Hey everyone! Today on Local Ladies, we have an interview that I am SO excited to share with you. Amy Adrion is the director of Half The Picture, a documentary film celebrating female directors!
What is Half The Picture?
HALF THE PICTURE is a feature documentary that celebrates the groundbreaking work of women film directors, featuring interviews with Ava DuVernay, Jill Soloway, Catherine Hardwicke, Karyn Kusama, Lena Dunham, Miranda July and many, many more.
Or, as THE GUARDIAN writes, “HALF THE PICTURE plays like a cocktail party where everyone’s had a glass of wine and is ready to get real.”
What inspired you to create Half The Picture?
I’m a female film director myself and I felt bombarded by the statistics, research, articles and interviews (two new reports just came out this week, in fact) that demonstrate how difficult it is for women directors to make a living in this business. The numbers of women being hired are terrible and they have been for ages. So, I set out to talk to my heroes – women who had made it, despite the odds – to find out how they did it, and if there was indeed hope for me and for women like me to also make it as directors.
What has the response to the film been like?
The most encouraging response – and this has happened at every single screening I’ve attended – is when people come up to me afterward and say they are going to go home and pull that script out of a drawer, finish that documentary project, direct that short film that they’ve been thinking about for years. The film includes some sobering statistics but in the end, it really is a celebration of the work women have made, despite the obstacles, and people often leave the theater thinking, yes, it sucks that the road is so hard for women, but these women have done it, and so can I.
What obstacles have you faced personally as a female director?
Fortunately, I haven’t faced harassment or any of the more overt, gross manifestations of sexism in the business, but with the release and promotion of this film, I have certainly run up against the insidious and entrenched attitudes in the industry that films that center women’s experiences are niche, limited, marginal, and not worthy of financial support. As we address in the film, women are up against a largely white male power structure of programmers, distributors, critics, tastemakers, financiers, etc. who determine which films have “value”, and more often than not, that’s not work made by women, or work made about women, and it’s rarely work made by AND about women.
What do you hope people take away from this film? What can we do as a community to support female filmmakers?
I hope people who ask,“why does it matter who directs a movie?” and people who suggest, “if women just made good movies, their work would be recognized” both have
a more nuanced understanding of how the business actually works. Those are two simple statements that you read ALL THE TIME and it’s frustrating because it does matter who directs a movie – the director’s perspective and life experience greatly influences how they tell that story. And WOMEN ARE MAKING GREAT MOVIES and to suggest otherwise is just incorrect. However, we are working in a system where the levers of power are controlled by men, and that can make it difficult for women’s work to flourish.
As a community there are many things we can do to support female filmmakers:
- Seek out work by women artists.
- If you love a film made by a woman, know that she likely does not have the power of the Hollywood machine behind her, so SHOUT OUT that work on social media. Tell your friends. Your voice is powerful.
- If you work in film, pay attention to who you hire and make an effort to go outside your circle so that you’re not only hiring people who look like you.
- MAKE YOUR OWN MOVIES. For women and other marginalized groups in Hollywood – people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ folks – telling our own stories is a political act. So do it and change the narrative.
Did you have a favourite interview or moment from the production of Half The Picture?
It’s the political answer but it’s also absolutely true that I admire and am so grateful to ALL the directors who took time out of their busy schedules to be interviewed in the film. Sometimes “woman filmmaker” can suggest a monolith – one discreet group – but the women we interview demonstrate how varied women directors are, as are male directors! Karyn Kusama is not Penelope Spheeris is not Miranda July is not Ava DuVernay is not Brenda Chapman is not Kimberly Peirce and so on. These women are artists with different interests, visions, personalities, obsessions, and their work is as varied as they are – which is why it was such a privilege to inquire about what drives them, and why they do what they do.
What advice would you give a young girl who wants to be a filmmaker?
- Know that filmmaking is a lot of hard work. The stuff you see on TV – the glamour, red carpets, awards, speeches, premieres – are the icing on the cake IF YOU’RE LUCKY and constitute about 1/100,000 of the job.
- MAKE THINGS – short videos with your friends, a web series, a doc about an interesting family member, music videos, homemade animation, experimental craziness, whatever! Just keep making work that excites you and you’ll keep getting better.
- No one’s voice is more important than yours. No one’s.
- Nothing beats authenticity, so don’t try to predict what the industry is looking for (rom-coms this season, zombies the next!) Tell the stories that live in your head and heart, that way even if your film doesn’t find phenomenal success, you’ll have made something you love, which is really what it’s all about.
- Have a thick skin, don’t take rejection or criticism personally. (Also, only take the feedback that resonates with you – everyone has an opinion and you know your story better than anyone.)
- Be kind.
- Thank people, appreciate the contributions of others.
- Reach out to people you admire and tell them why you love their work.
- Expand your network, make an effort to work with people who are different from you.
- Always try to remember the joy in making things with other people – it’s the best job in the world – so even though you might be scared, stressed, intimidated, try to let that go and embrace the joy of creation. Good things will happen.
- Be weird, be fearless (or fake it), be you.
Thanks so much, Amy! It was a pleasure hearing about your experience creating this film! If you haven’t yet, go check out Half The Picture and give it some love on social media by tagging @halfthepicture. See you next Friday!