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Book Review: Independent Female Filmmakers: A Chronicle Through Interviews, Profiles, and Manifestos

Book Review: Independent Female Filmmakers: A Chronicle Through Interviews, Profiles, and Manifestos

Book Reviews

With Hollywood in its second year of the #MeToo era, more than ever, films, festivals, and studios are doing their best to include more female moviemakers. Hollywood wasn’t always this way, and that’s what led to historically innovative and inspiring female representation in the independent film community.

Independent Female Filmmakers editor Michele Meek collects articles and interviews with women moviemakers whose work spans the indie film movement dating back to the 1970s. From baby-boomer Yvonne Rainer (b. 1934), who talks about the phenomenon of “man-murderers” in women’s films, to Gen X creative superstar Miranda July (b. 1974), who details her experiences as an artist beyond moviemaking, Independent Female Filmmakers is full of insights and advice from women who have been walking the difficult path that has helped lead Hollywood toward its aspirational future of gender equality.

Discussions of each creative’s drive to create, succeed, and find herself as a young student helmer and cry to be understood and heard as an adult are given a section in the book. Each section includes their background and history in the industry, an interview from past work at The Independent Film & Video Monthly, and finally, a modern-day, 2018 interview with the subject. This network deftly showcases these directors, critics, and scholars’ perspectives on early influences, breaking into the industry, working with different subjects, feminism, and longevity in the business.

A major player in Michele Meek’s Independent Female Filmmakers, in 1996 The Watermelon Woman writer-director, editor, and star Cheryl Dunye became the frist black lesbian woman to helm a feature

Among the book’s many interviews, Lizzie Borden (Born in Flames) talks about the years it takes to make an indie film and the hurdles that ensue; Lisa Cholodenko discusses the working with a writing partner, as she did with Stuart Blumberg on The Kids Are All Right; director Cheryl Dunye (The Watermelon Woman) describes the difficulties of shooting naturalistic and styl- ized sequences; Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, USA) highlights the importance of receiving feature funding; Trinh T. Minh-ha (Forgetting Vietnam) stresses the importance of understanding your film’s subjects and locations; Ericka Beckman (Out of Hand) acknowledges our dependence on the changing technologies that impact digital moviemaking; and Martha Coolidge (Real Genius, Not a Pretty Picture) talks about the transition from documentary to low-budget fiction moviemak- ing, detailing outlines of casting, writing, production, shooting, and editing. Coolidge adds that she’s found that the independent sets she’s come across are most often filled with “more enthusiasm than professional experience.”

THE TAKEAWAY:

While the book’s interviewees still believe that women moviemakers have a long road ahead of them, Independent Female Filmmakers strengthens the belief that we learn when we listen to those who’ve paved the way, and that we’re stronger when we go forward together. MM

Independent Female Filmmakers was released by Michele Meek on December 21, 2018. This article appears in MovieMaker‘s Spring 2019 issue

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