The Father of Cinéma Vérité

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The concept of Cinéma Vérité is more than an approach to filmmaking, it is a concept that speaks to the heart of humanity. Cinéma Vérité was an organic documentary style adopted all over the world, however one man, one of the earliest pioneers of the style, began it all with his movie camera.

Although, often regarded as one of the fathers of Cinéma Vérité, Dziga Vertov, was born with the name David Abelevich Kauffman in Białystok, Poland to a Jewish family. He later changed his name to Denis Arkadievich. (Early Soviet) “This sort of Russification,” an effort to better reflect the culture of his new home, “was typical for the young members of the Russophilic Jewish milieu in which he grew up,” after fleeing from the invading German Army. He was recruited by the musical section of a military academy, and never returned to his studies in the Psychoneurological Institute in St. Petersburg. In his free time he began experimenting with “sound collages,” expressing an early interest in audio engineering. He remained at the academy until the Revolution of 1917, after which time he left for Moscow. (Dziga)

However, Vertov was not the only talented filmmaker in his family, his younger brother, Mikhail, was also his, “main cameraman and the central character in their most famous film, Man with a Movie Camera.” (Barnouw, Media 185) While his youngest brother, Boris immigrated to Hollywood after WWII, and was pressured by McCarthyism, forcing him to “renounce his brothers, stating he had no living relatives in Russia.” (Boris Kaufman)

As previously mentioned, Dziga Vertov is most notably known for the documentary approach of Cinéma Vérité. “In homage to Vertov, the film makers called their technique Cinéma Vérité-translated from kino-pravda, film truth. It indeed had echoes of Vertov, particularly of Man With the Movie Camera, in that it was a compendium of experiments in the pursuit of truth. Some people promptly applied the term Cinéma Vérité to what others called direct cinema-the cinema of the observer-documentarist. But the new approach was in fact a world away from direct cinema, although both had stemmed from synchronous-sound developments. The direct cinema documentarist took his camera to a situation of tension and waited hopefully for a crisis…The direct cinema artist aspired to invisibility; the Rouch Cinéma Vérité artist was often an avowed participant. The direct cinema artist played the role of uninvolved bystander; the Cinéma Vérité artist espoused that of provocateur…Cinéma Vérité was committed to a paradox: the artificial circumstances could bring hidden truth to the surface.” (Barnouw, Documentary, 254-255)

The writings of Dziga Vertov “reflect a deep awareness of issues related to Cinéma Vérité. Vertov coined the term Kino-Pravda, which was applied to a series of 23 films he made between 1922 and 1925, each organized around a specific theme or idea.” (Mamber, 5)

Furthermore, Vertov’s attitude toward filmmaking, his interest in the development of technology especially in the area of sound and camera portability, and his approach to editing are instrumental in the shaping of our media landscape.  “In the strongest possible terms, Vertov denounced all forms of theatrical, fictional cinema, calling for an end to the dependence of cinema upon literature, drama, and music, in other words, the characteristics of nearly all films made to that point.” He argued that cinema is “a branch of science and of each film as an experiment.” He challenged himself and his fellow filmmakers by setting the precedent, “To combine science with cinematic depiction in the struggle to reveal truth . . . to decipher reality.” (Mamber, 5-6)

Meaning, his goal was to observe and record life as it is, in its rawest form. ” However, his methods were and still are considered a bit radical, “He was also opposed to the use of actors, except when they are presented as real people in a film that attempts to study the relationship between their feelings and the roles they must play.” (Mamber, 5-6) For example, in Man with a Movie Camera, his brother, Mikhail, was both cameraman and actor. Mikhail not only shot much of the footage used in the poetic documentary, but also portrays a cameraman in Man with a Movie Camera.  (Barnouw, Media 185)

An authoritative critic on Cinéma Vérité wrote on Vertov’s methods in 1929 commenting, “The director ordinarily invents the plot for the scenario – Dziga Vertov detects it. He does not, with the aid of authors, actors, and scenery carpenters, build an illusion of life; he thrusts the lens of his camera straight into the crowded centers of life.” (Mamber, 5-6) His unique way of filmmaking was executed in all of his films.

Another aspect that makes Vertov a revolutionary in the field of Cinéma Vérité and cinematography in general is his sense of camera awareness. For example, his “interest in hidden camera and telephoto and infrared lenses, his use of slow and fast motion, his extensive preplanning of filming according to a particular theme, and especially his emphasis on strong editing control in many ways correspond more closely to other forms of documentary than to Cinéma Vérité. Still, he was phenomenally prescient in this area, even if the direct path of influence goes off in a different direction.” (Mamber, 6-7)

However, his approach was only successful by the crucial implementation of editing.  He explained this process through metaphor, equating shots of film as a unique brick, “With these bricks, one could build a chimney, the wall of a fort, or many other things. And just as good bricks are needed to build a house, in order to make good films one needs good bits filmed.” (Mamber, 5-6)

However, his innovation of the industry was not limited to cinematography and editing. He also experimented with sound his entire life, beginning with “sound collages” while studying in school. (Early Soviet) He recognized, “the importance of sound and, even more crucial, the need for synchronous sound…he developed the ‘Radio-Ear,’…Vertov’s recognition of the technical goals went even further, for he spoke of the need for a camera that could go anywhere under all conditions. He wanted the ‘Kino-Eye’ to be as mobile as the human eye.” (Mamber, 6-7)

As one of the founders of the concept of Cinéma Vérité, Vertov, explains, “tries to capture life as it happens and is not a reenactment of past events.” Meaning it attempts to “study the lives of individual people” an idea at the very heart of his films. He explains, “The difference was that I could not write on film events that had already occurred. I can only write simultaneously as the events are occurring…The endless process of observation with camera in hand.” (Mamber, 6-7)

Georges Sadoul, a French journalist and cinema writer, (Histoire générale) commented on Vertov’s interesting trend found throughout Man with a Movie Camera. He writes, “They chose people who were sufficiently absorbed in some spectacle or violent emotion so that they would forget the presence of a camera.” He continues, speaking specifically about the party scene featuring people drinking and listening to Jazz, “those being filmed became more used to the presence of the cameras as the evening wore on until they were behaving in the same manner as if they were not being filmed.” (Mamber, 6-7)

The concept of Cinéma Vérité has not been lost, but continues to be incorporated in culture. Within the last one hundred years the application has changed, however the method of setting a camera and capturing life as it happens remains the same.

For example, David and Albert Maysles, documentary filmmakers, implemented the concept of Cinéma Vérité throughout their careers. Often considered as the force that reinvigorated the concept of Cinéma Vérité into the industry, beginning in the 1960s. Their body of work includes: Salesman, (1968) Gimme Shelter, (1970) and possibly their most famous documentary, Grey Gardens. (1975) (Chalk) Although, not completely using the method of direct cinema, as the feature length documentary does include some interviews; but many scenes show the eccentricities of mother and daughter by playing out in front of a recording camera. Filmmakers, Maysles brothers, set up the camera and captured the lives of  Edith Bouvier Beale and Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale, as it unfolded naturally in their decaying mansion in East Hampton, New York. (Grey Gardens)

Another example of modern day Cinéma Vérité is the documentary, Warrendale (1966) directed by Allan King. “Warrendale is a documentary about the treatment of several mentally ill children at the Warrendale Treatment Centre. The film and the treatment centre caused a great deal of uproar about the invasion of privacy and the treatment of the children.” (Chalk)

Possibly the most well known documentary that incorporates elements of Cinéma Vérité, is The War Room, (1993) “a behind-the-scenes look at the politics of Governor Bill Clinton.” The documentary followed the then candidate from primaries, throughout the presidential campaign trail. (Chalk)

Although, as times have changed so has the location where you can find Cinéma Vérité today. Currently, the most likely place to find aspects of direct cinema is not in documentaries as Dziga Vertov had intended, but instead on the internet. Websites like Youtube, were originally designed to host videos containing everyday unfiltered moments.

Short Cinéma Vérité examples such as “Sneezing Panda” are the type of videos that originally made Youtube famous. The simple 10 second video documents exactly what its title suggests, a sneezing panda. Although, even though you know what is going to happen the 10 seconds of footage is still just as entertaining.  (AllFamousVideos)

Another amusing example of Cinéma Vérité in which Youtube is famous for is “Afro Ninja.” This 7 second video features a man attempting to demonstrate martial arts, however he falls off camera instead. This video captures the attempt of staging action in front of a camera, but instead records life as it happens. (AllFamousVideos)

However, a new style of media has emerged within the last fifteen years, with a title that suggests Cinéma Vérité, but is anything but the capturing of truth. Ironically, this genre of television described as “Reality TV” is the farthest thing from Cinéma Vérité. For example, show titles like “Real Housewives” lead audiences to believe what they are watching is authentic. In fact, reality television shows are scripted and operate under the guise of unfolding in front of your eyes. In reality, the taping and editing of the footage distorts any semblance of reality the content originally had.

Reality television and the belief that is it real has become such a cultural phenomenon, that scripted shows have comedically pointed fun at it. On the Fox television procedural, “Bones” in Season 6, Episode 3 “The Maggots in the Meathead,” Dr. Temperance Brennan believes the reality show, “Jersey Shore” is a documentary series on the lifestyle of young people living in New Jersey. (“The Maggots in the Meathead”) The gag conveys a common belief held by most audience members, that reality shows are reality, and echo Cinéma Vérité. However, this desire to watch life as it happens, illustrates a universal hunger found in people from all walks of life, a hunger for real life.

In conclusion, Dziga Vertov’s intention behind Cinéma Vérité and cinema as a whole, was to reflect reality, and connect his audience by showing truth through images, unfiltered moments, and allowing life to happen in front of the camera. For this reason, as well as being  one of the pioneers of Cinéma Vérité, Vertov. is considered to be the “‘father of the documentary’” in Russia, as Robert Flaherty is considered by the United States. (Barnouw, Media 185) Works Cited

AllFamousVideos. “The Top 10 Most Famous Internet Videos of All Time Mashup.” YouTube. YouTube, 2 Sept. 2008. Web. 2 Oct. 2015.

< https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DokIKAtsRIc>

Aufderheide, Patricia. Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction. N.p.: Oxford UP, 2007. 37. Print.

Barnouw, Erik. Documentary: A History of the Non-fiction Film. London: Oxford U, 1981. 254-55. Print.

Barnouw, Erik. Media Marathon: A Twentieth-century Memoir. Durham: Duke UP, 1996. 185. Print.

“Boris Kaufman.” BORIS KAUFMAN. Internet Encyclopedia of Cinematographers, n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2015. < http://www.cinematographers.nl/GreatDoPh/kaufman.htm>

Chalk, Kelly. “Cinema Verite-and-direct-cinema.” Cinema Verite-and-direct-cinema. Slideshare, 20 Apr. 2013. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.
< http://www.slideshare.net/kellychalk1/cinema-veriteanddirectcinema>

Dawson, Jonathon. “Dziga Vertov.” Senses of Cinema., 21 Mar. 2003. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.

< http://sensesofcinema.com/2003/great-directors/vertov/ >

Delgado, Sergio. “Dziga vertov’s man with a movie camera and the phenomenology of perception.” Film Criticism 34.1 (2009): 1+. Expanded Academic ASAP. Web. 5 Oct. 2015.

“Dziga Vertov.” Monoskop. N.p., 1 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Oct. 2015.
< http://monoskop.org/Dziga_Vertov&gt;

Early Soviet Cinema; Innovation, Ideology and Propaganda. London: Wallflower London, 2005. 57. Print.

Gow, Andrew Colin. Hyphenated Histories: Articulations of Central European Bildung and Slavic Studies in the Contemporary Academy. Leiden: Brill, 2007. 122-39. Print.

Grant, Barry Keith, and Jeannette Sloniowski. Documenting the Documentary: Close Readings of Documentary Film and Video. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1998. 19-34. Print.

“Grey Gardens.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.
< http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073076/?ref_=nv_sr_1 >

Hicks, Jeremy, and Dziga Vertov. Dziga Vertov: Defining Documentary Film. London: Tauris, 2007. Print.

Mackay, John. “Russia’s People of Empire: Life Stories from Eurasia, 1500 to the Present.” Choice Reviews Online 50.07 (University Press, 2012): “26 Dziga Vertov” 283-95. JSTOR. Web. 1 Oct. 2015

“The Maggots in the Meathead.” IMDb. IMDb.com, Bones. Season 6, Episode 3. Web. 2 Oct 2015. < http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1628119/ >

Mamber, Stephen. “Cinema Verite : Definitions and Background.” Cinema Verite in America: Studies in Uncontrolled Documentary. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1974. 1-22. Web.
< http://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/content/9780262630580_sch_0001.pdf>

Sadoul, Georges. “Dziga Vertov.” Histoire Générale Du Cinéma. Paris: Denoël, 1973. Print.

Turvey, Malcolm. The Filming of Modern Life: European Avant-garde Film of the 1920s. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2011. 5-9. Print.

“Vertov, Dziga.” International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. 2001. Encyclopedia.com.
1 Oct. 2015 <http://www.encyclopedia.com&gt;.

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Happy, Sad, or Somewhere in Between

Creativity Linked to Mental Health Conditions

I recently read the above article. I have always been fascinated by certain subjects and topics. Here is a quick list: Film History and Developments, Deep Ocean Creatures, Exploration of Space, History of Aviation, Art History, and the goings on in the BRAIN.
So, when I saw this pop up on my newsfeed I was eager to read it. In addition, brain activity seems very topical after the release of the latest Pixar animated feature, “Inside Out.” (which is incredibly good, and if you haven’t seen it, you need to bookmark this post, buy tickets to the next available showing, go see the movie, and then come back and finish reading it.)

Anyway, while reading the article several figures jumped out at me, especially, “The study revealed that the people in these artistic societies were 17 percent more likely to carry those variants linked with the mental health conditions than were people in the general population, who were not members of these societies.” Later in the article, a different “study showed that the people who worked in the creative professions were almost 25 percent more likely to carry the genetic variants related to the psychiatric disorders than were people who worked in other occupations.”

However, I don’t think the article means, “I must be crazy for wanting to make it in this industry,” which many of us think from time to time. It does go on to say, “people who were writers were more likely to be diagnosed with psychiatric disorders in general…if someone had a family member who had a serious psychiatric disorder, the genetic variants that this person carries may translate into a ‘diluted’ form of a mental illness, that could in fact be conducive to creativity, if the traits are mild enough that they do not interfere with the person’s ability think rationally, Manevitz said.”

However, as an artistically inclined individual, this worries me, if not makes me question my sanity. (Bad joke, I apologize)
Throughout my young adult years, I have heard from professors, colleagues, collaborators, and friends, as well as being echoed in the article,  “‘because to be creative, you have to think differently from the crowd,’ study author Kari Stefansson.” I realize not all creative and artistic individuals have mental health conditions, and even the ones that do, that isn’t the sole reason they are driven to create. However, it is a staggering commonality.

Last night, I was discussing with a friend, who I very much admire for her sunny disposition and optimism about the creative process. I recounted, how when I was younger I was under the impression, creative individuals, like myself, who feel the need to artistically express themselves must feel fulfilled after completion of a piece.

However, as an adult who now faces the harsh reality of grown up life, I am starting to realize that many artists, were not “happy” when they created their famous pieces. Their unique contributions were products of sadness, pain, anguish, loneliness, heartbreak, depression, confusion, and at times, apathy. As an innocent and unassuming child, I remember seeing my first Jackson Pollock in New York City as a little girl. I used to think he was the coolest finger painter ever, an impromptu leader of kindergartners. However, after visiting the newly opened “Whitney Museum” this past week, I saw another painting by him that really stirred something inside of me.

After reading this article and reflecting on my trip. I researched Jackson Pollock a little further and came across an article that suggested he may have been bipolar. Although, that diagnosis was not being used during his lifetime. Posthumously attributed to his behavior and artwork, it does seem to line up accordingly.

Personally, with my experiences with artists of all types from: painters to actors, musicians to directors, one thing I can say for certain is that artists feel and experience the world differently; hence their drive to express themselves.

So, after reading the article, I’ve come up with more questions than I originally started off with. Not necessarily scientifically targeted questions, but personal analytical ones.

I especially want to know, how I as an artist can use my unique perspective of the world, to effectively communicate through my chosen artistic expression of writing? As someone who often has difficulty expressing my feelings in a coherent way others can understand, I have used the figure below in both, my personal life and writing. (Is Art imitating life or is life imitating Art?)

Below is a wheel often used by writers to narrow their scope as to the truest emotion a character is feeling in the given situation. I marvel every time I refer back to it, because it shows that although only 5 basic emotions are shown in the Pixar movie, actually 7 main emotions exist, followed by many more complicated variations.

“It is one thing to write, it is another to write well, and a different thing completely to stir emotion within your audience.” –Christopher Riley

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Women in Sports Movies

The Sports Illustrated’s “’Greatest Sports Movies’ of All Time list” ranks the best films from the genre. On the list are films such as: Field of Dreams, (1989) Rocky, (1976) and Raging Bull. (1980) However, only two films amongst the 50, feature a female athlete as the main character, National Velvet (1944) at position number 27, and A League of Their Own (1992) at position number 13. (Peacock)

The fact that such a small number of films featuring women were included on the Sports Illustrated list illuminates a significant problem. The problem being, the lack of female sports movies, one of the largest niches famously forsaken by Hollywood studios. Once thought of as an inconsequential market, due to its projected small numbers; the female sports subgenre is finally being tapped into. “The stereotype in society is that women watch soap operas while men watch sports, when in fact 60% of women report watching sports regularly while 42% of women noted that they regularly watch soap operas.” (Angus)    If there is an awaiting and hungry audience for female sports movies, then why aren’t the films being produced?

In 1944 the MGM film, National Velvet, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney, had “people lined up for blocks in the dead of winter waiting to see the film, which broke box office records at the world’s largest theater.”  (Friedman 44)                 In addition, “The New York Times gave it a favorable review, and the film garnered Academy Award nominations for director Clarence Brown and cinematographer Leonard Smith, as well as for art decoration and set decoration. Anne Revere, who played Velvet’s mother, won an Oscar for best supporting actress. Even the author, Enid Bagnold, liked the film.” (Tyler)

In more recent years the film, A League of Their Own, (1992) “revitalized interest in and helped memorialize a neglected chapter of sports history: The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL)…As depicted in the film, in 1943, the league’s first year, there were four teams: the Rockford Peaches, the Racine Belles, the Kenosha Comets, and the South Bend Blue Sox. When it became evident that the major leagues would not be seriously affected by the war…but after the men returned home, instead of fading into oblivion the AAGPBL prospered due to the women’s extraordinary ball playing abilities.” Similarly to the real life success, the movie flourished with audiences earning an estimated “$132,440,069” worldwide. (Box Office Mojo)

If success and the desire for female sports movies are not the issue preventing more films being made, then what is the cause?

Perhaps, the reason we do not have more sports movies with female characters, is because it is one of the last genres to be associated with femininity. Despite the fact that women’s sports rising in popularity in recent years since 1972 when “Title IX” a law passed, which “requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding” including sports and athletics as well as 9 other key areas. (History of Title IX)

In several of the movies that are structured around female characters, the characters do not operate with traditional feminine qualities, instead they take on masculine qualities. For example, in the movie Girlfight (2000) “written and directed by Karyn Kusama, who trained at Gleason’s in Brooklyn, the film focuses on a troubled teenager from the Red Hook area who finds her calling at a decrepit neighborhood gym…But Kusama sacrifices what could have made for an exciting climax—and far more interesting boxing—when she scraps the idea of women boxing women for an imaginary New York ‘intergender’ tournament…Titles are nice, even imaginary ones, but what matters most is Adrian’s later admission that ‘I gave you all I had.’ Once again, the lovers reunite—and with that ending, Girlfight ditches all attempts at realism for the fantasy world we have come to expect from boxing movies—especially this time, the victor is female.” (Reejhsinghani) 

In addition, the movie operates within the cliches of the genre; not even playing upon the obvious difference, that Girlfight is about a female training for a boxing match in a world surrounded by men. Instead, the coming of age story, in which Diana, portrayed by Michelle Rodriguez, is from a lower income home, and wanted nothing more than the respect of her father. The lack of celebration that she is a female boxer and is good enough to take down skilled boys her age who have been boxing longer than her, undermines the film as a whole. The gender element should accentuated, not ignored; something as important as a female character breaking into a world she has traditionally has not belonged, is something that should definitely be celebrated.

However, another movie from the same subgenre, boxing movies proves otherwise. In the film Million Dollar Baby (2004) Hillary Swank plays Maggie Fitzgerald, a female boxer, who wants to be trained by Clint Eastwood’s character, Frankie Dunn. Along the way the detail of gender is discussed and her success in the female boxing circuit is celebrated, in the large male dominated sport.

In addition, the movie was well received by women, even inspiring a few to hit the ring. “Gyms are seeing a spike in women giving boxing a try – many of them inspired by Hilary Swank’s Oscar-winning performance in ‘Million Dollar Baby’…’What the movie has done is show women that they shouldn’t be intimidated by the sport,’ said Joe Maysonet, head trainer at the Printing House gym in the West Village, where dozens of women have enrolled since the film’s December release…‘Hilary is an inspiration to a lot of the women who have taken to the sport,’ said Bruce Silverglade, owner of Gleason’s, where Swank trained for four months to prepare for her role…‘And it’s not just that she looks great, or that she looks tough,” said Silverglade, whose legendary gym trains 175 female boxers. ‘Her dedication to the sport is something that women are looking to emulate.’ (Jonathan)

Other films, such as Stick it (2006) written and directed by Jessica Bendinger and Whip It (2009) written by Shauna Cross and directed by Drew Barrymore are structured around a predominant female ensembles and each follows how a new member is integrated into the group. Sports movies such as these, placate on the relationship focus of female characters and are set in the world of a sport. No matter what your opinion is of these films, the fact that they treat the relationships between female characters with high regard is more authentic to real life. Perhaps, this perspective details is due to the fact that both films are written and directed by women.

Furthermore, in the film Stick It, Haley Graham played by Missy Peregrym does not have a romantic interest, in fact her character’s sexual orientation is never discussed. In contrast one of the other female supporting character’s struggle throughout the film is making plans for Prom. The lack of a “romantic interest subplot” for the protagonist legitimizes her journey, as well as overshadowing the father, daughter dynamic Peregrym shares with Jeff Bridges, who plays Coach Burt Vickerman.

However, one of my favorite movies, Whip It, revolves around the community of women, sports provides. An aspect that is often not highlighted enough in even male sports movies. In team sports, the aspect of community is vital to the success of the team. In the film, the sense of belonging that Bliss Calendar played by Ellen Page finds amongst the Hurl Scouts, her derby team.

Women’s sports is finally getting the attention it deserves, and I have hope that in the coming years more movies will be made to satisfy this specific niche. If nothing else, myself as a filmmaker would love to work on such projects. For example: the bio pic of Olympic athlete, Lolo Jones, a United States track and field athlete, who also competed on the bobsled team. Her life, a very real rags to riches story, could inspire younger generations of little girls to dream, and realize their future is not limited.

In addition, my love for the sport basketball, also inspires me to write and produce a fictional story about a girls high school basketball team. A film of the same vein as their male counterparts, Coach Carter, (2005) and Glory Road. (2006) For example: a fictionalized story adapted from the documentary, The Heart of the Game. (2005) Following Darnelia Russell, a basketball star throughout her high school career in the competitive Seattle Public High School Basketball League.

How can more female sports movies be made? The short answer is to create it. Since it does not exist, and you want it to, why not make it? However, that means supporting projects from the beginning, giving them a chance at fruition. As a woman filmmaker this is a genre of film I would really enjoy writing for, producing, and watching.

Films Screened

A League of Their Own (1992)

Girlfight (2000)

Bend it Like Beckham (2002)

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

The Heart of the Game (2005)

Stick It (2006)

Whip It (2009)

Work Cited

“A League of Their Own (1992).” – Box Office Mojo. Box Office Mojo, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

Angus, Kelly. “Female Sports Fans: An Untapped Sports Marketing Demographic.” Asking Smarter Questions Female Sports Fans An Untapped Sports Marketing Demographic Comments. Level Wing, 5 Sept. 2013. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

Friedman, Lenemaja. Enid Bagnold. Boston: Twayne, 1986.

“History of Title IX.” TitleIX.info. The MARGARET Fund of NWLC, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 

2015.

Jonathan Lemire Daily News, Staff Writer. “Movie’s Girl Ka-Power! ‘Baby’ Fuels Female Interest in Boxing.” New York Daily News: 3. Mar 06 2005. ProQuest. Web. 14 Apr. 2015 .

Peacock, Lee. “Sports Illustrated’s ‘Greatest Sports Movies'” Web log post. Dispatches from the LP-OP. Blogspot, 21 Aug. 2010. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

Reejhsinghani, Anju. “No Winners Here: The Flawed Feminism of Girlfight.” The Brooklyn Rail. The Brooklyn Rail, 1 Dec. 2000. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

Sullivan, Bob. “A League of Their Own.” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Vol. 3. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 110. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

Tyler, Lisa. “Food, Femininity, and Achievement: The Mother-Daughter Relationship in National Velvet.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 18.4 (1993): 154-158.

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Actress turned Producer turned Director

For the overly optimistic it may appear that women have taken strides toward equality in the current entertainment industry job market. However, reality could not be further from the truth. Even though, Kathryn Bigelow broke through the glass ceiling and was awarded the coveted Best Director Oscar in 2010 for The Hurt Locker; there is still a great discrepancy when it comes to women in positions of power. Specifically in the area of film directing, during 2013, “191 features were released in theaters. Just 18 of those were directed or co-directed by women.” (Dawes) During the last five years, the numbers hit “a high of 8.1% in 2010 and falling to a low of 4.6% last year, [2014] according to a Times analysis of films directed by women at the six major studios.” (Keegan)

However, within the last decade two actresses have dared to challenge the status quo and shifted from roles in front of the camera, to behind, taking on the roles of Producer and Director.

The first, Drew Barrymore, is a Hollywood starlet who quite literally grew up in the public’s eye. Most known for her portrayal as the adorable, younger sister, Gertie, in E.T. Barrymore lead a tumultuous life in her early teens and into early adulthood, but finally cemented herself as a serious actress in 1995, when she co-starred in Boys on the Side, with Whoopi Goldberg. The same year, she founded her production company Flower Films. (Drew)

Her self initiated enterprise, earned her the credit of Executive Producer for Never Been Kissed released in 1999. But, it was not until the following year, when she produced Charlie’s Angels remake, starring alongside Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Bill Murray that she solidified herself as a working producer in the business. (Drew)

In the years to follow, Flower Films went on to produce Donnie Darko, an instant cult classic, starring Jake Gyllenhaal; which also received critical acclaim, being nominated for more than a dozen independent film awards. Next, was the sequel, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, starring Demi Moore, followed by Duplex in which Barrymore starred opposite Ben Stiller.

Only to be followed up by a string of romantic comedies, 50 First Dates, Fever Pitch, Music and Lyrics, and He’s Just Not That Into You, over the following five years from 2004-2009. (Drew)

In 2011, Drew first stepped into the director role, on the set of a Best Coast music video for their song, “Our Deal” about a “tragic romantic miscommunication.” “Barrymore conceived of a star-crossed teen love story set against the rivalry of two street gangs. Drawing upon her years of industry experience, the actress was involved in all aspects of production, from casting to art direction to makeup. ‘Every single detail is my fault,’ she says with a laugh.” (Crowley)

For the project, Barrymore tapped on the shoulders of the industry’s up and comers, ranging from Tyler Posey, Chloë Grace Moretz, Donald Glover, Shailene Woodley, Alia Shawkat, and Miranda Cosgrove.  Moritz commented on Drew’s directing, saying, “‘Drew has her vision, but she’s very collaborative,’ observes the preternaturally composed ninth-grader. ‘She’s an actress herself, so she gets it.’” (Crowley)

However, it was in 2008 when Drew Barrymore made her feature directorial debut with Whip It. A Fox Searchlight picture partnered with Barrymore’s production company, Flower Films, starring Ellen Page about a misfit who finally finds her place in the world through joining a roller derby league. 

“Once they acquired the rights to roller-derby player Shauna Cross’ book ‘Whip It,’ Barrymore and co-producer Nancy Juvonen began casting about for a director.” (Germain) Instead, Drew came to the conclusion that this was her opportunity to finally step into the role of director. Symbolically, choosing to step into the skates and battle her way to the top. 

Barrymore commented on her experience at the Toronto International Film Festival when premiering her film saying,  “‘I’ve been producing for 15 years, and it’s all been preparing for the big test. I really care so much about what I do, and I love filmmaking so much. I love every detail and every aspect of it,’…‘I think slow and steady wins the race, too. I didn’t need to direct when I was 21. I wanted to produce and learn about the filmmaking process and understand every element going into it, so that by the time I did direct, I was as knowledgeable and well-prepared as possible.’” (Germain)

The second, actress to try her hand at producing and directing is none other than Elizabeth Banks. Similar to that of Barrymore, Banks also began as an actress. She first appeared on screen with recurring roles in the television series Sex and the City and Third Watch. In her feature length debut, she portrayed Vicki, a gender fluid character. Next, she starred in the John Singleton’s remake of Shaft. She then relocated from New York to Los Angeles where her movie career continued, with a returning role as a Daily Bugle secretary in all three Spider-Man movies. She also has roles in Catch Me If You Can, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Invincible, Meet Bill, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and Definitely, Maybe. She went on to star as “First Lady Laura Bush in the Oliver Stone directed, George W. Bush biopic, W. The following year she returned to her guest role on the medical comedy Scrubs, in which she had portrayed Dr. Kim Briggs.” In addition, Banks also had a recurring role as “conservative news commentator Avery Jessup, who became romantically involved with Alec Baldwin’s character, Jack Donaghy” on 30 Rock; for which Banks received 2011 and 2012 Emmy nominations. (Elizabeth)

Elizabeth Banks has also had other comedic roles in the following: Wet Hot American Summer, Fred Claus, Role Models, Our Idiot Brother, and What to Expect When You’re Expecting. In addition, she has also lent her voice to a few animated characters in the following: Family Guy, Robot Chicken, The Lego Movie, and Phineas & Ferb. However, she is quite possibly bet known for her portrayal of Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games series. Her comedic flair is might have sealed the deal, but it was her persistence that got her the role. Self admitted, as soon she heard a movie was in the works, she begged to be a part of it.

In 2009, Elizabeth Banks started Brownstone Productions with her husband Max Handelman. Together they have produced Surrogates and Pitch Perfect. Most recently, she has acted in and directed a short film, Just a Little Heart Attack participating in the the “Go Red for Women” campaign, educating viewers on the dangers of heart disease.

After producing the first film, it was the logical step for Banks to make her directorial debut with Pitch Perfect 2, due out May 2015. She is quoted saying, “Especially because people love the first movie so much, I definitely feel a lot of responsibility to the fans, to my fellow actors, and I mean, shouldering it every day.” In addition, Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley commented about the development process, saying “Elizabeth originated the idea for Pitch Perfect and was instrumental in making the first film such a huge success…She brings an enormous amount of energy and experience to everything she works on.” (Kit)

However, what makes both of these female directors remarkable is how they made it to the director’s chair. Both Drew Barrymore and Elizabeth Banks were actresses first and continue to be. Throughout the projects they have worked on, they have gathered a plethora of experiences that give them a unique perspective. This particular slant is what Fox Searchlight President Nancy Utley states, is what they look for in projects, “We don’t just want a ‘his’ perspective on the screen, we want a ‘her’ perspective as well.” Studio specialty divisions, like Fox Searchlight, “draw from the independent film world” giving women filmmakers “a better track record than the industry overall” with an estimated 12.3% of films “released over the last six years had female directors, including Amma Asante’s Belle, Nicole Holofcener’s, Enough Said, and Drew Barrymore’s Whip It.” (Keegan)

However, even with renewed interest in the female perspective, why are women still not directing as many films as their male counterparts? Stacy L. Smith, “an associate professor at USC who has studied the issue for the school’s Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative,” theorizes that, ‘Women just aren’t moving into the higher-budgeted, top-grossing fare,’ and that ‘The No. 1 barrier is financial. Women are perceived to lack confidence and to be less trustworthy with resources.’” (Keegan)

However, with the success of both Barrymore’s and Banks’ debut films, you would think that studio executives would perceive them as confident, trustworthy with resources, and not a risk. Pitch Perfect “grossed more than $115 million worldwide on a $17 million budget. It also over-performed in ancillary markets with the studio estimating it generated roughly $135 million in physical and digital home entertainment sales across North America to date, making it one of the top-performing DVD and VOD titles of 2013. The soundtrack was also a smash, going platinum with over 1 million units sold while single Cups went nearly triple platinum with combined sales of a little less than 3 million units sold.” (Kit) Pitch Perfect 2 is projected to exceed the first films numbers, with Banks at the helm. While, Whip It, a Fox Searchlight project made less, with a Worldwide Box Office Performance of $18,856,152 and $9,077,270 from DVD and Blu-ray ancillary markets. (Whip It) But, even after such success neither actress turned director has been approached about a follow up directing project.

In conclusion, Drew Barrymore and Elizabeth Banks are two of the most recent actresses to move from prominent places in front of the camera, to an even more prominent place behind, taking on the role as director of feature length films. Both used their success and connections made along the way to cash in on the opportunity. In addition, both actresses formed production companies along the way and made the transition by producing projects first. This was a smart decision, allowing the actresses to continue to act, but also get their feet wet in the development, production, execution, and distribution parts of the filmmaking process.

Lastly, both Barrymore and Banks chose their directorial debuts to highlight another aspect traditional filmmaking has also forsaken. Both Whip It’s and Pitch Perfect’s protagonists are female. This detail may seem extraneous, but it actually accentuates the female perspective given by the director. In addition, both protagonists are on a journey of self exploration and are looking for where they belong in the world. Each character finds their place and in extension themselves through integrating into a team. This team building aspect of female society is rarely, if ever portrayed in films, perpetuating the stereotype that all women are competitive and undermining of each other.

As a screenwriter, producer, and fellow female filmmaker I look up to these women as role models for my career. Their work, whether it is a success or failure continually encourages me that one day, I might try my hand at directing a feature length film.

Works Cited

Crowley, Evelyn. “On Location: Exclusive First Look of Drew Barrymore Directing a Music Video for Best Coast.” Vogue.com. Vogue, 2 Aug. 2011. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

Dawes, Amy. “Women’s Movement? – Female Feature Film Directors.” Women’s Movement? – Female Feature Film Directors. Directors Guild of America, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

“Drew Barrymore.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

“Elizabeth Banks.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

Germain, David. “Drew Barrymore Wheels into Directing with ‘Whip It’.” The Ledger, (2009): .

Keegan, Rebecca. “Oscars 2015: Female Directors Scarce at Hollywood’s Major Studios.” LATimes.com. Los Angeles Times, 22 Feb. 2015. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

Kemp, Stuart. “From Hunger Games to Shame.” The Independent, (2012): 12.

Kit, Borys. “Elizabeth Banks to Direct ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ (Exclusive).” THR.com. The Hollywood Reporter, 24 Jan. 2014. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

Lewis, Hilary. “‘Pitch Perfect 2’: Elizabeth Banks Talks ‘Shouldering’ Responsibility of Sequel, Bellas’ New Rival (Video).” THR.com. The Hollywood Reporter, 7 July 2014. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

“Whip It.” The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC., 2010. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

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Where, What, and Why?

It has been over 6 months since I have posted on Script to Screen. I used to love blogging, but honestly it gets old pretty fast. In the past 6 months my life has changed significantly. In one way it has changed, is I have been taking more time for me. Sure, some may argue bloggers, blog for themselves, to write to get perspective on their life and experiences. BUT, if that is all it were that would be keeping a journal or diary. Blogging takes another element into account as well. Can anyone guess that might be? Yes, the internet. Blogging takes a third party, the audience into account. For me the lack of an audience has made holding myself accountable for posting, easier to ignore. In addition, I think without a regular audience there is no accountability to be honest with who you are. So, in the last six months I have taken the time for me. Time for me to answer the questions, that I used as the title of this post, “Where, What, and Why?”

For possibly the second time in my life, I am asking myself questions and not afraid of what others might say to my answers. My life is up to me, not you reading this. Me. You should feel privileged that I give you access, a window into my life and share my thoughts with you.

So, to be honest I don’t know when the next time I will post is, what it will be about, where I might be in life, or why I chose to post, and most importantly what I have to say…but I promise you it will be honest, thoughtful, and related to one of the loves of my life…STORY.

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Magical Realism

As a writer myself, I did not understand “Magical Realism” as a genre until this semester. I think Magical Realism itself will pick up in popularity as we continue to move into the future. I believe this because Magical Realism offers the reader to suspend their disbelief more than normal. Anyone can believe in Star Wars because it happened “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” So however bizarre or weird that world may seem, it’s alright, because it happened there, and not here. But, Magical Realism asks the reader or audience to suspend their disbelief that the following events happened here. In addition, Magical Realism has the opportunity to directly draw parallels between narrative and the real world, because these stories are after all set in reality, but contain a twist. 

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Symbolism in the House of Usher

Before reading the below post, please read “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe.

Edgar Allan Poe is famous for his description in his writing. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is one of the iconic examples, the world of literature looks to on the topic of setting. Poe sets the mood and overall tone for the short story, by describing the setting and the quality of the location, in which the events will occur. On page 87 he describes the exterior of the house as, “upon the bleak walls, upon the vacant eyelike windows, upon a few rank sedges, and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees.” Demonstrating that he cleverly extends his eerie, mysterious, creepy atmosphere by speaking through his chosen place. 

The narrator identifies four characteristics of the exterior, calling the readers attention to them not on accident, but on purpose. In addition, each of these characteristics is symbolic of something else and offer a foreboding warning, or signal for what is to come. The bleak walls could simply refer to the forgotten and abandoned pealing paint. Later on in the short story, Poe conjures similar imagery by using the term, “The discoloration of ages had been great…cadaverousness of complexion” on pages 89 and 90. The vacant eyelike windows could describe the shape of the windows, or it could mean that eyes later in the short story will be vacant. No thoughts, dreams, or memories are happening behind those eyes, no life at all is taking place in there. Again, this detail symbolizes something to come later on in the story. This detail could symbolize the result of mental death Roderick suffers once Madeline dies. Lastly the reference to sedges and tree trunks could mean that the yard work has been abandoned in recent years, or it could mean that what once was living, has died and is beginning to decompose. Similarly, reference to dead vegetation could symbolize one or both types of death; physically for Madeline, and mentally or emotionally for Roderick. 

The house of Usher personifies the saying, “if walls could talk.” In this scenario they are, they house has details that tell the reader what has happened, and what will happen. Upon his entrance the narrator notices “a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.” This crack could mean the house is old, worn, it has endured many years of weather. But, symbolically it tells a very different story. A fissure, meaning crack divides pieces making something not whole. In this case the house is indicating that the occupants have become separated, they are not whole. 

As the story progresses, Roderick convinces the narrator to help him bury Madeline, because she is presumed dead. Thus not only is she separated from him by death, but now also by physical location. However, at the conclusion of the story once Madeline comes back to seek her revenge and kills Roderick, the house splits into two. Although no longer separated by death, something has happened that can not be undone, thus the crack can not be mended. Instead the crack widens, and with her enraged they become farther apart.  Thus the crack continues to worsen until it gives way and splits the house into two, symbolically referring to her violently killing him. She subsequently dies of a seizure. Now they are longer separated by life and death, and are doomed like the remaining pieces of the house, which slip into the stagnant pond. 

In addition, Poe’s description of “The Fall of the House of Usher” lead to the implementation of setting as a character to further explain the circumstances of an individual’s psyche is a tradition that Poe started and is continued to be used today in literature as well as movies. One particular example comes to mind in the case of Theoden sitting in his throne as the King of Rohan in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The viking like hall is dark and reflects the mental state of the king, comatose, whisky beard, and milky eyes. 

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