Strength in numbers: IF talks to female filmmakers collective Film Fatales
Screen Women Series (photo credit: Emma Leslie).
Film Fatales is a network of female filmmakers who meet regularly to mentor each other, share resources, collaborate on projects and build a supportive community in which to make their films. The Sydney chapter was started by Brooke Goldfinch and is now co-run by Megan Riakos.
Film Fatales was started by writer/director Leah Meyerhoff. She was making her first feature I Believe in Unicorns and she invited a bunch of veteran female directors to her house for dinner to ask their advice. The evening was so productive that Leah decided to start an organisation, in which groups of women directors would meet monthly at someone’s house to discuss filmmaking. It’s a simple, grass-roots concept that has become a powerful global movement, with chapters all over the world. I knew Leah from the grad film program at NYU where I got my MFA. She invited me to some Film Fatales meetings in New York and when I moved to LA, where I knew nobody, one of the first things I did was get connected to the LA Film Fatales chapter.
When I finally came back home, I realized I had very few contacts here. Writing can be very isolating and I missed my tightly knit filmmaking family in New York. Networking events are hard for everyone, but I think being a young woman adds another dimension that makes them even more difficult, and it can be harder still for women of color, women with disabilities, and queer women.
When Leah suggested I start a Film Fatales chapter here, I wasn’t sure how it would go, especially given that our industry is so small, but it’s been going from strength to strength. One of the things I’ve heard over and over from our members is that they struggle with confidence. Having a group to go to every month helps as we set goals, share opportunities, crew recommendations and things we’ve learned in a very supportive environment.
We don’t spend our time discussing negative aspects of the industry or sexism, instead we focus on positive outcomes for women. We’re not competing against one another, we’re trying to lift each other up and it’s exciting because we’ve got a lot of very talented members.
Another exciting aspect of Film Fatales is that the community is international. Film Fatales has networking events and panels at most of the big festivals, including Sundance, Toronto, Cannes, Berlin and Tribeca. A lot of major companies and film festivals have approached Film Fatales offering discounts, workshops and even financing.
I joined Film Fatales at the tail end of finishing my feature Crushed in early 2015. What people don’t tell you is how lonely that part of the process can be. I was trying to figure out not only how I could market myself and my film, but also how to plan my career from here. At the first meeting I met a number of other filmmakers, two who had already made their own features: Elissa Down (The Black Balloon) and Louise Wadley (All About E). It was really inspiring to have someone like Elissa who is onto her next feature and growing her career and then Louise who was just ahead of me navigating the indie world with her film.
Our meetings are all about sharing what we have learnt as filmmakers and discussing not just the creative part of being a director, but the technical and business sides as well. In an industry where women are the minority and directors barely ever cross paths, Film Fatales is the perfect answer.
Fast forward 18 months and the group has grown to 50 active members. On top of our monthly meetings, we also organise a bi-monthly event supported by Screen Australia called Screen Women Series with our sister group for producers Screen Vixens (headed by Leonie Mansfield). The series is for women working in all areas of the screen industry to strengthen our networks and expand our skills. So far we have presented workshops on 'Demystifying Development', a one-on-one with Jocelyn Moorehouse and our latest Diversity in Action with all three booking out within days of release.
The future of women in film in Australia feels bright. With Gender Matters freshly announced, a new collaboration between Film Fatales and the newly revamped WIFT organisation and the cumulative effect of these strong, talented and ambitious women collaborating and rallying together, expect to see a lot more women represented in meaningful ways both in front of and behind the camera.