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:

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

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Learn More about Chelsea Here: http://chelseabellrose.com/ABOUT

Beginner Scriptwriting Tips- Formatting

Hello my fem film makers!

I wanted to share with you a great tip to begin to understand HOW dialogue is constructed. Like essays, there is a particular structure to script writing that you must familiarize yourself.

How do you get started?

1.) Get to know the structure by searching google for any of your favourite movies or t.v. scripts.
Here’s an example from the movie, “Ten Things I Hate About You” http://www.awesomefilm.com/script/tenthings_transcript.html

          WALTER STRATFORD, Kat and Bianca’s overly-protective father--an
          obstetrician--enters through the front door rifling through the mail.
                    (to Kat)
                    Hello Katarina.  Make anyone cry today?
                    Sadly, no.  But it's only four-thirty.

This is a great visual exercise to see the layout or format of the script, and also to study the use of dialogue.

A popular television series that writes sitcom comedy extremely well is Modern Family. I’ve started looking for who is behind the camera on these kind of successful and well funded television shows to get a feel of whose direction did the script flow through. This picture should give you a clue.
Yup.. It’s predominately men. There’s a lot of work to do and a lot of amazing evolving that will come naturally on and off screen from having women in positions of influence in media. But first, to become the fantastic female movers, shakers and influencers – We must know our craft!

Think of a shiny office at HBO, where someone is reviewing your script, you’ve only got one shot, one page to convince them (Most editors will not read on to the next page if you don’t capture them in the first). But, even before this, you don’t even make it onto the desk if you don’t have at least an attempt at formatting- So let’s brush up.

Want to be taken seriously? Get to know at least the Basics

The good news : Spacing is handled by screenwriting software and there really is no good reason to write a screenplay without using some sort of formatting software. Film adapts with technology. There is no longer a reason to sit in front of a type writer- Format technology does all the work for you. But here’s a quick overview. screenplay_format_smNow you may be saying, wait, formatting programs? Don’t those cost money? How is a  beginner script writing attemptress going to afford these costs- Relax, Celtx offers formatting programs for FREE. Mmmm, Freeee. 🙂 Download Celtx herehttps://www.celtx.com/index.html

SOME BASICS : So the First thing to include is setting. Where are your characters? This can be a big decision when it comes to feasibility of a film. If you have the characters jumping all over in different locations, you know that you’ll have to actually go to a tonne of locations or build sets that match your location- which is expensive monetarily and energetically. This is where for beginner film makers especially the advice has always been- WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.

Be realistic as far as what places you have access to. Write scenes that take place at locations you have access to– .. Do you live in a Urban Setting or Rural? Do you know someone with a beautiful house that is staged wonderfully? Do you know someone with a boat? a plane? Do you have access to cultural elements- festivals- art? Do you live by an abandoned building?  A breathe taking view? Okay, you get the idea. Take what you have in your life and build your story around that.

For More Complicated Formatting: When writing a scene that takes place in a general location where characters move between sub-locations, you don’t have to repeat the location or the time. Use this technique if the change in location occurs inside what would be considered a “scene”.

If you have a scene that takes place immediately afterward in the same location you can use “Later” in the time of day to denote the passage of time.

When using a proper name of a location in your scene heading be sure to enclose it in quotes. sceneheading-proper-name1

If a scene moves from interior to exterior, a new scene heading is required. The primary reason for this is it gives the production department a clue as to how to schedule the scene. The exception is when it’s suppose to be a tracking scene that follows the characters from inside to outside.

You can add additional details to the scene heading using a hyphen or [brackets]  after the time of day to designate things like [TRAVELING] for a car scene or [FLASHBACK] to denote it as a flashback. Another way to indicate a FLASHBACK is to place it on it’s own slugline before the Scene Heading. “Scene Heading”, “slug-line” – you’re already in the game with that terminology! 😉  This is useful if the Flashback covers several scenes. Make sure to add an END FLASHBACK when coming out of it. . These slug lines act as special indicators and are useful for inserting special shots or for drawing out an important visuals. An example I want to bring up specifically is with regards to slug lines to indicate a text message received on a phone using the slugline “ON SCREEN” – we use the “JOHN” to come out of this screen shot.


More Tips are available at http://filmmakeriq.com/lessons/a-guide-advance-screenplay-formating/ However, keep in mind that the programs that are available today make it much easier than the play writes of the past- take advantage of technology! 🙂


Netflix is being called upon to stop funding the first of four feature productions paid for in a special agreement with the production company, “Happy Madison,” owned by Adam Sandler for it’s racism not only in content of the film Ridiculous Six, but also in creating an environment on set that was so toxic for the First Nation actors hired, that a dozen actors walked off set. They made effforts to voice their concern with members of the production team over racist characters, cultural appropriation and inaccuracy. The actors who walked off set cited racism as the reason for leaving.

Indian Country news source provided specific more detail examples of some of the racist and degrading character depictions as explained by the actors working. Links to these stories will be provided below. The examples of disrespect included “Native women’s names such as Beaver’s Breath and No Bra, an actress portraying an Apache woman squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe, and feathers inappropriately positioned on a teepee.” The link provided below is one man’s experience and further descriptions of various troubling content. His story explains the lead up to him walking off set after repeatedly trying to speak to Adam Sandler or be directed to those that are influential with regards to his concerns, but he was time and again dismissed with the explanation being the mantra of the white male privileged experience- It’s a joke.
Read more from his perspective here: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/04/29/why-i-quit-adam-sandlers-movie-ridiculous-sixs-apache-consultant-speaks-160185

A dozen actors on the set were not laughing and actually walked off the set. One of these Navajo Nation tribal members was Loren Anthony, who is also the lead singer of the metal band Bloodline, and film student Allison Young.

“We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche,” he said. “One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?'”

“They just treated us as if we should just be on the side. When we did speak with the main director, he was trying to say the disrespect was not intentional and this was a comedy.”

One women who also walked off is quoted say this:

Screenshot 2015-06-17 17.01.23

Here are just a few issues articulated by an indigenous community members:

  • The fact that this film was about Apaches yet the actors were Navajo is a problem.  So the film crew basically implicitly insinuated that Apaches can’t adequately portray themselves enough to be Apaches in this film.  If that isn’t a whole other level of twisted, I don’t know what is. And y’all went along with it. That in itself seemed like a yellow flag to me indicating a warning sign of what’s to come. Like a coyote crossing your path. *sips tea
  • The fact that Adam Sandler is a man of Jewish heritage, a culture with a history remarkably similar to Indigenous Americans.  We are both descendants of a Holocaust.  In fact, Hitler was inspired by the American government for its tactics used in the first Holocaust.  The one launched against Indigenous people in present day America. Why? Because the American government wanted our land.  The American government then hid this “dirty little secret” so well from the history books in American schools and around the world.  Maybe someone needs to send Adam and his film crew to have a chat with someone’s Rez grandma, she’ll set him straight.
  • The fact that there is a movie requiring Natives only because its about the past, like we don’t exist in present day movies.
  • *The fact that there was a “cultural consultant” who probably wasn’t even Apache.
  • *The fact that this cultural consultant got the costumes wrong. I mean if you’re going to call yourself legit, get your life together and at least get the tribe regalia right.  Dr. Keene might shake her head at me for this because the issue is more than getting it right, rather it’s about the fact that they are wearing costumes. All I’m saying is Google search images of Apache.  Nothing more to say.
  • *Then the audacity of the producer to get upset and frustrated when the Natives tried to enlighten this ignorant cat of the historically misuse of the wardrobes.  Get your life together sweetheart.
  • The fact that boundaries were violated.  Boundaries are set to keep people and parities safe and respected based on agreed upon conditions.  The terms in this contract were breached once the film crew violated and disregarded the boundaries.
  • The fact that the film crew ignorantly hid behind the film category of “comedy” to justify their disrespect of Native women and elders and a culture.  There are a lot of modern day comedy films that do not violate the boundaries of respecting another culture so that argument falls flat on its face.

It is clear after only three months in production, this film has already managed to produce painful results. These ideas should have never made it past the writing room. This is an important thing to note as film makers- the impact of your work, especially as white people in a eurocentric, western society where the effects of colonialism still continue. It is necessary to think very carefully if you are to at all undertake how you present a culture that is not your own. The lack of First Nation input and oversight around content concerning the representation of their community in this film, regardless if it is a comedy, needs to be met with repercussions and correction. Media representation of Aboriginal people can have an impact on native people personal, but your film then feeds into the narrative of continued racism against indigenous people.

The following are links to provide you with more insight into the actor activists who boycotted this film.

Read more at: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/04/23/native-actors-walk-set-adam-sandler-movie-after-insults-women-elders-160110
Read more at: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/04/23/native-actors-walk-set-adam-sandler-movie-after-insults-women-elders-160110 


First Nation filmmaker Colleen Cardinal talks about damaging effects of medias disrespectful representation of Indigenous women.

Screenshot 2015-06-17 17.56.30Screenshot 2015-06-17 17.49.09

Check out Herehttp://www.media-action-media.com/representproject/

And Herehttps://vimeo.com/55380927

Woman to Watch: Lindsay Mackay, writer and director of feature film, Wet Bum

Lindsay MackaLindsay Mackay Picturey is making waves with her new feature film, Wet Bum. She is a Canadian born writer and director, currently living in Los Angeles, California. A graduate of the Directing program at the AFI Conservatory in Los Angeles, her thesis film Clear Blue won the esteemed College Television Award (the Student Emmy). Her work has screened at festivals worldwide, including TIFF, SXSW, AFI Fest, Palm Springs International ShortsFest, and Camerimage. MacKay has developed a feature-length version of Clear Blue called Wet Bum that is making splashes.

Check out the Lindsay Mackay’s feature- length debut,
Wet Bum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3dLxKKC2wY

If you’re interested in learning more, check out Women and Hollywood’s indie wire blog for full interview with Lindsay where she shares on her success with this film as well as which female film makers she is inspired by.

Opportunity to try your hand at Comedy Shorts because WOMEN ARE FUNNY.

If you’re like me, you’re pissed. As someone who spent a lot of my adolescence hanging out at skate parks and around many a male friend, let me share with you the complete and utter irritation of being hilarious without recognition. It’s like when you have a degree in a certain topic and you’re standing there talking to three dudes. You make a statement, they tilt their heads and suck in through their teeth, ” Ouuu, hmm, welll..” or any variation of these come streaming out of their skeptical faces UNTIL of course, another man agrees or states “yea, no, she’s right.” The tiresome years of pouring over research, going into debt for your academic pursuits are no match for the confirmation given by a heterosexual male. With penis behind you, you are now seen as credible. The same phenomena occurs for women applying for research grants. Recent research in gender bias in the academic world has shown that when selecting women academics for research projects, your chances improve considerably when you are supported or “under the wing” of a male academic. A shortcut -you could always change your name on these applications to a male name, which research shows will also improve your likelihood for acceptance.

I can not tell you the number of times I say something funny that had it been delivered with a side of penis- it would receive a laugh, but like most heterosexual men, they just can’t get passed the labia. There’s a joke in there somewhere. Carry on. Double standards exist, sarcastic males are silly and charming, whereas sarcastic females often thought of as “bitchy.” I often notice a lot of women who write comedy sketches do so from a feminist perspective, making fun of the stereotypes given to us; their writing is inspired by the ridiculous and ignorant. Feminist comedy sketches are thriving. Funny women like Tina Fey, Cecile Strong and Amy Schumer show us that women can kill at sketch comedy. They prove to naysayers what we already know about ourselves- that women ARE funny. In this spirit, I’d like to encourage any of you who might be interested in comedic writing for film shorts to take advantage of this opportunity.

Funny Women,
 supported by Benefit cosmetics is dedicated to helping aspiring female comics and script writers.

Your film must:

  • Be 1-3 minutes in length
  • Be an original piece of work, with full permissions from everyone involved
  • Be produced and devised by a women (although male cast members are totally fine)
  • Closing date for entries is Monday 31st August 2015. Submissions after this date will not be accepted

For more details click here: http://funnywomen.com/funny-women-awards/comedy-shorts-award/

Top Women in Canada’s Film Industry say, “WE NEED MORE WOMEN AT THE WRITING TABLE.”

Diana Swain of CBC News talks to CBC TV’s General Manager of Programming Sally Catto, WIFT Toronto’s Executive Director Heather Webb, and Actor/Producer Jennifer Podemski about what it’s like to be a women in Canada’s film and television industry.

The power of film should not be underestimated. Images have been used in countless ways to propogate agenda, political or otherwise. The ability to share your experience translates into a form of freedom. It is the gift of voice, relatability and the right to share perpsective. Autonomy over your own representation is a privilege afforded to few. Mens eyes have been the lens we have viewed women through since the beginning of this artform that has grown into one of the largest and most influential industries in creating culture, norms and standards of beauty. In feminism, we refer to this as the male gaze. 

Over the years, this has resulted in comedy and tragedy. Perhaps the latter being more fitting for the implications for women. More often than not, these productions give rise to discomfort and anger within the female viewers choking on unrealistic, derogatory, sexist, representions on screen; we cringe. Looking at the screen, we see the same women appear: the virtuous virgin, the unworthy slut, the beautiful girl with the IQ of a hamburger, the funny fat girl, the sexualization of mentally illness, sexualization of our careers, the sexualization of young girls…. All the sexualization. The ugly one is evil, there’s the angry or ghettoized black girl, the black girl who seems to be there to legitimize the white girl as “diverse” like the sitcom version of saying I’m not racist, I have a black friend. On that note, the story lines of the white woman who single handledly are able to achieve relatability and effectively save the souls of poor ethnic children (perhaps too specific- we know that stories of white savours come in all forms). The countless scenes of date rape disguised as comedy because the men in these writing rooms have no clue! And Oh yea, let’s not forget the hot action side kick with significantly less lines and relevance to the plot. Am I missing any? The good new is, we’re over it. We’re becoming more aware of these problems, though the numbers don’t yet reflect significant progress, we see a dialogue emerging with many celebrities taking centre stage around feminist issues pertaining to representation of women in film. 

 The numbers are staggering, and to our dismay- sliding backwards. It’s no secret, there’s no debate, the number show gender inequality does exist and it exists in film, television and media production. The film industries reputation for one dimensional sexist representations of women is just one of the symptoms of a lack of females holding positions of influence.

The good news is, the discussion is on the table and women are ready to move and come together on these issues. CBC offers a sit down interview with powerful women working in the Canadian film and television industry. Though numbers are discouraging, these women have risen in ranks in television and film and they sit down in this interview to offer us their insight on industry.

Canadian Women in Film Discuss the Gender in(Equality) Present in Canada’s Film Industry.
WATCH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewCLHYw7XdQ

They share insight into what they look for when reviewing film project proposals. The women point to shows like GIRLS and Orange is the New Black as being proof that we are on our way, but we need more women show runners.

One important question poised around representation of women on screen was, “How do we move the portrayal of women closer to what we think of as reality?”

Response: It’s getting Women in the Writing room. If you want full dimensional women on screen, it begins in the writing room. You tell stories from your lived experience, from your perspective, so we need more women at the writing table.

Because one writes from their personal understanding and experience, it was reassuring that at least one of these white female film industry experts make mention of the additional barriers that face women of colour. If you think the numbers are bad for representation of women in film, look at the numbers for women of colour, they drop significantly further, even into single digits.  As we discuss wanting to characters that more accurately represent women, we must remember that one women’s life does not represent all women’s reality. Yes, we need women in the writing room, but let’s not forget to acknowledge the the reality facing women of colour subjected to not only sexist barriers, but racial too. As white women sitting in positions of power, we need to remember our distinct privilege and be careful not to homogenize all women’s experiences under the same umbrella. We can express unity along points of sexism as women, while maintaining diversity that represents the reality of our different lived experience and privilege.

This is the kind of conversations we hope to cultivate at women’s film collective.

Focus On Women: A Report on gender (in)equality in the Canadian independent screen-based production industry

Canadian Unions for Equity on Screen produced this report pertaining to women’s advancement within the film industry. The results show there is great amount of work to be done to ensure women are able to succeed in the film industry-  to take part in creating content- creating media- creating culture. Look at the numbers. Check out some of the reports. 

Lets get to work creating content. Collaborating together. Telling our stories. http://www.womeninfilm.ca/_Library/images/Focus_on_Women_2013_CUES.pdf

T.V. series “Transparent” is pushing boundaries in Trans Women’s visibility

Yesterday, Ms. Magazine released their list of the best feminist television shows to watch right now!  Check it out!

You might be as surprised as I was to find that neither the show GIRLS, created by self proclaimed feminist Lena Dunham, nor the comedic duo of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer from Broad City seemed to make the list. I was, however, entirely pleased to find an amazing new t.v. series that I hadn’t heard of yet. This is one in particular that I would love to share with you.

Watch Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-3Q2W0I2Xc

Image result for the creator of transparent t.v. show

Transparent’s creator and director, Jill Soloway is making headlines as the first non-network television series to take home the award for Best Drama at the Golden Globes.

Watch the full acceptance speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lViHIuheqCs

Jill was interviewed by Ellen following her award where she spoke about her experience with a parent who began transitioning at the age of seventy-four.  Jill also speaks candidly about the need for trans women to see their lives represented on screen and her hopes to improve the lives and safety of members of trans communities through the creation of this show.

Watch Ellen Interview :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECFDXKuQ_so

During Jill’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, she made a powerful dedication to transgendered teen, Leelah Alcorn, who committed suicide in December.

Recent studies conducted in Washington, D.C. around transgender youth revealed that over 50% of transgender youth will have at least one suicide attempt before the age of 20. The numbers are staggering. More Inforamation and Statistics: http://www.vocativ.com/culture/lgbt/transgender-suicide/

Jill uses her experience and voice to shed light on a perspective that does is not often celebrated in today’s media industry. We know that even among trans women, experiences vary with access to privilege, but I can’t help but be excited for more shows that finally focus on trans woman.

Jill Soloway is  a woman using her own personal knowledge, experience and connection to community to create a show that will enhance the discussion around LGBTQ issues for some, and for others, provide hope that there is space for their story – on screen.  

Here are I love about the show- Transparent

1.) Nothing is more empowering to watch a woman own who she really is.  Trans women can teach this to a cis woman – any day.

2.) It Outlines Cis Privilege 
Trans women face such barriers that cis gendered women do not.  I was waiting while watching the episodes just knowing that there would be a scene in the bathroom as this is so often a place where trans women experience discrimination and violence. I remember being given a pin at my university with the words ” Pee in Peace.” I was confused as I read the slogan, but began to inquire and research the issues of prejudice trans women face with relation to using public restrooms. There are members of the trans activist communities fighting to have bathrooms that recognize the fluidity of gender and sex. Binaries create barriers.

3.) We learn – We get to hear and have insight into some of the day to day issues trans women face. Getting this insight can be used to be less ignorant around other peoples experiences. I would imagine that Jill’s closeness to the trans community comes in handy with respect to writing these scenes. If you are trans, I wonder which kinds of conversations and experiences you would feel are valuable to address to an audience?

4.) It combats Agism by focussing on a trans woman who is transitioning later on in her life. Jills mother began her transition at the age of 74.

5.) Another thing I found interesting is that because most protagonists of a family drama are heterosexual couples in their twenties or early thirties and their kids- often young or in high school, it’s rare to see a familial relationship between adult children and their parents. Recently in an interview I watched, I heard a woman in the film industry who reviews film projects say that she’ll usually gets a show that takes place in an old age home or a show about twenty somethings. The diversity of age in this show is one of the things I love

5.) It’s a quiet shot of Mona, the way her hand runs along a rack of women’s garments, the quiet swallowing of words, the courage in her eyes, a life longing to be lived, a truth longing to be said, there is a subtly to Jill’s style that manages to convey greatly to the audience such realism and reliability. It is believable. This subtly serves from comedy to drama, replicating the intersecting emotions that play through each day of our life.

The over arching theme of the show is about having the courage to be who you are.  Jill has posited this message cross sexual orientation and generational lines. Who doesn’t Love. That.

Many of the shows on this list represent an exciting time for women rising within the film industry. Jill Soloway is just one of many we can be inspired by!

Thanks to Jill and others in the film industry, working to transcend barriers in order to bring visibility to trans women’s lives and experiences.

Do you want to work with other women developing a character or show that represents your experience? Are you a member of LGBTQ community that is wanting MORE ( or more accurate) representation of your experiences? 

Be sure to get in touch with the Women’s Film Collective.  Follow us bellow in order to get more information of monthly online meetings or email herperspectivecollective@gmail.com to get in contact with the Women’s Film Collective.