According to the 17th annual Celluloid Ceiling report of 2014, “women comprised 17 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 (domestic) grossing films.” Even more surprising than the numbers themselves: They hadn’t changed since 1998. The report also found only 7 percent were women directors (a mere 1 percent increase from 2013 but down 2 percent from 1998). Thus in 2014, 93 percent of films didn’t have female directors.
The statistics are telling: Cinema is still relegated by a man’s world, essentially. Locally, the Wilmington Female Film Collective (WilmFFilm) upstarted to fight against the numbers, all the while allowing women and non-gender identifying members to find a nurturing network group that can help see their film projects from inception to completion. Founded by Rebecca Busch (encore’s previous humor columnist) and Monika WintersSanchez, the women launched WilmFFilm after showcasing their film “Got No Fetish” at Cucalorus last year.
“We started talking with other female filmmakers and felt women were clearly under-represented in the filmmaking world,” Busch says. “We thought it would be pretty fantastic and empowering if we could hook up with other like-minded women and make movies.”
They brought into the mix UNCW association professor of film studies Shannon Silva, and within mere months grew the collective to over 260 members. They meet every second and fourth Thursdays of the month at 7:30 p.m. at the Community Action Center on Castle Street.
“Each meeting thus far has had a general focus: sound, acting, directing, etc.,” Busch tells. “Occasionally, we have meetings where a member will bring in a works-in-progress, typically a screenplay, which we will read aloud together and provide feedback for the writer. Anyone who is working on a project is able to discuss it and request feedback, and occasionally provide updates at future meetings.”
They host guest speakers frequently, too, which allows members insight into the industry. They’ve held a sound workshop by Alex Markowski, as well as a directing actors workshop with filmmaker Erica Dunton. They’ve covered screenwriting, script breakdown, documentary production, sound, and more. Meetings will break for July but reconvene in August. Through the summer, they will hold a workshop series.
“We designed it to teach our members how to make movies with what they have—guerilla filmmaking, if you will,” Busch says. “These are all hands-on workshops.”
They’ll cover everything from “Filming With Your DSLR” to “Filming With Your iPhone.” Workshops will be held on acting, marketing a film, desiging a web page for a film, and more. Workshops are free for members that have paid their dues, which is $10 a year. Otherwise, nonmembers pay $10. Requirements to become a voting member—to be granted a voice on decisions—entail annual membership dues and 10 hours of volunteer service toward the group, to be completed within a year. Their mission overall is to create an environemnt driven by diversity and that allows members to see to fruition their cinematic goals. “Through educational opportunities, mentoring, and a supportive creative community, WilmFFilm aims to galvanize and expand womens’ contribution to filmmaking,” Busch adds.
Insofar, they’ve had quite a few success stories. During one meeting, member Tanya Fermin found her first assistant director, sound engineer, writing partner, location, and other crew members to finish her first short film, “The Arrangements.” Fermin is now embarking on her first feature, “Senses,” with many WilmFFilms members onboard.
“This group inspires and motivates me to realize my dreams of filmmaking,” Fermin says—“the camaraderie with these women who love film and having our stories on screen unites us. With the wealth of knowledge and expertise they bring to the table, I am able make this movie, my first feature, with confidence.”
Another member, Natalie Lentz, is directing her first music video. “WilmFFilm members assisted in preproduction and are crewing her project,” Busch says. As well, Busch and WintersSanchez will cull WilmFFilm members to help shoot their second short, “Killer Bee’s,” this September.
“Many of our members work in the film industry and their lives have been seriously impacted by the thoughtless cut in NC film incentives,” Busch admits. “WilmFFilm is about creating opportunities for our members to make their own movies, film their documentaries and shoot their experimental films. If we start taking control of our own futures in filmmaking and get our foot in the door, then we can hold the door open for other female filmmakers. And by virtue of creating our own projects, our filmmaking community will continue to work, and hopefully new possibilities will take hold to allow us to not only weather this storm but find a calmer more abundant sea in our own backyard.”
Folks can learn more about WilmFFilm on their Facebook page, where they list all meetings and workshops. —Shea Carver