THE Manchester International Film Festival saw a plethora of wonderful independent films screened over the weekend, but it wasn’t all they had to offer.
Since its inception, four years ago, the festival has championed women in the film industry and this year was no different with a dedicated strand of films at the festival under ‘Women in Film’ and with this hour long panel.
The panel included guests such as Hollywood actors Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Animal House) – who was at the festival with her directorial debut short film, A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud – and Stef Dawson (The Hunger Games), here with director Alicia Slimmer with their wonderfully weird film, Creedmoria.
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Bronwen Hughes, director of The Journey is the Destination also featured on the panel and all discussed what it was like for them as women to start off in the industry, what lies in the future for female filmmakers and shared some stories of experiences they have had to suggest the sexism within mainstream Hollywood film.
All agreed that they had come across more women in production roles rather than directorial. Whether this is due to the nature of the job or because major studios are hesitant to employ female directors, they didn’t have a concrete answer to.
It was noted how there seems to be far more women in independent film than men, which clearly shows the equal passion female filmmakers have to create but it was discussed about how tough it is for women to actually make a real mark.
Hughes talked about an experience she had at Paramount Pictures: “My budget was capped at five million.
“They wouldn’t give me a cent more because ‘films starring girls don’t make money’.”
Hughes, known more recently for her work in television, discussed how difficult it can be to input creativity when you are only directing one episode of television: “The actors who have been there for seven seasons don’t always take kindly to you coming in and telling them where to go and what to do.”
Allen made the point of how ‘she was in the right place at just the right time’ to star in Animal House and acknowledged that without her luck, she would never have got her start in the industry.
Dawson shared a story of a time in one of her earlier roles where the character she was starring as went through script changes that made her appear as more of a ‘victim’. She stood up to the director here and had the role changed back.
Hollywood has historically been a male environment but the tides are certainly changing for the better. While all the panelists certainly acknowledged this, they all agreed that there is a long way still to go.