)In this example, I’ve lowered the opacity on the white text to make it more grey.

Simply lay the image or text on top of the main reel and select it (A).

1.) Scroll to “Face” and select “Show.”

More options will appear.

screenshotwopacity (1 of 1)2.) Lower the opacity to the degree that you find pleasing to you.

Superimposing is linked to impressionistic style of film. Just like art, film has waves. French Impressionists use superimposing to convey more meaning in one shot.

French Impressionism

Cœur fidèle (“Faithful Heart”) epitomizes the quiet side of Impressionism. It’s story is as simple as they get: Marie is a barmaid whose foster parents try to force her to marry a thug, Petit Paul, while she is in love with the sensitive dock-worker Jean. The scenes around the waterside and the famous sequence in a carnival are all done with a realism blended with the subjective camera techniques that convey the characters’ thoughts, perceptions,  and feelings in a way that was fresh at the time.

The exteriors were shot around the docks of Marseille, and Epstein uses superimpositions of the ocean to convey the lovers’ longing. Waves are sometimes superimposed over their figures, or one will look into the water and see the other’s face there, as when Jean envisions multiple images of Marie.
One of the coolest places to find fill footage is to look on public archives and stock footage. Many times the historical footage you see in documentaries or music videos are from these historical archives which belong to the public, this also means you can’t get in trouble for their use.

Here’s an example, I found incredible black and white footage from the 1940’s of a bridge swaying and collapsing. It might sound morbid, but no one was killed and the way that this super bridge sways is something you’l hardly believe until you watch it. I’ve never seen anything like it. Check it out here:

The great thing about these sites is that you are able to download the footage right from the site and it costs- nothing.


On Location in Les Iles de la Madaleine

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Hello my fems filmmakers,

I am on location on an Island in Eastern Canada.

Blissfull and breath taking Iles de la Madeleine. 

I’m on location out here on an island in Eastern Canada. I’m having such a great time here, I wanted to share with you a few things I’ve been working on out here.

I’m shooting a short video compilation for a band that’s playing out here. This is a great way to get started- by making short videos that will be used to promote an artist or entrepreneur on social media. Keep in mind, the videos should be short. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have tonnes of footage. When the question of whether or not you should shoot more footage.. The answer is always -yes! However, in post production editing, it’s important to be ruthless and keep only the best. Get a second eye to watch your film a few point out any issues like maybe they find certain parts drag on or don’t fit with the continuity or style you’ve established. A second opinion helps. It doesn’t matter if you risked life or death to get that shot, if it doesn’t fit- cut – it – outttt.

 I have already worked with this client before. They liked what I did with their last video providing a short clip of insight into their road trip to the town Tadoussac for Festival de la Chanson. I’d like to show you some of the colour grading and font choices for this video and share with you some advice.

1.) Keep it Short and Concise. You shouldn’t exceed three minutes in length. Mine was between 1-2, just to highlight their road trip to the festival.

Screenshot 2015-07-17 09.01.282.) Colour grading is everything. It’s the way you show you have style and a cinematic eye. The look and feel of a video is what gives it that cinematic quality and depth. Staying on top of trends helps. You can often ask your client what kind of look they’re going for or get a feel of the audience it’s marketed to. I love to use VSCO.

3.) Have a Great Font selection- I love it. When I’m working on a project, I honestly can’t wait to get done colour grading and editing just to get to the font selection portion of my work. Did I mention it’s one of my favourite parts?.. Because it is. Once again, your clients overall goal is important to keep in mind because you want them to be happy with your service, but you also want it to be true to your own style. You don’t want to make a video that you can’t be proud of. If you have great natural visual and aesthetic appeal, you might want to be true to your instinct. Some business owners are great at the money side- but the whole reason they hire creatives- especially young creatives is because we’re in touch with the artistic and visual trends in the market. Another way of putting it- We know what looks cool.

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4.) Social Media Tags are important for most clients. Don’t under estimate them. Your client wants to get the most traction and Screenshot 2015-07-17 09.02.45advertising they can out of this video. Including their twitter handle or plugging organizations involved is a great way to ensure that more eyes see this video. For instance, in this case- I will be plugging the festival they are going to and now the festival might use this video and promote the band at the same time.

Another example : Just yesterday we shot the boys from Mehdi Cayenne Club at a wind surfing competition. We got some beautiful shots there and one will definitely include the name of that competition. Why? You’re not working for that surf competition? This is not just good for the the group that organizes this competition, but also good for your client! It not only makes them look good to be at community events- but more people are bound to tune in to see the video in hopes that they might be in it or to check out the footage from an event they too were at too. Tagging a video appropriately on social media and including more sources or organizations captures a broader audience appeal- which is what you want -more people to watch you work.

This week thScreenshot 2015-07-17 09.47.42ere was a radio interview the band leader was scheduled to attend, so I made sure to include it in my footage and also appropriately plug the radio station. This makes the artist look good because the radio station gets more traction on social media because of doing the interview with your client and because of your presence there.

As I was leaving, the radio host asked me if she could have a copy of the tape when I was done. These are scenarios where you might get another freelance job simply because you showed up, did your job well, and now someone else is interested in potentially working with you. 

5.) Though this is great, I had immediate experienced a flood of regret. To avoid this flood, learn from my mistake. Notice how there is only one window in that radio studio and it’s located directly behind them from the angle which I am positioned? That, my friends, is NOT ideal lighting. I kept itching to get on the other side of them so the light would hit their faces and not do what we refer to as “back lighting” (because the sign is to the back of the person.)
Back lighting essentially blows out the image- turning human beings into silhouettes. You lose a lot of the necessary features and information.  It can sometimes be cool, like in the picture below, but more than often should be avoided.
Image result for back lighting
6.) Follow your Instincts – The main message is this- I didn’t do what I felt my instincts and knowledge telling me to do because “I didn’t want to be in her way.”

As I left, I was kicking myself. She was clearly interested in the film! I’m sure I could have gotten away with taking up more space and really moving to get the good stuff that I had neglected to get because I didn’t want to be disruptive. Being more communicative about what’s acceptable in those situations would have been to my benefit- Lesson learned. As women, not just in film, but in any career- we need to really work through that. We are socialized in a society that constantly tells us to take up less space- be smaller, quieter, this can be a challenge especially when you work in a male dominated profession. I encourage you as female professionals to own your value and take up any space necessary to do the job to the absolute best of your ability.

7.) I also want to share with yScreenshot 2015-07-17 09.23.10ou the trials and tribulations- sometimes frustration of showing your client your video.  I showed them the previous video- the one I have featured here and one of the band members ( not the one paying for the video) said, ” I hate it.” He kept saying he never wanted to see it again. Saying these things to a filmmaker, you’re basically projectile vomiting on our souls. After hours of editing, just to have someone dismiss it can really make you want to pull out all your hair. Fortunately, with grace and calmness, I inquired about what he hoped to see in the future that could illicit a different reaction…. I was glad I asked. It turned out he just hates seeing himself on camera. It had nothing to do with my video.. This is something you’ll come across a lot and an important distinction. Many people don’t know how to distinguish between them not liking themselves or seeing themselves on screen with them not being happy with the actual video. Don’t be discouraged!

8.)  Use what you have. Be inspired by the beauty you find around you. Old cars and boats, a cool building-  anything! If you have an artistic eye, you can make it look marvellous. On this island, I found so many beautiful ships that I will be incorporating into my footage. I hope you enjoy.
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Please share with me some of your experiences and don’t forget to Sign Up to be on the next collective skype meeting to share and contribute to ideas and discussion at the women’s film collective!