Bentonville Film Fest Women-on-the-Street, Part One — Betsy Bozdech reports

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BFF_Logo_Transparent2017_Scaled_100At the Bentonville Film Festival, female filmmakers find themselves surrounded by mentors, peers, and filmgoers who celebrate women’s creativity and success in every aspect of the entertainment world. Attracting women at every career level, the annual event encourages diversity and inclusion both in front of and behind the camera, and provides the ideal ambiance for taking a feminist pulse on the industry by collecting comments on topics of importance. AWFJ’s three-part BFF Woman-on-the-Street series does just that. We caught up with 2017 attendees (including festival founder Geena Davis) to gather their thoughts on key issues of concern to women in film. The first and most pressing question was about the current challenges they face in getting their work funded, produced, and recognized. Read on…

What are the most difficult hurdles for female filmmakers to overcome?

“Their own self-doubt. They have to get over that and understand that they can do anything, they’re capable of doing anything. And then once they have that self-confidence, that vision, that assertion, that confidence, the next step would be then to convince others that they can do it. But you have to convince yourself first.” — Nancy Cartwright, co-writer, In Search of Fellini

“As filmmakers, just getting in the door is a big hurdle for women. And then being respected without being labeled a bitch.” — Brooke Purdy, writer, co-director, co-star, Quality Problems

“Trust. Getting the gatekeepers to trust you, getting actors to trust you, getting the public to trust you. Because some think women would not have the ability. I have had actors change the plot line because they do not trust me enough to direct them through what was written originally.” — Leila Djansi, writer/director, Like Cotton Twines

“The most difficult hurdle is money, because money is really the beginning of any project. Even though women are more than 50 percent of the box office, it seems as though there’s still a problem with women getting the green light for funding.” — Zeva Oelbaum, co-director, Letters from Baghdad

“We’ve heard stories of actors turning down film roles that were given to them in conjunction with a project from a female director, because they were worried that the film would never happen. You would think that women would support really other women. So I think it’s the competition for the few places that are available.” — Sabine Krayenbuh, co-director, Letters from Baghdad

“I think the most difficult hurdles are the words ‘no’ and ‘you can’t.’ In the Philippines, a lot of studio heads and heads of networks are women. And then the top-grossing filmmakers are actually women. But coming to America and experiencing this is actually an uphill battle. And, being a woman of color who is a filmmaker means not listening to people say that you can’t, or not being discouraged. It is the perseverance of knowing your strengths, that you have a voice and you have a story you will pursue, no matter what. Being at the festival and seeing other female filmmakers, other women of color making such amazing work, and having conversations at tables full of women is so empowering to me. It’s been actually kind of life changing.” — Marie Jamora, writer/director, Flip the Record

“I just made the first feature film from my state [the Northwest Territories in Canada], so prior to that, there were no other filmmakers. There was no funding, zero role models, zero industry, zero. So to pioneer from scratch and find the funding and create something, that was definitely a big challenge. It was a lot of hurdles in one! I always had to find my way and reinvent the wheel on my own, when the wheel’s been invented. And so it’s just taken me a long time to really be able see I don’t need to be inventing stuff that already exists.” — Kirsten Carthew, writer/director, The Sun at Midnight

Read Bentonville Film Fest Women-on-the-Street, Part Two

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Betsy Bozdech

Betsy Bozdech is the Executive Editor of Common Sense, for which she also reviews films. Her film reviews and commentaries also appear on and